Welcome to Secret Wars Declassified
This week (or next) marks the exact halfway mark to this six-month event. If the final SECRET WARS issue and/or tie-in, mini, one-shot ships on Oct. 21st then this is midway. If the date is Oct. 28th, next week will divide this time evenly. Either way, the three banners are examined once more: one long-lasting female-led title has the very “Last Days”; a pair of apprentice titles unveil more of “Battleworld”; a quartet of books show the many domains of the “Warzones”. Let’s look at the lucky seven!
BLACK WIDOW #20
“January, pt. 2” (20 pages) Nathan Edmondson, Phil Noto, VC’s Clayton Cowles
Natasha fulfills her mission in Havana efficiently and lethally. Let me step back. All parties involved are oblivious to their determined destinies. The Red Room trained her well! Information is the greatest currency. Natasha asks that of the Comienzas in exchange for their safe departure from Cuba. She relays the precious piece of paper to her S.O. He tells her that it is irrelevant. Castro is in cahoots with The Red Room. The Cuban leader wants the American intel. The Comienzas are expendable. Marina is too wide-eyed for a lifelong obligation with Mother Russia. Marina delivers the message. The meeting will be in public come sunrise. Natasha takes down the couple in full sniper mode. Their son is spared. Nat also takes out her S.O. and Marina as well as her cat. DDDAAAMMMNNN!! Ice runs in her veins! The ledger is full of red. The present day is in a framing sequence. The first page has Nat tell passengers to strap in and enjoy the ride in the hellicarrier. The foreshadowing is delivered when she tells the citizens to mind the precious cargo. The last page shows a teenage Emiliano, the Comienzas’ son, with a black cat of his own.
Dosvidanya, Natalia Romanova!! It is a major feat that the Widow finally had an on-going series surpass the other official one (by twelve issues)! More importantly, Mssrs. Edmondson and Noto stuck with it all the way through. That is not only rare but highly commendable in the ever-changing industry. I read the first issue of this one as well as last summer’s crossover with PUNISHER. Given Nat’s upbringing by the cold warriors, it isn’t that much of a stretch that she carried out her training to the letter. That was then, this is now. She redeemed herself early on in her lengthy Marvel existence and has had a lengthy stint with the Avengers having led them once upon a time. Mr. Edmonson stayed true to Nat’s character despite the deplorable actions from her violent past. Mr. Noto has created the most captivating and iconic covers. Those alone not only acts as teasers but have you carefully examine every minute detail so that you are aware of the story within. The blood-red hammer and sickle on the pavement of the plaza is definitely symbolic, emphasizing Nat’s unshakable loyalty to Mother Russia. Will BW be part of the ANADM initiative? Even if not, she’ll be an Avenger til her dying days. [9/10]
AGE of ULTRON vs. MARVEL ZOMBIES #2
“Strange Bedfellows” (20 pages) James Robinson, Steve Pugh, Jim Charalampidis, VC’s Clayton Cowles
What is this?!? The Punisher as a Pilgrim??? You go, man! He’s holding his own in the Deadlands with his primitive weapons and avoiding being a full course meal. All that is in vain as he’s blasted to bits by an Ultron. How cruel of you, Mr. Robinson!! Lord Ultron seeks an audience with one of the zombies. Janet van Dyne neglects her sentinel duties on The Shield deciding to look for Hank Pym. Segue!! Hank is introduced to his saviours: Human Torch, Vision, and Wonder Man. The trio have created their own little domain: Salvation. They explain to him the technicalities of its creation. Torch’s main squeeze Ryoko (Sabuki a.k.a. Radiance) greets the new man in town. The triumvirate relay their origins and explain their connection to each other, something obvious to long-time Marvel readers 😉 After the spiel, the three men get down to brass tacks: Hank is Ultron’s creator. Thus, he has to uncreate him. Ultron makes a truce with the Zombies and gets their alliance. He proposes the sweetest of deals: one half of Battleworld will be his for the creating, the other half will have the Zombies eat until their undying days. Magneto, their leader, accepts!!
It has been quickly determined that Hank Pym is the pivotal piece in this unfolding drama. His Timely incarnation brings about intentional humour due to his anachronistic appearance. This makes a bit more sense when it comes to the diametrically opposed pairing of automatons vs. ambulant corpses. The 1870’s version of Hank is going to have to accelerate his IQ to use the ultra-advance tech at his disposal. I have stated beforehand that Mr. Robinson is a legacy writer and I uphold that notion. He has kept Jim and Ryoko from ALL-NEW INVADERS and Mr. Pugh has decided to stay for the long haul. Each of the three’s origins is necessary for Hank Pym to process and acts as an abridged version for new readers. Super-science vs. the supernatural. Mr. Pugh gives great attention to detail. I find it amusing that the pods within Salvation resemble soccer balls with a touch of Ultron helmets. The very best was the all-too brief appearance of Pilgrim Punisher. Man, the Marvel Wikia is going to overload with various versions of the most recognizable characters. [8/10]
Domain #?: Salvation [clearly not part of the official map]
He speaketh much: “Twice smite me for a dullard…” – Pilgrim Punisher; “Is he speaking French or something? I don’t understand a word!” – Zombie LMAO!!
Look it up! “I am an artificial man.” – Human Torch; “Hold on…don’t know the word ‘arteefishal’.” – Hank Pym
How quickly you forget! “I was working on an…what word was that, arteefishal?…an arteefishal man, sure, I was.” – Hank Pym’s expertise is extremely limited when it comes to robots.
“The Jane Foster Murders” (20 pages) Jason Aaron, Chris Sprouse & Goran Sudžuka, Karl Story w/ Dexter Vines, Marte Gracia, Joe Sabino
Beta Ray Bill is laid to rest and it is with full honours. In his 32 years of service, he was unwavering. Lightning will come down on the unethical. Thunder will deafen and silence the corrupt. Beware, Battleworld!! The Thors will strike hard and heavy! The wicked get no reprieve as the Hulks are hit, the vampires are stricken, the zombies are beheaded. Thorlief interrogates a male nurse at the Doom Family Care Clinic. He wants answers regarding Dr. Jane Foster. The frightened man tells him another Thor took her belongings. Lo and behold, Odinson, better known as Thor the Unworthy, comes out of the shadows and confirms his complicity. The two measure weapons against each other. [I actually wanted to use another phrase. Use your imagination!] They arrive at a stalemate. Fortunately, the Unworthy is spared because of Odin’s summons. He walks away telling Thorlief that all the Jane Fosters are dead and that the matter should be buried. Enter: Thrr, the newest Thor!! He is a lupine that gets info from eating flesh and bone (kind of like CHEW). Along with Throg and Thorlief they spot a dead man’s body. The deceased was Donald Blake, a hammer salesman who met a grisly end. Thorlief feels like that name should mean something. Thrr sniffs a trespasser. It is none other than Loki, riff raff and rebel rouser.
Howl at thee!! Thrr, the sensational creation of 2015!
Jason Aaron has an enormous affinity for all Thors. He kicks up the action a few hammers since not much time remains before the truth emerges. I don’t care much about the culprit. I want to see what mysteries surround all the deceased Janes. A few extra artists join the party. I assume it is to keep the book on track. I dare not entirely say that Mssrs. Sprouse’s and Sudžuka’s are alike but they are similar. I have no sharp eye for art but I believe that Mr. Sudžuka got the prize for illustrating Thrr along with Mr. Vines. [8.5/10]
DEADPOOL’S SECRET SECRET WARS #3 (of 4)
“” (20 pages) by Cullen Bunn, Matteo Lolli, Ruth Redmond, VC’s Joe Sabino
Wade cuts short his make-out session with Zsaji. There’s too much peril to address. He leads the others as they search for She-Hulk and race off to rescue her. DP comes across Thunderball. Lame name and even lamer costume. *chuckle* DP cracks a joke about the guy’s alias and then shoots him in the mouth since that is one area unprotected by Asgardian enchantments!! Clever and efficient! Given the zaniness that accompanies the Merc with a Mouth it stands to reason that the story is out of order. Before the throwdown with T-Ball, Wade scoffs at Thor and Hulk’s poor fashion sense. Hulk explains the device that is tailor-made for perfection. Ever the gloryhound, the symbiote drapes itself over Wade. Instant thoughts equal costume changes. He emulates his idol Spidey as the last option before realizing the ooze is alive and is a very bad thing. Coming upon his hero, he passes on the device to the webslinger. Zsaji tags along to revive the fallen heroes. Fast forward to a showdown with Galactus. The planet eater is too powerful for the do-gooders including our title character. Zsaji manages to bring back Colossus. She has expired as a result of her efforts. Colossus freaks out at the tragedy and wishes Wade had not interfered. Wasp is alive and well! DP can’t contain his excitement. Doom emerges with the powers of the Beyonder at his disposal. His evilness has been erased and he has regained his attractiveness. The battle seems to be over. The happy outcome doesn’t last. Wade brings Hawkeye’s corpse to Reed Richards. Mr. Fantastic is confident that all the heroes can be resurrected thanks to Deadpool’s regenerative properties.
Pick up the pace! The actual scenes from the original series occur between #7-#10. That leaves two more to be covered from the maxi transferring over the last issue of this mini.
DP’s buffoonery and quips continue. The do-over is a deliberate poke at Spidey’s symbiote suit. Wade has greater willpower to reject it but maybe the symbiote couldn’t handle the craziness inside his noggin. Those were the most memorable panels from this issue. Prada has nothing on you, Mr. Lolli. Great lettering from Mr. Sabino in terms of the captions, DP’s balloons, and Doctor Doom’s designation. [7.5/10]
M.O.D.O.K. ASSASSIN #3 (of 5)
“” (20 pages) by Christopher Yost, Amilcar Pinna, Terry Pallot, Rachelle Rosenberg, VC’s Travis Lanham
Many fight for love and M.O.D.O.K. takes that to heart, or mind, or circuits, or whatever is inside him. He continues to be aflutter with her beauty. His diagnosis reveals she is being cloaked and that she is a target. This is why the other Thors can’t reach nor find her. Their tender moments are interrupted by her disgust of him and a pumpkin bomb. The hit is on!! The first volley are Boomerang, Jack O’Lantern, and Screaming Mimi. Mimi gets the better of Angela until Modie mind-blasts her. Black Widow hits him dead centre of the forehead. It damaged his focusing crystal but he still floats. A brief interlude shows Beta Ray Bill reporting to Sheriff Strange. He’s concerned about Angela but the mage is distracted by something more intriguing. Others come out in the open. When Modie spots Angela in agony due to Typhoid Mary’s psychic assault, he unleashes his might and fury. Bushwacker was steamrolled in an earlier panel. Elektra, Mary, and Punisher are brain-fried; Boomerang is impaled; Jack is blown to bits; Scarlet Spider is decapitated. Angela cleaves Ghost in twixt and snaps Hit-Monkey’s neck. Wolverine stealthily stabs Modie from behind immobilizing him. The triad of the Assassins Guild appear. They have resurrected Doc Ock to do battle with him. Fake-out!! Modie takes them all down. Wolvie is about to strike again when he is zapped not by a Sentinel but by the Mindless Ones!!! Sidenote: Modie wants to confirm his dinner date with Angela. Yuck yuck yuck!
Can’t stress it enough: “I! Am! M.O.D.O.K.!” – The fighter comes out after seeing Angela in distress.
The gore was raised to level 12! What else do you expect from a domain named Killville? Angela seems distraught at the constant loss of life but muses about her enjoyment in participating. I can’t deny that Modie’s soft side is appealing and relatable. He is definitely not all bad. Misguided, perhaps. Then again, he embraces his nature and wants Angela to do the same. The comedy mixed with the danger make for an entertaining read. Mssrs. Pinna & Pallot have the pleasure of offing a dozen characters in any way imaginable. Rachelle Rosenberg’s silhouette of Ghost’s demise is super sufficient. One last tip of the hat: Mr. Yost, your vast intellect has come up with the perfect opponent for Modie. The Mindless Ones will not be affected by his powers. What now, brown cow? [8/10]
1602 WITCH HUNTER ANGELA #2
“In Which All the World’s a Stage and the Guardians Overthrow the Players” (20 pages) by Marguerite Bennett, Stephanie Hans; in addition to Kieron Gillen, Irene Koh, Jordie Bellaire; VC’s Clayton Cowles
Angela and Serah ride fervently to take down the Faustians. Angela is in disarray since the Enchantress demands her true love’s death after dispatching of the diabolical deal-accepters. Feelings of doubt are new for Angela but Serah feels comfort having her at her side. An explosion gets their attention. They witness a skirmish between The Gardiner’s Men and the animals of the forest. They were enchanted by the Enchantress. [A bit redundant, I know ;-P] Intros are made. The Men are traveling performers. They are on their way to a wedding in the York region. The blissful couple are Anne Weying and Edwin Brocc. Since Angela and Serah are wedding crashers, they will entertain the betrothed and guests with a tale. Serah takes over and narrates her fateful and loving encounter with Angela, changing details where necessary. Angela is mortified. Dancing follows the ceremony. Anne seems out of it but Edwin gives her a brew that makes her remember. ‘Tis trickery of the highest degree!! He is a Faustian!! His true appearance is made known. Angela remarks the venom [hint!] dripping from him. The Gardiners join in. Eddie gained nothing from his dark pact. Anne is still spellbound and heartbroken over his timely end. Serah assures Angela that she will live despite the Enchantress’ unfair arrangement. Only one Faustian remains before the Sisters of the Holy Order triumph.
Whom, pray tell, are ye?
- Madam Gomorrah – tumbler, fire-eater, occasional fortune-teller
- Peader O’Cull – bard, jester
- Arthur Dubhghlas – frost (forest?) circus strongman
- Goodman Root – silent merchant, caretaker of Aroughcun
- Aroughcun – creature from the wilds, preternatural intelligence
They make up The Gardiner’s Men. Much cooler than Robin Hood and His Merry Men!
Raconteur: “Oh Arthur, and they say you can’t tell a story. Well, deliver exposition.” – Peader O’Cull to his companion Dubhghlas
Get with the times: Angela and Serah don’t hide their love for each other but they don’t flaunt it either. Who else is aware?? Their thoughts on marriage: “That’s rather…archaic and anatomical.” “We do live in the 17th century, my love.” – Serah & Angela
Breach in the story: “Breaking the fourth wall is my purview, Angela, shhh.” – Serah
If you have an ear for Elizabeth English, this book is tale-er made for you. Natch! Ms. Bennett has a real knack for the lingo of the era. She deserves an A+ in this field. The love story comes out [pun intended!] It was heavily implied in the first issue and pretty obvious but to have it verified and validated makes it all the better. Ms. Bennett came up with a clever interpretation of the Guardians of the Galaxy. The Rose is what needs protecting. I will assume that Mr. Gillen is the scribe for the story-within-the-story. The skewed view on how Serah and Angela became a couple is humorous but holds many grains of truth. Stephanie Hans’ panels alternate between the horizontal and the vertical, the close-ups and the long-shots, and the multiple squares which are akin to scrapbooking. Irene Koh beautifully illustrates the mirth and merriment from Serah’s sequence of events. Mr. Cowles, you get a second doctorate in Calligraphy. [8.5/10]
X-MEN ‘92 #2
by Chris Sims & Chad Bowers, Scott Koblish, Matt Milla, VC’s Travis Lanham
“Those Who Help Themselves” (17 pages)
Previously, on X-MEN…How I miss that intro from the animated series >_< The forecast is quite gloomy for Marvel’s Mightiest Mutants. They are imprisoned within Cassandra Nova’s Mind Field. First guinea pig: Wolverine. He goes up against various iterations of his past self ‘disguised’ as his most hated foes. Cassandra manages to convince him to break the cycle of violence. He and his former reflections hug it out as love saves the day. He has tears of joy as he discards decades of self-loathing.
Interlude one: While playing an arcade game, Jubilee runs off after Artie’s astral form. She blinds two scientists watching over her.
Second test subject: Storm!! Five former selves and one potential future self also appear. Cassandra is a lot more drastic with her treatment. Ororo has to conquer her claustrophobia. Plus, she shows her true visage as the Shadow King. This sends Ms. Munroe into a tizzy. S/He tells all: rising through the ranks to ensure the betterment of all mutants. Storm overcomes the madness. Cassandra is resentful of Ororo’s resistance to her program and life mission. Game over for her.
Interlude two: Jubilee gets to the end of the road with Artie. His form dissipates. She has earned her pickpocket stripes thanks to master thief Gambit. All rejected mutants from Nova’s program are found within. She is frightened by Chamber who professes to be a big fan of Logan’s.
“Love Is a Battlefield” (13 pages)
Remy and Rogue are having a romantic picnic under the moon and stars. Rogue is in a wedding dress. Gambit has a tank top and half his costume. The time has come to solidify their love. Rogue still has ginormous guilt and full-fledged fear of her absorbing powers. Remy convinces her that their feelings will deal with the issues. Nova interrupts them just as they are about to liplock. She’s appalled at their ‘vulgar’ behaviour. She materializes the X-Babies to remind them of their virtuous ways. The X-Men’s rep is not to be tarnished by any means. After hitting, dodging and throwing insults, Nova turns the lovebirds into actual puppets. Through her mental manipulation, they see her side of things. They will be part of her program.
Cassandra doesn’t even give Hank McCoy a second thought simply because of his Beast-ly good looks. I think she was threatened by his big brain and throwing insincere praise about his politeness. Beast is thrown in with the other black sheep. Chamber gives Hank and Jubes a tour. The pariahs are engaged in slave labour to build an X-Sentinel for Ms. Nova.
Interlude three: X-Force storms the X-Mansion. It is good fortune that Cable received Prof. X’s telepathic cry for help. They find Charles’ writhed body and assume the worst: he has kicked the bucket.
Unloved and unwanted: My heart breaks for the Rej-X L They are Artie, Leech, Caliban, Masque, Chamber, Feral, Gorgeous George, Maggot, and Sauron.
Cute and cuddly: The X-Babies can never be forgotten. Rosy-cheek versions of Colossus, Dazzler, Havok, Longshot, and Nightcrawler.
Rough and tough: X-Force are no-nonsense individuals. Cable! Domino! Archangel! Bishop! Deadpool! Psylocke!
The two-fer continues in this sophomore offering. The majority of the cast are put through the wringer and then-some against Cassandra Nova’s sadism. Only Scott and Jean remain! Will they be the saviours? Two writers means double the dialogue. This is not biting criticism, simply fact. Cassandra is thorough in her observations of Logan and Ororo. She also delivers a trite treatise to the star-crossed lovers. The X-pansion [see what I did there?] of this domain with multiple supporting characters ups the stakes and emphasizes the peril all mutants face. Scott Koblish outdid himself with multiple Wolverines and Storms; faces that are creepy, angry, determined, dumbfounded, lovestruck; bolts of energy; puppets; and a skeletal Sentinel. Matt Milla keeps it fresh. This really is an X-tension [natch!] of the animated series. Travis Lanham perfectly renders the logo for Storm. He must have had a power trip in pounding the ‘approved’ and ‘rejected’ stamps. [8/10]
Tags: Bye Bye Black Widow, Marvel Comics, Secret Wars Declassified, Week Twelve