NOTE

Monday, January 30, 2023

AVENGERS #349

"DEATH WAGER"
Writer: Bob Harras | Penciler: Steve Epting
Inker/Colorist: Tom Palmer | Letterer: Bill Oakley
Editor: Ralph Macchio | Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

The Plot: Black Knight, Crystal, and Hercules are testing a skycar recently received by the Avengers from Wakanda, when the craft goes out of control and crashes. The scene is observed from Mount Olympus by Hera and Ares, who make a wager over who can bring more pain and sorrow to Hercules. Two days later on Earth, Black Knight has determined that the skycar was sabotaged. Meanwhile, Hercules is invited to make a charity appearance at a children's hospital. Crystal and Thor accompany him -- but while there, Ares possesses Thor's body and attacks Hercules. Hercules eventually realizes that Ares is in control of Thor, and turns Mjolnir against him, summoning lightning, which Crystal amplifies with her power to stun both Hercules and Thor.

The lightning strike separates Ares from Thor, and Hera then reveals herself. Hercules berates his stepmother and half-brother as they teleport back to Olympus. There, Ares asks Hera why she didn't make any attempt to win their wager. As she scryes over an image of Hercules and a volunteer from the hospital, Taylor Madison, Hera says that her manipulations are subtle and far-reaching.

Continuity Notes: In the opening pages, Black Knight notes that he and Hercules spent three days in Marissa Darrow's apartment, trying to determine how she vanished, with a footnote pointing to last issue. Later, Black Knight states his suspicion that Marissa's disappearance and the skycar sabotage are both related to Swordsman and Magdalene. The former of these makes sense; Marissa was Magdalene's spitting image. But it's unclear why he believes, with nothing to clue him in, that the skycar sabotage has anything to do with the new mystery villains.

Monday, January 23, 2023

AVENGERS #348

"FAMILIAL CONNECTIONS"
Writer: Bob Harras | Guest Penciler: Kirk Jarvinen
Inker & Colorist: Tom Palmer | Letterer: Bill Oakley
Editor: Ralph Macchio | Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

The Plot: Black Knight and Crystal find the Vision projecting his memories of initmate moments with his former wife, the Scarlet Witch. Vision explains that he is trying to understand emotion once more. Soon, Marilla, the Inhuman nursemaid, arrives to tell Vision he has a guest -- a woman named Laura Lipton. Later and elsewhere, Black Knight and Hercules are out at a bar when Hercules catches sight of a woman he believes to be Magdalene. In the Avengers' infirmary, Crystal and Black Widow visit with Carol Danvers. Crystal leaves the room and overhears Vision and Laura discussing the fact that the memories and personality of Laura's late husband, Alex, are stored in Vision's mind, and that her father-in-law, who is dying, would like Vision to pay him a visit. Crystal convinces Vision to go.

Meanwhile, Hercules accosts "Magdalene" on the street, but she claims to be a woman named Marissa Darrow and then goes on her way. On Long island, Vision, Crystal, and Laura arrive at the home Laura shares with her father-in-law, Professor Lipton. Lipton explains that he has developed a device that can briefly put Alex's personality in control of Vision's body -- and that he would like to speak with his son one last time before he dies. Crystal again appeals to Vision and convinces him to do it. Meanwhile, Marissa returns to her apartment to find Magdalene and Prcotor waiting inside. Magdalane recognizes Marissa as herself, and Proctor declares that there can be only one of her. Hercules and Black Knight, having followed Marissa home, hear her scream from inside the apartment. They burst in, but find the place empty and demolished.

At Lipton's home, Vision emerges from his machine with the personality of Alex. Vision speaks with the professor and then sits by his bedside as he passes away. He then goes outside to speak with Laura, and the two share a kiss. When the kiss finishes, Vision is himself once more. He bids Laura farewell. As Vision and Crystal leave, Crystal tells Vision that she knows Professor Lipton's device failed, and that Vision was only acting like Alex for the benefit of the professor and Laura. Vision sheds a tear, unseen by Crystal, but does not confirm or deny her suspicion.

Monday, January 16, 2023

AVENGERS #347

Plus CAPTAIN AMERICA #400 & 401, AVENGERS WEST COAST #82, QUASAR #34, and WONDER MAN #9.

Note: While I am summarizing the entire "Operation: Galactic Storm" crossover in the "The Plot" section, the "Contiuity Notes" reflect only AVENGERS #347 unless otherwise indicated


"EMPIRE'S END"
The epic conclusion to the Kree/Shi'ar war brought to you by:
Writer: Bob Harras | Penciler: Steve Epting | Inker: Tom Palmer
Colorist: Gina Gong | Letterers: Bill Oakley & Michael Higgins
Editor: Ralph Macchio | Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

The Plot: CAPTAIN AMERICA #400: "MURDER BY DECREE!" by Mark Gruenwald, Rik Levins, and Danny Bulandi -- Captain America is caught up in an explosion in the Kree capitol building. Meanwhile, Iron Man, Black Knight, Hercules, Crystal, Sersi, and Goliath chase after the nega-bomb in their Quinjet, and wonder about Cap's fate. Back on the Kree homeworld of Hala, Cap suddenly finds himself confronted by several of his greatest enemies: King Cobra, Batroc the Leaper, Flag-Smasher, Viper, Crossbones, and the Red Skull. Cap battles the villains, but they prove too much and get the upper hand. But just as the Skull is about to execute Cap, Batroc's sense of honor prevails and he helps his enemy escape and fight back. Cap defeats everyone, then comes to the conclusion that these villains are simulacrums pulled from his own memories by the Supreme Intelligence. The Intelligence ends the charade and tells Cap this was a test to judge him worthy of assimilation. But Cap's sense of independence is too too much for even the Supreme Intelligence to overcome, so he declares that he will not absorb Cap into his collective mind.

AVENGERS WEST COAST #82: "SHI'AR HATRED!" by Roy & Dann Thomas, David Ross, and Tim Dzon -- Lilandra orders that the Kree Starfroce must die, but the Avengers try to convince her to speak with them first. The debate devolves into a battle between Avengers and Imperial Guard, but when Living Lightning blasts the Shi'ar prime minister, Araki, revealing him as a Skrull in disguise, both sides call a truce. Lilandra frees Ultimus and sends him back to the Kree to inform them of what has transpired. Then she reveals that the nega-bomb has gone missing. Back on Earth, the West Coast Avengers return to their compound in California, having left the Shi'ar prisoners in the care of the East Coast reservists at Project: Pegasus. Aboard the nega-bomb, Vision returns from reconnaissance to inform Wonder Man that the bomb is being towed by Skrulls. And back on the Shi'ar throneworld, Captain Marvel receives a call from Quasar, who informs her that he knows where to find the nega-bomb.

Monday, January 9, 2023

AVENGERS #346

Plus CAPTAIN AMERICA #399, AVENGERS WEST COAST #81, QUASAR #33, WONDER MAN #8, IRON MAN #279, and THOR #446.

Note: While I am summarizing the entire "Operation: Galactic Storm" crossover in the "The Plot" section, the "Contiuity Notes" reflect only AVENGERS #346 unless otherwise indicated

"ASSASSINATION"
Writer: Bob Harras | Penciler: Steven Epting | Inker/Colorist: Tom Palmer
Letterer: Bill Oakley | Editor: Ralph Macchio | Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

The Plot: CAPTAIN AMERICA #399: "TWENTY MILLION LIGHT YEARS FROM EARTH" by Mark Gruenwald, Rik Levins, and Danny Bulandi -- Shatterax delivers the captured Captain America, Iron Man, Goliath, Sersi, Crystal, Black Knight, and Hercules to the Kree homeworld of Hala, where Ronan the Accuser takes them into custody. But as soon as Shatterax and his men depart, Crystal metamorphosizes the Avengers to look like Kree Accusers. Thus confusing their captors, the heroes escape. Soon, in a safe haven, Iron Man angrily orders Sersi to reverse her sorcery. He and Goliath then depart to conduct recon. Elsewhere, Ultimus arrives on Hala and meets up with Shatterax, Korath the Pursuer, and their leader, Supremor. Meanwhile, Iron Man calls Cap to tell him he's found what appears to be the Kree capitol building. Cap's team heads that way, but Korath intercepts them. Cap manages to defeat Korath, and his group proceeds on their way to meet with Iron Man and Goliath.

AVENGERS WEST COAST #81: "THEY ALSO SERVE..." by Roy & Dann Thomas, Dave Ross, and Tim Dzon -- On Earth, Hank Pym, Wasp, U.S. Agent, Spider-Woman, Gilgamesh, She-Hulk, Mockingbird, and Falcon are on guard duty at Project: Pegasus, where the captured Kree and Shi'ar forces are being held. Nightside and Scintilla of the Shi'ar Imperial Guard arrive and release Warstar and the Shi'ar crewmen. As the Avengers battle this group, Doctor Minerva rouses Captain Atlas and the duo escapes to a parked Shi'ar craft. The Avengers pursue, but the Kree exit Earth's atmosphere and land aboard a massive Shi'ar warship, where Minerva reveals that she is actually Imperial Guardsman Hobgoblin (now calling himself "Shifter") in disguise, with the diminutive Scintilla hiding on his person. The Shi'ar grab Atlas's stolen quantum bands. Meanwhile, the Avengers have recaptured their Shi'ar prisoners, along with Nightside and Warstar, and they find the real Doctor Minerva still inside Project: Pegasus. Minvera uses her mental bond with Atlas to find him, and the Avengers call Quasar to intercept the Shi'ar ship. Accompanied by the engimatic Her, Quasar battles Neutron and Starbolt of the Imperial Guard, while the Shi'ar ship escapes into the stargate.

Monday, January 2, 2023

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

We interrupt our regularly scheduled AVENGERS coverage for the annual "State of the Blog" address. And my friends, for the first time in years, I can report that things are looking great around here. Mind you, I'm still only doing one post a week. At this point, that seems unlikely to change for a while (but at the same time, I never say never). One a week seems to really work for me. It's manageable alongside my personal commitments and professional workload, not to mention my desire to occasionally read something for fun that I don't want to write about! I don't feel deadline pressure to get too much done when I'm doing posts at this frequency. All I need to do in order to stay on schedule is read and write about one single issue each week -- and to get ahead of schedule, I only need to read/write two posts a week and I've doubled my output!

Which is exactly what happened this past year -- I started reading the Bob Harras/Steve Epting AVENGERS somewhere around... May, maybe? And I was was so into it that I plowed through at a rate of several issues each week, until I was finished with it by the end of summer! That's more than fifty issues of the core title, plus a few annuals, mini-series, etc. -- all fully read, written up, and ready to post. Which means there will be absolutely no interruption to my posting schedule for well over a year at this point! And beyond that, I have also started the next long-term project to come after AVENGERS! I'm going a bit slower on this one, mainly because I have the luxury to do so -- but nonetheless, you heard right, folks -- it's the second day of 2023, and I'm already a few months into 2024 in terms of fully written posts. Such a massive cushion is unheard of in the history of this blog.

Now again, I've found that one post a week works great for me, but given how far ahead of schedule I am, don't be surprised to see some posts come back on Fridays, as well. Probably just randomly here and there, when something strikes my fancy and I don't want to wait a year or two for it to trickle out as part of the ongoing schedule!

At some point in these New Year's posts, I usually do a recap of the year in review. But given that I've kept to exactly one post a week this year for the first time ever (seriously; check out the sidebar -- precisely fifty-two posts in 2022!), it's fairly linear and straightforward. We opened the year by continuing up our look at INVADERS, and that took us halfway through the year. Subsequently it was a very brief excursion into the world of SKULL THE SLAYER, followed by another short run -- the 1980s TRANSFORMERS manga. Which brings us to the ongoing AVENGERS by Bob Harras, Steve Epting, & Tom Palmer run. And next year's year in review will be solely that run, unless I do manage to crank out a few Friday posts over the next fifty-two weeks!

One last order of business... though I discontinued THE UNBOXING (first informally in 2021 and then defnitively at the start of this year) due to the simple fact that I wasn't buying as many trade paperbacks and hardcovers, I did note last year that I would turn it into an annual feature as part of these year in review posts. So here we go! It was another very light year... and as I've said in the past, it's not for lack of interest on my part. While my "runs I'd like to own as hardcovers" list had shrunk considerably over the years, there are still a number of books I would buy if Marvel (or in some cases, DC) would just release them! But that's a topic for its own post someday. For now, here are the Marvel titles that I procured over the past year:
  • AVENGERS: THE GATHERING OMNIBUS: Not much to say about this leadoff volume here, since I'm covering its contents on a weekly basis as we speak. But picking it up way back at the beginning of 2021 with a Christmas gift card was sort of the impetus for blogging about the run it collects!
  • MOON KNIGHT OMNIBUS volume 2: I can't get enough Doug Moench/Bill Sienkiewicz MOON KNIGHT, and this volume concludes their run on the character. I've been a Moon Knight fan since I discovered him circa 1999 or so, but really only of the material written by his creator, Moench. So don't expect me to pick up the MARC SPECTOR: MOON KNIGHT Omnibus, reprinting Chuck Dixon's nineties take on the character, when it releases later this year (but I likely would buy it in Epic Collection format).
  • THUNDERBOLTS OMNIBUS vol. 2: Last year around this time, I revealed that I had Unboxed the first book in this series. Now it's book 2, which came along earlier in the year. And next year I'll be raving about volume 3, which is coming in a few months! It's no secret that I love late nineties Marvel, and the tandem of the Kurt Busiek/George Pérez AVENGERS and Busiek/Fabian Nicieza/Mark Bagley THUNDERBOLTS is the cream of that crop for me. So the fact that Marvel has fast-tracked THUNDERBOLTS, reprinting the entirety of the classic series in three books across three years, is like a dream come true for me. My only complaint is that it took them so long to get around to it!
  • WARLOCK BY JIM STARLIN GALLERY EDITION: I'm not exaggerating when I say that I adore this material. I've quintuple dipped on it over the years. I bought it as reprint comics in the nineties, when I first got into Starlin's "Infinity" stuff. I bought the Marvel Masterworks volume in the 00s. I bought it in Omnibus format in 2019's THANOS WARS: INIFINTIY ORIGIN volume. And now, this year, I purchased it again in the extra-oversized Gallery Edition format! Starlin's WARLOCK is, and ever shall be, one of my all-time favorite comic runs. This is the first and, so far, only Gallery Edition I own, but I plan to pick up one more later this year: the SPIDER-MAN BY JEPH LOEB & TIME SALE volume, which will reprint the duo's SPIDER-MAN: BLUE in that special format (and this one will be a triple-dip for me on the single best Spider-Man mini-series ever made).
And beyond those, I'm still collecting Fantagraphics' Carl Barks Disney Library books, with two volumes, ISLAND IN THE SKY and BALLOONATICS, making it onto my shelf this past year.

Thus we reach the end of our recap/look forward. Next week it's back to the Avengers, smack in the middle of "Operation: Galactic Storm", as we continue into 2023!

Monday, December 26, 2022

AVENGERS #345

Plus CAPTAIN AMERICA #398, AVENGERS WEST COAST #80, QUASAR #32, WONDER MAN #7, IRON MAN #278, and THOR #445.

Note: While I am summarizing the entire "Operation: Galactic Storm" crossover in the "The Plot" section, the "Contiuity Notes" reflect only AVENGERS #345 unless otherwise indicated

"STORM GATHERINGS"
Writer: Bob Harras | Penciler: Steve Epting | Colorist/Inker: Tom Palmer
Letterer: Bill Oakley | Editor: Ralph Macchio | Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

The Plot:
CAPTAIN AMERICA #398: "IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE" by Mark Gruenwald, Rik Levins, and Danny Bulandi -- Rick Jones dreams that the Kree homeworld is annihilated, and sees Captain America, with the head of the Kree Supreme Intelligence, walking through the ruins. Rick calls the Avengers, and Cap flies to Arizona to meet him. But as the two talk in a diner, they are attacked by Warstar of the Shi'ar Imperial Guard. Warstar tries to abduct Rick, but Cap stops the alien as Rick escapes. However, Rick is subsequently mind-controlled by Imperial Guardsma Oracle, and is captured anyway. Elsewhere, the Supreme Intelligence activates a physical body to house its consciousness. Christening this being Supremor, the Intelligence declares it will be the first member of the Kree Starforce.

AVENGERS WEST COAST #80: "TURN OF THE SENTRY" by Roy & Dann Thomas, David Ross, and Tim Dzon -- Aboard a Shi'ar ship, Oracle telepathically interrogates Rick Jones for information on Captain Mar-Vell and the Kree. Meanwhile, the West Coast Avengers (Iron Man, Hawkeye, U.S. Agent, Scarlet Witch, Wonder Man, Living Lightning, Spider-Woman, and reservist Mockingbird) are about to begin a meeting when Captain America calls from a payphone. The Avengers pick Cap up at the Arizon diner, while Oracle and her Imperial Guard teammates, Electron and Tempest, enter the "lost Kree outpost" with Rick. Their arrival activates a Kree Sentry, which attacks. The Avengers arrive a moment later, as does Warstar. Rick is rescued and the Sentry is beaten, but the outpost is destroyed as the Imperial Guardsmen escape with a psyche-magnetron stolen from the base. Captain America calls Quasar to pursue the Guard into space, but their ship vanishes into a stargate before he can follow.

QUASAR #32: "THE TOMB OF MAR-VELL" by Mark Gruenwald, Greg Capullo, and Harry Candelario -- In search of the Shi'ar ship, Quasar visits the Starcore space station and learns that the sun is erupting with an unusual number of solar flares. Aboard Starcore, he receives a call from Peggy Carter on Earth, informing him that former Avenger Starfox of Titan has detected someone breaking into Captain Mar-Vell's tomb. Quasar flies to Titan and enters the tomb with Starfox, where they find Kree operatives Doctor Minerva and Captain Atlas. As the Avengers question the duo, the full Shi'ar Imperial Guard arrives and attacks. Meanwhile, on Earth, Captain America assigns Wonder Man to act as Rick's bodyguard for the time being. Back on Titan, Quasar and company quickly realize something is amiss, eventually determining that only three of the Guardsmen are real: Manta, Impluse, and Magique, who create illusions of the rest of her teammates. The Guard trio is defeated, but Minerva and Atlas escape back into the tomb. Elsewhere, a Kree scientsit transforms himself into a super-being called Korath the Pursuer. On Titan Quasar follows Atlas and Minerve into the tomb, to find Atlas donning Captain Marvel's nega-bands. Atlas slams the bands together, and Rick Jones appears in place of Atlas, and immediately begins to succumb to Titan's lack of oxygen.

Monday, December 19, 2022

AVENGERS #344

The mighty assemblers must face...
"ECHOES OF THE PAST"
Writer: Bob Harras | Pencils: Steve Epting | Inks: Tom Palmer
Colors: Tom Palmer | Letters: Bill Oakley
Editor: Ralph Macchio | Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Note: This issue (or at least the version reprinted in the AVENGERS: THE GATHERING OMNIBUS) does not include credits. The above are pulled from Comics.org.

The Plot: On a rooftop near Four Freedoms Plaza, the Avengers are confronted by the Swordsman and his companion, Magdalene. After ranting at the Avengers for letting him die, Swordsman attacks. He sends Thor flying, while Magdalene goes toe-to-toe with Hercules. Soon, Crystal comes to Hercules's aid while Black Knight engages the Swordsman. Black Knight eventually stuns Swordsman with his laser sword, so Magdalene abandons the fight and calls to someone named Proctor to teleport the Swordsman and herself away.

While the battered Avengers regroup, Magdalene and Swordsman appear in a remote control room, where the mysterious Proctor heals Swordsman and speaks of revenge on Captain America and the Avengers. At Avengers Mansion, the group decides that the man they battled was the real Swordsman, somehow back from the dead, and wonders what to do next.

Continuity Notes: There's lots going on between the main conflict's pages in this one! First, Luna's nursemaid, Marilla, gets into a spat with Jarvis in the Avengers' kitchen when Marilla tries to doctor Jarvis's recipe to make his food more palatable to Crystal. In the same scene, Sersi returns to the mansion unexpectedly. Jarvis tells her where the Avengers are and mentions that Captain America has been concerned for her, but Sersi declares that her life is her own. Then, as she leaves to go join the team, she is stopped when she catches sight of her own reflection and begins babbling to herself.