RAMPANT SPECULATION: Dark Reign

Haven’t done much on this blog for a long time. Blame Rock Band 2 and Fallout 3.

So we’re about a month and a half away from Dark Reign kicking off. And with the help of this week’s DCBS shipment, I’m not only fairly confident about what it’s going to be, I’m also SUPER EXCITED about it. Let’s dig deep into what led me to the conclusions I’ve reached, and why they’ve got me so jazzed about the post Secret Invasion Marvel Universe. For a while now, an image has existed (I believe it was shown at one of the Marvel panels during con season) that consisted of a picture of six characters that Brian Michael Bendis (through various interviews/podcasts) referred to as the “Evil Illuminati.” About a month or so ago, a website (I believe it was IGN) confirmed that the image in question was going to be a cover for one of the kick off Dark Reign books (it was either Secret Invasion: Dark Reign or Dark Reign: New Nation). The image itself is a play on the cover of New Avengers: Illuminati #1, featuring six characters of less than perfect morals. Four of them (Dr. Doom, Namor, the female incarnation of Loki, and The Hood) are clearly defined and easy to recognize. The other two are a bit more vague. They seem to be Emma Frost and Norman Osborne. Reasons for this speculation will be forthcoming. These six characters were obviously chosen for a reason, and I’m quite confident that we’re looking at the new leadership of the Marvel Universe. But this won’t be like the Illuminati, as there will be no hiding or subterfuge with these folks. They’re going to be out in the open, and they’re going to have all the power. Let’s look at where these “villains” are at this time, and find out what they have been doing and where they’ll be after the Skrulls are kicked off the planet (and they will be kicked off the planet).

Dr. Doom – Last seen being captured by the Mighty Avengers and escaping from The Raft during the attack on Starktech by the Skrulls, Dr. Doom is the King of Latveria and one of the most intelligent humans in the universe. I would not be surprised if the devastation of the invasion leads to Doom expanding his territory to much of Eastern Europe.

Namor – Currently running around in The Incredible Hercules’ Love and War arc, Namor recently once again aligned himself with Dr. Doom after an attack on Atlantis that left much of the city-state devastated. He is lord of the seas, and sovereign over 70% of the world.

Loki – Since being reborn in female form by Thor, Loki has been slowly gathering power in Asgard through manipulation of Balder, who has been recently revealed to be Odin’s son, Thor’s brother and rightful equal heir of Asgard. She will soon completely seize power over Asgard, and will rule some of the most powerful gods on Earth.

The Hood – He’s taken his merry band of villains straight to the front line of the battle at Central Park, but the big piece of the puzzle for The Hood was revealed in New Avengers #46. The oft manifested demon entity has turned out to be the Dread Dormammu, who has pledged to unlock the secrets of the Dark Dimension. Dark Reign. Dark Avengers. The Hood and his gang are going to be the Dark Avengers. A twisted conception of The Thunderbolts. He will control the streets, and he (alongside Dormammu) will rule the mystical realms.

Emma Frost – I thought for a while that this person could have been Courtney Ross of the Hellfire Club, but I’m pretty sure there’s an X on her chest (although Miss Ross was a member of Excalibur, so it doesn’t completely preclude her), so I’m going with Emma. Emma’s importance to the X-Men has been steadily growing since Morrison’s New X-Men, to the point that she is basically on the same level as Cyclops as co-leader of the X-Men. I stopped reading Uncanny, so I’m not completely up to date with what Emma is doing right now. I think this is an example of a character that is not currently evil being grouped in with the rest of the evil folks due to her reputation back from the Hellfire Club days. I think she’ll become the true power/leader of the X-Men, but not necessarily turn evil. She will be the leader of the mutants.

Norman Osborne – He’s the hardest to make out in the image (some have thought it could be the Purple Man), but it’s got to be Osborne. You read Thunderbolts #124 and #125, Deadpool #3, and Secret Invasion #7 (and from what I’ve heard, Spider-Man’s New Ways to Die arc), and the one thing you see is the rising importance of Norman Osborne. He’s hailed as the conquering hero when the Thunderbolts beat back the Skrulls in Washington DC. He’s praised for his courage when Iron Man flees the scene during the Central Park battle while he stands tall. He might have had something to do with the death of Queen Veranke due to the end of Deadpool #3. He’s everywhere, and everyone to a man in the US government is falling head over heels for him. Prepare yourselves for Norman Osborne, Director of SHIELD.

So here’s how I think it goes down. During the Invasion, Doom is working with Namor to secretly marshall forces in and around Latveria and Atlantis. Once the Skrulls retreat, he expands his sphere of influence outward. While the battle at Central Park rages on, Loki takes the opportunity to seize power over Asgard thanks to Thor’s absence. The Skrulls are defeated, and the American people are led to believe that the true heroes of the battle are two bands of reformed crooks, Norman Osborne’s Thunderbolts and The Hood’s gang (the soon to be christened Dark Avengers). Norman Osborne is named Director of SHIELD due to his valor, and Iron Man is forced to go on the run with the New Avengers. With SHIELD destabilized and Asgard under Loki’s sway, Captain America and Thor are also forced to go underground and join the New Avengers (alongside Nick Fury’s Secret Warriors), only to be dogged at every turn by The Hood’s mystically powered, cape killing Dark Avengers, who are being mandated by Norman Osborne. Doom and Namor throw the support of Latveria and Atlantis behind these new leaders, mostly in an attempt to gain their trust in order to take everything for himself further down the line. Loki makes a similar compact with similar aspirations for future conquest. Emma Frost sees the danger and power of this new ruling class, and decides to throw her support behind the regime in order to preserve the endangered mutant race. Suddenly, up is down, the villains are in complete control, and we have ourselves a Dark Reign.

Well, at least that’s what I’d do…

Bruce Castle Presents: American Icons

4 stars = Stop reading review and go buy now!!!!
3 and a half stars = Great issue and make room on your trade shelf someday soon
3 stars = Recommended and maybe even trade worthy
2 and a half stars = Recommended
2 stars= Not the best, not the worst, not recommended
1 and a half star = Terrible issue and vocalize your disgust at your next social event
1 star = Awful awful awful and you may want to consider dropping this title
0 stars = Next con you attend where the writer and/or artist are present you should throw this issue in their face

Action Comics #867– This is part two of the Brainiac arc from Geoff Johns and Gary Frank. Frank is still knocking the artistic ball out of the park. We’re still getting that old school sci-fi feel to the book and he even gets to draw Supergirl this time. The emotion his characters convey is astounding! It still seems like a simple story to me, but it’s simple and sweet. Perhaps I’ve been reading too many books that feel like you’re standing at ground zero in some major disaster. I’m looking at you Final Crisis. It’s nice to get a simpler tale filled with seemingly real characters that emote and communicate while still having the time to unfold a story. We get a bit less humor in this issue and more action. It’s a fair trade, but I do admit I certainly do enjoy some humor in my comics. There are a few pages without dialogue, but the issue ends on a cliffhanger. The story is being told a bit slowly, and at first I contemplated whether the content was worth the price of admission. But after reviewing it I found more than enough moments that informed me, more than enough stunning panels, and more than enough enjoyment. I definitely enjoyed this book.

3 and a half stars

Captain America White #0

I’d like to first if I may, comment on this issue’s content and price. It’s a bit odd to see an issue 0 priced at 3 bucks. In fact, this book was originally supposed to be priced at 4 bucks with more packed in there. I currently hold in my hands an issue that contains 17 pages of story and 15 pages of an interview with Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale and some original sketches of the book’s covers for all 6 issues. We get about 5 or so pages less than a usual 3 buck comic and actually one page more than we get in the one dollar Conan issue 0. But we also get 15 pages of “extras”. So just to inform you guys, if you’re looking for story in here you may be a bit disappointed. If you like reading interviews and looking at sketches, then you’ll be all good. As far as the actual story in here, it was pretty standard stuff. It was a decent origin setup and actually covered a lot of time at least in what little pages there were. I thought that most of the series was going to be about this stuff. So it gives me hope that maybe we’ll get quite a lot of good stuff in a full-size issue. The very last page of this comic was a bit disappointing. It seems issue 1 isn’t coming out until winter. So why the heck are we getting this like 4 months or so ahead? That was a bit weird to me. Tim Sale’s art looked pretty good. It’s still his usual unique style, but it looks aged and fits well with this 40s yarn. Jeph Loeb’s writing isn’t as bad as people may expect either. It was a more than adequate book and I actually did enjoy the interview stuff. Still, it seems a bit too pricey.

2 stars

Invincible Iron Man #3– I think I’m really warming up to this now. The first issue was a bit shaky and the second issue was really good, but I think I’m really starting to love this stuff. The story is a bit weak. We’ve seen the AIM splinter groups quite a lot and the villains aren’t all that menacing, but there is still a lot to love. It really feels like a true Iron Man book. The dialogue is snappy and the characters are all handled with care. We may not agree with their actions or beliefs, but we understand them. I think Fraction is doing a great job grasping the tone of the highly successful Favreau movie, while still telling his own story in his own style. This is the perfect book for those who either love Iron Man or found yourself enjoying the movie and feel like stumbling into your local comic shop ready for some stories about the Golden Avenger.

3 and a half stars

Iron Man Legacy of Doom #4

And so ends the tale that was old-school, zany, well-written, well-drawn, and above all else fun! I loved the first two Doomquest arcs. They are probably two of the best Iron Man stories in my opinion. I feel that Iron Man and Dr. Doom are two of the best Marvel characters and it was fantastic to see them together involved in a great story. I was hoping that this story would live up to its predecessors and would be able to stand proudly adjacent to that Doomquest hardcover on my shelf. I think that mission was accomplished. The only complaint I have about this book was the somewhat goofy villain, but then I remembered that this is an old-school tale and we tend to forget there was a lot of zany villains in our superheroes’ past. He still serves as a device to get the two armor glad individuals to stand together and fight side by side against overwhelming odds. These two iconic characters are treated with the best of care and their most admirable qualities truly shine. We are reminded of Doom’s moral code and how at times he isn’t that bad of a guy. And it’s always awesome to see a bad ass fighting on the side of the angels. We also see Tony, a character who is at times morally compromised especially as of late, demonstrate an act of true nobility despite being doubted. I’m a big fan of Iron Man and it’s nice to see him act like a hero again.

4 stars

Review: Iron Man Legacy of Doom #3

SPOILERS!!!!

Dr. Doom with Excalibur? Bring it!!!!

The issue begins with Iron Man trying to fight Doom and getting his booty kicked by the good doctor and his shiny new blade. Tony then uses his brain, Dr. Doom of course is insulting Iron Man and then gets electrocuted by his own time platform and Iron Man’s full power. Dr. D is steaming after that, but regenerates because of the Excalibur shard in his armor. Tony takes off while Doom is down.

We then see some scientists talking about the satellite Iron Man was repairing in the first issue. They say that space is bulging as if something really big was pushing stars out of the way. We then see Tony land in a forest to recharge when he sees Merlin. Well, at least the mental projection of him. Merlin informs Tony that he needs to stop Doom from collecting the other half of Arthur’s power. The sword of Excalibur makes you invincible, the scabbard makes you invulnerable. That’s right, they are two different things. Merlin tells Iron Man where the scabbard is and tells him that he has to use his brain as well as his eyes.

Doom uses an enchantment to find the scabbard. We then see those scientists gathered around again, they say that something supposedly from another dimension is heading right for Scotland! Which of course is where we see Iron Man and Dr. Doom next.

All of a sudden, the two characters are trapped in a mystical arena filled with mirrors. They need to break one of the mirrors to gain the scabbard, but which one?! Doom arrogantly smashes the closest mirror. Stone warriors begin beating on them both. Another mirror gets broken, this time enchanted water emerges, a tribute to the lady of the lake. Iron Man blasts the water to turn it to steam. The steam is corrosive. Tony fixes that with a microwave pulse that gets rid of the steam and depletes his armor’s power.

Iron Man then figures out the right mirror to break. Doom sees it too and even with no power, Iron Man gets there first and grabs the scabbard. Doom says to give it to him quickly before…too late! Tony’s armor transforms giving us some new armor yay!!!! Dr. Doom then says “You’ve killed us. You’ve killed us all.” A giant Sauron-like eye then appears. Apparently joining the sword and scabbard would have been the only thing to stop this. Is Doom a good guy now? Did Tony just destroy the universe? Will my questions ever stop? Will they?

I loved the first two Doomquest installments and I’m having a lot of fun with this one too. This is old school comics with some continuity, some new armors, some Arthurian mythology, and of course some awesome moments from two of my favorite characters, Iron Man and Dr. Doom. This is the best Iron Man title out right now.

3 and a half stars out of four

ORIGIN STORIES: Dr. Doom, Latverian Monarch – BEHOLD, THE POWER OF DOOM!

Hey, look at that! Another week and another Origin Stories. HAZAH! Another trip into the Silver Age! Today, I want to talk about one of my favorite stories and how we translated it to Vs. The story in question takes place in the first volume of the Fantastic Four, issues 57-60, during the height of the Lee/Kirby run.

READ ME FIRST: The thing you have to remember about comics from the 60’s and especially about comics written in the “Marvel way”, is that they didn’t have story arcs in the way we recognize them today. No part 1 (of 4)’s and stuff like that. The comics ran with one continuous storyline that could go on for years, perhaps decades (okay, maybe not decades). One of the ways they got away with this was by seeding multiple subplots throughout each issue… kind of like the way soap operas are written… not that I would know. Anyway, within the four issues I’ll be reviewing, there are multiple subplots starring such notable heroes and villains as Wyatt Wingfoot, Black Panther, Sandman, The Inhumans, and of course the Silver Surfer and Dr. Doom. Sometimes the different plots intersect. So, if all of a sudden the Inhumans show up in the Doom story, don’t be confused. I’m only showing you part of the story, the part that’s relevant to the Vs. cards that were inspired by this chunk of issues, so bear with me. If you’d like to read the issues without commercial interruptions, then you can find them reprinted in Masterwork or Essential collection form. Alright, on with the show.

PREMISE: Dr. Doom lures the Silver Surfer to his court with the cheesiest of royal invitations. Those panels will also serve as exhibit A in proving a case for the Surfer’s extreme gullibility. Doom greets the Surfer as a “humble servant of my people”. Some of you may recognize that line as it has appeared as Vs. flavor text. Okay, here’s where things turn sour. Like, if a dude invites you to his castle and then starts talking about how power has ever been his god, warning bells should be going off in your head. Seriously, how naïve is the Surfer? Now, I know back in the day, his origins had yet to be fully fleshed out, but this guy is still a full grown man on the planet he’s from, he can’t be this dumb! He just can’t! No one who could understand t he sacrifice it would take to turn an immoral being such as Galactus away from his home planet could be this naïve. Anyway, Lee addresses this later in a little caption box seen here, so I’ll leave off for now.

Next, Doom convinces Surfer to show off a little of that Cosmic Power. Oh Surfer, how wonderfully the good Doctor has played you. With a weapon like that, he could destroy the entire universe! Quick, get it away from him!

“Give it to daddy, son.”- Silver Surfer

In this wonderful full page spread, Jack Kirby just shows the heck off. You go, Jack! Yeah, you figured correctly, Silver dude. Doom is a ruthless, conniving basticth. Don’t trust him. Hey, we know this guy, right? Yeah, we’ll get back to him. Heh, funny. I know this was written in the 60’s, but Doom’s dialogue sounds like it was lifted right out of one of our President’s speeches on “glowbull terrah”. OOP, let’s not get political…

“Ah, to be on the London stage again…” – Dr. Doom

The Doom figure in the second panel is my favorite of this entire issue. He just looks so ridiculous. You kind of almost believe him. Especially the part about the peasants dancing in the streets. But then—

“Not the ultimate punishment!”- Lowly Peasant

I’d really like to know what the “ultimate punishment” is exactly, but unfortunately, we never get to find out. At least not with the Silver Surfer watching. Of course, Doom recovers nicely.

“You had me at hello.” – Silver Surfer

Losing Patience, Doom puts his foul plan into motion. While distracting Surfer with the tranquil images of space, he orders his scientists and robot lackeys to help him get dressed… and then gives it to him from behind. Yeah. He steals his powers.

“I can’t believe you fell for the oldest trick in the book!” – Dr. Doom (or, Dark Helmet)

And what does Doom do with unlimited POOOOOOWWWWEEEEEER?

“WEEEEEEEE!!!” – Dr. Doom

Oh, and scare the locals. And tear up their property. Man, Dr. Doom is a bigger dick than Superman.

Well, it’s one issue later and Doom is still a douchebag.

“I got you so bad!” – Dr. Doom

These next couple of scans are ridiculous. Doom repeatedly visits the Surfer just to taunt him. Jeez, man. Isn’t there a world out there you need to conquer or something?

Finally, he decides it’s high time to enact his ultimate master plan. The name of said plan?

Now, let us turn our attention to Doom’s thrilling battles with the Fantastic Four!

How to take down the Fantastic Four in 4-Easy-Steps:

Predictably, after the defeat of the greatest super team in history, Dr. Doom can’t help but gloat.

STATION BREAK: Enjoy this word from out sponsor… (…I have no idea.)

OUT-OF-CONTEXT: Surf’s up!

Reason #1 why the Silver Surfer is very, very lame.

Reason #2 why the Silver Surfer is very, very lame.

WHAT-THE-RANDOM: Who was asking about the Watcher?

I love the Silver Age. So many “meanwhile, back at the ranch…” moments. This is just an example of one of the many outdated devices used back then. Because the Marvel Universe was touted as a “shared universe”, Stan Lee needed to explain why every time someone like Dr. Doom was about to take over the world, the rest of the heroes of the Marvel Universe didn’t show up in each other’s books and kick his steel-played ass. This time, for some odd reason, he felt it was necessary to explain why the Watcher hadn’t shown up to help the Fantastic Four. Understandable, I guess, since he was introduced in this very comic less than a year earlier. But the reason Lee gives is utterly riddick. Birth of a new species? Get outta here!

Ok, so how does this travesty conclude? Well, Step 1, get Reed Richards to build an Anti-Cosmic Flying Wing. Step 2, program it to annoy Dr. Doom. Finally… oh, who cares? Click here for the wordy explanation.

Wow, that was a long and painful journey, huh? Where did we end up… oh, it’s time to fill more white space with art descriptions!

Dr. Doom, Latverian Monarch
Setting
: High above Castle Doom, Latveria
Action: This piece depicts the story wherein Dr. Doom robs the Silver Surfer of his Power Cosmic. There’s a hole in the roof, and through it we can see Doom’s laboratory, a Dr. Frankenstein style workspace. Dr. Doom hovers above the Castle, having just burst through the roof of his lab. His back arched and head tilted toward the sky. Green energy explodes from his gauntlets, producing energy trails and highlighting his armor. We get the feeling that he’s laughing maniacally beneath his steel mask.
Focus: Dr. Doom
Keywords: Frenzied, Ultimate Power

Another less well known “character” was also snatched out of this story and later debuted in the Marvel Legends expansion. That’s right, we saw him earlier. Here’s his art description:

“Pacifier” Robot
Setting
: Latverian Village – DAY
Action: The Pacifier robot stomps through a Latverian Village, firing randomly with his hi-tech head and arm-mounted guns.
Focus: The Pacifier Robot
Keywords: explosions, chaos, hulking armor

This is the part where I tell you about the prototype designs for 8-drop Doom and the Pacifier Robot. Well, not today! Surprisingly, both characters managed to hold onto their initial designs all the way through development. Huh, it just happens sometimes. What can I say? Or, I’m lying. Damn, dude. Scanning and cropping all that art is serious work. I’m tired.

So, like last time, I want to toss out some extra Vs. System art. This time, instead of artist related, I’m going to give you character related and obviously, that character is Dr. Doom. Enjoy.

   
   
   

Whew! That was a doozy of trip to the 60’s. Come back next week and perhaps we’ll talk about the newly released Marvel Universe. As always, feel free to hit me up with all your Vs. System related questions and comments. Speaking of… this Friday marks the end of my weekly preview wrap-up articles over on VsSystem.com. Make sure you check out the final episode as its chock full of answers to all the questions you’ve been asking for the past couple of weeks on VsRealms and TCGplayer.com.

SEE YA’ IN SEVEN!

Review: Iron Man: Legacy of Doom #1

Written by David Michelinie and Bob Layton with pencils by Ron Lim and inks by Layton (fricking 90’s All-Star Team right there!), Legacy of Doom is everything that was great about comics in the 90’s with almost none of the lameness of that decade. I know this book is part of the marketing campaign for the Iron Man movie, and in lesser hands, that’s all this book would be. But it’s not, so it isn’t. First of all, this story is a sequel to the Iron Man/Doom team-ups of the past, as seen in Iron Man #’s 149, 150, 249 and 250 or the long out of print Iron Man vs. Doctor Doom collection. These are also the stories that Bendis has been referencing lately in his books. Being a sequel of sorts to stories that are over 10 years old, you wouldn’t expect this book to be overly concerned with current continuity… but it is! That’s the first thing that struck me when I read this.

The story starts in the current Modern Age. Tony Stark has decided to decommission some of his old armors, which to him means disintegrating them with lasers. But before he melts them for scrap, Tony pulls all the old chips out and plugs them into his computer to scans the old drives. He finds an old video file and plays it back. What it reveals is shocking… in that old 90’s way. The video contains an old meeting with Dr. Doom. The problem: Stark doesn’t remember having this meeting. Someone has erased his memory! Who could do that? Who has that kind of power?!

The rest of the issue is told in flashback. We see the old Iron Man visit Latveria to have a word with Doom. Doom explains that the fate of the world is at stake and that Iron Man must assist him or all is lost. Of course, Iron Man agrees and Doom transports them into Hell. Hell? C’mon, Tony, this shit is starting to smell fishy! They fight their way through the Pit and come face to face with Mephisto. The trap is sprung. Apparently, Doom has made a deal with Mephisto and Mephisto’s price is “ridding the over world of a major force for good.” Care to take a guess who that major force for good turned out to be? So now Stark’s stuck in Hell and Doom’s off doing whatever evil things it is that Doom does when Doom’s off doing things.

Memory loss is the oldest continuity trick in the book, and it works brilliantly here. What I loved the most about this book, art aside (I’m the biggest Lim fan ever!!), is how spot on the characterizations were. Doom sounded scary, not cheesy. Iron Man was smart, not lame. Before, I was looking forward to this book for nostalgia’s sake. Now, I’m looking forward to reading a solid comic with solid characters. It was a pleasant surprise to say the least and probably my favorite comic from the current shipment.