Captain America: Man out of Time


By Mark Waid, Jorge Molina, Karl Kesel & Scott Hanna (Marvel/Panini UK)
ISBN: 978-1-84653-487-4

One of the pivotal moments in Marvel Comics history occurred when the Mighty Avengers recovered a tattered body floating in a block of ice (issue #4, March 1964) and resurrected the World War II hero Captain America. With this act bridging the years to Timely and Atlas Comics begun with the return of the Sub-Mariner in Fantastic Four #4, Marvel confirmed and consolidated a solid, concrete, potential-packed history and created an enticing sense of mythic continuance for the fledgling company that instantly gave it the same cachet and enduring grandeur of market leader National/DC

In 2010, after years of conflicting continuity (and with a movie in the offing) Marvel tasked fan-favourite writer Mark Waid (see Captain America: Operation Rebirth) with updating those pivotal events and early future-shocked days in the contemporary world. Of course that modern milieu is the year 2000, not 1964…

This captivating re-interpretation and updating (collecting the 5 issue miniseries Captain America: Man Out of Time from November 2010-April 2011) opens in the dying days of the war as Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes are sent from the European frontline to England and an appointment with doom-laden destiny, before seamlessly segueing into the Sentinel of Liberty’s stunned awakening in tomorrow’s world and a meeting with the World’s Mightiest Heroes.

Waid, perfectly complimented by artists Jorge Molina, Karl Kesel & Scott Hanna, wisely leaves the classic adventures largely unchanged, to concentrate on the missing, contemplative moments and personal crises confronting the uncomprehending Steve Rogers, which means that readers completely unaware of the character’s history and exploits might experience a little confusion in places. However, the narrative, although superficially disjointed, is clear-cut enough to counter this and interested new fans can easily fill in the gaps by perusing one of the many available reprint collections, such as Essential Avengers volume 1, which covers the entire period featured here…

In chapter 2 the reeling hero meets ex- Hulk sidekick Rick Jones (an absurdly close double for the departed Bucky), gets a rapid reality check on his new home and finally accepts that there’s no way home for this Old Soldier…

But that’s not strictly true…

Among the many technological miracles his new allies introduce him to is the embryonic science of time-travel and even while battling such threats as the Lava Men and Masters of Evil the unhappy warrior can only think of returning to his proper place and saving his best friend from death…

The old adage “be careful what you wish for” never proved more true than when the time-ravaging Kang the Conqueror attacks: utterly overwhelming the 21st century heroes and casually dispatching Captain America back to 1945. However, his sense of duty, the threat to his new allies and the unpalatable things he had forgotten about “the Good Old Days” prompt Cap into brilliantly escaping his honeyed time-trap and returning to the place where he is most needed before once more saving the day…

Resolved and ready to tackle his Brave New World Captain America is now ready to carve out a whole new legend…

I’m generally less than sanguine about updates and reboots of classic comics material but I will admit that such things are a necessary evil as the years go by, so when the deed is done with sensitivity and imagination (not to mention dynamic, bravura flamboyance) I can only applaud and commend the effort.

Thrilling, superbly entertaining, compelling and genuinely moving Captain America: Man out of Time is a wonderful confection that will delight old aficionados, impress new readers and should serve to make many fresh fans for the immortal Star-Spangled Avenger.

™ and © 2011 Marvel Entertainment LCC and its subsidiaries. All rights reserved. A British edition released by Panini UK Ltd.

Invaders Now!


By Alex Ross, Christos Gage & Caio Reis (Marvel/Panini UK)
ISBN: 978-1-84653-479-9

During World War II superhuman heroes regularly fought alongside merely mortal men-at-arms and far too often the repercussions of those battles echoed down the years growing stronger and not fading away.

After decades of relative European peace and prosperity one of the worst weapons of the conflict appears to have been rediscovered: an incurable disease which mutates victims into savage, blood-crazed monsters… and in America the survivors and heirs of premiere WWII super-team the Invaders are mystically manipulated into reuniting to relive the most painful event of their auspicious and glorious history.

During the lasts months of the war, with the Allies pushing hard towards Berlin, Captain America & Bucky, the Human Torch & Toro, Sub-Mariner, Spitfire and Union Jack, accompanied by trans-dimensional eldritch vigilante the Vision were battling through Holland when they encountered their Nazi counterparts Masterman, Baron Blood, U-Man, Warrior Woman and Iron Cross.

The Blitzkriegers were protecting Hitler’s top geneticist Arnim Zola, who was about to unleash a monstrous bio-weapon intended to turn the tide of the war… a virus that made civilians and enemy soldiers into bestial maniacs.

Faced with a village full of highly contagious, deranged living weapons, the Invaders had no choice but to sterilise the entire area and euthanise the infected victims…

Now nearly seventy years later Vision has been called back to our Reality as somebody is using magic to turn back time and re-run the whole ghastly affair once more. Moreover, Zola’s deadly virus is back and loose in a world where global transport is commonplace and no place is truly isolated…

This plain and simple, old-fashioned blockbuster romp (collecting the 5 issue miniseries from 2010) combines Alex Ross’s ardent passion for classic superhero comics with modern methodology, funnybook mythology with cosmic horror literature, and contemporary terrorism fiction with timeless action-adventure in a captivating countdown thriller scripted by Christos Gage and effectively illustrated by Caio Reis.

Supremely old-school and breathtakingly in tune with 21st century tastes Invaders Now! delivers a thoroughly gratifying good guys vs. bad guys drama drenched in pure bravura escapism.

All-out vintage Marvel Madness for the modern comics maven: you just know you want it…

™ and © 2010 & 2011 Marvel Entertainment LCC and its subsidiaries. All rights reserved. A British edition released by Panini UK Ltd.

Avengers Prime


By Brian Michael Bendis, Alan Davis & Mark Farmer (Marvel/Panini UK)
ISBN: 978-1-84653-480-5

There’s a wealth of Marvel material around starring Thor at the moment and this impressive fantasy fable (originally released as a 5 part miniseries) is one of the very best modern contributions, featuring as it does two of his most popular companions and a full-on foray to the fabled land of Asgard for the founding fathers of the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes…

The story begins just seconds after the conclusion of Siege wherein Norman Osborn, America’s Security Czar, instigated a deadly war against the Norse gods currently trapped on Earth (see also Thor and Secret Invasion: Thor) in Broxton, Oklahoma. The incident served to reunite heroes divided by the Civil War orchestrated by Osborn when he was working to become the nation’ s Chief of Homeland Security.

Now in the aftermath of the colossal battle old friends on opposite sides of the political divide are counting their losses and almost rekindling old animosities amidst the ruins of Asgard – now lying scattered across the Oklahoma landscape when a magical vortex sucks Cap, Shellhead and Thor into a magical wonderland in crisis…

In cosmological terms Asgard was the centre of Nine mystical and conjoined Realms and its displacement and fall has destabilised the whole. Now the Sentinel of Liberty has fallen among hostile Elves, Thor has been drawn into empty Vanaheim to battle the Enchantress and her army of brutal trolls, whilst Iron Man has been dumped amidst dragons and Giants with his super-scientific armour barely able to generate a spark…

Moreover Hela, Goddess of Death believes the time has finally come for her to end all Life forever…

The fractured friendship of these primal heroes is re-forged in a spectacular, bombastic and wildly entertaining Saves-The-Day-Saga by Brian Michael Bendis, Alan Davis & Mark Farmer, packed with action, suspense and fabulous frantic fantasy that will equally delight new readers and faithful fuddy-duddies of my ilk.

Frantic, fast-paced fun to enchant every Fights ‘n’ Tights aficionado, and a graphic novel must-have item…

™ and © 2010 & 2011 Marvel Entertainment LCC and its subsidiaries. All rights reserved. A British edition released by Panini UK Ltd.

Ultimate Avengers volume 3: Blade versus the Avengers


By Mark Millar, Steve Dillon & Andy Lanning (Marvel/Panini UK)
ISBN: 978-1-84653-478-2

Marvel’s Ultimates sub-imprint began in 2000 with key characters and concepts retooled to bring them into line with the tastes of modern readers – a potentially discrete market from the baby-boomers and their descendents, who were apparently content to stick with the universe which had sprung from the fantastic founding talents of Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and Stan Lee – or most likely –  one unable or unwilling to deal with the five decades (seven if you include the Golden Age Timely tales retroactively co-opted into the mix) of continuity baggage that had accumulated around the originals.

Eventually this darkly nihilistic new universe became as continuity-constricted as its predecessor and in 2008 the cleansing event “Ultimatum” culminated in a reign of terror which apparently (this is still comics, after all) killed dozens of super-humans and millions of lesser mortals. Although a strong seller the saga was largely trashed by the fans who bought it and the ongoing new “Ultimatum Comics” line quietly back-pedalled on its declared intentions…

The key and era-ending event was a colossal tsunami that drowned the superhero-heavy island of Manhattan and this third post-tsunami collection (re-presenting Ultimate Comics Avengers 3, #1-6) focuses on a more or less dried out world with the diminished global populations adapted to the new status quo.

Before the Deluge Nick Fury ran an American Black Ops team of super-humans called the Avengers, but he was eventually toppled from his position for sundry rule-bending antics – and being caught doing them. Now he’s firmly re-established, running a black ops team doing stuff the officially sanctioned Ultimates wouldn’t dream of…

His secret army consists of  Hawkeye – the man who never misses, James Rhodes: a fanatical soldier wearing devastating War Machine battle armour; Gregory Stark, Iron Man’s smarter, utterly immoral older brother, Nerd Hulk, a cloned gamma-monster with all the original’s power but implanted with Banner’s brain and milksop character, size changing insect queen Red Wasp and ruthless super-spy Black Widow. Also popping in when nobody’s looking is resurrected WWII super soldier Captain America – part of the bright and shiny squad but always happy to slum it when necessary…

This time the dark-side heroes stumble into a secret war that has gone on uninterrupted by the end of the world, and kicks off with the half-human vampire-hunter Blade on the unaccustomed defensive. The Bloodsuckers he has generally picked off with ease are suddenly more organised, more effective and even more dangerous and as the story unfolds it transpires they have a new king with a new plan…

This mysterious mastermind is wearing Iron Man’s armour and ignoring ordinary mortals, preferring to turn super-heroes into a vampiric army. The situation starts bad and gets exponentially worse with metahuman heroes and guest-stars dropping like flies. With all possible saviours succumbing to the unstoppable plague, it looks hopeless when only Blade, Fury, Black Widow and Hawkeye are left untainted and only the greatest miracle or boldest masterstroke can save humanity…

Which it does in spectacular fashion in this dark, moody and rocket-paced thriller by Mark Millar and Steve Dillon: wry, violent and powerfully scary, this grim-and-gritty fan-fest is engrossing and eminently readable

This spooky, cynical, sinister shocker is another breathtakingly effective yarn that could only be told outside the Marvel Universe, but one that will resonate with older fans who love the darkest side of superheroes and casual readers who know the company’s movies better than the comic-books.
™ & © 2010 Marvel Entertainment LLC and its subsidiaries. All Rights Reserved. A British edition published by Panini.

Ultimate Comics New Ultimates: Thor Reborn


By Jeph Loeb & Frank Cho (Marvel/Panini UK)
ISBN: 978-1-84653-475-1

The stark, savage and nihilistically modern Utimates Comic universe is stocked with dark and gritty analogues of the shiny dynasty crafted by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, but since its inception at the turn of this century has resolved into something which can easily stand on its own merits.

With the Norse hero Thor very much in the public eye at the moment a number of his Ultimately alternative adventures have quickly found themselves translated into graphic novels and Thor Reborn, although certainly not the easiest to begin your acquaintance with, is probably the most action-packed and definitely the best illustrated.

Written by Jeph Loeb and captivatingly depicted by Frank Cho the saga is actually a tale of the alternate Avengers (originally published as Ultimate Comics New Ultimates #1-5) which opens with the Thunderer trapped in the land of the dead, and mourned on Earth by his fellow heroes – especially his devoted lover Valkyrie; a mortal woman artificially empowered by clandestine means who now wields Thor’s hammer.

When her old team the Defenders attacks Ultimates HQ, Iron Man, Hawkeye, Captain America, Valkyrie and mystery goddess Zarda are easily defeated and the attackers steal the mystic mallet, setting off a disastrous chain of deadly events…

Meanwhile the lost Thor has been granted a chance to escape his dolorous prison: all he has to do is impregnate his captor: Hela, Queen of Death…

Ka-Zar, Shanna the She-Devil and Black Panther are just strolling through the park when Loki, god of Madness and Mischief, with Amora the Enchantress in tow, leads an invasion of trolls and monsters to Earth. In his hand is Thor’s dimension-traversing hammer…

Before the assembled champions can muster a defence Amora mesmerises all the female Ultimates including S.H.I.E.L.D. Commander Carol Danvers, and inevitably the indomitable, hard-pressed heroes fall…

But at the moment of triumph a secret weapon turns the tide and the Ultimates escape to fight another day, whilst in Valhalla, bargain fully carried out, Thor readies himself to return, only to discover that one small detail has been neglected. For him to return to life once more, somebody on the other side must die…

Tense, compelling and explosively cathartic, the saga of the Thunderer’s return is pure comics hokum of the very highest quality: unassuming but wildly satisfying.

™ and © 2010 Marvel Entertainment LCC and its subsidiaries. All rights reserved. A British edition released by Panini UK Ltd.

Avengers: Death Trap, the Vault – A Marvel Graphic Novel


By Danny Fingeroth, Ron Lim, Jim Sanders & Fred Fredericks (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-87135-810-3

Marvel don’t generally publish original material graphic novel these days but once they were a market leader in the field with a range of “big stories” told on larger pages emulating the long-established European Album (285 x 220 mm rather than the standard 258 x 168 mm of today’s books) featuring not only proprietary characters in out-of-the-ordinary adventures but also licensed assets like Conan, creator-owned properties like Alien Legion and new character debuts.

However the company’s extended experiment with big ticket storytelling in the 1980s and 1990s produced some exciting (and if I’m scrupulously honest, appalling) results that the company has never come close to repeating in since. Many of the stories still stand out today – or would if they were still in print.

Released in 1991, Death Trap, the Vault is a conventional but enjoyable Fights ‘n’ Tights thriller in the Summer Blockbuster vein that fits solidly into the strictly-policed continuity of the mainstream Marvel Universe. Scripted by Danny Fingeroth and illustrated by Ron Lim with inking by Jim Sanders & Fred Fredericks, this yarn is potentially impenetrable to occasional fans but nevertheless delivers the tension, action and character byplay to the faithful readership that made Marvel the premier US comics publisher for such a long time.

The plot itself is simple and effective: with so many super-powered menaces on the loose the Federal Government constructed a specialised penitentiary to incarcerate villains once they’re captured. Some felons, deemed too dangerous for normal courts, are even tried there. Perhaps the authorities could have picked a better warden though: Truman Marsh might be a fine administrator but his parents were collateral casualties in a super-powered clash and he spends far too much time thinking about the Doomsday bomb hidden in the Vault in case of a mass breakout…

One day the inevitable finally occurs and a power outage enables a few convicts to bust free. Already on the scene Captain America and size-changing savant Doctor Pym fight a holding action against Venom, Mentallo, Orca, Bullet and a dozen other lethal adversaries, but with more being released every minute things look pretty grim and Marsh starts getting an itch in his trigger – or rather, button-pushing – finger…

With the super-creeps killing hostages and the entire complex in lockdown a team of Avengers and Government penal battalion Freedom Force have no choice but to break into the ultimate prison, unaware that the deadly clock is already counting down…

Moreover, since Freedom Force is composed of the kind of criminals the Vault was built to contain, can Earth’s mightiest Heroes risk trusting them whilst the rampaging escapees run riot?

Intense and visceral, this old-school, all-out action romp will delight the traditionally-minded reader and still holds a happy surprise or two for we older, ostensibly wiser, jaded, grumpy geezers…


The book was resized and repackaged in 1993 as Venom: Death Trap the Vault and if you don’t mind seeing your action on a slightly smaller scale this edition might be a little easier to find.
© 1991 Marvel Entertainment Group/Marvel Characters, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Emperor Doom starring the Mighty Avengers – A Marvel Graphic Novel


By Dave Michelinie, Bob Hall & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-87135-256-9

I can’t recall the last time Marvel published an all-original graphic novel as opposed to a collection of previously printed material, but once they were a market leader in the field with an entire range of “big stories” told on larger than normal pages (285 x 220 mm rather than the generally standard 258 x 168 mm of today’s books) featuring not only proprietary characters in out-of-the-ordinary adventures but also licensed assets like Conan, creator-owned properties like Alien Legion and new character debuts.

Nonetheless, Marvel’s ambitious dalliance with graphic novel publishing in the 1980s and 1990s produced some classy results that the company has never come close to repeating in the intervening years. Both original concepts and their own properties were represented in that initial run and many of the stories still stand out today – or would if they were still in print.

Released in 1987 Emperor Doom was conceived by Mark Gruenwald, David Michelinie and Jim Shooter, scripted by Michelinie and illustrated by Bob Hall with some additional inking by Keith Williams, and fits comfortably into the tightly policed continuity of the mainstream Marvel Universe.

If you’re wondering, despite coming out nearly two years after the launch of regular comicbook series West Coast Avengers, this saga is set just before that auspicious fresh start for Iron Man, Tigra, Wonder Man , Hawkeye and Mockingbird…

The plot itself is delightfully sly and simple: for once eschewing rash attacks against assembled superheroes, deadly dictator Doctor Doom has devised a scheme to dominate humanity through subtler means. Inviting Sub-Mariner to act as his agent the master villain uses the sub-sea anti-hero to neutralise mechanical heroes and rivals prior to using a pheromone-based bio-weapon to make all organic beings utterly compliant to his will. Naturally Doom then once-more betrayed his aquatic ally…

Meanwhile living energy being Wonder Man is undergoing a month-long isolation experiment to determine the nature of his abilities. When he exits the chamber 30 days later he discovers the entire planet has willingly, joyously accepted Doom as their natural and beloved ruler. Alone and desperate the last Avenger must devise a method of saving the world from its contented subjugation…

Of course there’s another side to this story. Doom, ultimately utterly successful, has turned the planet into an orderly, antiseptic paradise: no war, no want, no sickness and no conflict, just happy productive citizens doing what they’re told. In this perfect totalitarian triumph all the trains run on time and nobody is discontented. All Doom has to do is accept heartfelt cheers and do the daily paperwork.

With the entire world an idealised clone of Switzerland, the Iron Despot is bored out of his mind…

So it’s with mixed emotion that Doom realises Wonder Man and a select band of newly liberated Avengers are coming for him, determined to free the world or die…

Tense and compelling this intriguingly low-key tale abandoned the traditional all-out action for a far more reasoned and sinisterly realistic solution – disappointing and baffling a large number of fans at the time – but the clever premise and solution, underplayed art and wicked, tongue-in-cheek attitude remove this yarn from the ordinary Fights ‘n’ Tights milieu and elevate it to one of the most chillingly mature Avengers epics ever produced.

A cut above the average and well worth an open-eyed reappraisal, this is an Avengers adventure for every jaded superhero fan.
© 1987 Marvel Entertainment Group/Marvel Characters, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Ultimate Avengers 2: Crime and Punishment


By Mark Millar, Lenil Francis Yu & various (Marvel/Panini UK)
ISBN: 978-1-84653-465-2

Marvel Ultimates began in 2000 as a reconfiguration of key characters and concepts to bring them into line with the tastes of modern readers – perceived as a potentially separate buying public from the baby-boomers and their descendents, who were content to stick with the various efforts that had sprung from the fantastic originating talents of Kirby, Ditko and Lee – and one unable or unwilling to deal with the decades of continuity baggage that had accumulated around the originals.

Eventually this darkly nihilistic new universe became as continuity-constricted as its predecessor and in 2008 the cleansing event “Ultimatum” culminated in a reign of terror which apparently (this is still comics, after all) killed three dozen odd heroes and villains plus millions of lesser mortals. Although a good seller (in contemporary terms, at least) the saga was largely trashed by the fans who bought it, and the ongoing new “Ultimatum Comics” line quietly back-pedalled on its declared intentions…

The key and era-ending event was a colossal tsunami that drowned the superhero-heavy island of Manhattan and this second post-tidal wave collection (assembling issues #7-12 of Ultimate Avengers 2) finds the survivors fully adapted to their dried-out world and back in business.

Before the Deluge Nick Fury ran an American Black Ops team of superhumans called the Avengers, but he was eventually toppled from his position for sundry rule-bending antics – and being caught doing them. Now he’s back, running another black ops team doing stuff real heroes wouldn’t dream of…

His far from happy band of brothers consists of Hawkeye – the man who never misses, James Rhodes: a fanatical soldier wearing devastating War Machine battle armour; Gregory Stark, Iron Man’s smarter, utterly immoral older brother, Nerd Hulk, a cloned gamma-monster with all the original’s power but implanted with Banner’s brain and milksop character and ruthless super-spy Black Widow. You can never have enough super-stooges though, and Fury is actively recruiting…

First on his wish-list is the Punisher, a vengeance-crazed vigilante carving his way through the underworld of three continents. It’s hard to imagine an even colder stone-killer than the standard Marvel Universe Frank Castle but creators Mark Millar, Lenil Francis Yu, Gerry Alanguilan & Laura Martin just about manage. However, his campaign of retribution is promptly stopped cold by Captain America.

Imprisoned by Federal authorities, the Punisher never makes it to prison, and soon after a new masked hero with loads of guns and a big skull on his chest reluctantly joins Fury’s death-squad…

The other newbie is super-gangsta Tyrone Cash, whose recruitment causes a lot more collateral damage. Before being blackmailed onto the team the violence-addicted, invulnerable superhuman had another life: a college professor who researched how to maximise human physical potential. One day he just vanished, leaving a pile of rubble and some very instructive data that his student Bruce Banner developed to its ultimate end… much to the world’s eternal regret.

Though not as strong as the Hulk, Cash is homicidally violent and aggressive, and enjoys breaking stuff and hurting people. Only the greatest threat imaginable could force Fury to keep such a dangerous tool around…

And that happens to be a flaming-skulled mutant biker called Ghost Rider who is relentlessly hunting and killing the Vice President’s oldest buddies and has now set his eyeless sights on the Veep himself… Carving a swathe of fiery destruction that leads to the White House itself, the Ghost Rider is utterly unstoppable. No mutant has ever been as powerful. If the press-ganged team didn’t know better, it would seem that the blazing biker is a real ghost… but there’s no such thing, right?

Trenchant, sardonic and incredibly violent, the traditional super-science scenario takes a big, bold step into the realm of satanic, supernatural horror and, as always, the grim-and-gritty heroes are almost indistinguishable from the genuine bad-guys in this stunningly engrossing, anti-heroic epic. No shining knights here, but plenty of dark ones…

Given some distance and far removed from market hype and the frantic, relentless immediacy of the sales arena there’s a far better chance to honestly assess these tales on merit alone, and given such an opportunity you’d be daft not to take a long hard look at this spectacular, beautifully cynical thriller: another breathtaking, sinisterly effective yarn that could only be told outside the Marvel Universe, but it’s also one that should solidly resonate with older fans who love the darkest side of superheroes and especially those casual readers who know the company’s movies better than the comic-books.

™& © 2010 Marvel Entertainment LLC and its subsidiaries. All Rights Reserved. A British edition published by Panini.

New Avengers: The Reunion


By Jim McCann, David López & Alvaro López (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-3855-6

The Marvel publishing event Secret Invasion revoked a number of hasty decisions made by writers and editors in the day-to-day, hand-to-mouth hurly-burly of periodical publication, among them a couple of “deaths”. The Skrulls, shape-shifting aliens, had been infiltrating all corners of the Marvel Universe for years, even abducting and replacing certain heroes. Thus when Bobbi Morse-Barton, Mockingbird, ex-super-spy, West Coast Avenger and wife of Hawkeye was killed, it wasn’t her…

Freed and returned to Earth Mockingbird is having trouble readjusting. The world is a far darker place, and terrorists have overtaken super-villains as the greatest threat, Hawkeye is now the enigmatic warrior Ronin – and wants to pick up where they left off. When Bobbi “died” the couple were going through a divorce, but he has since convinced himself that that was the Skrull impostor playing mind-games…

This is a rare thing for a Marvel graphic novel; a love story/Romcom with genuine sentiment and quite a few laughs riding shotgun on the traditional moody adventure the company generally specialises in. Collecting pertinent portions of Dark Reign: New Nation and the miniseries New Avengers: The Reunion #1-4, the saga opens with ‘Supicion’ as Clint Barton violently forces himself back into Mockingbird’s life and realises that his one-and-only is still carrying a secret trauma from her time as a Skrull prisoner. She wants nothing to do with him and has her own cure for what’s ailing her…

‘The Lady Vanishes’ finds the persistent Ace Archer making a pest of himself until she lets him join her new endeavour. Not prepared to rejoin the Avengers Mockingbird has returned to her old profession and working with a group of other returned Skrull captives has created her own spy network. The World has gone to hell in a hand-basket and if the superheroes can’t fix it her World Counterterrorism Agency will – by whatever means necessary.

Against her better judgement Bobbi allows her once-hubby to come along on a mission and ‘Double Indemnity’ finds them matching wits with the terrifying Monica Rappaccini, new leader of evil think-tank Advanced Idea Mechanics and the world’s most ruthlessly ambitious poisons specialist…

How the odd couple reconnect, save the world and come to terms with the horrors Bobbi experienced on Skrullworld makes for a rollicking, complications-free action-romp that is bright, breezy and just the tonic for romantic fans of modern lovers.

Saving civilisation, punching each other out and gradually redefining the term “True Love” this snappy little package is everything Mr. & Mrs. Smith should have been and writer Jim McCann and artists David López & Alvaro López have my fervent support for a sequel any time they’re in the mood…

© 2009, 2010 Marvel Publishing, Inc, a subsidiary of Marvel Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

New Avengers: Secret Invasion volume 1


By Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Gaydos, David Mack, Jim Cheung, Billy Tan & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-2947-9

The Skrulls are shape-shifting aliens who’ve bedevilled Earth since Fantastic Four #2, and they have long been a pernicious cornerstone of the Marvel Universe. After decades of use and misuse the insidious invaders were made the stars of a colossal braided mega-crossover event beginning in April 2008 and running through all the company’s titles until Christmas.

The premise of Secret Invasion is simple: the would-be alien conquerors have only just survived a devastating catastrophe which destroyed much of their empire; subsequently leading to a mass religious conversion. They are now utterly resolved and dedicated to make Earth their new homeworld. To this end they have gradually replaced a number of key Earth denizens – most notably superheroes and other metahumans. When the plot is discovered no defender of the Earth truly knows who is on their side…

Moreover the Skrulls have also unravelled the secrets of Earth magic and genetic superpowers, creating amped-up counterparts to Earth’s mightiest. They are now primed and able to destroy the world’s heroic champions in head to head confrontations.

Rather than give to much away let me just say that if you like this sort of thing you’ll love it, and a detailed familiarity is not completely vital to your understanding. However, for a complete experience, you will need to see the other 22 “Secret Invasion” volumes that accompany this on, although you could get by with only the key collection Secret Invasion – which contains all eight issues of the core miniseries, a one-shot spin-off “Who Do You Trust?” plus an illustrated textbook “Skrulls” which claims to provide a listing and biography for every shape-shifter yet encountered in the Marvel Universe (but if they left any who could tell?).

Collecting issues #38-42 of New Avengers, the saga contained in the book under review here is only the first part of the team’s response to the Invasion, focussing on individual character pieces to propel the narrative rather than vast battles. There is a second Avengers volume, so naturally this one ends on another thrice-accursed cliffhanger…

Scripted throughout by Brian Michael Bendis, the first chapter is illustrated by Michael Gaydos and deals with the aftermath of the superhero Civil War, as Luke Cage and his wife Jessica find themselves on different sides as she leaves a team of outlaw Avengers for the stability of the State-sanctioned alternative, whilst the second chapter (art by David Mack) sees that illegal team – Wolverine, Ronin, Iron Fist, Spider-Man and martial artist Maya – encounter the alien first strike when they narrowly escape death from a multi-powered doppelganger of Daredevil.

The scene then switches to the recent past and the devastated Skrull homeworld, detailing the rise of the new religious faction and the opening days of the Invasion (stunningly pictured by Jim Cheung & John Dell) before segueing to the Savage Land (illustrated by Billy Tan) and a confrontation between Earth’s costumed defenders and a Skrull ship full of what appears to be old friends – some of whom have been or dead for years. Are they escaped humans – or another batch of the new undetectable super-Skrulls?

That particular confrontation resolves itself in the aforementioned Secret Invasion – that’s why I said it was key – but this chronicle closes with another informative reminiscence drawn by Cheung & Dell as the new Skrull Queen recalls how she took lead strategic role in the campaign by replacing Spider-Woman in the Government-Approved Avengers.

As the book closes she readies her team for action, preparing to betray and destroy them all…

You will also definitely benefit by checking out the collections Secret Invasion: the Infiltration, Secret War (2004), Avengers Disassembled, and Annihilation volumes 1-3, as well as the rather pivotal New Avengers: Illuminati graphic novel.

Despite that copious homework list I’ve provided this book is still is solid action-adventure read, with plenty of human drama to balance the paranoia and power-plays. Reading it might be confusing and will be expensive, but for dedicated Marvelites and keen followers of Fights ‘n’ Tights action it is pure guilty pleasure.

© 2010 Marvel Publishing, Inc, a subsidiary of Marvel Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved.