Incredible Hulk Marvel Masterworks volume 10


By Len Wein, Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway, Steve Englehart, Tony Isabella, Herb Trimpe & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-9596-2 (HB)

During the 1970s the Incredible Hulk settled into a comfortable – if spectacularly destructive – pattern. A globe-trotting, monster-mashing plot formula saw tragic Bruce Banner hiding and seeking cures for his gamma-transformative curse, alternately aided or hunted by prospective father-in-law US General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross and his daughter – the scientist’s unobtainable inamorata – Betty, with a non-stop procession of guest-star heroes and villains providing the battle du jour.

Herb Trimpe had made the character his own, displaying a penchant for explosive action and an unparalleled facility for drawing technology – especially honking great ordnance and vehicles. Beginning with Roy Thomas – unofficial custodian of Marvel’s burgeoning shared-universe continuity – a string of skilful scripters effectively played the afflicted Jekyll/Hyde card for maximum angst and ironic heartbreak as the Jade Juggernaut became a pillar of Marvel’s growing pantheon.

This chronologically-curated hardback and eBook compendium re-presents issues #171-183, encompassing cover-dates January 1974 to January 1975, and begins with a brace of revelatory Introductions from then Editor-in-Chief Roy Thomas and returning scripter Len Wein on the creation of a certain mutant Canadian…

Before that debut, however, the drama commences with excessive bombast but no appreciable fanfare as ‘Revenge!’ (by Gerry Conway – from a Steve Englehart plot – with art by Trimpe & Jack Abel) finds the Green Goliath a stowaway on a plane back to military Mecca Hulkbuster Base. The jet carries a new Project: Greenskin commanding officer. Spit-&-polish Colonel John D. Armbruster has taken over from the politically sidelined Thunderbolt Ross….

The camp is eerily deserted and the reason soon becomes clear as bludgeoning brutes Abomination and The Rhino attack the new arrivals. Having subdued the entire garrison, they plan on detonating the base’s gamma-bomb self-destruct device but are utterly unprepared for the Hulk’s irascible intervention…

Roy Thomas plotted Tony Isabella’s script for #172 wherein the Hulk – captured by the ungrateful soldiers he saved – is hurled into another dimension, allowing a mystic menace to inadvertently escape. ‘And Canst Thou Slay… The Juggernaut?’ reveals that even that magically augmented menace cannot resist our favourite monster’s might and features a telling cameo by the X-Men, after which Thomas scripts all-Trimpe art-fest ‘Anybody Out There Remember… The Cobalt Man?’, wherein another old X-adversary – Ralph Roberts – picks up the Jade Giant at sea before sailing his research vessel into a nuclear test explosion…

Dying of radiation exposure, the deranged technologist then determines to demonstrate atomic bombs are bad to a callous, uncaring world by detonating one over Sydney in Doomsday… Down Under’ (Conway, Thomas, Trimpe & Abel). The second clash with the azure-armoured Cobalt Man results in a blistering battle in the stratosphere, a cataclysmic explosion and Hulk crashing to earth far, far away as a ‘Man-Brute in the Hidden Land!’ (#175, Thomas, Trimpe & Abel)…

Here a typically short-tempered encounter with the Uncanny Inhumans and devastating duel with silent super-monarch Black Bolt, after the usual collateral carnage, ends with the gamma gladiator hurtling to the far side of the sun in a rocket-ship for a date with allegory if not destiny.

During the early 1970s a throwaway Fantastic Four character dubbed Him was transubstantiated into a modern interpretation of the Christ myth and placed on a world far more like our own than the Earth of Marvel’s universe.

That troubled globe was codified as Counter-Earth and upon it messianic Adam Warlock battled a Satan-analogue known as the Man-Beast. Hulk had briefly visited once before and now he crashed there again to complete the allegorical epic beginning with ‘Crisis on Counter-Earth!’ by Conway, Trimpe & Abel.

Since the Hulk’s departure, Man-Beast and his animalistic minions (all spawned by godlike genetic meddler The High Evolutionary) had become America’s President and Cabinet. Moving decisively, they had finally captured Warlock and led humanity to the brink of extinction, leaving the would-be messiah’s disciples in utter confusion.

Now with the nation in foment, the Hulk’s shattering return gives Warlock’s faithful flock an opportunity to save their saviour in ‘Peril of the Plural Planet!’ but the foray badly misfires and Warlock is captured. Publicly crucified at the behest of the people, humanity’s last hope perishes…

Meanwhile on true-Earth, Ross and Armbruster discover trusted comrade (and Ross’ son-in-law) Major Glenn Talbot has escaped from a top security Soviet prison and is making his triumphant way back to the USA…

The quasi-religious experience concludes with ‘Triumph on Terra-Two’ (Conway, Isabella, Trimpe & Abel) as the dead prophet resurrects whilst Hulk is waging his last battle against Man-Beast just in time to deliver a cosmic coup de grace before ascending from Counter-Earth to the beckoning stars…

Incredible Hulk #179 signalled a long-overdue thematic reboot as Len Wein signed on as writer/editor with strong ideas on how to put some dramatic impact back into the feature. It began with ‘Re-enter: The Missing Link’, as the Jade Juggernaut loses patience during his return trip and bursts out of his borrowed spaceship just as America’s military defences shoot it down.

He crashes to earth in the mining district of Appalachia and, reverting to befuddled Bruce Banner, is adopted by the dirt-poor Bradford family. They have a habit of taking in strays and have already welcomed a strange, huge yet gentle being they’ve named Lincoln.

As time passes Banner recognises the creature as a former Hulk foe known as the Missing Link. The colossal brute is neither evil nor violent (unless provoked) but is lethally radioactive, and the fugitive physicist faces the dilemma of having to break up a perfect happy family before they all die.

The Link, of course, refuses to cooperate or go quietly…

Next comes the most momentous story in Hulk history which starts with ‘And the Wind Howls… Wendigo!’ (#180, October 1974, Wein, Trimpe & Abel). Here the Green Giant gallivants across the Canadian Border and encounters a witch attempting to cure her brother of a curse which has transformed him into a rampaging cannibalistic monster.

Unfortunately, that cure means Hulk must become a Wendigo in his stead…

It is while the Great Green and Weird White monsters are fighting that mutant megastar Wolverine first appears – in the very last panel – and that’s what leads into the savage fist, fang and claw fest that follows.

‘And Now… The Wolverine!’ captivatingly concludes the saga as the Maple nation’s top-secret super-agent is unleashed upon both the Emerald Goliath and man-eating Wendigo in an action-stuffed romp teeming with triumph, tragedy and lots of slashing and hitting. The rest is history…

Back south of the border, Major Talbot has been reunited with his wife and family and is eagerly expecting a meeting with President Ford as ‘Between Hammer and Anvil!’ (with Trimpe taking sole charge of the art chores) finds the ever-isolated Hulk meeting and losing a true friend in jolly hobo Crackerjack Jackson.

The über-action portion of the tale comes from two escaped convicts who despise each other but are forced to endure togetherness because of an alien chain which shackles them whilst imparting overwhelming physical power. It’s not, nearly enough, however, enough to stop a fighting-mad, heartbroken Hulk…

This catastrophic compilation concludes with the return of electrical vampire and life-stealer ZZZAX in ‘Fury at 50,000 Volts!’: wrecking a new life Banner surreptitiously starts carving out for himself in Chicago…

To Be Continued…

This superbly cathartic tome also reproduces John Romita’s first design sketches for Wolverine, a page of original art from the debut and house ads for the issue, as well as covers and frontispieces by John Byrne & Abel and Trimpe from later Hulk/Wolverine reprint collections.

The Incredible Hulk is one of the most well-known comic characters on Earth, and these stories, as much as the movies, cartoons, TV shows, games, toys and action figures, are the reason why. For an uncomplicated, honestly vicarious and cathartic experience of Might literally making Right, you can’t do better than these yarns.
© 1974, 1975, 2016 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine


By Jason Aaron, Adam Kubert & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0785140801 (TPB)

Remember when comic stories were fun, thrilling and, best of all, joyously uncomplicated? Here’s one of those…

Eschewing mind-boggling continuity-links and crossover overload, writer Jason Aaron and artist Adam Kubert – with the impressive support of inkers Mark Morales, Dexter Vines & Mark Roslan (as well as colourist Justin Ponsor and letterer Rob Steen) – simply set out to craft a well-told, action-packed and even poignant time-travel fun-fest that does everything right… and superbly succeeded. The result was 6-issue miniseries Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine.

Without giving away too much delicious detail (trust me you’ll be grateful once you read the full epic adventure) 65-million years ago, as a giant asteroid hurtles towards Earth and an impact which will wipe out the dinosaurs and at least two emergent species of proto-hominid, a warring couple of marooned superheroes from the 21st century sadly make peace with their fate if not each other…

Lost in time for months through the most ridiculous of circumstances, Wolverine and Peter Parker are ready to die. The feral mutant has become leader of the smart but diminutive Small People, leading them to salvation from the predations of their giant evolutionary rivals the Kill People and all other threats, whilst the erstwhile Spider-Man has isolated himself from all contact, terrified of rewriting the future even if he is no longer part of it.

Moreover, Parker’s dreams are haunted by a woman he doesn’t know, but who has become the only thing he cares for…

At a most precipitous moment, the pair are snatched from their time zone and returned to what appears to be an utterly devastated present. The Small People have survived humanity’s fall and are new rulers of a shattered society, but are currently at risk of losing their own shot as overlords of Earth. A fresh Armageddon from leftover human technology, a time-travelling z-list villain and a terrifying sentient planet with the ghost consciousness of Doctor Doom appears to be about to end civilisation one more time…

After Wolverine saves the day and is brought back from beyond death by Parker, they are separated in time and dumped at significant and harrowing moments of each other’s early life; but all the while sinister forces wielded by a hidden cosmic mastermind are manipulating not just the heroes but time itself…

After literally saving the world and perhaps the universe, the heroes are still hunted and continually assaulted by Temporal Gangstas The Czar and Big Murder, until Spider-Man and Wolverine finally strike back and seemingly triumph, only to be stranded in the American West for years…

At least this time Peter is happily united with the mysterious girl of his dreams.

However, the epic is far from finished and heartbreak is just around the chronal corner…

Fast-paced, spectacular, incredibly ingenious and uproariously witty, this tale – available in trade paperback and digital editions – is a sparkling timeless gem and the perfect antidote for over-angsty costumed drama overload.
© 2012 Marvel Characters Inc. All rights reserved.

Essential X-Men volume 1


By Len Wein, Chris Claremont, Bill Mantlo, Dave Cockrum, John Byrne, Bob Brown, Tony DeZuniga & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-2376-7

In 1963 The X-Men #1 introduced ScottCyclopsSummers, BobbyIcemanDrake, WarrenAngelWorthington, JeanMarvel GirlGrey and HankThe BeastMcCoy: very special students of Professor Charles Xavier.

He was a wheelchair-bound telepath dedicated to brokering peace and integration between the masses of humanity and the emergent off-shoot race of mutants dubbed Homo Superior; considered by many who knew him as a living saint.

After nearly eight years of eccentric and spectacular adventures the mutant misfits disappeared at the beginning of 1970 during another periodic downturn in superhero comics. Just like in the closing years of the 1940s, mystery men faded away as supernatural mysteries and traditional genre themes dominated the world’s entertainment fields…

Although their title was revived at the end of the year as a cheap reprint vehicle, the missing mutants were reduced to guest-stars and bit-players throughout the Marvel universe, whilst the bludgeoning Beast was opportunistically transformed into a monster to cash in on the horror boom.

Then, with sales of the spooky stuff waning in 1975, Marvel Editor-in-Chief Roy Thomas green-lighted a bold one-shot as part of the company’s line of Giant-Size specials and history was made…

This groundbreaking monochrome monolith of mutant mayhem first appeared in 1996, offering an economical, phonebook (remember those?) sized mass-market collection for newbies and neophytes catch-up to the sun-bright excitement of those exuberant and pivotal early stories.

Collecting Giant Size X-Men #1 and issues #94-119 of the definitely “All-New, All-Different” X-Men (spanning May 1975 to March 1978), this titanic tome traces the reinvigorated merry mutants from young, fresh and delightfully under-exposed innovations to the beginnings of their unstoppable ascendancy to ultimate comicbook icons…

Without pause or preamble, the epic voyage begins with a classic mystery monster mash from Giant Size X-Men #1. In ‘Second Genesis!’ Len Wein & Dave Cockrum (the artist hot from his stint reviving DC’s equally eclectic fan-fave super-team The Legion of Super-Heroes) detailed how the original squad – sans new Avengers recruit The Beast – had been lost in action, leaving Xavier to scour Earth and the entire Marvel Universe for replacements.

To old foes-turned-friends Banshee and Sunfire was added a one-shot Hulk adversary dubbed the Wolverine, but the bulk of time and attention was lavished upon original creations Kurt Wagner, a demonic-seeming German teleporter codenamed Nightcrawler, African weather “goddess” Ororo Monroe AKA Storm, Russian farmboy Peter Rasputin who could turn into a living steel Colossus and bitter, disillusioned Apache superman John Proudstar who was cajoled into joining the makeshift squad as Thunderbird.

The second chapter of the epic introductory adventure ‘…And Then There Was One!’ reintroduced battered, depleted but unbowed team-leader Cyclops who swiftly drilled the newcomers into a semblance of readiness before leading them into primordial danger against the monolithic threat of ‘Krakoa… the Island That Walks Like a Man!’

Overcoming the phenomenal terror of a rampaging rapacious mutant eco-system and rescuing the “real” team should have led to another quarterly Giant-Size issue, but so great was the groundswell of support that the follow-up adventure was swiftly reworked into a two-part tale for the rapidly reconfigured comicbook which became a bimonthly home to the new team.

Those epic beginnings are supplanted by a trio of vignettes explaining how the heroes’ formidable abilities function, beginning with ‘Call Him… Cyclops’ from X-Men #43, revealing the secrets of his awesome eye-blasts in pithy quickie by Thomas, Werner Roth and John Verpoorten whilst Stan Lee, Arnold Drake, Roth & Verpoorten performed similar duties with ‘I, the Iceman!’ from #47.

Finally, from X-Men #57 comes a chattily entrancing rundown describing Marvel Girl’s psionic abilities in ‘The Female of the Species!’ from Thomas, Roth & Verpoorten.

X-Men #94 (August 1975) offered ‘The Doomsmith Scenario!’ – plotted by Editor Wein, scripted by Chris Claremont and with Bob McLeod inking man-on-fire Dave Cockrum – in a canny Armageddon-shocker as the newly pared-down strike-squad (minus Sunfire and still-recuperating Marvel Girl, Angel, Iceman, Havok and Lorna Dane) were despatched by the Beast – calling in a favour from Avenger’s HQ – to stop criminal terrorist Count Nefaria starting an atomic war.

The insidious mastermind had invaded America’s Norad citadel with a gang of artificial superhumans and accidentally escalated a nuclear blackmail scheme into an inescapable countdown to holocaust, leaving the untrained, unprepared mutants to storm in to save the world in epic conclusion ‘Warhunt! (inked by Sam Grainger).

One of the new team didn’t make it back…

X-Men #96 saw Claremont take charge of the writing (albeit with some plotting input from Bill Mantlo) for ‘Night of the Demon!’ Guilt-wracked Cyclops blamed himself for the loss of his team-mate, and in his explosive rage accidentally unleashed a demonic antediluvian horror from earth’s dimmest prehistory for the heroes-in-training to thrash.

The infernal Nagarai would return over and again to bedevil mankind, but the biggest innovation in this issue was the introduction of gun-toting biologist/housekeeper Moira MacTaggert and the first inklings of the return of implacable old adversaries…

Issue #97 started a long-running, cosmically-widescreen storyline with ‘My Brother, My Enemy!’ as Xavier, tormented by visions of interstellar war, tried to take a vacation, just as Havok and Lorna (finally settling on superhero nom de guerre Polaris) attacked: apparently willing servants of a mysterious madman using Cyclops’ old undercover alter ego Eric the Red.

The devastating conflict segued into a spectacular, 3-part saga as pitiless robotic killers returned under the hate-filled auspices of mutantophobic Steven Lang and his mysterious backers of Project Armageddon. The action began with #98’s ‘Merry Christmas, X-Men…the Sentinels Have Returned!’

With coordinated attacks capturing semi-retired Marvel Girl plus Wolverine, Banshee and Xavier, Cyclops and the remaining heroes had to co-opt a space shuttle and storm Lang’s orbital HQ to rescue them in ‘Deathstar Rising!’ (inks by Frank Chiaramonte): another phenomenal all-action episode.

Accompanied by a magical pinup of portraits by Cockrum, the saga concludes on an agonising cliffhanger with the 100th issue anniversary tale. ‘Greater Love Hath no X-Man…’ (with Cockrum inking his own pencils) sees the new X-Men apparently battle the original team before overturning Lang’s monstrous schemes forever.

However, their catastrophic clash had destroyed the only means of escape and, as a colossal solar flare threatened to eradicate the satellite-station, the only chance of survival meant certain death for another X-Man.

As #101 unfolded, scripter Claremont & artist Cockrum were on the on the verge of utterly overturning the accepted status quo of women in comics forever…

The team consisted of old acquaintance and former foe Sean “Banshee” Cassidy, Wolverine, and new creations Nightcrawler, Storm and Colossus, led by field-leader Cyclops and part-timer Jean Grey – still labouring under the nom-de guerre Marvel Girl… but not for much longer…

‘Like a Phoenix from the Ashes’ (inked by Frank Chiaramonte) saw a space-shuttle spectacularly crash into Jamaica Bay. The X-Men had safely travelled in a specially-shielded chamber but Marvel Girl had to needed manually pilot the vehicle, unprotected through a lethal radiation storm.

As the mutants fled the slowly sinking craft, a fantastic explosion propels the impossibly alive Jean into the air, clad in a strange gold and green uniform and screaming that she is “Fire and Life Incarnate… Phoenix!”

Immediately collapsing, the critically injured girl is rushed to hospital and a grim wait begins.

Unable to explain her survival and too preoccupied to spare time for teaching, Xavier packs Banshee, Nightcrawler, Wolverine, Storm and Colossus off to the Irish mutant’s home in County Mayo for a vacation, blissfully unaware that Cassidy Keep has been compromised and is now a deadly trap for his new students…

Within the ancestral pile, Sean’s mutant cousin Black Tom has usurped control of the manor and its incredible secrets before – at Eric the Red’s behest – contriving an inescapable ambush, assisted by an old X-Men enemy.

‘Who Will Stop the Juggernaut?’ (Grainger inks) sees the inexperienced heroes in over their heads and fighting for their lives, but still finds room to reveal the origins of Storm and provide an explanation for her crippling claustrophobia, before ‘The Fall of the Tower’ cataclysmically concludes the tale with mutant heroes and the Keep’s Leprechaun colony (no, really!) uniting to expel the murderous usurpers.

Although bi-monthly at the time, the series kicked into confident top gear with ‘The Gentleman’s Name is Magneto’ as the weary warriors then divert to Scotland to check on Moira MacTaggert’s island lab: a secret facility containing many mutant menaces the X-Men have previously defeated.

It’s a very bad move since the ever-active Eric has restored the dormant master of magnetism to full power. The mutant terrorist had been turned into a baby – a strangely common fate for villains in those faraway days – but was all grown up again now… and indulging in one last temper tantrum…

Freshly arrived from America, Moira and Cyclops are only just in time to lead a desperate, humiliating retreat from the triumphant Master of Magnetism. Scott doesn’t care: he realises the entire affair has been a feint to draw the heroes away from Xavier and Jean…

He needn’t have worried. Although in ‘Phoenix Unleashed’ (inks by Bob Layton) Eric orchestrated an attack by Firelord – a cosmic flamethrower and former herald of Galactus much like the Silver Surfer – Jean is now fully evolved into a being of unimaginable power who readily holds the fiery marauder at bay…

In the interim a long-standing mystery is solved as the visions which had haunted Xavier are revealed as a psychic connection with a runaway princess from a distant alien empire. Lilandra of the Shi’ar had rebelled against her imperial brother and whilst fleeing had somehow telepathically locked onto her trans-galactic soul-mate Xavier.

As she made her circuitous way to Earth, embedded Shi’ar spy Shakari had assumed the role of Eric the Red and attempted to remove Lilandra’s potential champion before she arrived…

During the blistering battle which follows the X-Men’s dramatic arrival, Shakari snatches up Lilandra and drags her through a stargate to their home galaxy, and with the entire universe imperilled, Xavier urges his team to follow. All Jean has to do is re-open a wormhole to the other side of creation…

A minor digression follows as overstretched artist Cockrum gains a breather via fill-in “untold” tale of the new team featuring an attack by psychic clones of the original X-men in ‘Dark Shroud of the Past’ (by Bill Mantlo, Bob Brown & Tom Sutton, inside a framing sequence from Cockrum).

The regular story resumes in a wry tribute to Star Trek as ‘Where No X-Man Has Gone Before!’ (Claremont, Cockrum & Dan Green) finds the heroes stranded in another galaxy where they meet and are defeated by the Shi’ar Imperial Guard (an in-joke version of the Legion of Super Heroes), until bold interstellar rebel/freebooters the Starjammers bombastically arrive to turn the tables again and uncover a mad scheme to unmake the fabric of space-time.

Lilandra’s brother Emperor D’Ken is a deranged maniac who wants to activate a cosmic artefact known alternatively as the M’Kraan Crystal and “the End of All that Is” in his quest for ultimate power. He’s also spent time on Earth in the past and played a major role in the life of one of the X-Men…

This tale (from issue #107) was Cockrum’s last for years. He would eventually return to replace the man who replaced him. John Byrne not only illustrated but also began co-plotting the tales and as the team roster expanded the series rose to even greater heights. It would culminate in the landmark “Dark Phoenix” storyline which saw the death of arguably the book’s most beloved and imaginative character and the departure of the team’s heart and soul. The epic cosmic saga also seemed to fracture the epochal working relationship of Claremont and Byrne.

Within months of publication they went their separate ways: Claremont staying with the mutants whilst Byrne moved on to establish his own reputation as a writer on series such as Alpha Flight, Incredible Hulk and especially his revolutionised Fantastic Four…

There and then though, the X-Men and Starjammers battled the Crystal’s astoundingly deadly automated guardians, as this final chapter saw the newly puissant Phoenix literally save Reality in a mind-blowing display of power and skill.

Trapped inside a staggering other-realm, and appalled and enthralled by the intoxicating, addictive nature of her own might, Phoenix rewove the fabric of Reality and for an encore brought the heroes home again.

The conclusion of this ambitious extended saga was drawn by Byrne and inked by Terry Austin and their visual virtuosity was to become an industry bench-mark as the X-Men grew in popularity and complexity.

However, even though the bravura high-octane thrills of “Armageddon Now” seemed an unrepeatable high-point, Claremont & Byrne had only started. The best was still to come…

In ‘Home Are the Heroes!’ Wolverine finally began to develop a back-history and some depth of character as technological wonder Weapon Alpha attacked the recuperating team in an attempt to force the enigmatic Logan to rejoin the Canadian Secret Service. Renamed Vindicator Alpha would later return with Alpha Flight – a Canadian super-team which would eventually graduate to their own eccentric high-profile series.

Next follows a rather limp and hasty fill-in as ‘The “X”-Sanction’ (illustrated by Tony DeZuniga & Cockrum), sees cyborg mercenary Warhawk infiltrating the mansion in search of “intel” for a mysterious, unspecified master before getting his shiny silver head handed to him…

After a magical pinup of the extended team by Arthur Adams (the cover of Classic X-Men #1 from 1986) the saga got back on track with ‘Mindgames’ (Claremont, Byrne & Austin) as Beast visits a circus in search of the new team which has been missing for weeks.

His presence disrupts a devilish scheme by Mesmero to subjugate the mutant heroes through false memories and implanted personalities but the reawakened team’s vengeance is forestalled when their greatest enemy ambushes them…

In X-Men #112 they fight and fail leaving ‘Magneto Triumphant!’ and his enemies helplessly imprisoned miles beneath Antarctica in the follow-up ‘Showdown!’ However, by the time the Homo Superior tyrant returns after terrorising the humans of Australia, the X-Men have broken free and are waiting for him…

In the apocalyptic battle which follows the base is utterly destroyed and Magneto grievously wounded. With boiling lava flooding everywhere, only Beast and Phoenix manage to reach the surface and in horror realise they are the only survivors…

They could not be more wrong. Unable to go up, the remaining mutants tunnelled downwards and ‘Desolation!’ turned to joy as they emerged into the antediluvian wilderness dubbed the Savage Land.

Linking up with old ally Ka-Zar, the team slowly recover in a dinosaur-filled paradise but the idyll is shattered when former foe Karl Lykos succumbs to an old addiction and absorbs their mutant energies to become lethal leather-winged predator Sauron

His ‘Visions of Death!’ are readily dispelled by the assembled heroes, but he’s just the first course in a campaign of terror after barbarian queen Zaladane revives proto-god Garokk as the figurehead of her army of conquest…

When their meddling disrupts the tropical climate of the sub-polar region, Ka-Zar and the X-Men invade their noxious citadel ‘To Save the Savage Land’ but the battle demands the best and worst from the young warriors before the job is done…

With the distasteful task completed, the mutants opt to try a perilous sea-passage back to the outside world…

X-Men #117 begins with their rescue by an Antarctic exploration vessel and slow torturous voyage to Japan, before lapsing into an untold tale of Charles Xavier before he lost the use of his legs. ‘Psi War!’ is full of clever in-filling insights as it details how the dispirited, restless young telepath fetched up in Cairo and met his first “Evil Mutant”…

Amahl Farouk used his psionic abilities to rule the city’s underworld: a depraved, debauched monster who thought he was beyond justice. The enraged, disgusted Xavier defeated the beast and in doing so found his life’s purpose…

This initial volume concludes with a revelatory two-part epic as the X-Men – still believed dead by Xavier, Jean and the wider world – arrive in Agarashima just as the port is being devastated by a vast firestorm. ‘The Submergence of Japan!’ (inked by Ricardo Villamonte) saw tectonic terrorist Moses Magnum undertake a most audacious blackmail scheme, countered by the valiant mutants who had briefly reunited with old – and still belligerently surly – comrade Sunfire.

Perhaps he was just surprised to discover Wolverine had unsuspected connections to Japan and had turned the head of local highborn maid Lady Mariko. A bigger surprise awaited the American specialist the government had consulted. Misty Knight was Jean Grey’s roommate in Manhattan and grieved with her at the X-Men’s deaths. Now she has to tell Cyclops his girl has moved on and Professor X has abandoned Earth for the Shi’ar Empire…

Of course all of that might be moot if they can’t stop Magnum and his Mandroid army sinking Japan into the Pacific, but after a catastrophic conflict inside a volcano there’s a seasonal reunion in store for all in the Austin inked ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas…’

The immortal epics compiled here are available in numerous formats (including colour softcover editions and luxurious and enticing hardbacks) but there’s just something both immediate and emphatic about seeing them in stark, potent monochrome…

Entertaining, groundbreaking and incredibly intoxicating, these adventures are an invaluable grounding in contemporary fights ‘n’ tights fiction no fan or casual reader can be allowed to ignore.
© 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1996 Marvel Entertainment Group, Inc/Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Mighty Avengers volume 3: Secret Invasion Book 1


By Brian Michael Bendis, Alex Maleev, Koi Pham, John Romita Sr., Danny Miki, Klaus Janson, Tom Palmer & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-3010-9

Following the divisive and brutal superhero Civil War, Tony Stark (a staunch advocate of the draconian, nigh-totalitarian Super-Human Registration Act) formed a squad of Government-sanctioned heroes. His SHIELD-backed Mighty Avengers were designed to take care of business whilst he worked on his “Fifty States Initiative”, the objective of which was to eventually field teams of federally trained and licensed superheroes in every State of the Union.

Firstly, though, he had to restore public confidence, especially as the unregistered, rogue New Avengers continued to defy his orders to surrender to government authority: saving lives and crushing evil without his permission. Things never seemed to go Stark’s way however, and a series of catastrophic crises led inexorably to Earth succumbing to alien infiltration and conquest.

This seditious third volume is written throughout by Brian Michael Bendis and gathers Mighty Avengers #12-15 (June-August 2008), re-presenting some of the opening sallies in the major event dubbed Secret Invasion wherein the torturously unfolding plan by the shapeshifting Skrulls finally turns into a red-hot shooting war.

Since Fantastic Four #2 (January 1961), the Skrulls have been a pernicious cornerstone of the Marvel Universe. After decades of frustrating failure, the insidious intergalactic infiltrators were finally made the stars of a colossal braided crossover which ran from Spring to Christmas 2008 throughout all the company’s titles.

The premise? The aliens’ former all-encompassing empire had been crippled and scourged by a devastating catastrophe which destroyed much of their star-spanning power. Consequently the survivors underwent a mass fundamentalist-religious conversion: utterly resolved and dedicated to make Earth their new homeworld – just as their ancient scriptures foretold…

To this end they imperceptibly replaced a number of Earth denizens – mostly superheroes, villains and/or their close associates. When the plot was finally exposed no defender of the Earth truly knew who was on their side…

Moreover, the Skrulls had also unravelled the secrets of Earth magic and humanity’s unique genetics, creating legions of amped-up equivalents to the world’s mightiest heroes and villains. During this period they hid amongst us, primed and waiting to destroy mankind’s champions in head-to-head confrontations.

Not all Skrulls were fanatics however. Earth also harboured a few carefully hidden dissidents opposed to the new regime and non-fanatics simply unwilling to get properly involved…

The mysteries start to unravel in the ‘The Awakening’ from #12-13 (illustrated by Alex Maleev) where a fugitive and closeted Nick Fury – on the run for manipulating an Avengers squad into attacking the sovereign state of Latveria – discovers his current squeeze is actually a shapeshifting alien. Taking the appropriate steps, he sneaks back into SHIELD to warn his replacement Maria Hill that she can trust no-one…

Always playing a deeply convoluted game, he then contacts Spider-Woman – his mole in the Avengers, SHIELD and Hydra – to warn her of Skrull infiltration before activating his own plan B, gathering his long-cached cadre of super-powered non-entities and agents never on anybody’s radar. Then he sets all the pieces tumbling into turbulent motion…

The untitled issue #15 – illustrated by Khoi Pham & Danny Miki – returns focus to Stark’s Mighty Avengers team (field leader Ms. Marvel, Black Widow, Wonder Man, the Wasp, Sentry and Grecian war god Ares), all blithely going about their heroic business unaware that trusted major-domo Edwin Jarvis has been replaced by a high-ranking Skrull.

When the revelation day at last arrives the treacherous insider instigates a chilling plan to take incomprehensibly powerful superman Sentry out of action by attacking his mind and those he loves most…

The campaign of terror concludes with a chilling flashback illustrated by John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson & Tom Palmer, revealing how a dedicated proponent of the Super-Human Registration Act, a key component of Iron Man’s Fifty States Initiative and Founding Avenger was long ago replaced by a Skrull. What that augurs for humanity, only the coming weeks and months can tell…

To Be Continued…

With covers by Marko Djurdjevic and Bendis’ full script for issue #12 this slim tome offers another slick and stylish slice of breathtaking all-action entertainment which adds depth and weight to the impressive and appealing Secret Invasion main event but also reads perfectly well on its own merits.

Here is another Fights ‘n’ Tights “must-read” for insatiable thrill-chasers everywhere.
© 2008, 2009 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Wolverine: Season One


By Ben Acker, Ben Blacker, Salva Espin & Cam Smith, with Jason Aaron, Ramón Pérez, Laura Martin & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-6672-6

Much as I’d love to believe otherwise, I know that the Cold War, transistor radio and pre-cellphone masterpieces of my youth are often impenetrable to younger fans – even when drawn by Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Bill Everett or Don Heck.

Perpetual and overarching revision – or at least the appearance of such – is the irresistible force driving modern comics. There must be a constant changing of the guard, a shifting of scene and milieu and, in latter times, a regular diet of death, resurrection and rebirth – all grounded in relatively contemporary terms and situations.

Even for relatively minor or secondary stars the process is inescapable, with increasing supra-comicbook media adjuncts (film, TV, games, etc.) dictating that subjects be perpetually updated because the goldfish-minded readers of today apparently can’t understand or remember anything that’s more than a week old.

Alternatively, one could argue that for popular characters or concepts with a fifty-year + pedigree, all that history can be a readership-daunting deterrence, so radical reboots are a painful but vital periodic necessity…

Publishing ain’t no democracy, however, so it’s comforting to realise that many of these retrofits are thankfully exceptionally good comics tales in their own right and anyway, the editors can call always claim that it was an “alternate Earth” story the next time the debut saga is modernised…

Released in 2013, Wolverine: Season One is an all-new distilation of the Feral Fury’s debut appearances in the Marvel Universe, delivered in a hardback graphic novel with hidden extras.

It was a late entry into a series designed to renovate, modify and update classic origin epics (following Fantastic Four, X-Men, Daredevil, Spider-Man, Ant-Man, Hulk, Doctor Strange, and Avengers) which, despite clearly being intended as story-bibles for newer, movie-oriented fans and readers, mostly managed to add a little something to the immortal but hopelessly time-locked tales.

Scripted by Ben Acker and Ben Blacker, illustrated by Salva Espin & Cam Smith with colours from Jim Charalampidis, the saga opens in the forested wilds of Canada where our unmistakable savage star is engaged in a ferocious struggle for survival against the mystical man-eating monster known as the Wendigo.

The horrific death-duel is witnessed by backpackers Heather and James Macdonald Hudson whose first assumptions – that the man is as bestial as the monster – are shaken when the clearly overmatched underdog intervenes after Wendigo turn his hungry attention to them…

Battle rejoined, the big beast slaughters the little man and shambles off, leaving the stunned couple to realise that – somehow, impossibly – their saviour is not dead…

Taking him back to their cabin, they nurse the incredibly fast-healing stranger to a semblance of health but although his body mends quickly his mind seems shattered. Moreover, they can see metal inside the clearly superhuman survivor…

Heather and James are not ordinary citizens either. They are employed by Canada’s security services where he is prominent in the clandestine Department H, building a suit of high-tech battle armour.

Idle chatter with the older scientists there leads James to rumours of a project called “Weapon X” wherein a man had indestructible Adamantium grafted to his bones before going crazy and slaughtering everybody…

The potentially homicidal maniac and certified amnesiac meanwhile has been patiently tended by Heather who has achieved a cognitive breakthrough. Reaching the man submerged by the animal, she has restored his power to speak but not to remember his past.

She was only slightly daunted by the razor sharp, nine-inch claws that tended to spring out of his arms whenever he became frustrated or upset…

James meanwhile has discussed Weapon X with his boss Dr. Myra Haddock and been told a pack of face-saving placatory lies about the whole shameful affair. She is however, extremely keen to bring the feral enigma into Department H, whose mandate is creating a super-soldier for Canada…

Soon the wild man is being groomed for the role of a special agent – a role he seems remarkably familiar with – but James is becoming increasingly uncomfortable with Heather’s new role as his “keeper” and the subject’s growing infatuation with his wife…

Throughout the training period the clawed conundrum has been subject to traumatic nightmares (buried memories of the tortures he endured as the involuntary test subject of the Weapon X program) and after a particularly arduous session in the laboratory he snaps, attacking Heather in berserk fury.

During the PTSD driven assault he shouted a name… “Logan”…

The net result is a huge fight as James dons the Exo-Suit he’d been building and goes after the mystery man. Total destruction of the base is only averted by scheming Dr. Haddock’s intervention; dragging them back to Heather’s bedside so she can shout at them both…

Chastened and frightened, the agent now known as Logan wants to quit, but Haddock has other plans. The monolithic man-monster known as the Hulk has wandered over the border into Canada and she wants her Weapon X to tackle the emerald invader. Not to kill him, necessarily: if Logan can get back with a gamma-irradiated blood sample that will be success enough. With such a transformative DNA to add to the Department’s discoveries, a Canadian super-soldier serum is an eventual certainty.

There’s only one little problem: the Jade Goliath is in the same region as the Wendigo and Logan still has a psychological handicap regarding the cannibal beast which all but killed him…

Outfitted in a tailored combat outfit and codenamed “Wolverine” the feisty scrapper is dropped into the middle of a brutal blockbusting battle between the behemoths – and is nearly pounded to jelly. Only last minute intervention by James saves the mighty mite, but he does come back with the Green Goliath’s blood all over him…

Haddock, however, has had enough of her subordinates’ seeming lack of guts and hires a freelance operative named Victor Creed who has similar abilities to Logan but none of his squeamishness about killing or following orders.

The big brute also claims to have shared history with Logan. The little amnesiac certainly has plenty of bad dreams and flashbacks after meeting the cruelly taunting new guy…

With Codename Wolverine benched due to his growing insubordination and repugnance at the Department’s methods, Creed – now using the combat appellative “Sabretooth” – is dispatched to bring in the Wendigo for Haddock’s vivisection labs whilst Logan is placed in lockdown and sedated.

He’s sprung by Heather who gives him a new costume to go after Sabretooth and her blinkered, out-of-his-depth husband. James might have a suit like Iron Man’s but he’s no superhero, and accompanying Creed on this mission is likely to get him killed…

Thanks to Logan’s mutant super senses he locates the cannibal beast first and, due to his new rational state, manages to befriend the monster. Unfortunately when James – still writhing in unfounded jealousy of Logan – and Creed arrive, Sabretooth’s bloodlust soon provokes a terrifying four-way war…

Only when Heather becomes involved and endangered does James come to his senses and suddenly all bets are off…

The cataclysmic combat seems to shake a few hidden memories loose, however, and in the aftermath Wolverine wants out of Department H. James too has had enough of Haddock and goes to her superiors with a new idea: rather than super-soldiers, perhaps what Canada needs is a team of superheroes.

He even knows a consultant the government can hire: a metahuman specialist named Professor Charles Xavier. Once Logan and the American savant meet history is made…

The Beginning…

As an additional fillip the reimagined origin is supplemented with ‘Survival 101’ by Jason Aaron, Ramón Pérez and Laura Martin (from Wolverine and the X-Men #25, April 2013) wherein the tough-love terror, in his capacity as headmaster of the Jean Grey School of Higher Learning, drags a pack of his most troublesome and recalcitrant charges on an educational away-day to the dinosaur-infested Savage Land for a little team-building and bonding.

Of course if he’d realised his murderous big brother Dog had returned from the dead to hunt him, Professor Logan might just have opted for detentions and pop quizzes instead…

Fair Warning: this tale is funny, scary and extremely addictive but does not conclude here…

Also included are seven pages of design sketches, cover examples and variants by Espin, Julian Totino Tedesco, Pérez & Martin making this an enticing and entertaining package for both newcomers and dedicated aficionados alike.
© 2013 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Wolverine: 3 Months to Die


By Paul Cornell, Elliot Kalan, Kris Anka, Pete Woods, Salvador Larroca, Jonathan Marks & various (Marvel/Panini UK)
ISBN: 978-1-84653-631-1

James Howlett, AKA Logan, AKA Wolverine, has faced a multitude of impossible situations in his long and bloody life but possibly the most groundbreaking shake-up only came at the conclusion of Wolverine: Killable which saw the mayhem-making mutant Methuselah coming to terms with the fact that his healing factor – and therefore his virtual immortality – were gone, removed by a sentient virus from an incredible alien microverse.

No longer able to properly defend himself nor, most importantly, his loved ones and innocent civilians from the likes of monsters such as Mystique or Sabretooth, he underwent a great deal of soul-searching and solution seeking to offset a seemingly insurmountable power loss.

As if to emphasise the point his most despised and unrelenting foe Victor Creed – tenacious, savage and still possessing the powers and skills Howlett once boasted, then renewed his campaign of terror upon his woefully diminished enemy.

As current leader of deviant sect of ninja cult The Hand, the mutant monster dubbed Sabretooth orchestrated a murderous snipe-hunt which killed dozens of helpless humans at a shopping mall whilst leaving the helpless Canadian Crusader physically crushed, emotionally humiliated and spiritually broken…

In response Logan switched to high-tech guns and armour, abandoning all his friends and comrades to run with a new – bad – crowd. Supported by a band of young super-powered criminals (Lost Boy, Fuel, Reflex and Pinch) Logan seemed to have gone to the dark side by joining the gang of up-and-coming underworld boss The Offer

The truth was far more palatable. When S.H.I.E.L.D. learned Sabretooth was seeking a weapon of cosmic capacity they tapped Logan to go deep undercover with a potential rival to the Hand’s new Lord in a Byzantine scheme to stop him. The subterfuge was total and even led to Logan clashing with old friends like Thor

Fully immersed in his covert role, Wolverine began an affair with new crony Pinch – who had subsequently come into possession of the reality-rending device – when Sabretooth caught up to the gang. Betrayed and incensed the heartbroken and furious thief was in no mood to be reasonable when Logan pleaded with her to hand over the planet-shattering globe.

Creed however made a telling counter-offer: give him the device and he would stop his Hand ninjas from killing the daughter Pinch thought she had safely hidden from the consequences of her so-dangerous lifestyle…

Written primarily by Paul Cornell, 3 Months to Die collects the contents of Wolverine volume 6, #8-12 and Wolverine Annual #1(August-October 2014), concluding the shocking saga of the fall of a legend…

The action begins with an eerie and portentous 2-part digression as ‘Games of Deceit and Death’ (illustrated by Kris Anka and colourist David Curiel) suddenly finds Wolverine transported to the island of Itsukushima where Master of Kung Fu Shang-Chi and living weapon Iron Fist have invited the emotionally-adrift old warrior in order that he might enter “The Secret Temple of Death on Holiday”.

At the height of his last battle with Creed, Wolverine – although possessing the upper hand – hesitated and could not finish his enemy. Now the martial artists are offering a spiritual solution for the baffled, desperate and demoralised Logan which involves having a heart-to-heart with the conceptual being who is the embodiment of Death…

Meanwhile in Sabretooth’s lair the Hand’s master is still dickering with Pinch for possession of the world-warping globe, but when her trusted boss the Offer secretly switches sides the negotiations take a most unwelcome turn.

Back at the temple Wolverine has quelled his doubts and entered for a debate with Death, whilst in the mundane world the Offer has sold out all his former associates. Gleaning Logan’s whereabouts from Lost Boy, the duplicitous dealer informs Creed who promptly dispatches an army of ninjas to destroy at last his personal nemesis…

The concluding chapter then finds Iron Fist and Shang-Chi frantically battling that army even as, deep within the temple, Wolverine learns a few startling truths from the creature he has for so long fed whilst himself avoiding.

At Hand HQ Creed has taken control of the globe and the first Logan learns of it is when the ghost of Fuel suddenly appears, begging him to go back and save Pinch, Lost Boy and the rest…

Spiritually reinvigorated and fortified, Wolverine heads for the final confrontation with Sabretooth, utterly oblivious to the fact that Death has been playing with him as part of a much deeper game…

‘The Last Wolverine Story’ (art by Pete Woods and Curiel) opens as Wolverine returns to the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning for a reconciliation with his mutant students and X-Men comrades before going after Creed.

Sabretooth meanwhile has established a New York base from where he intends to use the globe to rewrite reality: creating a world perfectly tailored to his highly specific predatory needs. He has also realigned himself with Machiavellian shapeshifting schemer Mystique to ensure his every dream comes bloodily true…

Blessed with a new enlightenment, Wolverine has eschewed his usual lone wolf tactics and sought out allies. The first to be contacted are the eclectic think-tank of the Guernica Bar. Situated on West Fourth, the legendary dive is a superhero hostelry where a most select crew regularly and above all quietly meet…

As well as comicbook writer Harold Harold, there’s an odds-maker on superhero battles, a professional powers cataloguer and the current CEO of repair conglomerate Damage Control as well as unflappable Weird Science surgeon Victoria Frankenstein (she pronounces it “Fronken-schteen”) amongst others.

However no sooner does the Feral Fury arrive than the bar is invaded by more murderous ninjas and in the resultant melee Harold reveals a potent secret which holds the horde at bay until thunder god Thor pops in to save the day, just moments ahead of Nick Fury Junior and S.H.I.E.L.D.

Despite the willing legion at his back, for strategic reasons Logan opts to invade Creed’s base in alone to free the hostages, but inevitably his mission ends up in a massive and escalating running battle. As the good guys are increasingly tied up fighting wicked alternate universe versions of themselves, the pivotal contest becomes the one it always has been: Wolverine against Sabretooth.

This time however it doesn’t end in the usual oft-replayed, inconclusive stalemate…

Following the catastrophic, catagoric conclusion Cornell, Salvador Larroca & Rachelle Rosenberg offer a short What If? vignette from Wolverine #12 in ‘That Which Didn’t Happen’ which re-examines the pivotal moment when the sentient virus offered to return Logan’s healing factor in return for fealty.

In this piece he said yes and Harold Harold is one of the last beings on Earth to suffer the ghastly consequences of that choice…

‘Wolf and Cub’ by Elliot Kalan, Jonathan Marks & Jose Villarrubia (from Wolverine Annual #1) ends this iteration of the long-lived legendary hero as Logan, feeling his age at last, takes adoptive daughter/former mutant/friendly vampire Jubilation Lee and her own recently-adopted baby Shogo for a walk on the wild side.

Feeling Death breathing down his neck, Wolverine takes his biped family into the wooded wilderness to meet the wolves who adopted him when he was at his most feral and mindless, but their camping trip takes a tragic turn when they encounter a husband and wife still suffering the effects of their experiences in Afghanistan…

The PTSD-afflicted Brad reacts with fear and violence when he sees a wild man apparently offering a baby to wolves and his frantic shots cripple Logan and decimate his lupine brethren.

Taking the child to what they think is safety, the soldier couple have no idea of the horror they’ve unwittingly unleashed by stealing a vampire’s child…

Tense suspense, non-stop visceral action, compelling mystery and an aura of impending, inescapable doom flavour this enticing chronicle from high-octane start to fraught finish and this splendidly entertaining treat also includes a dozen stunning covers-&-variants by Steve McNiven & Laura Martin, Dustin Nguyen, Ryan Stegman & Edgar Delgado and Ed McGuiness to delight and amaze all fan’s of fast and furious Fights ‘n’ Tights fiction.
™ & © 2014 Marvel & Subs. Licensed by Marvel Characters B.V. through Panini S.p.A. All rights reserved. A British Edition published by Panini Publishing, a division of Panini UK, Ltd.

House of M


By Brian Michael Bendis, Olivier Coipel, Tim Townsend & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-1721-6

When mutant Avenger the mutant Scarlet Witch married the android Vision they conceived – through the agency of magic and Wanda Maximoff’’s undiagnosed ability to reshape reality – twin boys.

Over the course of time it was revealed that her sons were not real and, as the years passed, the shock of that revelation slowly drove her insane.

After tipping completely over the edge Wanda engineered the destruction of her other family – the vast and varied assemblage of the Avengers – orchestrating the death of her former husband and some of their oldest friends.

The World’s Mightiest Heroes were shut down and rebooted in a highly controversial storyline known as Avengers Disassembled, which resulted in the formation of both The New and Young Avengers. That publishing event also spilled over into the solo titles of team members and affiliated comicbooks such as the Fantastic Four and Spectacular Spider-Man, which all ran parallel story-arcs to accompany the main attraction.

The tale told of the worst day in the Avenger’s history as the Witch manipulated people and events: betraying her oldest, closest companions and causing the destruction of everything they held dear. The chaos-storm was only ended when mystic master Doctor Strange and mutant patriarch Charles Xavier took the dazed and crazed Wandainto their personal protective care.

This follow-up company crossover conjunction – by Brian Michael Bendis, Olivier Coipel & Tim Townsend and released originally and primarily as an 8-issue miniseries from August to November 2005 – saw reality rewritten again when Wanda apparently had another major lapse in concentration; reformatting history such that Homo Superior now dominated a society where mere humans (“sapiens”) were an acknowledged evolutionary dead-end living out their lives and destined for extinction within two generations.

Moreover her true father Magneto ruled the mutants; regal head of a glorious dynasty which exerted political control over the entire planet.

It took a dedicated band of heroes and a great deal of luck to put that genie back in a bottle, but the repercussions of the repair job were both profound and world-changing…

Re-presenting the core fortnightly miniseries House of M, and The Pulse: Special Edition, this collection also contains covers and variants by Esad Ribic, Joe Quesada & Danny Miki, Terry & Rachel Dodson, John Cassaday, Brandon Peterson, Mike McKone, Greg Land & Matt Ryan, Salvador Larroca, Chris Bachalo, Joe Madureira, Tim Townsend & Olivier Coipel, and The Pulse – an inspired 12 page faux issue of M-world’s top mutant gossip mag, which offers engaging and pertinent snippets of congruent stories in other titles…

Following a handy scene-setting recap page the drama begins in devastated former mutant homeland Genosha, where Xavier is at last forced to admit that his psychic surgeries are not helping Wanda.

The desire to restore her non-existent children is too strong and the traumatised Scarlet Witch constantly tinkers with reality to make her dreams real. After much impassioned debate with her despondent father Magneto and brother Quicksilver, Professor X finally weighs up the horrific potential consequences and considers other options…

Meanwhile in New York Wonder Man, Ms. Marvel and The Falcon visit the New Avengers at Stark Tower preparatory to the latest assemblage going public. Thus they are on hand when the X-Men come calling: rallied by Xavier to discuss the final fate and disposition of the Scarlet Witch.

In Genosha her father and brother argue on: one seeing no option but the final sanction and the other determined that Wanda must not die.

Opinion is just as divided amongst Avengers and X-Men. Unable to reach a decision, the huge group opt to visit Wanda and try to get through to her one last time.

By the time they reach Genosha she has vanished. Fearing the world might end at any second they frantically search until they are all consumed by a blinding light…

The second chapter begins in a very different New York, where decrepit nonagenarian war hero Steve Rogers draws a well deserved pension, millionaire celebrity Peter Parker, his wife Gwen, son Richie and close relatives May and Ben Parker all live in lofty luxury and teeming billions of mutants run the world, safeguarded and policed by colossal robotic Sentinels

All the heroes who sought out the Witch now live perfect lives that match their deepest, most secret hearts’ desires, but there is a painful undercurrent of tension amongst the rapidly declining, soon to be extinct Homo Sapiens…

Wolverine awakes screaming. His greatest desire has always been to recover his lost memories: destroyed and discarded by more than a century of brainwashing, mind-wiping and intervention by a succession of sinister enemies. As consciousness returns he remembers everything.

Especially how a moment ago the world was completely different…

In this new universe he is leader of an elite team of mutant peacekeepers. The Red Guard are the prime enforcers of the House of M and agents of the Royal Family of Magneto: de facto rulers of Earth.

Appalled he leaps from the ominous floating aircraft carrier dominating New York and plunges to Earth…

Healing factor in overdrive he then lurches through the streets of the city searching for Xavier and a solution to this insurmountable problem. Hard on his heels are his former subordinates in the Red Guard, all convinced their formerly ruthlessly rational commander has gone crazy.

In his frantic flight, the desperate fugitive stumbles into other-world old comrade Luke Cage who is, in this place, a cunning gangster leading a band of human rebels fighting mutant oppression. Shockingly, amongst his motley crew is masked archer Hawkeye – one of the cruellest casualties of the Scarlet Witch’s first killing spree…

Playing with his grandchild in the idyllic paradise of Genosha, Magneto is unaccountably troubled at the perfection of his existence even as, in New York, Sentinels track and attack Cage’s “Human Avengers”. Thanks to teleporter Cloak, Wolverine and a few of the gang escape, taking with them a strange little girl named Layla Miller.

She is a mutant and amongst her arcane and undisclosed power-set is the ability to reawaken a person’s memories of the world Wanda overwrote…

Convinced Magneto used his crazy daughter to remake the world to his advantage, Wolverine is exultant to have a weapon to offset all the dictator’s advantages and with Cage begins tracking down and restoring former allies.

The game plan remains unchanged: find Xavier and use his telepathic powers to force the Witch to restore the real world.

In Genosha, meanwhile, Magneto again finds himself drawn to the simple tomb of his greatest friend and occasional enemy Charles…

The next stage in Wolverine’s campaign is to use his now restored and grimly determined Avenger and X-Men allies to take control of the Helicarrier dominating New York, piloting it to Genosha and engaging the House of  M’s forces as Layla works her own special mutant magic and reawakened mystic master Stephen Strange attempts to deal with Wanda…

Throughout the horrifying ordeal everybody involved has assumed that Magneto made his daughter reorder reality to suit his dark ambitions, but the magician’s confrontation shockingly reveals a different hand and motive behind the grand change and, as the universe begins to unravel once more, the appalled and furious Master of Magnetism unleashes his own power against the traitor who betrayed his friends, family, species and planet…

…And at the heart of the chaos and carnage Wanda Maximoff, whether at the peak of her madness or in a chilling moment of clarity, utters three little words.

“No more Mutants”…

Dawn breaks on New York City and all the battered participants at the centre of the apocalyptic struggle awake in their own – as far as they know – proper beds. For those that remember, the world seems back to its true state, but when the shell-shocked protagonists gather together to compare notes they realise some things don’t jibe.

Wolverine still has all the memories of his long and previously clouded life; Wanda has utterly vanished again; there is evidence that Hawkeye might be alive again and, most unbelievable of all, the almost one million members of the mutant sub-species are now just human…

Across the Earth less than 200 super-powered Homo Superior remain. Governments are scrabbling to process the fact and form policies whilst the pedagogues of the religious right claim God has smitten the unclean and exhort decent – human – men and women to finish the good work…

Scientist Henry Pym has an even more chilling warning. Reminding us of Einstein’s dictum “Energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another”, he ominously ponders on where all the powers, radiations and assorted exotic energies formerly wielded by the ex-mutant population have gone…

Although Marvel continuity was skilfully interwoven throughout the event, this particular tale stands alone perfectly without any need to refer to the many attendant miniseries: offering an engaging, fast-paced thriller brimming with tension and stuffed with bombastic spectacle.

House of M is an action-packed, spectacular adventure that will delight lovers of epic Fights ‘n’ Tights fantasy and beguile casual readers looking for an easy but enthralling entry into the madcap world of Costumed Dramas.
© 2005, 2006 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Uncanny X-Force volume 1: The Apocalypse Solution


By Rick Remender, Jerome Opeña, Leonardo Manco, Dean White, Chris Sotomayor & various (Marvel) ISBN: 978-0-7851-4655-1

There’s no such thing as simple background when dealing with Marvel’s mutant mythology. Uncanny X-Force debuted as a monthly title in October 2010, replacing its previous convoluted incarnation X-Force volume 3 (itself the inheritor of nearly twenty years of chopping, changing and hyper-charged complexity).

The premise of the prior title was to describe the actions of a covert team of X-Men convened to perform covert black-ops – and even wetwork – missions at a time when mutants numbered no more than a couple of hundred endangered souls. The group acted with the blessing of Cyclops – titular head of the sorely diminished X-nation – during the Messiah Complex and Second Coming publishing events but were summarily disbanded when exposed to the shocked scrutiny of their understandably appalled fellow mutants…

Written by Rick Remender, the new iteration – and this collection (comprising material from Wolverine: The Road to Hell – November 2010 – and issues #1-4 of Uncanny X-Force published with December 2010 to March 2011cover-dates) – opens with ‘The First Day of the Rest of Your Life’ from the aforementioned Wolverine one-shot wherein the feral fury realises that there’s still a need for a squad ready to do whatever it takes to keep the species of Homo Sapiens Superior safe…

Illustrated by Leonardo Manco and colourist Chris Sotomayor the introductory vignette finds the man called Logan joining Archangel, Psylocke and Fantomex in secret base Cavern-X deep in the Arizona desert, all in agreement that they must continue their necessary work without Cyclops’ knowledge, if only to give him plausible deniability and a clean conscience…

All are troubled souls with blood on their hands. Archangel will fund the project and has in fact already begun their first mission, despatching insane assassin Deadpool to track down the most dangerous mutant monster in history…

Eponymous epic ‘The Apocalypse Solution’, with art by Jerome Opeña and colours from Dean White, then opens in Egypt as the mirthful maniac uncovers an underground Temple and finds devoted acolytes of Clan Akkaba led by the insidious Ozymandias resurrecting the recently slain Apocalypse with their own willingly spilled blood.

The monster had spent millennia testing mutantkind and frequently gathered prime examples to be his agents. Now as Deadpool searches the base he encounters a monstrous Minotaur. The resurrectionists have freed the Final Horsemen: Apocalypse’s last line of defence and the most wicked killers in history…

With contact lost the rest of the team rush to the site in Fantomex’s extraordinary sentient vehicle EVA (in actuality a biomechanical exterior nervous system for the stylish, bio-engineered mutant thief/adventurer) all resigned that the Scourge of Earth must die again at all costs.

Archangel is riven by doubt and apprehension. When he was merely the X-Man Angel Apocalypse ripped out his wings, remade his body and rewired Warren Worthington’s brain to make him one of his Horsemen. Thanks to the telepathic power of his lover Psylocke, Warren has regained autonomy now but lives in dread of that deep programming, constantly struggling to stop the murderous malice resurfacing. What will happen if and when he confronts his returned former master?

The rescue mission is only partially successful. Although they save Deadpool they are too late to prevent the Clan and revived Horsemen teleporting away with their newly restored yet strangely different master…

The second chapter finds the team apparently carving their way through a mass of minions at the Akkaba Temple until Archangel intrudes and discovers that the entire exercise is a simulation designed to accustom Psylocke to killing the winged wonder if Apocalypse should take him over or – worse yet – should his own dark nature win out over the personality of Warren Worthington…

With the chilling realisation that Wolverine has been preparing her to do the same for all of them, Warren is shocked from his dark thoughts by news that the fugitives have been tracked to the Blue Area of the Moon and expedites their pursuit in EVA…

However the raid immediately falters as the team is picked off by the arisen Horsemen even as, far below them in a colossal sentient Celestial ship, fanatical factotum Ozymandias experiences a few difficulties with his adored master.

The reborn En Sabah Nur is an innocent child who simply won’t accept the merciless philosophies of his former incarnation. Whilst his determined would-be killers rally and overcome their foes, edging ever closer, the return of the true Apocalypse seems destined to fail…

The blistering examination of relative moralities kicks into overdrive when Psylocke bursts into the child’s chamber just ahead of her red-handed comrades. Despite his warring personalities Archangel is ready to save the world; to Deadpool it’s just another hit and Wolverine knows that sometimes dark deeds are inevitable, but their readiness and resignation to execute the crying boy is nevertheless stalled.

Merciless, resolute Psylocke won’t let them harm the boy…

Tense, taut, bloodily action-packed and ethically challenging, The Apocalypse Solution offers a far darker side of the mutant question for fans – if not, perhaps, casual readers – to enjoy, leavening the grim tone with razor-sharp gallows humour and even moments of moving sentiment – which do nothing to dilute the shocking surprise ending…

This slim tome is further augmented by a covers-&-variants gallery by Mico Suayan, Jason Keith, Esad Ribic, Marko Djurdjevic, J. Scott Campbell, Edgar Delgado, Rob Liefeld, Thomas Mason and Clayton Crain, Behind-the-Scenes feature ‘Evolution of a Page: from Script to Colors’ plus a prose-&-picture history of recent ‘X-Force’ history narrated by Wolverine himself (as transcribed by Jeph York)…

Complex, compelling, compulsive and chilling, X-Force is a splendid example of mature Costume Dramas for everyone looking for a dash of darkness in their superhero soap opera shenanigans.
© 2010, 2011 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Wolverine and the X-Men: Tomorrow Never Learns


By Jason Latour, Mahmud Asrar, Mateo Lolli, Pepe Larraz, David Messina, Massimiliano Veltri, Marc Deering & various (Marvel/Panini UK)
ISBN: 978-1-84653-610-6

Wolverine is all things to most people and in his long life has worn many hats; Avenger, Teacher, Protector, Punisher.

As leader of covert black ops (and frequently wetworks) unit X-Force he was responsible for executing many maverick mutants but experiences misplaced guilt and shared responsibility for sparing reborn mutant nemesis Apocalypse when he should by all rights have put down his kind’s ultimate foe…

Now that confused child of terrifying potential resides at the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning where even his fellow students find it hard to believe that love and a good education can overcome the legacy of death latent within the boy now called Evan

Collecting issues #1-6 of Wolverine and the X-Men volume 2 (May – September 2014), this fast and furious saga finds the diminished mutant everyman abandoning his preferred role as trainer of the next generation in ‘Tomorrow Never Learns’ to drag old X-Force comrade Fantomex back from a self-imposed exile of torture and unending combat…

While he’s gone many of the latest class of students are undergoing a wave of communal angst prompted not just by Evan’s proximity and existence. Also adding to the tension is the chilling realisation that former fellow student Quentin “Kid Omega” Quire has been revealed (by a batch of X-Men from the future) to be the destined host of supernal cosmic ravager the Phoenix and by the simple, sobering fact that being an X-Man is tantamount to receiving a death sentence…

As Logan returns with Fantomex the next crisis commences in ‘Storm Chasers’ as a global ad campaign co-opting the image of the Phoenix lures Quentin into a devious trap. The mind behind the Phoenix Corporation has employed time-displaced warrior Faithful John to psychically destabilise the already troubled Omega mutant and even the late arriving Storm and Wolverine are unable to overcome the Tomorrow Soldier’s mental assaults and sheer physical prowess…

In ‘True Believers’, as John escapes the adult heroes and turns to attacking their school, Quentin is hotly debating his possible future with disciple of destruction Edan Younge who worships the Phoenix and only wants to help the true host live up to his cataclysmic, universe-rending potential…

Happily Quentin’s feisty not-girlfriend Oya is made of sterner stuff. With Wolverine out of action and whilst Quire brutally rebuffs Younge, she leads a squad of classmates against rampaging zealot John despite a wave psychic strikes which decimate the youthful defenders.

Kid Omega uses the opportunity to run for unlikely help ‘In the Land of the Blind…’, recruiting ideological opponents Cyclops and his Extinction Team to the battle, but even as Younge gloatingly discloses his ancient connections to the Phoenix to a dying Wolverine and hints of a hand guiding his own, Evan and the still traumatised Fantomex make their own off-kilter move on Faithful John in ‘Chekhov’s Gun’ before the shocking revelation of mastermind behind everything exposes the actual motivation behind the attacks in ‘A Fate Far Worse’

Non-stop visceral action, smart characterisation, hilarious interplay and shocking suspense propel this explosive yarn from high-octane start to explosive finish and the frantic Fights ‘n’ Tights School Daze delights is complimented by a beautiful gallery of covers and variants by Asrar, Marte Gracia, Mark Brooks, Jenny Parks, Art Adams, Jorge Molina and Michael Del Mundo.

Also upping the entertainment ante are added extras provided by of AR icon sections (Marvel Augmented Reality App) which give access to story bonuses once you download the code – for free – from marvel.com onto your smart-phone or Android-enabled tablet.

™ & © 2014 Marvel & Subs. Licensed by Marvel Characters B.V. through Panini S.p.A. All rights reserved. A British Edition published by Panini Publishing, a division of Panini UK, Ltd.

Wolverine: Mortal


By Paul Cornell, Ryan Stegman, Mirco Pierfederici, Mark Farmer & Karl Kesel (Marvel/Panini UK)
ISBN: 978-1-84653-606-9

James Howlett, AKA Logan, AKA Wolverine has faced a multitude of impossible situations in his long and danger-filled life but possibly the most groundbreaking shake-up only came at the conclusion of Wolverine: Killable which saw the mayhem-making mutant Methuselah coming to terms with the fact that his healing factor – and therefore his virtual immortality – were gone, courtesy of a sentient virus from an incredible alien “microverse”.

Now he could no longer properly defend himself and, most importantly, his loved ones and innocent civilians from the likes of monsters such as Mystique or Sabretooth.

To emphasise that point his most pernicious foe Victor Creed – tenacious, savage, still possessing the powers and skills Howlett once boasted and current leader of a deviant sect of ninja cult The Hand – orchestrated a murderous snipe-hunt which killed dozens of helpless humans at a shopping mall whilst leaving the helpless Canadian Crusader physically crushed, emotionally humiliated and spiritually broken…

Written by Paul Cornell, the first seven issues of Wolverine volume 6 (spanning February to May 2014) offer a brand new look and fresh modus operandi for the down but never out outlaw hero…

The action begins with the 4-part‘Rogue Logan’ (illustrated by Ryan Stegman & Mark Morales, with David Baldeon, John Livesay & Scott Hanna) which finds Logan in high-tech armour running with a new – bad – crowd.

Supported by a band of young super-powered criminals – Lost Boy, Fuel, Reflex and Pinch – Logan appears to have lost his way; joining the gang of up-and-coming underworld boss The Offer

The feral fury seems blithely unaware that his new boss is in negotiation with and opposition to Creed/Sabretooth…

He also appears to have gone completely off the rails. When The Offer uncovers a S.H.I.E.L.D. mole in his base, it is Wolverine who eagerly shoots the agent in the head…

Flashing back to weeks earlier when all Logan’s comrades were failing to help him come to terms with his losses and failures, ‘Bad Advice’ reveals how a tense confrontation with the Superior Spider-Man changed his perspective…

The Wallcrawler (at that time Doctor Octopus inhabiting Peter Parker’s body) and a near-death experience when Logan joined old sidekick Jubilee and the X-Men in a battle against killer mechanoids led the powerless old warrior to a serious reappraisal and the adoption of a mechanised ablation-armour outfit devised by a brilliant master of robotics. It also resulted in Wolverine quitting the X-Men and the Jean Grey School of Higher Learning

The truth comes out in the third chapter. S.H.I.E.L.D. has learned that Sabretooth is seeking a weapon of cosmic importance and understandably wants him stopped. Their Byzantine plan involves Logan going deep undercover with a potential rival to the Hand’s new Lord and even fighting old allies like Thor

Fully immersed in his role and unwisely starting an affair with new comrade Pinch, Logan is fully in ‘His Own Skin’ (illustrated by Gerardo Sandoval) when the mission proper begins. This involves invading The Hand’s home base on the pirate island of Madripoor, where the Canadian Canucklehead revives his old identity of debonair rogue Patch – much to the astonished hilarity of his youthful posse…

The scheme to stop Sabretooth is a multinational deal and when Patch makes contact with already-in-place assets Faiza Hussain and Peter Wisdom of Britain’s paranormal spy agency MI-13 (outrageously aided and abetted by the Carry-On Team’s Charles Hawtrey as technical adviser “O”!) Pinch realises with horror that her new man is a plant. Quite understandably she throws a major wobbly…

Forced to act precipitately, Logan goes after Sabretooth in ‘The Madripoor Job’ and is just in time to see him acquire the mysterious ultimate weapon and promptly lose it again to one of the thieving mutated monkeys infesting the island.

Giving chase Wolverine reunites with his extremely disappointed gang as the glowing orb defends itself by manifesting an army of Wolverines from different realities…

During the subsequent melee Sabretooth catches up and by the time our hero battles free of his doppelgangers the heartbroken and furious Pinch is in possession of the artefact. As Wolverine pleads with her to hand over the potentially planet-shattering globe, Creed makes her a counter-offer: give him the device and he’ll tell his Hand ninjas not to kill the baby daughter she had kept safely apart from her deadly lifestyle…

To Be Continued…

Tense suspense, non-stop visceral action, compelling mystery and superbly surreal comedy moments carry this gripping yarn from high-octane start to fraught finish and this splendidly devious “Man from M.U.TA.N.T.” espionage extravaganza also includes a beautiful gallery of covers-&-variants by Stegman & Edgar Delgado, Kristafer Anka, Katie Cook, Frank Kozik, Jerome Opeña and Greg Horn.
™ & © 2014 Marvel & Subs. Licensed by Marvel Characters B.V. through Panini S.p.A. All rights reserved. A British Edition published by Panini Publishing, a division of Panini UK, Ltd.