This week in Heroes and Villains our selection of new Marvel Comics includes some very precise distinctions of heroes and villains, folks who cross that line between the two. Meet me after the jump for my reviews of Captain America: Steve Rogers #12, Infamous Iron Man #5, Scarlet Witch #15, Thunderbolts #10, and Avengers #4.1… and beware, spoilers abound…
In the twelfth issue of Captain America: Steve Rogers, we are once again blasted into the nightmare reality where Captain America is a Hydra double agent, the new Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., kneels before the Red Skull, partners with Baron Zemo, and plots the conquest of the planet under Hydra rule. It’s cool, folks, as long as I have Tylenol nearby. If I look at all this as a parallel universe, it helps, and happily I have noticed that Steve Rogers looks at it like that as well. He remembers other versions of this reality, so perhaps there is hope we’ll get out Cap back eventually, even if the character has been irreparably damaged by this storyline.
Honestly the friendships between Cap and the Zemos is hard to take for me, as bad as Cap kneeling before the Red Skull, but it was nice to see that our former hero is still a peacekeeper no matter what side he is on. I also loved the newsreel footage that begins this issue, horrifying as it is. The real meat of this issue however was the Bagalia meeting between Taskmaster, the Black Ant, and Maria Hill. I love the idea of a Bagalia – a nation of super-criminals – and would love to see more of it.
The two villains have footage of Captain America saying “Hail Hydra,” and are trying to sell it to the highest bidder. They are found out by Hydra, led by a new Madame Hydra… Elisa Sinclair, the very woman who indoctrinated Steve Rogers and his mother into Hydra back in the 1920s, in this new Cosmic Cube induced reality. Things are getting very interesting. I have never said this wasn’t a good story or an intriguing ride, only that I hate the damage done to the character. The Secret Empire event expands from here, get in on it early.
Despite what I’ve said about Steve Rogers in the past eight months, Doctor Doom is Marvel’s number one villain. Originally conceived by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby as an evil monarch who could commit horrific crimes on American soil with diplomatic immunity, Doom has battled nearly every Marvel hero and villain, usurped power from Galactus and the Beyonder, was the first villain to have his own feature as noted in a previous column, and recreated the entire universe in the recent Secret Wars, and that’s just the tip of the doomberg.
In the above mentioned Secret Wars Doom was Rebirthed as a scarless good guy helping Tony Stark here in the Infamous Iron Man ongoing, eventually emerging as an Iron Man after Stark’s near-fatal incapacitation in Civil War II. In his absence, Latveria has become run as a military coup, but for some reason under orders of S.H.I.E.L.D. director Maria Hill (one might assume if an event isn’t written by Brian Michael Bendis, it didn’t happen, I guess), the Thing went to check out Doom’s abandoned castle.
The Thing, now a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent (Marvel should make score cards for readers seriously), encounters Victor Von Doom’s long dead magic-wielding mom in the castle, Hill tries to start an international incident. Notably however, it’s not the illogic of this typically Bendis story that folks will be talking about, it’s that last page. Who ever this woman pretending to be (or actually is) Doom’s mother is, she’s being manipulated by the evil Reed Richards from the Ultimate universe, the Maker. Only Brian Michael Bendis could take one title, one about Iron Man, and turn it into another, one about Doctor Doom and the Fantastic Four. I might give this a pass until maybe either Tony Stark and/or the real Fantastic Four return for good.
This James Robinson series is on its fifteenth issue, and although I’ve only read three or four of them along the way, I have enjoyed watching Robinson play with the Marvel Universe, just as he had the DCU with his classic Starman series. He might not always get his facts right (and really, who can these days at least?) but he tells fabulous stories, and with a character so put upon and mishandled in recent years (yeah, I’m looking at you, Bendis) as Wanda Maximoff, that’s what counts.
Here, almost like one of those DC Comics psychic investigators in the trenchcoat brigade, Wanda is helping a couple whose son appears to be possessed by a demon. From modern day New York to 1950s Havana, she gets it done, before attempting to return to the Avengers. The atmospheric art of Vanesa Del Rio is perfect for the tale. I feel bad for not having followed this title from the start. Robinson gets Wanda, and thankfully, now so do we. Must read, must buy, especially for Avengers readers, we finally have our Wanda back.
This tenth issue of Thunderbolts – and I’m sure with Marvel’s interesting annual new numbering system, there have been a few number tens – marks the twentieth anniversary of the team, which itself has gone under several iterations. Originally one of the last great shocker endings in comics before the internet, the Thunderbolts were the Masters of Evil, as noted here and here.
Here, with a prologue by original Thunderbolts creators Kurt Busiek and Mark Bagley, and the story continued by Jim Zub, we see what the teams – Thunderbolts and Masters of Evil – have been up to. Between Baron Zemo and Winter Soldier vying for power over various aspects of the teams and the Cosmic Cube child Kobik, this ties into the upcoming Secret Empire event. It’s a little scattered but may be a good jumping off point for new readers, especially sailing into a new crossover. I enjoyed this one even though I didn’t think I would, good stuff.
Then, speaking of weird numbering systems, there’s this – Avengers #4.1 – despite what it indicates, it’s the fourth issue of the series. Normally I don’t dig reboots and retcons like this as all they really do is add updates like cellphones to 1960s stories or make our heroes less heroic than they really were back in the day. This one by the co-creators of JLA: Year One, Mark Waid and artist Barry Kitson, I guess I should have been nicer too, but I haven’t.
What began as a sneak peek into what the early days of Cap’s Kooky Quartet were really like has become something completely different in four issues. The addition of secret member Cressida is the x-factor that makes this story, and we’re not just talking about her ability to make her teammates ‘better’ either. She’s sapping power and life force from others to empower the Avengers, and in the rematch between Earth’s mightiest and the Frightful Four, she’s playing both sides.
I’m loving this book, despite its retcon flavor, and am betting it concludes with the revelation that Cressida is maybe the Enchantress. Waid and Kitson are giving us an old/new Avengers that hits all the good spots, and it rocks. Highly recommended.