Monday, December 29, 2008

Recent Deaths That Changed the Marvel Universe

Sometimes they live forever, and sometimes they drop like flies. And then there are those heroes whose deaths are pivotal to a storyline and change it forever. Here are a few of those deaths that had substance and weren't necessarily for shock value alone.

Bill Foster (Giant-Man)
Call this the shot heard round the Civil War. Marvel had slowly ratcheted up the tension with each issue of Civil War, but this was the one that changed the tide in the storyline. The sudden reappearance of Thor made everyone giddy as we saw Cap's rebels facing their hardest foe ever. Giant Man rushed in to give Thor "the shortest comeback ever", when suddenly Thor killed him! That one unexpected moment was a jaw-dropper everywhere. It's not that Foster was that great of a character (though he had been around for over a decade), it was the fact that a hero actually died--and he was killed by Thor no less!

Later we learned that it wasn't Thor but was actually a clone created by Reed Richards, but that didn't stop the death from being real to us. It changed the entire landscape of the Civil War, and even managed to force many heroes to change sides (on both sides) when they saw what had happened. Rebels became Registered, and vice-versa. It was well-done and not gimmicky in any way. The transition to Bill's nephew (seeking revenge for his uncle's death) of the "Giant-Man" mantle made sense.

Ant-Man (Scott Lang)
The replacement Ant-Man had a long and illustrious career as a hero wearing Hank Pym's original suit. Scott Lang even managed to be a part of the Fantastic Four for a while when Reed Richards was believed dead. It wasn't until he was finally a full-time member of the Avengers that his number was up.

The Avengers Disassembled storyline began with Scott's death at the hands of the resurrected Jack-of-Hearts. With that death, Marvel had made it clear that this was not just some simple multi-part storyline that would fade into oblivion quietly in a few months.

Call it what you will, that particular story gave us more collateral damage in 4 issues than we'd seen in the years before it. Hawkeye also died two issues later (though he soon returned), and She-Hulk went bonkers and killed the Vision. Marvel was doing all it could to show us they were planning to change the face of the Avengers forever.

Did the change last? No. It was less than three months later before we saw the first issue of The New Avengers, followed soon after that by The Mighty Avengers (and now we're about to see The Dark Avengers coming up). Still, Scott's death was the first and still holds. He could never be considered a major player in the Marvel Universe, but his death set the stage for the destruction of the Avengers for a short while.

Kraven the Hunter

Why would the death of one of Spider-Man's oldest foes find its way onto the list? Simple: Kraven did what no other villain had ever succeeded in doing before. Captured on a rooftop one rainy night, Spider-Man prepared for some long speech and a brilliant escape. Instead, Kraven pulled out a rifle and shot him! Even though he didn't actually kill Spider-Man (but we sure thought he did for an issue or two), he actually proved himself Spider-Man's superior and even took his place. Through the years of Doc Ock, Vulture, Shocker, Electro, and dozens of others, Kraven alone "killed" the Spider.

After showing himself Spider-Man's better, we thought the story was over. The truth was that Marvel was saving one last major plot twist that came out of nowhere and changed the landscape of Spider-Man's rogue's gallery forever. Kraven pulled out a shotgun and proceeded to ventilate his head, giving us the first death of any major Spider-Man villain to date--and from suicide, no less. This truly was Kraven's Last Hunt.

While the Spider-Man storyline The Other managed to top this by actually giving us the death of Peter Parker (and of course, his return), Marvel lived up to the hype with this one for a little while. Unfortunately we've had to deal with a number of Kraven's relatives who have come through the ranks to take his place, but the original--and still the best--is no longer with us, giving mortality to those iconic Spider-villains we sometimes take for granted.

Janet Van Dyne (The Wasp)

The Skrull's Secret Invasion was one of the strongest things Marvel has put out in a while. It followed the heels of Civil War with a story that ratcheted up the tension even further than before as we were suddenly made aware of the fact that many of the heroes we thought we knew were in actuality something far more sinister.

Through defeat after defeat, Marvel's heroes bravely fought back against a far superior and better-prepared enemy. Then with the return of Reed Richards the tide turned and we saw the heroes start to get the upper hand. It was at that time that the Skrulls unleashed their secret weapon: Janet Van Dyne.

Given a new growth formula by the Hank Pym Skrull in the first issue of Mighty Avengers, the significance of that gift suddenly became apparent as Janet went nuclear in the midst of the heroes. Only the intervention of the newly-returned Thor kept the body count down to one in the middle of the chaos.

It was a parting shot in the final issue of the story, and it served to motivate the heroes to annihilate the remainder of the Skrull army. It also served to set Hank Pym against Tony Stark in the following issue of Mighty Avengers, and who knows where that might lead. Of course, we know she's coming back some day, but for now her death has caused major ripples in the Marvel U.

Jack Munroe (Nomad)

First he was the sidekick, then he became a hero in his own right, then he became a villain called Scourge, before finally settling in to die from the Super-Soldier Serum that had made him a hero in the first place. But a slow death was not what fate (and Marvel) had in store for Jack Munroe.

The appearance of the Winter Soldier in the new Captain America series had some folks wondering. He looked a whole lot like Jack Munroe, and there were many rumors flying around that he might just be Cap's new villain.

It was Jack's death at the hands of the Winter Soldier that managed to settle that argument once and for all. Marvel made it plain and certain that Jack really was dead too, giving us a few parting panels of Jack's glassy-eyed stare as he was unceremoniously crammed into the trunk of a car.

The storyline later tried to take a turn by having Cap even think it might be Jack for a little while before the truth came out that Bucky Barnes had found his way back from the grave. Still, Jack's death was important because he was the first sidekick to be taken down by another sidekick, and it was the first real death by someone close to Cap in this new storyline that would eventually lead to Bucky taking Cap's place after his own death.

Before heroes started killing heroes in Civil War, we had Wolverine taking them out in "Enemy of the State". Brainwashed by Hydra, Wolverine tore into SHIELD and a bunch of the good guys before finally getting his mind back and taking the fight to his tormentors. One of the casualties during his brainwashed phase was former Alpha Flight hero turned X-Men hero Northstar.

Northstar could in no way be considered anything more than a C-list character, but his death makes the list simply because Wolverine took him down...and it wasn't even a "What If?" story or anything! Of course, he only stayed dead a few issues before coming back as a Hand agent (brought back from the dead). And of course, it begs the question that if he's supposed to be a super-speedster, how on Earth did he get pinned to the tree by Wolverine instead of flying away? Not as fast as he thought, I guess.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

No major post today...just wanted to say Merry Christmas to everyone out there who stops by from time to time! Hope this day brings you all the toys and books comic fans everywhere love!

Monday, December 22, 2008

2009 Wish List for Comics

Hard to believe, but this blog is celebrating its sixth month anniversary this month! Thanks for sticking around with me as I complained about stupid stories and complimented the good ones. I have some great things planned for next year, so stay with me! As 2008 draws to a close, I thought it would be a good idea to look forward and give my wish list for the upcoming year in the world of comic book stories.

There's no doubt 2008 had some great moments, but there were a lot of places it fell short as well. Hopefully things will straighten up in the upcoming year. Here's a few ways to start it off right:

The Question Needs a Comeback

How on Earth can DC justify what they did with the character? First, they ignore him for years. Then they make him a major player in the 52 maxi-series...just to kill him off in the process after finally making him cool again! He shows up in the Justice League Unlimited cartoon series and turns into this wonderfully fun paranoid character who develops a relationship with Huntress (and that was a great recurring theme throughout the short run of the series). Then they reprint his old series in book format. But they've given the title to Renee Montoya, who has pretty much turned the character into a faceless Lara Croft ripoff.

Watchmen is coming out next year, and Rorshach has been voted by the readers of Wizard Magazine as the one the fans were most looking forward to seeing in real life. That character was based on the Question when he was with Charlton comics. Do you see where I'm going with this? I don't care how you bring him back (hey, most of the other resurrections and returns haven't made a bit of sense anyway), just get him back to us please!

Bring back Steve Rogers!

Ok, the shock value was cool--and Bucky's doing a bang-up job of being Captain America--but enough is enough. We know he's coming back eventually, so why not just go ahead and bring him on in?

There can be no doubt Steve Rogers IS Captain America. No matter who you put in the suit or how you change it, the character just isn't the same without Steve behind the mask. He held this unwavering belief in right and wrong that made him this stalwart Boy Scout in the midst of a world of ever-darkening heroes. We need him back.

There's no need to kill off Bucky though. Let him go back to being the Winter Soldier again. He did a great job in the role, and it was a cool hero to have running around in the Marvel world. This isn't a hard problem to solve.

Do Something with Spider-Man

No matter how you gussy it up, Spider-Man's reboot was a bad idea. Stop teasing us with Jackpot and bring back Mary Jane. Admit the "Brand New Day" was a stupid marketing ploy and fix it.

Here's my simple request for Spider-Man: kill off Aunt May! The woman has long outlived her usefulness to the character. She doesn't give him some soft side or anything...she makes him look like a momma's boy. Milk her death for all it's worth and let her fade away.

Let Jason Todd Become Red Robin Permanently

The natural progression from Robin to the Red Hood to the Red Robin was an amazing thing to watch. Jason's move to the costume in Countdown to Final Crisis was such a seamless and perfectly logical thing it could easily be considered DC's finest moment in that maxi-series. So what did they do next? They put him right back in the mask and leather jacket and gave someone else the suit. What a dumb move! They had given the Kingdom Come fans their biggest moment in recent years, and then ripped it from their grasp.

It's not like Jason's Red Hood persona is that important. The gimmick was cool to begin with, but taking him back that direction is a big mistake. It's a step backward that you don't need to take. Put him in the suit and turn him loose. I think he'd make a great member of the Outsiders or the JLA. He's shown a ruthless side (he killed the Joker in one of those alternate-universe-hopping moments, for crying out loud!) that would make him the "get the job done" type of hero DC desperately needs right now in their roster.

This has been a bad year for DC, so what better way to wipe the slate clean than to bring back a tough version of Robin and Nightwing combined into one hero?

Give us back our Avengers titles!

For the love of Pete, could this year have been any more pointless for Marvel's Mighty Avengers and New Avengers titles? I submit that it could not!

I understand the importance of the Skrull Secret Invasion, and I can appreciate the need to give us some valuable back story, but an entire year of nothing but back story issues in both titles? When you have complete issues of a team book in which not a single member of the team shows up for even a panel of the comic, you're doing something wrong with the title!

Hopefully Marvel will learn from this and put things back to normal in the books. I know Spider-Woman will have to be replaced in the New Avengers (possibly by the real thing since she's been a Skrull the entire time she's been on the team), but leave the rest of the line-up as is. The Mighty Avengers started off well also with the Ultron and Venom bomb storylines. Let's keep our fingers crossed that they can find that momentum again.

One more major DC/Marvel Crossover!

For a while we were getting them left and right. We had Green Lantern & Silver Surfer, Galactus & Darkseid, Superman & The Fantastic Four...shoot, we even got two different versions of Batman & Punisher! Then after the JLA/Avengers title, the two publishers had a falling out and the readers have been the ones to suffer ever since.

While I'm not asking for another one of those stupid Amalgam routines--or even an entire universe-versus-universe altercation--it would be nice to see some small crossover between two publishers again.

Of course, if you were looking for a grand-scale crossover, I have the perfect idea for one:

What if we had another Avengers/JLA crossover where they had to fight some cosmic battle with Death/Thanos/Dormammu/whoever, and they ended up finding Steve Rogers and Bruce Wayne alive and well again in the process! This would be something that could have lasting ramifications on both publishers and all titles throughout! It might be the only crossover we'd see in years, but if it could be something to leave an impact on storylines for years thereafter, it would be worth it.

Anyway, that's what I'm hoping to see in the coming year. Who knows? I might just get my wish on a couple of them. What about you? Anything you'd like to see in 2009?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Secret Invasion #8 - The Invasion Ends

Well, it was quite a ride, but the Secret Invasion has finally come to an end. Marvel handled this one much better than DC handled Final Crisis, though Marvel stumbled badly when it came to producing the backstory to the invasion by killing both of its Avengers titles for the year with the stuff.

As promised, this issue does indeed feature the death of one of the founding members of the Avengers--but it's one of those ambiguous death scenes that obviously won't stick later on down the line. We'll see this hero again, there's no doubt.

The rest of the issue is filled with some great moments. The Skrulls get a smackdown like you wouldn't believe as they finally find their war a futile effort. Still, the parting shot that gets all the credit goes to Norman Osborn, which leads to an interesting plot twist at the end. It all sets the stage for Marvel's next big event: Dark Reign.

This issue was a very satisfying conclusion to the storyline. As is only fitting, Iron Man ends up getting a vast portion of the blame for the attack because of his part in starting the Civil War. SHIELD is ultimately disbanded because of the Skrull infiltration, and topping it all off we have the return of the heroes who had been replaced! There is a problem there because Black Bolt is seen coming from the ship, while he was clearly seen in the Secret Invasion: Inhumans miniseries as being in deep space during the whole thing. But don't worry, I'm not seeing this as a paranoid conspiracy issue's just a little thing you'd get a no-prize for back in the 70's.

Where Marvel goes from here is anyone's guess. The "Dark Reign" storyline looks promising, and here's hoping Marvel can follow up on its success on this series with another great one.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Iconic Comic Book Deaths Revisited

Comic book deaths are nothing new, and many times they can seem excessive. One thing is certain: they help sell issues. Since that's the case, heroes will continue to die as publishers crank out miniseries after miniseries that needs something to set it apart.

We put together a list of great deaths before, but there was no way to cover them all in one sitting. Now we're back to see a few others that have gone on to the great sketchbook in the sky.

Join us as we look at a few more iconic moments in comic book deaths.

Alexandra DeWitt

It may seem strange to start this list off with a person who isn't a superhero, but Alex's death sparked a lot of controversy. She was Kyle Rayner's girlfriend, and we met her shortly after Kyle became the Green Lantern. Unfortunately, Kyle soon found himself with a serious enemy in Major Force, something he'd never had before since he was just an artist.

Returning from a fight, Kyle came home to find a note from Alex about something special in the fridge. That something special was Alex herself (the note obviously wasn't from her). Force had killed her and stuffed her body in the refrigerator.

It was the first time anyone close to a Green Lantern had died. Carol Ferris and Pieface had been around Hal Jordan for years with no serious damage, but Kyle lost someone almost immediately. It set the tone for the book's future, and it also brought about public outcry for violence against women in comic books.


Sometimes a storyline can only be improved by the death of someone important. Sometimes it's just done for a gimmick. I have no idea which one is true for Firestorm, killed during the Identity Crisis miniseries. During a minor scuffle to try and stop a villain called Shadow Thief, Ronnie was stabbed. Aware that he is about to explode, he flies into the sky so as not to kill those around him. His parting words are incredibly tragic: "Tell my dad I said goodbye."

Ronnie Raymond was a hero with the potential to have been the most powerful player in the DC universe. His death was treated more as an afterthought than anything else. It accomplished nothing to further the story, but it did give it a sense that the heroes were truly in danger, so in a way I guess it had its merits.

Unfortunately, like the Blue Beetle, Firestorm was rebooted to a younger character and never really got the send off he deserved.

Blue Beetle

Ted Kord was an unappreciated hero. Resigned by DC to be nothing more than a comic relief character (along with Booster Gold), Blue Beetle never really received the recognition he should have.

But all of that changed the day he died.

Kord managed to use his athletic ability and smarts to figure out that Maxwell Lord was behind a global conspiracy to rule the world. He snuck into Max's castle lair to find out the truth, was captured and beaten, and finally given the opportunity to join Max or die. Kord stared him down and stood his ground as a hero...and died for it. Kord's death started the Infinite Crisis storyline, and it wasn't until he was about to die that DC finally decided to make him cool. No more jokes. Kord was all serious business and showed himself every bit the detective Batman was. It was an unfair treatment of a great hero.

Captain Stacy

Spider-Man's life has been tragic, to say the least. The death of his uncle sets him on the road to being a hero, his best friend was killed after taking over his father's role as Green Goblin, and we can't forget this moment. Captain Stacy's daughter Gwen got mention in our first look at comic book deaths, but he deserves mention as well.

During a battle with Doctor Octopus, Spider-Man dodges a wild swing of the mechanical arms that brings down a ton of bricks toward an innocent group of bystanders. As one small child watches in awe at the death bearing down on him, Captain Stacy pushes the child out of the way and is crushed. Peter digs him out and takes him away, only to find out that Stacy knew all along about Peter's heroic alter-ego, and asked him to take care of his daughter (we see how well that turned out).

This death set the stage for a lot of conflict. Gwen blamed Spider-Man for her father's death. Peter loved Gwen and didn't want to tell her the truth about himself for fear of losing her. It was a problem for years to come, until Gwen herself finally died later.

Gwen Stacy (Ultimate Version)

How does someone make it to this list twice? By being killed in every incarnation of her life.

In the Ultimate Spider-Man universe, Gwen Stacy was a completely different person. She wasn't this sweet, quiet, unassuming girl. Instead, she was this rebellious, troubled teen who wasn't afraid to defend herself (or Peter) in high school.

Unfortunately, Marvel seems slated to kill her off whenever they can find her. This time out she died quickly (she was in 48 issues before her death), killed by the Ultimate version of Carnage. The truly tragic thing about her death was the fact that the last thing she saw before dying was Peter's face. Carnage took on Peter's appearance, so Gwen died believing that Peter was her killer.

She was brought back during the Clone Saga, but her identity as a clone was quickly established. I, for one, would have loved to have seen them kill off Mary Jane in the Ultimate universe and let Peter and Gwen pursue a relationship. If you really wanted to make things different, that would have been a great way to do it.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

More Comic Book Dream Fights

We saw them before, now let's look at some more. Here are the fight's we'll probably never see for one reason or another, and it's a shame.

This list is a little different in that a couple of these crossover fights have actually been done in the Marvel vs. DC miniseries they put out a few years ago. Unfortunately, they weren't given the proper respect they deserved simply because of the sheer volume of heroes and fights they were trying to plug in those books. That being said, let's see a rematch or two!

Zatanna vs. Scarlet Witch

On the one hand, you have a one of the most powerful magicians in the DC universe. On the other side, you have a reality-bending mutant who was single-handedly responsible for the whole "House of M" storyline. Scarlet Witch's powers have grown substantially from what they were when she was originally introduced as a mutant with hex (or "bad luck") powers. As such, who knows what she's capable of anymore?

I don't know how you'd call this one, other than just to say it would be close. Zatanna's weakness is that she has to speak her magic to make it happen. If the Scarlet Witch found a way to stop her from talking, Zatanna would be in trouble. On the other hand, Zatanna is a trained fighter, so if she could get in close enough she could still do some damage if need be even without the magic.

Huntress vs. Elektra

Two of the toughest ladies in comic books today would make for an excellent battle. I know Elektra's current whereabouts are unknown thanks to the Skrulls, but when she returns (and she will) this would be a great fight.

I know most folks would pit her against Catwoman--and they did fight in one of the Marvel vs. DC comics--I would prefer to see her go against Huntress.

Elektra definitely has the mad ninja skills going for her, but Huntress has trained with Batman, and that couldn't hurt. The longer the battle went on, the more likely Elektra would win, so it would be up to Huntress to finish this one quick or not at all.

The Punisher vs. Deathstroke

I know I used Deathstroke in a dream fight last time, but come on, this one is a no-brainer. The only question here would be how many rounds of ammo could be used up before one took out the other.

Deathstoke's enhanced abilities give him a slight edge here, but Punisher is a seasoned warrior and won't be taken by surprise. He's also a serious sniper, so there's no reason to think he wouldn't go long-range with this and attack Deathstroke before he even knew the fight was on.

Doctor Fate vs. Doctor Strange

Another trip to the mystical side of heroics, this match-up would be epic just in scale of what both men could do.

Both men are considered one of the most powerful mystics in their given universes, and yet both are little more than human.

I think this fight would just be a constant battle of oneupsmanship, with one throwing a spell on the other, him breaking out of that spell and throwing his own back, and so forth. I don't see anything that puts either man at a distinct disadvantage, and the only way I see this ending is with some form of outside interference.

Sentry vs. Gladiator

We may still see this one someday, but for now it's just speculation. Both are blatant Superman copies, and are powerhouses in the Marvel universe.

As far as weaknesses go, Gladiator is affected by certain types of radiation, which could possibly be used by Sentry to even the fight. Also, some of Gladiator's powers are weakened by a lack of self-confidence, so if he finds himself taking damage from a few of Sentry's punches he might start to weaken there as well. If Sentry cut loose on him (as he did on the Hulk in the World War Hulk finale), it might be enough to finish him.

On the other hand, if Gladiator told Sentry he was the Void, Sentry would fly away crying. Fight over.

And what would this list be without a team battle...

Secret Six vs. The Thunderbolts

The battle of the "villain hero team" from both publishers. Now this isn't necessarily the greatest run since both teams are in flux right now, but let's say it's the recent glory days for both teams. The Secret Six lineup would be Catman, Deadshot, Scandal, Ragdoll, Knockout, and Mad Hatter (from the Secret Six miniseries). The Thunderbolts would be Venom, Bullseye, Green Goblin, Moonstone, Songbird, and Swordsman. The possibilities would be great.

Knockout versus Venom promises a lot of action. Bullseye versus Deadshot alone would be a fight worthy of its own miniseries. Catman versus the Swordsman...Ragdoll versus Moonstone...Scandal versus Songbird...and then Mad Hatter takes on the ultimate trip to Wonderland: Green Goblin.

Unfortunately, Knockout is dead thanks to Birds of Prey #109, Mad Hatter hates the team thanks to Ragdoll's betrayal of him at the end of the Secret Six miniseries, and Venom is sort of in a weird place right now as Scorpion/Venom, so we'll never see this one. Still, you have to admit it would be a great confrontation if it was done correctly. Both sides have no compulsions against killing when necessary, so it could go either way.

I'm open to suggestions for future lists. What comic book issue keeps you up at night?
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