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Mighty Week of Marvel #19

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The Secret Invasion is finally over, but much has changed in the Marvel Universe. With a founding Avenger dead and SHIELD disbanded, it’s time to pick up the pieces…

Avengers: the Initiative #19 effectively wraps up the Secret Invasion saga, as 3D Man, the Skrull Kill Krew and others take on the Skrulls who’ve infiltrated the Initiative in a last ditch effort to stop them from destroying the world. The Skrulls have decided that with their invasion plan in ruins, if they can’t have the Earth, no-one can.

Naturally, our heroes are going to save the day—but not without losses. A lot of losses, some confirmed, others still a little uncertain (what has become of Devil Slayer and Jocasta?) And sadly, it appears that one of the last casualties of the war is Crusader, the former Skrull infiltrator who has worked so hard to redeem himself and save his adopted world. Still, in a Marvel book, no ending is ever really final, and this one is more ambiguous than most. Why do I suspect we haven’t seen the last of the wielder of the Freedom Ring?

Continuity: Crusader acquired the Freedom Ring after the death of its former owner, Curtis Doyle, in Marvel Team-Up #23 (2006). The appearance of a Skrull version of Devil Dinosaur in this issue may explain the apparently anomalous appearances of an apparently sentient (and eloquent) Devil in NextWave #12 (2007) and of the original, near mindless Devil in several places since then.

The Skrull facing down the Rangers has apparently replaced Red Wolf’s pet wolf, Lobo (the original Lobo debuted in Avengers #80, September 1970, though he was eventually killed off and replaced by a wolf pup. This issue seems to indicate that the second Lobo is now also dead). The Great Lakes Initiative’s attempt to recruit Gravity in this issue continues a running gag first seen in GLA: Misassembled #1-4 (2006) in which the GLA attempt to coerce more well respected heroes to join them, without success.

Mighty Avengers #20 is an epilogue to Secret Invasion, dealing with Hank Pym’s return to a world he barely recognizes, and with the funeral of Janet Van Dyne, the Wasp. Through Hank’s eyes, we get a chance to see and appreciate how much the Marvel Universe has changed in the last few years, how dark it has become with events such as the House of M incident, World War Hulk and the superhuman Civil War, and the death of Captain America.

We also see snapshots of the early days of Hank and Jan’s relationship (at the time of the discovery of Captain America) and how it all went wrong (when Hank struck Jan). This is not a feel-good issue, and it ends on an appropriately ominous note, with Norman Osborn in the deserted Avengers Tower, smugly overseeing his new kingdom. However bad things are now, it appears things are about to get even worse…

Continuity: The story of Captain America’s return from the ice was originally told in Avengers #4 (1963), of course, while Hank Pym’s descent into domestic violence occurred in Avengers #212-213 (1981). Hank was abducted and replaced by the Skrulls shortly after the events of The Avengers: Finale (2004), though we didn’t learn this until Mighty Avengers #15 (2008).

Thunderbolts #127 picks up on more of Norman’s machinations as Songbird fights for her life against her former team-mates Moonstone, Venom and Bullseye. Osborn has big plans for the Thunderbolts program, and they don’t include the woman who has tried to thwart his schemes at every turn. Will Melissa Gold be able to restore the ‘Bolts to what they once stood for once all this is over? She has to get out of Thunderbolt Mountain in one piece first, and with her most likely allies having been quietly removed (Penance to a high security mental hospital, Radioactive Man back to China), her only hope of salvation comes from an unexpected quarter…

Elsewhere, things aren’t much better in the Marvel mutantverse. In Uncanny X-Men #505, Emma Frost is beginning to suspect that Cyclops is keeping secrets from her (he is, of course: the secret is the existence of X-Force, Cyke’s black ops unit), while Colossus tracks down a face from his past and Beast, Angel and Dr Nemesis seek out the long lost mutant machine manipulator, Madison Jeffries. The team may well need all the help they can get, too, as Simon Trask is whipping up anti-mutant sentiment in the wake of the Cooperstown Massacre.  The final page sees Frost make a fateful decision which leads into the forthcoming ‘Dark Reign’ saga.

Continuity: Madison Jeffries debuted in Alpha Flight #16 (1984) and served with Alpha Flight for a lengthy period before eventually being captured and brainwashed by Malcolm Colcord’s Weapon X program. He has been missing since Weapon X’s mutant concentration camp, Neverland, was destroyed.

X-Men: Legacy #219 explores the relationship between Charles Xavier and his stepbrother, the Juggernaut. Cain Marko seemed to have reformed over the last few years, even serving with the X-Men and Excalibur, but he has now revered to his former, villainous ways. Of course, Xavier wouldn’t be Xavier if he didn’t try to rehabilitate his wayward ‘brother’ one more time! Along the way, Juggernaut looks back at his past defeats at the hands of the X-Men, Spider-Man and others, and reveals why he always returns to villainy: he honestly believes that that is who he really is. It seems a leopard can’t change its spots after all.

X-Men: Kingbreaker #1 follows up on the events of the X-Men: Emperor Vulcan limited series earlier this year. With Havok, Polaris and the remaining Starjammers imprisoned by the Shi-Ar, the former Empress Lilandra and her allies Marvel Girl, Korvus and Sikorsky are fighting to get close to Havok’s insane brother, Vulcan. But Vulcan rules the Shi-Ar, now, and they are expanding their Empire, conquering the lizard like Z’nox and causing the other space faring races such as the Kree and the Rigellians to become more than a little concerned. This series is basically a tie-in to the forthcoming War of Kings crossover which will shake up Marvel’s outer space characters once again…

Continuity: Gabriel Summers AKA Vulcan became leader of the Shi-Ar following the events of the ‘Rise and Fall of the Shi-Ar Empire’ storyline in Uncanny X-Men in 2007, and his story continued in X-Men: Emperor Vulcan #1-5 in 2007-2008.The Z’nox first appeared in Uncanny X-Men #65 (1970), the Colonizers of Rigel in Thor #129 (1966), the Kree in Fantastic Four #65 (1967) and the Shi-Ar in Uncanny X-Men #97 (1976). The Starjammers debuted in Uncanny X-Men #107 (1977).

Luckily, X-Factor #38 ends on a slightly more upbeat note as our heroes finally free the captive Darwin from the clutches of the Karma Institute, and Siryn’s baby is finally on the way, too. Okay, somebody gets shot during the course of the story, but you don’t expect any X-book to be all sweetness and light, do you?

Panel of the Week: X-Men: Kingbreaker #1

It isn’t over yet for the Starjammers, as Havok gets a helping hand in Kingbreaker #1. Watch out, Vulcan…

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