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Mighty Week of Marvel #20

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We’re bouncing around the Marvel Universe again this week as there’s some interesting stuff going on in several quite diverse titles. First: a blast from the past...

Captain America Theater of War: America First is a one shot starring, obviously, Captain America. But this isn’t the original Captain America, nor is it James Barnes, the man currently behind the mask. No, this is the second ‘Steve Rogers’, the infamous Captain America-Commie Smasher! Cap’s replacement from the 1950’s returned recently in his main title, but the lead strip in this oversized special takes us back to his glory days, the height of the Cold War.

This Captain America is very much a product of his environment, seeing reds under the bed at every turn, but he isn’t yet the dangerously unbalanced fantasist he would later become, and his opponent in this story actually does turn out to be one of those dastardly Commies. We also see a younger version of old warhorse Nick Fury, still binocular at this point, and working for the CIA. The two backup strips are reprints of the ‘50’s Cap’s exploits from Young Men #24 and #25 and are a chance to take a look back at a fascinating era of comics history.

Continuity: The second Steve Rogers and his sidekick Jack ‘Bucky’ Monroe debuted in Young Men #24 (1953), though it wasn’t until Captain America #153 (1972) that we learned they were not, in fact, the original Cap and Bucky. ‘Steve’ was killed off in Captain America #236 (1979) but returned in #37of the current run in April 2008. Monroe, who eventually became the Nomad, was murdered by the Winter Soldier in Captain America #3 (2005). The Red Skull seen in the Young Men tale reprinted here is also an imposter, communist agent Albert Malik. Nick Fury’s time as a CIA agent was first mentioned in Fantastic Four #21 (1963).

New Avengers #48 picks up after the events of Secret Invasion, with the fugitive Avengers given a new headquarters by the new Captain America. Spider Woman and the long thought dead Mockingbird are back, too, but our beleaguered heroes still have a major problem to deal with: the Skrull until recently impersonating the Avengers’ butler, Edwin Jarvis, has stolen the baby daughter of Luke Cage and Jessica Jones and escaped into the city with her! As a new era dawns for Earth’s mightiest outlaw heroes, Cage finds himself having to make a deal with the devil if he is to have any hope of finding little Danielle. And this devil’s name is Norman Osborn.

Continuity: Spider Woman, though in theory a member of the New Avengers’ roster since the first issue, is in fact joining them here for the first time. She was replaced by the Skrull Queen Veranke prior to New Avengers #1 (2005), as revealed during Secret Invasion.

Mockingbird, who debuted as SHIELD agent Bobbi Morse in Astonishing Tales #6 (1971) and briefly adopted the costumed identity of the Huntress in Marvel Super Action #1 (1976) before settling on Mockingbird in Marvel Team-Up #95 (1980), was believed to have been killed saving her estranged husband Hawkeye from Mephisto in Avengers West Coast #100 (1993). She was then seen apparently trapped in Hell some years later by the Thunderbolts.  She returned in Secret Invasion #8, but as yet it is unclear whether or not she ever actually died (or, if not, who the ‘Mockingbird’ encountered by the Thunderbolts was) or when she was replaced by the Skrulls.

Ms Marvel #34 finds Carol Danvers, now unable to use her Ms Marvel powers, on a mysterious mission which brings her into conflict with the CIA. Her objective is to locate the mysterious character known only as Essential, who she believes can give her information on Thunderbolts leader Norman Osborn. Along the way, Carol gets a helping hand first from old friend Aaron Stack (AKA Machine Man) and then from Spider-Man. It’s not yet clear what has been going on in this book for the last few issues, but whatever Carol’s mission actually is, it’s certainly intriguing.

Richard Rider is not a happy man in Nova #20. The Xandarian Worldmind has recruited a whole new Nova Corps without telling him, and one of the new Centurions is Richard’s own younger brother, Robbie. Richard goes to seek advice from his former New Warriors teammates Justice and Firestar, and is convinced that his opposition to Robbie’s new status is based on jealousy and irrational fears. But meanwhile, Robbie is out fighting Dragon Man with the new Corps-and his decidedly cocky attitude seems to be a sure sign that he’s headed for a fall. Plus, there’s a shock in store when Richard sees the Nova Corps newest recruit!

Continuity: Robbie Rider first appeared in Nova #1 (1976) and has been a minor thorn in his brothers’ side several times over the years. At one point Robbie lost a finger, which was severed by a kidnapper who mailed it to his brother, but curiously,  since the beginning of the current series Robbie has been conspicuously restored to his former decimal digit status without explanation. I guess his employers at Project: Pegasus cloned him a new one! Nova joined the New Warriors (and acquired the short lived nickname ‘Kid Nova’, referenced in this issue) in New Warriors #1 (1990), though they were first seen as a team in The Mighty Thor #411 (December 1989).

One of Nova’s old buddies is causing major problems for the newest incarnation of his old team in New Warriors #19. The gang is trapped in a dystopian future where the Superhuman Registration Act has gotten totally out of control. But in a shocking twist, Night Thrasher—the man fighting the forces of the SHRA-has turned out to be Tony Stark, the guy who instigated the act in the first place.

And the man behind Iron Man’s mask, the ruler of this Orwellian nightmare, is none other than Dwayne Taylor, the long dead original Night Thrasher! Can the Warriors overthrow a government in the name of freedom? And when Donyell Taylor, the current Night Thrasher, has to choose between his friends and his brother, what possible choice is there, in the end?

Continuity: Dwayne Taylor first appeared in the aforementioned Mighty Thor #411, and died in Civil War #1(2006). Donyell Taylor debuted (as Bandit) in Night Thrasher vol II #3 (1993) and took on the mantle of Night Thrasher following his brother’s death, prior to New Warriors vol IV #1 (2007).

There’s more old school action in Wolverine: First Class #10, in which Wolvie and Kitty fall foul of a pack of werewolves, and meet the Werewolf by Night himself, Jack Russell, in the first part of a two part tale (a rarity for this title). Back in the present day though, our favorite hairy berserker has more serious worries in Wolverine: Origins #31, in which Wolvie and his estranged son Daken’s quest to take down the villainous Romulus brings them into conflict with an old foe-Cyber, one of the few men ever to have beaten Wolverine!

Matt Murdock has more problems in Daredevil #114; his wife’s parents have removed her from the sanitarium where she has recuperating from her drug induced breakdown and are denying him access to her. Worse still, they have photos of him in a compromising situation with sexy detective Dakota North. And in the background lurk the Hand and Lady Bullseye, picking off Matt’s friends one by one.

The Lady Liberators are out to overthrow a corrupt regime in She Hulk #36, while Loki sets his newest and most twisted scheme in motion in Thor #12, in which we learn the fate of the Lady Sif. Plus, Patsy Walker’s strangest adventure yet continues in Patsy Walker-Hellcat: Agent f the Initiative #4. Something for everyone this week, it seems…

Panel of the week: Patsy Walker: Hellcat #4

Well, I said it was strange…

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