Between DC's Blackest Night and Marvel's Dark Reign, the average comics-reader could be somewhat forgiven for falling into a bit of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Luckily, there were plenty of bright spots to keep us from having to buy those dopey UV-light headbands.
Repeat after me...
Amazing Spider-Man #598
This beautiful exchange between Spidey and Bullseye -- who loses the Hawkeye threads to do some old-school torture on the Web Head. Spidey is wearing a special costume that Reed Richards designed for him that allowed him to infiltrate the Dark Avengers in Avengers Tower ("unstable molecules, blah, blah, blah..."). Osborn wants the mask off, but he needs the password. Bullseye is offered $10 million if he can get it out of Spider-Man before dinner.
After the aforementioned meta-water-boarding, Parker confesses. The secret password is:
...Psi - isad...
You say it all together," Spider-Man reveals.
Full Frontal Assault
Avengers: The Initiative #25
They've done it about three times, but Moonstone tugging at her thong and complaining about the costume design for Ms. Marvel never fails to get a chuckle out of me. This issue takes it one step further.
Tigra slashes Ms. Moonstone in a getaway attempt. The divine Ms. M yells, "--Surprised me, but it'll take more than that to hurt me, you little--"
But Tigra escapes as Ms. Moonstone is surrounded by paparazzi. It seems Tigra's frontal assault was also a sneak attack.
Speaking of "sneaks," check out the viewfinders on the photographers' cameras.
Psycho Man Loses His Head
The Defenders vs Offenders match-up ended pretty much the way everyone knew it would. Since the main characters were all pulled from different dimensions, it was pretty painless for writer Jeph Loeb to wrack up a body count in this series.
Painless for Jeph.
Painful for almost all of the others who got snuffed in this issue -- most of whom met their ends by losing their heads. Tarrax, Namor, Silver Surfer, Dormammu all fall to head trauma. But none of these "headless cases" were as notable as Psycho Man's curtain call.
Plastic Man returns to the JLA!
As I mentioned earlier, Len Wein was tapped to write a two-issue arc, and he promised to bring Plas back for the ride. Since he had all-but-officially written out of DC continuity, I was thrilled at the prospect.
And with everything that happened between then and now, I was actually thunderstruck to see Mister O'Brien make his entrance onto the pages of JLA #35.
Which is odd, because as you can plainly see, he's on the cover of the issue. (No, really. He is.)
Sure, the foes are the well-trodden Royal Flush Gang. I mean, at this point, I'd be more frightened by the Full House Gang. But it's nice to see Plas back in action.
Becoming the Butt of the Joke
Sinister Spider-Man #3
Venom takes on a roomful of D-list wannabes, dispatching each in his own inimitable way. During the scuffle, Dr. Everything places a band around Venom's mouth so he's unable to bite. At which point, Venom chomps Dementoid with another mouth that grows out of his stomach. Now, earlier, it was revealed that the symbiote that creates Venom could not digest a rabid squirrel (he horked it on the desk of the Daily Bugle Editor earlier), and evidently, whatever dements Dementoid is equally indigestible because after defeating General Wolfram and Hippo, the all-but forgotten Dementoid peeps for help. In the most unlikely of places.
He Lies Like a Rug
JLA: Cry for Justice #2
Prometheus, in a classic, fireside, evil-plot exposition, tells ill-fated assistant, Quimby, about his dastardly plan. During this Bond-villain-esque monologue, Prometheus describes his murdering of some of Europe's super-heroes. Quimby notices what looks to be a bear-skin rug.
Prometheus: You're admiring my rug.
Quimby: Yes, I was wondering what animal it was.
Prometheus: It isn't. It's one of those Guardians I mentioned. The Tasmanian Devil.
...Idiot named himself after an endangered species anyway.
Putting 'Second' First
Secret Six #13
The best comeback of the week, by far, is scored to the Secret Six's Deadshot.
With a defeated Wonder Woman, lying prostate at their feet, our anti-heroes are pressed by their benefactor into the next phase of their mission. Meanwhile, Ragdoll scrutinizes the boots on the princess of power:
Hmm...Do you think these things would fit me?
As the conversation later turns to him, he has donned both the boots and the tiara.
Ragdoll:What? wait. Sorry. Wasn't listening. What are we discussing again?...Hey... I wonder, could I get into that bustier?
Deadshot: Dunno. Lotsa people tried.
A Private Moment with...Norman Osborn
Dark Avengers #9
Of course, a few Private Moments are better left private. Case in point: Somewhere in Thunderbolts Mountain, Victoria Hand (heh-heh) approached a heavily fortified door at the end of a long corridor.
On her cell phone is the Secretary of Defense, ostensibly demanding a conference with Osborn.
Osborn (from behind the roon): Not now.
Hand: You all right?
Hand (walking away): Mister Secretary, I'm sorry, he went out on a mission. Yes. Absolutely. Of course.
Osborn Victoria? Are you still there? I think I need some help. Hello?
Go ahead. Laugh. As if you haven't been off on your fair share of missions.
A Private Moment with... Clint Barton (One of Many, Evidently)
Mighty Avengers #29
For several consecutive issues, Loki has mislead the Earth's Mightiest by masquerading as the Scarlet Witch. That is, until Clint "Hawkeye/Ronin/Lothario" Barton decides to use his super powers and solve this mystery once and for all.
Clint: The lips? The lips don't lie. You're not Wanda.
One can only assume Wanda does that swishy thing with her tongue.
Nonetheless, Clint has better be careful using his newfound super-powered lips. Is this sort of thing that landed Starfox in a courtroom being defended on sexual-assault charges by She-Hulk. (Here's an excerpt from She Hulk #7, if you can't recall.)
Wait. If THEY'RE 'The Kittens'...?
Felicia "Black Cat" Hardy walked onto the Spider-stage last week (to tumultuous applause, no doubt), and she and her "bad luck" powers proceeded to complicate Webhead's life. Spidey catches her in the midst of a break-in. During the ensuing banter, the ol' silver-tongued Spider launches a little naughty talk about Hardy's, er, assets.
Spidey: ...Aren't you sharing a litter box with the Puma? (Yes, Punber Two.)
Black Cat: I was. But Thomas had control issues... and then there was the manscaping incident after he forgot his boundaries.
Spidey: You evil, evil thing.
Cat: Comes with the claws. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm working.
Spidey: Work -- are you breaking and entering?
Cat: Are you staring at my chest?
Cat: So it's yes to both then.
Spidey: Wait? What --?
Cat: Your breathing gets choppy when you perv out. Don't worry. I'm used to it.
Spidey: I'm talking about the felony! Not... you know... the kittens...
Later, after they stumble upon a corpse and Black Cat insists she's not involved in the murder, Spider-Man tells her that he believes her because: "your breath gets all choppy when you tell the truth."
In the end, Spider-Man levels with her: She dumped him because she didn't like the man behind the mask. And she confesses that when she saw him again all of the old feelings came rushing back. And then there's this stellar moment:
Spidey: But... your breathing's all choppy.
Black Cat: So is yours.
Spidey: Oh boy.
Power Girl Picks Up a Pick-Up (kinda)
Power Girl #5
As long as our minds are in the gutter, we might as well turn to ultra-sexy Power Girl, and yet another solid performance by the team of Paliotti, Gray and Conner. It's also the appearance of the first of several vehicles that were thrown around last week. As a taxi comes sailing through the air, the graceful Power Girl, flying for the interception delivers this wonderfully campy line:
Power Girl: Usually, it's impossible to catch a cab this time of day.
Clothes Make The Man... Delusional
Lethal Legion #3
Next to paste Paste Pot Pete, there are few villains in the Marvel Universe more badly in need of a major P.R. reversal than Paul "Grey Gargoyle" Duvall. Every hero reminds themselves that he went "toe-to-toe with Thor" just before they mop the floor with him. I think it's the same way a forty-year-old wears his high school varsity jacket into the bar in his old hometown. He hasn't done squat since throwing that winning touchdown twenty years ago, but he did throw it. And you're going to hear about it. Again.
Here, he approaches Karla "Moonstone" Sofen about gaining membership into Norman Osborn's Dark Avengers -- who, he has figured out, are all villains masquerading as heroes. And he has a bargaining chip: His team, the Lethal Legion has kidnapped Norman Osborn.
Duvall: I mean, when Zemo was forming the Thunderbolts, did I get a call? No. He took the Beetle, for God's sake. The Fixer... The Fixer?! And that imbecile Goliath? Don't get me started on that.
And now this fake Avengers thing? And I'm out of the loop on this, too? No, not this time. Not again. Why do you think I joined the [Lethal] Legion in the first place? To show that b*****d Osborn the error of his ways for dismissing me as --
Sofen: OK. I get it. You're royally p****d. I get it. But now let's see if maybe we can accommodate each other, shall we? You want in. We want Osborn back. So assuming you're right about the Avengers... you catching my drift?
Duvall: Yes, in fact I even came prepared in case we reached an understanding. I got to thinking that maybe...
[pulling out a miniature Mjollnir] I could be your Thor.
Moonstone, of course, becomes one of a long line of women who have laughed at Duvall's little hammer.
Puttin' On The Dog
Sinister Spider-Man #4
I'm so bummed this series only went four issues. It was easily one of the high points in the month for me. But, happily, the creative team went out strong with the final issue. As I was telling a Bullseye cosplayer at Mid-Ohio-Con last weekend, his namesake had one of his all-time best moments in Sinister Spider-Man #4: Using two different kinds of dog as lethal weapons. It begins with Bullseye and Daken observing a public gala in honor of Venom-masquerading-as-Spidey. As the Wall Crawler is announced, the panties fly. The two hidden baddies discuss, um, strategy.
Bullseye: Left eye or right eye?
Daken: Which will be more challenging?
Bullseye: Using a yap dog? [holding a poodle aloft] Um... left eye.
Daken: Left then.
At which point, Bullseye hurls the hapless pup at Venom, impaling him with it. In the left eye.
Venom proceeds to do battle with Daken and the two city gangs who have all assembled to eviscerate him, taking them all on single handed (and one-eyed). At which point, Bullseye fires forth another volley.
Sticks embed themselves into mac "Venom" Gargan with a meaty "SHFLUP! SHFLUP! SHFLUP! SHFLUP! SHFLUP!"
At the end of the battle, Gargan removes the dog from his skull -- and the little yappy poodle is still alive! Whew.
At which point, Mac tosses the pooch over his shoulder.
About four city blocks over his shoulder.
And then proceeds to find a little tail. The non-dog kind. He ends the series with this amazing riff on a classic Spider-Man monologue:
Gargan: Whatever life holds for me... I'll never forget this one simple fact... I can get any chick in this town. This is my gift. My curse. Who am I? baby... I'm Spider-Man.
They Call Them 'Out'fits Because The Fun Ain't About Getting 'In'
With a cover like this, we knew we were going to be treated to Black Cat at her cheesecakiest best. And the opening passage didn't disappoint. Having broken into a hotel room from the outside, Felicia "Black Cat" Hardy and Spider-Man enjoy a little safe sex -- safety for Parker's secret identity being the top safety concern. Thanks to the heavy drapes, the two doze in anonymity after their tryst until a pair of newlyweds try to enter their honeymoon suite. Desperately trying to apologize/escape/dress, Our Hero offers the following bit of Friendly Neighborhood Advice to the groom who is still trying to hoist his bride over the threshold:
Um... You may want to call room service before you put her on the bed, chief. Sorry. Again.
Back to Deadpool
When I'm writing this column, I'm using poring through each comic, wondering if I'm going to find a little, funny panel -- a brief moment -- that I can use to write something interesting. Spider-Man #611 was the opposite. Every danged page of this ish was jam-packed with more fan-pleasing panels than I have time to scan and discuss. Joe Kelly may very well be the most clever man in comics, and he is absolutely masterful at understanding the nuances between Spider-Man's quippery and Deadpool's insanity.
Like I said, there's just too much to discuss here. Luckily, I covered Lady Stilt-Man a couple days ago. But if I had to decide on the one moment that really made my jaw drop (and there were lots on 'em), it would be this one. Directly after questioning Deadpool's ongoing inner monologue -- by asking "'Internal monologue?' Who keeps a running internal monologue going?"... in a inner-monologue-style narration box -- Spidey webs Deadpool's feet to the ground to immobilize him. He asks the mercenary why he's in the cross-hairs:
Deadpool: Never mind... I am motivated by one, simple word: Cash-o-la.
Spider-Man:What's the head of a friendly, neighborhood super-stud worth these days?
Deadpool: Not enough to justify what's about to happen to my pedicure... and I paid extra for the Blackest Night symbols, too. My feet is a rainbow of power.
Editor's note bos: "This is Geoff Johns and I approve this message." -- Geoff Johns, former Avengers writer
This issue was crammed with wonderful moments, but that one floored me. Having DC's Johns cameo in a narration box for this Marvel book was simply inspired. I'm keeping it in my back pocket for the next time someone expresses an interest in getting back into comics after being away for a long time. This issue is guaranteed bring back all of those happy fanboy memories from when comics were pure Fun.
Fantastic Four #569
It's back to FF #569 for the best dialogue of the week -- and maybe one of the most touching moments in comics in a loooong time.
Ben Grim has just left his bride-to-be at the altar.
Ben: "I can't do it to ya, Debs. I thought I could, but I can't... When I saw them all together, that's when it hit me."
The next panel shows Daredevil, Spider-Man, Bruce Banner and Prince Namor -- visions of the women in their lives who are dead -- some at the hands of the heroes' foes.
"Their girlfriends never came back."
Fearing a super-powered smack-down, a cadre of metas track Grimm and his fiancee to a bar only to find a situation far beyond their super powers: Two breaking hearts.
Deb implores Spidey, DD, Banner and Namor to convice Ben that he's wrong.
And they... can't.
The heroes depart, leaving Ben, Johnny and Reed alone in the bar.
Ben asks Reed if he made the right decision.
And here's where artists Wade Von Grawbadger, Scott Hanna and Paul Mounts hit one waaaaaay out of the park. The look of sheer love, compassion and pain mixes over Reed's face. Really. It's a heart-stopping moment.
Reed throws an arm around his lifelong friend:
I haven't stared down at the last page of an FF book for so long since FF #267.
Has anyone resisted... ever?
Power Girl #6
In issue #5, Our Heroine rescues an extra-dimensional guard who has been sent to retrieve three, royal, spoiled pains in the keister. As she carries him aloft, held safely against her bosom, she muses:
At least he isn't trying to resist me.
Sure. Some things aren't just universal... they're pan-dimensional.
This, too, shall pass
The irredeemable Ant-Man enacts a sinister plan to bring Luke "Power Man" Cage to his knees -- by hiding in the hero's waffles and threatening to grow to full size and tear him apart. Evidently, Cage has a cast-iron stomach to match his steel-hard skin, because Ant-Man remains trapped inside Power Man's gullet for the rest of the adventure.
Nice touch: Later, Power Man and Danny "Iron Fist" Rand enjoy a post-battle repast in Harlem. Perhaps Luke's stomach isn't so strong after all...
Rand: How's your stomach?
Cage: Not good. For a second in there, I thought I heard my butt screaming. You made the right choice, not ordering the "meat."
A few panels later, we see that Ant-Man, has, indeed, finally made his getaway. Still flush(ed) from his recent adventure, he walks home.
Bring On The Bad Guys!
Dark Avengers #10
The book opens with Ares doing his best moyle impression by taking his ax to the Man-Thing.
In other Man-Thing news, Karla "Moonstone" Sofen moves on from her fling with Venom to seduce Bullseye -- who has been masquerading as Hawkeye. Evidently, the 'eyes have it -- and she wants it:
I'm impressed with the new you. I like Hawkeye. Bullseye's still a psychotic creep. But you as Hawkeye. That is working.
Whaddaya know? Clothes do make the man.
Nice touch: As Karla disrobes, leading the way to her boudoir,
The Dark Reign Saga has been careening towards one of two probable conclusions. Either an orchestrated team of villains would take Norman Osborn out or his Green Goblin alter-persona would do the honors. Either way, the Marvel Universe is seeking to regain its balance. Lucky for us, it looks as if we're going to be treated to a little of both, as Norman, in the midst of a battle in Dinosaur, Colorado, faces a consortium of some of the most powerful, sinister beings in the galaxy. Unless I miss my guess, I'm seeing, from left to right: A dragon that could be either Dragon of the Moon or the Midgard Serpent (or, dare to dream... Fin Fang Foom?!), Mephisto, the Beyonder, Molecule Man, Enchantress and either Zarathos or the dread Dormamuu.
Either way, Norman's in Big Trouble. And naked.
Insert your own Man-Thing joke here.
Do You See It?
Green Lantern #47
For the first time, I believe, four colors of the emotional spectrum have combined to defeat the Black Lanterns. Indigo, Green, Violet and Yellow all joined together to vanquish evil.
And if you were paying attention, you saw something very interesting happen in those panels. Maybe I shouldn't even point it out. But it was there. Right there for the discerning eye to pick up. I'll tell you what. I'm not even going to point it out. See for yourself. I'll show you the scene I'm talking about and you'll see it. I know you will. Heck, if you don't see it right away, click on the thumbnail and you'll get a larger version. I promise you'll see it in the larger version if you look hard enough. Go ahead. I'll wait.