If you haven’t read Kieron Gillen’s Young Avengers series, you’re only punishing itself. That man writes at a level beyond human capability — along with a fantastic taste in music — and artists Jamie McKelvie & Mike Norton create stuff with panels I’ve never seen in a comic before. But in Young Avengers #1 and #7, a battle gets mentioned I’ve never heard before:
So I decided to search for that fight, half wanting to piece together past events and half wanting to see Noh-Varr wipe the floor with everyone. Luckily, I found it in Civil War: Young Avengers & Runaways #2-4, written by Zeb Wells and drawn by Stefano Caselli.
If you think the normal Marvel universe can be confusing, wait till you get into the intergalactic stuff. The three big alien empires — Skrull, Shi’ar, and Kree take up most of the comic book ink. Noh-Varr’s a hybrid Kree/insect. Seriously, just more with Spider-Man-like enhanced abilities rather than wings and antennas. Nowadays, he hangs out on Earth to protect it from non-Kree alien forces, but before all that, he got brainwashed:
It’s going to be a bloodbath. Honestly, I know only slightly more about Marvel alien races than the Runaways, who are Los Angeles-based kids of supervillains who team up to thwart the plans of their parents. They have superpowers and whatnot as well.
While I’d explain the teams one-by-one, Noh-Varr’s currently fighting like twelve at once and it’s better for you to see it all for yourself as it happens as opposed to a huge paragraph with thirty commas. Just know that Noh-Varr’s stronger, faster, and far more skilled than his teenage opponents.
The Vision, like the X-Man Kitty Pryde, can phase through people/objects and unphase at will, essentially punching right through enemies if vicious and bloodthirsty enough. Noh-Varr’s so badass that he just breaks off Vision’s arm with the hand still deep inside him. That’s Wolverine-esque craziness right there.
Y’see, the problem with superspeed lies in the recovery time. With half the team knocked out or disabled within the first moments of the fight, it’d be nice for the rest of the Young Avengers/Runaways to take a breather, refuel, get a massage before round two begins. But y’see, that’s the problem with superspeed.
No one’s scarier with a robot hand protruding out of his chest than Noh-Varr. The good guys (and our antagonist’s a good guy currently with a fuzzy brain), only survive due to our baddie’s recall. Supervillains have way cooler methods of extraction than the heroes.
On a side note, Noh-Varr’s ex-girlfriend list builds steadily every new series. Women can’t get enough of this Kree/bug hybrid, even with those short shorts he wears. The guy looks like he wrestles for his local high school. But as the miniseries comes to a close and our two teams ambush the enemy ship, Noh-Varr gets his round two. And he’s just as awesome.
People sometimes ask, aren’t superheroes for children? Jason, with your male pattern baldness and salaried job, aren’t you too old to be reading comic books? And I say, yes, maybe I am, but I never want to live in a world where I don’t enjoy an alien chucking a dinosaur across a spaceship. I’m a dreamer.
With that, Noh-Varr lies in defeat, for he still had not removed the android’s body parts from his own body parts. I imagine it’s a fear thing, like when Wolverine emerges on the page with his face half burned and only his pants still clinging on.
Oh, and read Gillen’s Young Avengers. Noh-Varr’s a delight.
The final two issues of the Herc series, #9-10 written by Greg Pak & Fred Van Lente and drawn by David Hahn, contain a delightful arc dealing with mortality, the Kingpin, wizards, and a beheading — I adore it. But I’d need to give you almost the entirety of both issues to understand all the back story and plot development. So to make it easier for me (and some encouragement on your part to buy the series), I picked two scenes to delight you with. Let’s do something fun and light for Friday, plus I don’t think I’d be lying when I claim my love for Marvel’s version of Hercules borders on emotional love. Maybe a little physical. Okay, a lot physical.
Oh, so recognize this guy?
I’ll give you a hint. His name starts with “Z” and ends in “eus.”
A perfect introduction to the Greek gods of the Marvel universe. They’re lecherous, perverted, drunk, and full of all the gossip that turned your middle school mythology lesson into Gossip Girl. Hercules, currently powerless and only with his magical weapons/crazy physique to protect himself, now has a problem to deal with that can’t be solved by reflecting back goblin grenades.
Father-son bonding time in the superhero world always involves the same concept: crime-fighting.
At this point in time, the Kingpin controls the Hand (the group used whenever writers want to use ninjas). Y’know Kingpin? The bald guy in the white suit who has the cajones to lead organized crime in a city patrolled by hundreds of superheroes. But you know who also isn’t fond of ninjas nunchucking dudes in the face?
The overarching plot involves some magical artifact, but the story gets weird:
Who do you think would win in a fight between our two protagonists today? Especially now that our former Greek god lost his superpowers. Hercules has about three thousand years of combat training compared to Elektra’s thirty or so, but she’s way faster than him. All that body hair slows him down. Well, my friends, I have the answer for you to this question that’s been keeping you up at night and monopolizing every conversation you’ve had for the past few months. Here’s Hercules vs. Elektra:
Hercules wields some cool weapons. The Sword of Peleus can cut through anything and the Shield of Perseus can block anything. Plus, the shield’s eyes turn people to stone — Medusa and whatnot.
Okay, so your question still goes unanswered. Our Greek god lies in comic limbo since Herc ended, but hopefully he’ll return soon. Comics need more bearded heroes.
Hard to pick a side, right? Thor, the ye ol’ Aryan god with a heart and hammer both equally large, versus Storm, the X-Men powerhouse and leaderwho somehow finds Wolverine attractive. But luckily for you today, you don’t have to break your heart rooting for one superhero over the other. Y’see, this fight in Black Panther #25, written by Reginald Hudlin and drawn by Marcus To, takes place during the Marvel event Civil War. And Thor wasn’t around during it.
With morality pretty much siding with Captain America, our dear Iron Man figures he might as well go full-on mad scientist. After all, when the story portrays Iron Man as the villain (sort of?), he embraces the opportunity by creating a robot Thor using stolen DNA and Mr. Fantastic’s desperate gamble. So today, Storm does battle Thor, just not Thor Thor.
We underestimate Storm’s power sometimes. She doesn’t have the durability of an Asgardian, but no one looks cooler summoning thunderstorms. Y’know, I don’t know if Storm could win against the real Thor. Though to be fair, neither could 98% of the Marvel universe — but you know superheroes, part of the contract includes playing really terrible odds.
Apparently, Iron Man and Mr. Fantastic programmed misogyny into the robot as well. The real Thor’s nothing if not a gentleman. Chivalry tops the list of Asgardian traits, right after smushing frost giants and maintaining a mead buzz.
I wouldn’t say Invisible Woman (mother of two) used great word choice there, but the idea’s still solid. While Storm could probably win the fight on her own, superheroes tend to be busy and spending hours fighting robots takes a lot of valuable time away that they could spend fighting non-robots. Plus, teamwork and whatnot.
When creative and interesting plans fall through (precise EMP blast, for instance), brute force always works as a fall back plan. Robot Thor shows up a few times after this, but nothing wildly significant.
On a similar subject, I wonder if Storm ever fought Electro?
So a little detour to start us off, but remember last article when Magneto locked the Nazi Red Skull in a hidden bunker, never to be heard from or seen again? While punches and flying shields can cause Red Skull physical pain, nothing compares to Magneto’s emotional punishment. Sitting in that dark silent bunker with no food and only a little water, our spiteful Nazi has plenty of time to sit, hallucinate, and contemplate his life’s decisions in Captain America #369-370, written by Mark Gruenwald and drawn by Ron Lim.
Can you detect an upcoming theme? I mean, no one knows where he is and Red Skull has no way to signal for help. Though you claim suicide as the coward’s way out, you know who else committed suicide?
Over the next few decades, Red Skull’s disembodies hallucinations have branched out on their own. His daughter becomes Sin and later the next Red Skull. Arnim Zola develops an entire alternative dimension and even fathered/created a few kids. Though luckily, no Hitler developments.
He gets rescued next issue. Let’s not worry about how.
Anyway, let’s continue onto our main event. Y’see, Magneto’s philosophies have changed over the years as our culture and times have evolved. He remains in that tiny category of supervillains who happen to be simultaneously sympathetic and evil (Mr. Freeze, Bane, Man-Bat, Two-Face — really most of Batman’s rogue gallery). In X-Men #85, volume 2, written by Joe Kelly and drawn by Alan Davis, our featured supervillain attempts to satisfy both his desires and morals.
I’d like to tell you that Bill Jones argues an exciting and suspenseful battle of words with the disguised Magneto. By not revealing that information, I could definitely amp up the suspense. But look, dear Bill Jones doesn’t stand a chance — Magneto stacked the deck against him from the very beginning. Magneto’s cheating, and even Magneto himself doesn’t realize it yet.
You think Bill Jones scored a knockout punch, right? The most average man in the city unfortunately holds no hatred in his heart for the filthy genetic freaks that’ll kill his family and eat his children. But as the bell rings to start round two, Magneto brings out the big guns.
Poor Bill Jones didn’t realize that Hitler’s a sore spot for Magneto. As you can imagine, the game goes in a different direction. If reason and logic won’t convince Magneto that he’s right, then he’ll stick to what he knows — fear and bitterness. Now Magneto’s cheating.
See? That’s what makes this issue genius: Magneto simply manipulated the situation until he received the answer he wanted, instead of accepting that maybe his ideals aren’t so accurate. Supervillains tend to have a bit of an ego on them. And what about Bill Jones’ final cry? Surely Magneto must realize his mistakes. He’ll shake Bill Jones’ hand and apologize while maintaining eye contact. That’s the reasonable, intelligent decision after Magneto essentially poked Bill Jones until he yelled to stop. Right?
I don’t think any comic book character has crossed the good guy/bad guy line more often than Magneto. Every decade he decides to once again terrorize humankind or once again aid the human-protecting X-Men. Though despite his alliances, his motive never changes: mutants rock, non-mutants suck. More of the former, less of the latter. What’s Magneto’s opinon on his constant team switching? I don’t know if anything concrete has come out, but you do get a glimpse in AvX: Consequences #4, written by Kieron Gillen and Mark Brooks.
To get you caught up, in the aftermath of the Marvel event Avengers vs. X-Men, Colossus is on the run for his crimes he committed as part of the Phoenix Five. Storm can’t convince him to return to his buddies. Colossus’ arch-nemesis will always be Colossus.
Much like how history is written by the victors, Magneto adheres to a similar philosophy. So, when the textbooks get written centuries in the future, what title will Magneto receive? Honestly, I have no idea. But I did collect a few ambiguous examples of both. First up: Captain America #367, written by Mark Gruenwald and drawn by Kieron Dwyer.
Quickly name some of the biggest Marvel supervillains — Magneto, Doctor Doom, Loki, Green Goblin, Mandarin, Kingpin, etc. And Red Skull, who as you can imagine might not get along with one of the members of this list. Y’know, because Red Skull’s a Nazi and Magneto’s a Holocaust survivor.
No telepaths needed to read their minds. Red Skull hates mutants. Magneto really hates Red Skull. But as the two argue, Red Skull does defend his ideals with an unfailing confidence that most delusional psychopaths possess. It’d be admirable if it wasn’t for the whole Nazi thing.
Look, it can be difficult to argue that Magneto hasn’t turned into a smaller scale Hitler himself, at least with the goal of exterminating/ruling over mankind with his fellow superior mutants. But despite all the political and moral arguments one could make demeaning Magneto’s speech, allow me to present my own ironclad argument: screw Nazis. As you expect, Magneto totally wins their little chase.
Red Skull’s hallucinations and almost-repentance begin two issues later, which we’ll cover later. But I do want to make sure we cover one of Magneto’s more evil moments, like that famous one from the early ’90s when he went full on bad guy. Wild carnage abounds in X-Men #25, volume 2, written by Fabian Nicieza and drawn by Andy Kubert. Heads up, it’s going to get wordy.
Y’know, the moment where Magneto figures, well, time to be a Hitler. Ends justify the means and blah blah blah. Then he fights the X-Men for forty pages:
Do you know the horrifying pain Wolverine experienced when he got pumped full of adamantium? Turns out it hurts way more coming out.
Despite Magneto’s power, he really doesn’t stand a chance against his old friend Professor X. It’s only because dear Xavier holds back and instead sends in squads of teenagers that Magneto can even secure victories. Because if the professor were to ever snap, like say when adamantium rips out of his teammate’s body, poor Magneto can’t possibly defend against that level of psychic attack. Y’see, when the Hulk gets angry, he can punch dudes into space, but mind powers work differently and the results tend to be far more cruel.
As many subtly awful things Professor X did during his time running the X-Men, we should applaud him just for the fact that he could have done so much worse. Like erasing the entire brain of anyone he chooses ever.
As much as I’d like to take sides between Professor X and Magneto, my own identity as a bald Jew puts me in a tricky spot. On Monday, I’d like to continue exploring some powerful Magneto moments. Hopefully.
If we consistently drop everything to follow a car chase every time it appears on TV, how can civilians in the superhero world ever get anything accomplished with all the daily battles? In New York City, with the combined rogue galleries of dozens of superheroes and superhero teams patrolling the city, I figure there must be at least two or three supervillains attacks a day. So all the normal folks, probably to ease some of the pain of living in a spandex-filled war zone, hope to gain some benefit from all this destructive world-saving. Y’know, a benefit besides not having Galactus eat the planet.
In the fantastic first half Spider-Man: Unlimited #11, written by Brian Reed and drawn by Michael Lark, our setting never ventures outside the bar:
Do you think the jokes distract criminals from realizing just how powerful Spider-Man is? Super speed, super strength, projectile webs, spider-sense, and a genius intelligence. Though all those powers still pale to Hulk’s potential — the ability to crush Spider-Man into a red-and-blue smear of goo. The responsible ex-cons and beer patrons take advantage of this chaos:
One of the benefits of comics allows the artist to make a character invisible while still showing their face. We have no idea the identity of this Spider-Man fan — it could be anyone from a Peter Parker clone to the Silver Surfer to Black Panther, though chances are probably slim on that last one. Lark’s a super talented artist, but I like the idea of anonymity while still prominently in the spotlight.
Hint: it’s not Professor X or Jean Grey. After years of Spider-Man punching his way around the city, it can’t be difficult to imagine someone figured out his combat formula. Though Spider-Man’s fighting style usually involves less technique and more a focus on tether ball.
Logistics aside, I can totally see Spider-Man beating the practically invulnerable, limitlessly strong Hulk. Sure, Hulk could liquify Spider-Man with one solid kick, but superheroes hold back. Especially when fighting buddies. Besides, a series where Hulk spent every issue jumping around effortlessly stomping the Marvel universe into paste would only last two or three hundred issues max.
Oh, and figured out the mystery Spider-Man expert? Spoiler alert:
The trailers are dashing my hopes, but I wish Jamie Foxx’ll wear the starfish hat in the new movie.
Captain America’s teenage sidekick, almost a necessity during the 1940s, became a superhero the same way most sidekicks did: through sheer luck. Batman just happened to be watching Dick Grayson’s circus act as tragedy struck. Jimmy Olsen just so happens to be working at the same newspaper as Superman’s alter ego. Toro’s parents coincidentally worked for the creator of the android Human Torch. And Bucky’s origin, as seen in Captain America Annual #1, written by Stan Lee and drawn by Jack Kirby, begins the same way:
I love two things about this: Captain America off-handedly mentions Nazis would have killed Bucky, and Captain America immediately buckles to Bucky’s blackmail. But that story doesn’t hold up anymore — origins constantly get modernized, and Bucky remains no different.
First, for those who don’t know, let me briefly explain Bucky (real name James Buchanan). At sixteen years old, he ran around the army base as a sort of mascot. Then he fights the entirety of World War II on the front lines next to Captain America (bright blue costume), Namor (wore only a speedo), the Human Torch (fiery android), and Toro (fiery human) as part of the superhero team the Invaders. As the war ended, Captain America and Bucky get famously blown up attempting to stop an enemy airplane. Bucky dies and Captain America joins the Avengers after a few decades encased in ice. We can talk about the revolving death door for superheroes, but it took Bucky over forty years to return to the land of the living. And in Captain America & Bucky #620, written by Ed Brubaker & Marc Andreyko and drawn by Chris Samnee & Bettie Breitweiser, we get his updated beginnings:
Can you see the difference yet? This Bucky happened to be a combat prodigy right from the beginning, not some bumbling kid who stumbled into Captain America’s changing room. And trust me, he gets the training we expect from superheroes who fought tanks and Nazi supervillains on a daily basis.
Of course Bucky has crazy military skills. He spends four years of WWII in daily combat in next to the shiniest beacon of American pride the Germans could shoot at. If you take a look at the superheroes with no powers, their resumes all look relatively the same: an unbeatable foundation of combat training. Batman used his teenage years to study ninja martial arts. The Punisher rocked the Vietnam War. Hawkeye spent his entire adolescence as a circus archer. Black Widow has had Soviet espionage training since practically her birth. Hard work can usually make up for an inability to shoot eye lasers or bench-press trucks.
If you’d like to feel old, that would make Captain America roughly 24 when he joined the Avengers. Still, a little modernization of our favorite superheroes is appreciated — especially as writing and storytelling in comics has shifted over the past fifty years. But the names and costumes? Those are forever.