Let’s not delay this love story, shall we? As we left off, Bill Cobb Jr. (human diner chef) joined his love Kelda Stormrider (Asgardian ice goddess) aboard the teleporting Asgard. Y’see Loki, in all his primal trickery, manipulated current Asgardian king Balder to exile Thor and bring all the gods and goddesses to Latveria. If you ever forget, Latveria is the tiny European country ruled by Doctor Doom’s iron fist. Also, a fine place for hopes and dreams and freedoms to die a brutal death. But can you argue the power of love? It makes men do strange things, like sending Bill into the midst of angry Asgardian politics when his only real brush with danger before this is getting too close to the grill. Still, you see what Kelda looks like — that’s a level of beauty only possible on a fictional scale.
We forget that despite Bill’s whole mortality and public school education, he does have a unique advantage his Asgardian roommates do not — perspective. This man has lived on Earth his whole life. He’s seen all the footage and Internet websites and Mr. Fantastic wrapping around his arch-nemesis like a rack of spinning shawarma. Doctor Doom’s only language consists of open threats, veiled threats, and backstabbing. But all these Asgardians? They don’t meddle in the affairs of the silly Midgard mortals, and Bill may be the only one in the entire city that realizes the approaching danger.
Yes, I imagine you can probably see where this is going. Bill’s a unbreakable pillar of moral integrity and bravery, but he’s also a young kid in a backwards baseball cap with zero kung fu experience.
Idioms tend not to have the same effect on foreigners. And while Bill alone stands absolutely no chance of winning a fight against three giant, muscular, eye patch-wearing warriors, he doesn’t fight this battle alone. Because sure, he can’t win, but his girlfriend can.
Are you sad that there’s less flirty banter than the first part? Don’t you worry, because a near-death experience prompts Bill and Kelda to lie in sensual anticipation with the three most romantic symbols of Asgardian culture: a bed, fine clothing, and heavy weaponry.
Kelda’s genuinely funny, a quality you don’t see from too many Asgardians. I mean it. Go back and read her jokes — they’re delightful. And yes, I bet that Bill’s mission could wait until morning, but that’s not how heroes work. Because despite not being super, Bill still possesses that trait all superheroes have that won’t let them do anything enjoyable or fun until only after every major gnawing feeling has been removed or dealt with. And sadly for Kelda, love has trouble rising from any pond drenched in the rotting aura of Doctor Doom. I’m saying that evil dude’s up to something.
With all the gods’ beauty and adventures and mead, it turns out that being thousands of years old can create some emotional disconnections. Of course, Bill has that passion and fiery spirit Kelda has been searching millenniums for — he’s one of our two protagonists, after all.
And this is where everything goes really, really bad. To simplify Doctor Doom and Loki’s plot, they capture and dissect Asgardians to use their organs as parts for god-weapons, immortality, and other mad scientist stuff. But the truth won’t come crashing down that easy. First, Bill has to fight.
Remember yesterday how I mentioned that not all Asgardians get cool lightning or ice powers? Poor Balder does inherit some minor superpowers, but this fight’ll have to rely on his sword and skill alone. Your sadness welling up deep in your heart aside, Bill’s sacrifice is not in vain — it’s time for the supervillains to be revealed.
As despairing as this is, it’s totally a risk Bill knew he’d have to face. He’s fighting gods while he’s wearing jeans, for goodness’ sake. And truthfully, Bill’s the perfect type of character we read comics for — the underdog unrelentingly pursuing justice against odds far beyond his own capability. At least his death will inspire others in a far more visceral manner than his life ever did. And of course, break Kelda’s heart.
Bill and Kelda’s love story is far from over — I have over thirty images left to show — but Bill’s demise does bring about two important life-altering realizations: Balder’s realization that Doctor Doom and Loki plan the destruction of the entire Asgardian people and, most importantly, no one murders Kelda Stormrider’s lover without feeling the full unimaginable force of an actual weather goddess.
Tomorrow, my friends. I can’t wait.
Superheroes stories are essentially dramas with lots of punching and primary colors. We can argue all day about morality, role in society, or literary value, but what’s the point in denying we love comics the same way middle-aged women love Keeping Up With the Kardashians? And yes, our entertainment form has subjectively far more quality, but everyone craves stories. We choose to get ours through superheroes — let’s embrace our common traits judgement free. So today, in my largest collection of pages I’ve ever gathered on this site (78 pictures laid out over four articles), I hope to present to you a love story guaranteed to make your heart soar and soak your face with tears. Most likely.
Please make these comics part of your collection: we’ll be using Thor #2-12, Giant-Size Finale, and 600-613, volume three, written by J. Michael Straczynski & Kieron Gillen and drawn by Olivier Coipel, Marko Djurdjevic, Billy Tan, Richard Elson, & Dougie Braithwaite. Also, The Mighty Thor #8-12, written by Matt Fraction and drawn by Pasqual Ferry, Pepe Larraz, & Giuseppe Camuncoli.
Now forgive me, because enormous amounts of back story’ll be needed before we begin. I’ll be fast. Okay, so originally when Thor premiered back in the 1960s, he shared a body with normal dude Doctor Donald Blake. When Blake tapped his walking stick, he turned into the thunder god. As comics have evolved, Blake was no longer needed and disappeared in 1968, but he’s back now — still sharing that same ol’ Thor body. The reason provided? Y’know, Ragnarok — the Norse Armageddon and the death of everybody Asgardian.
Luckily, Thor/Blake returns to life and decides to bring Asgard to Earth (Midgard). So they do, right next to a rural town called Broxton in Oklahoma. In quite possibly the greatest Thor stories ever told, Straczynski (and later Gillen) revives all the gods, presents a new status quo for Thor and friends, famously allows Thor to have some “words” with Iron Man, resurrects a wonderfully conniving Loki, and so much more. Oh, and most importantly, we meet some new characters, like local diner cook Bill Cobb Jr.
There’s a beautiful dynamic in Straczynski’s new Asgardian home — the small town folks who have probably never ventured far from their hometown now work and live alongside actual living, breathing gods. So when Bill wanders around at night, the people (immortal gods) he’ll meet could be anyone’s guess. Thankfully, he meets this one:
Right? I’m glad Doctor Thor is back (for a few years at least). If you don’t mind, I should explain how Asgardian gods work in the Marvel universe. Like Thor, they all receive enhanced strength, durability, and super long lives due to those golden apples of Idunn. But their longevity only applies to natural causes, as a sword or fireball or alcoholic stupor can cut their lives dramatically shorter. Most Asgardians only have those abilities above — like Thor’s buddies Volstagg, Fandrall, Hogun, and lover Sif. They can fight like maniacs, but no ice beams or snow storms blasting from their hands. Though Kelda can. Think of her like an
Aryan Asgardian Storm.
Despite Bill’s probably sub-par education, he isn’t a fool. When a god sort of flirts by providing an invitation to explore the magical city of Asgard, Bill won’t dare refuse.
As Kelda mentioned during their late night chat, this is for many Asgardians the first time they’ve had to chance to chat with a human. Fish out of water humor and whatnot.
Don’t be afraid to root for Bill. Despite the trademark backwards baseball cap, this man’s a proper southern gentleman. The dude’s fearless around nine-foot shirtless gods and equally romantic around his gorgeous Asgardian crush. But yet Bill fails to make a move. If an eternally youthful, prettier Iceman falls for him, why should he hesitate? Intimidation, I’m sure, but at least for Kelda’s sake I imagine it’s just nice to have a man treat her with a compassion the nine-foot shirtless gods rarely do. Though honestly, I think Bill just chickened out:
Y’see, while romance emanates in the Oklahoma air, the Asgardian politics protruding throughout the main story are far less sexy. Loki, now a female, has been putting his gorgeously manicured fingernails into all sorts of manipulated stews. Since Odin’s not around (sorry, I probably should have told you earlier), Thor rules the best he can. Loki has different ideas, and successfully places Baldur on the Asgardian throne, exiling Thor, and moving the entire city of Asgard to Latveria. Y’know, Doctor Doom’s pad.
So, the blossoming star-crossed love between Bill and Kelda remains star-crossed once more.
We all know it doesn’t end here. While Bill in real life would chalk up his loss to fate and eventually marry some pretty local girl, we’re reading a comic book story. Wonderful, majestic, and exciting things happen in comic books that would never occur in our own world. I mean, the whole dating a goddess thing for one, but this tale has just begun for our two lovers.
Next time, Kelda fights Doctor Doom. How’s that for a teaser?
On a side note before we begin, there’s a fantastic discussion on my Pixie Pt. 1 article about Greg Land’s tracing pictures and other art when he draws comics. While I really want to comment, I realize that my success here also comes from me using the works of other people, so I can’t really criticize without being a huge hypocrite. Either way, I adore reading the comments.
Last time I brought up Colossus, he had been fully influenced by the Phoenix Force — turning him into a total jerk. He verbally abused his on-and-off girlfriend Kitty Pryde and almost physically destroyed the entire school she taught at. That’s not fair to Colossus, so I’m going to make it up to him today with Uncanny X-Men #504-507, written by Matt Fraction and drawn by Terry Dodson.
At this point in X-Men history, poor Colossus recently lost dear Kitty. As in to save Earth, she phased into a giant planet-sized bullet sent hurdling into space. You can read more about it in a previous article. And while Colossus’ steel exterior is unbreakable, his heart sure isn’t.
Meet Piotr (Peter) Resputin, the son of a poor Russian farmer. Professor X contacted Colossus once his mutant powers manifested — super strength and the whole metal skin thing — and now he’s an X-Man. But with his love Kitty (Katya) forever lost to the bowels of the universe, all that meaning and purpose has disappeared as well. Luckily his teammates have some ideas. Practical ideas.
And hit stuff he does. That’s why I named the article that. But despite the order from Colossus’ bosses/buddies to go inflict some mindless violence on those deserving of it, another box on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs has to be met first.
Even former Russian gangsters decide to pack up for the good ol’ USA once in a while. The old man has a super cool mutant power — upon touch his tattoos show all the inner secrets of the person grabbed. An information broker gaining his infomation from extortion and violence. And most importantly, Colossus has a personal connection to this man.
Dude’s a total jerk, shirt or no shirt. Oh, did you catch Magik’s cameo? That was before she claimed her throne as queen of Limbo, made weapons out of the souls of others, and became half-goat. While nowadays only the first two apply, I never want you to forget she once had farm animal legs.
If you don’t mind me skipping some, Colossus figures going undercover as our antagonist’s lackey would produce plenty of people to punch and even more evidence to put away his extortionist for a very long time. And like all good superhero secret missions, this one starts with Colossus proving his worth. By punching.
Bad guys admire guts. So Colossus gets hired. And then immediately fired:
With a dock full of women under his care, he takes them to the only place he knows can keep them safe: the X-Men’s mansion. Because while Cyclops doesn’t really want to take care of dozens of former slaves, his moral obligation will force him to say yes. It’s the same reason Spider-Man has to leave dates early if a police siren goes by. The same reason Mr. Fantastic has to pause his research when a dimension is in trouble. The same reason Wolverine has to put down his beer when a fight breaks out.
Colossus and Emma Frost make for a strange superhero team up. Besides their steel/diamond armor, they don’t have much in common — though lately Colossus has been showing off just as much skin. But if one unbreakable, unstoppable mutant is going to be a tough fight for our bad guy’s henchmen, two’ll make it completely impossible.
We all know what has to happen next. Colossus has to to make his former extortionist pay for what he did to his own family and presumably thousands of others across Russia. If these past few articles have taught supervillains anything, it’s that making enemies with people who can punch through mountains will never, ever be a good idea. Unfortunately for Colossus, his pride demands he avenges au naturel.
For an arc that mainly revolves around Colossus redeeming his past by using restaurant supplies, it wraps up on one of the most beautiful comic book moments of the past few years. Whatever the Phoenix Force did to poor Colossus, I hope all the damage’ll be undone one day. Y’know, because of fate and destiny and all that.
Kitty returns to Earth from her bullet prison fifteen issues later. But you know what would help ease Colossus back into his normal crime-fighting, X-Men-filled life? Closure. Like the closure that lasts forever.
Well, in the Ultimate universe. For those not up to date, the early 2000s brought us an entire different Marvel universe, where all the heroes de-aged back to when their voices still cracked. It went well for a good decade or so until Ultimatum event came around. Because the Ultimate universe isn’t technically canon, the writers have free rein to destroy and mutilate their world and characters as they see fit. And oh my goodness, did they. If your name wasn’t attached to a series title, you were almost certain to perish during the event — and even that didn’t save the majority of X-Men.
But rising from the remains of Ultimatum allowed for ideas that could have never gone to fruition before. Like our two characters in the title. And a new supervillain that terrorizes the entire Ultimate universe for years and years: Mr. Fantastic. But I’m jumping ahead of myself to build suspense. Today, using the following comics, we’ll be analyzing how Ben Grimm and Sue Storm fell in love. And explosions and punches and angry outbursts:
Ultimate Fantastic Four Requiem, written by Joe Pokaski and drawn by Robert Atkins
Ultimate Enemy #1-4, written by Brian Michael Bendis and drawn by Rafa Sandoval
Ultimate Mystery #1-4, written by Bendis and drawn by Sandoval
Ultimate Doom #1-4, written by Bendis and drawn by Sandoval
Think of Enemy, Mystery, and Doom each as an act in a much larger story. Also, Bendis is a genius, I love his comics unconditionally, and I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise. We start at the funeral of Sue and Johnny Storm’s father — one of the unfortunate Ultimatum victims.
Let’s backtrack a bit. Just like all that delightful canon stuff, Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman get together over the course of Ultimate Fantastic Four and form a meaningful and lasting relationship. But just no children, because they’re eighteen years old. During Ultimatum, Sue overexerted her powers attempting to hold back the New York City flood. And then she almost died. Unfortunately, Mr. Fantastic abandoned her to go beat up Namor and that whole “save the world” thing, leaving the Thing and the Human Torch to save dear Sue’s life. They totally do and Reed totally saves the world, but their relationship couldn’t survive Reed being a jerk.
Anyway, a new day rises and it’s time for Sue to get a job. Ultimate Sue is a super genius on par with Mr. Fantastic – a character change I can definitely get behind.
See where Ben’s leading here? Newly single Sue and and a lovesick orange rock monster alone in a factory/laboratory with nothing between them but years of traversing dimensions and solving fancy science problems.
So everything instantly becomes terrible and awful on a catastrophic scale. And I mean instantly — I cut off the bottom two panels of the page above that show Sue being eaten by a giant sludge thing. Sadly, superheroics demand that evil be conquered before declarations of love get answered. And trust me, a lot of superheroics are needed:
Halfway through, something amazing happens. You know the brief mentions of Thing’s rocks falling off? If we think of those as a coat instead of armor, the Thing receives the best gift of the entire series when his rocky wardrobe’s removed: a superpower without the depression of being a mountain monster
Right? How great is that? Plus super strength looks way cooler with a purple aura to it. Regrettably, love once more has to take a backseat to punching and world saving. Great power, great responsibility, etc.
That’s Ultimate Nick Fury disguised as normal Nick Fury. Now, in order to have a successful relationship, there can’t be old boyfriend drama still lingering. More importantly, what better way to appreciate sexy purple Thing than with a reminder of how bad her previous choice was?
All those explosions, bad guys, and skyscraper-sized goo attacks? Meet the new Reed Richards, far eviler than the old Reed Richards.
A force bubble in the brain immediately kills her opponent. Just one flick of the wrist. Let’s all take a moment and be glad she fights for good and righteousness. Though with Mr. Fantastic’s stretchy organs, the instant aneurysm doesn’t have the same effect. Anyway, to initiate readers to the new big baddie of the Ultimate universe, the whole series leads up this climax. And the Human Torch discovers a secret.
While Reed Richards can certainly take down the toughest of the superheroes, even he can’t take down all of them. With the former Mr. Fantastic defeated (momentarily), it’s time to get back to the juicy stuff — after all, it’s been twelve issues since Ben’s love declaration. It’s time for Sue’s response.
There’ll never be a better ending than a happy ending.
We left off right as the X-Men attacked the Hellfire Club’s little base, because the people in the base savagely beat Pixie and dozens of other mutants and totally deserve this beatdown. Note for future bigots: if one wishes to attack a minority group of people, it would help if this minority group aren’t all trained fighters with superpowers like laser eyes and diamond skin. We’ll pick up once more with Uncanny X-Men #501-503, written by Matt Fraction & Ed Brubaker and drawn by Greg Land with the beginning of the X-Men’s retaliation:
We know enough about superhero fights that henchmen never stand a chance. They exist solely to ramp up the excitement and show off what our heroes can do. Crowded battles rock. But let’s not forget about the mutant supervillain Empath (Manuel de la Rocha) and his emotional death glares.
I know we’re supposed to witness Empath igniting each X-Man’s individual biggest emotional burden, but I’m more focused on Cyclops helping Wolverine up. Remember when they used to be friends? Teammates? When they didn’t attempt to slaughter each other under the boot of a murderous sentinel? This comic is only five years old – the Marvel universe changes quickly.
Oh yeah, and now that motorcycle chase I promised:
Notice the pink text boxes? That’s not Angel speaking, because I assume his would look like clouds or something. Truthfully, if this issue only involved Pixie getting beat up and then her hanging out in the infirmary the rest of the arc, her name wouldn’t be in the title of the article.
So let’s talk a bit about Pixie. Originally from Wales (didn’t know you were supposed to read her dialogue with an accent, right?), Megan Gwynn enrolled in the Xavier Institute as part of the New X-Men series they released back in the mid-2000s. Because when X-Men run a school for teenage mutants, it’d be smart to populate the school with actual teenage mutants. Her mutant powers consists solely of the insect wings and hallucinatory dust. Everything else came from one really bad experience in Limbo. Magik — Colossus’ sister and ruler of Limbo — uses part of Pixie’s soul to create a Souldagger. If you want to be angry at Magik for corrupting a young girl’s essence, just remember that Magik has had goat legs for much of her adult life.
Anyway, Magik teaches Pixie some teleportation magic (making that ability a black magic spell and not a mutant power) as well as being able to pull out that Souldagger to demon-style slash up baddies. And finally, notice those black streaks in her pink hair? Besides being fashionable, that’s black magic residue at work, my friends. Yes, the Marvel universe is insane — in the absolute best possible way.
We jump back to the motorcycle chase. The reserve team (Cannonball) has been called in for a scene right out of an action movie.
Trust me, I adore delusional supervillain rants. Something about an egomaniac screaming despite a full squadron of X-Men just moments away. But everything comes full circle — a redemption only possible in superhero stories. Empath ordered his henchmen to maul all mutants in order to prevent mutants from bringing about the end of the world. Violence to stop violence. But we as readers understand full well that to stop evil, violence remains an acceptable solution. We embrace it. We look forward to it. All superheroes end their stories with bloodied knuckles and a furrowed brow. Even the cutest, sweetest superheroes can’t escape this ideology. Because after all, the cutest, sweetest superheroes are still superheroes.
It’s a normal California evening for dear Pixie — a well-deserved night of fun for our teenage X-Man.
Yeah, welcome to the world of mutants. As the X-Men symbolize minority discrimination in comic books, we can all probably relate to their struggle for acceptance on some level. And while we don’t have the ability to lift buildings or summon lightning storms, we can certainly take solace that those who get attacked for being different have the ability to retaliate. And by retaliate I mean destroy the hopes, dreams, and definitely internal organs of anyone who dares target them. So yes, these bigots took down a young girl in a surprise attack, but they know she has teammates, right? Big scary teammates with superpowers and grudges. Meet the new breed of X-Men in Uncanny X-Men #501-503, written by Matt Fraction & Ed Brubaker and drawn by Greg Land.
Y’see, while angry humans beating up child mutants certainly exists in the Marvel world, they usually don’t have the equipment or organization that these angry humans do. Turns out bigotry goes hand-in-hand with self-loathing:
The glowing eyes dude is named Empath (real name Manuel de la Rocha). He premiered originally as one of former supervillain Emma Frost’s Hellions — students trained at the Hellfire Club — with his mutant power being able to manipulate the emotions of others. But despite the X-Men unaware of this secret base, it won’t be hidden for long. You’ll notice that the X-Men’s interrogation tactics have evolved since the 1960s.
Spoiler alert: he tells them everything. While the X-Men have only recently moved to San Francisco, adding to the badly needed superhero population in the West Coast (before currently only Moon Knight, the schizophrenic with no superpowers), it’s important to make sure the city knows that attacks will no longer be permitted. Not on innocents and definitely not on them. Y’know, because they have people who can do this:
This’ll be abrupt, but I have twenty eight pictures to show you and I’ve learned over the past year and a half that readers don’t really want to read through over two dozen images (I know I don’t, and those usually don’t even include paragraphs of text). So we’ll stop here and I’ll continue tomorrow. Heads up: motorcycle chase.
After Spider-Man’s embarrassing loss on Wednesday, he has some serious self-reflection to do. I mean, not too much because of an insane supervillain prowling the streets that desperately needs a punch in the face — but dear Peter Parker realizes the hard way that webs and kicks alone won’t take down this newly enhanced Electro. Luckily, he’s also a super genius, and that helps him tremendously in Amazing Spider-Man #425, written by Tom DeFalco and drawn by Bud LaRosa. But first, Electro:
I know there’s a typo in the third panel on the first page, but let’s chalk that up to Electro’s lack of a quality education. More importantly, Electro does make a good point. The dude’s kind of a joke. He doesn’t get the respect that Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus get, and even at his best, he’s only used as muscle for the Sinister Six. While he lacks the ability to instill fear, at least his emotional instability matches the level of Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus.
Meet Nate Grey, an alternative teenage version of Cable. He goes by the superhero name X-Man, which is honestly just his job title. X-Man is a singular version of X-Men. It’d be as if I fought crime as Blogger. Plus, like all great superheroes created in the 1990s, X-Man has the power set of an roster of Avengers. He possesses molecular manipulation, telepathy, telekinesis, precognition, flight, force fields, invisibility, healing, intangibility, dimensional travel, reality warping, physical possession, and he can even stop time. Yes, that’s just one superhero’s powers. Nowadays, he only has telekinesis, presumably after writers realized one mutant can’t have every superpower every created.
So to even up the odds, Spider-Man asks Nate Grey to help him. And remember Electro’s plan to build up his evil reputation?
Well, time for Electro to realize the mistake he made mocking Spider-Man. Peter Parker never gives up after a smackdown, complete with eight or nine new ideas for round two. Say goodbye to Electro and any hope he has of making it to the A-list.
Okay, so it’s going to be harder than we thought. Too bad Nate Grey’s going to take a beating now that Electro’s finally gotten around to reading a science textbook. Even the strongest psychics have difficulty fighting opponents with enough power to incinerate an entire city block. And I mean that literally:
This issue’s double-sized and their fight takes up the whole issue. I’m having to skip chunks of their battle to fight off my own arch-nemesis (copyright laws), but it mostly involves Spider-Man desperately attempting different tactics hoping to slow Electro down. Unfortunately, electricity moves at the speed of light. And you should buy this issue because it’s an awesome battle.
Understand that despite Electro’s crazy electrical powers, he still only has a normal person’s durability. A rock thrown with super strength has more than enough force to concuss Electro. Though not for long.
Sure, you can poke a bear a few times. But it’ll eventually maul you and the rest of the zoo. Y’see, Electro just wanted to show off his new skills, but with wild insecurities revived by Spider-Man’s unnecessary beatdown, poor Electro has to switch from mayhem to mass murder. After all, that’s what Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus would do.
We forget that behind Spider-Man’s jokes lies the moral center of the Marvel universe. No matter how much pain and suffering it’ll cause him (and my goodness has it), Spider-Man has to do the right thing. No discussions, no gray areas, no justifications. Great power, great responsibility — y’know, everything we admire and love about superheroes. That and all the punching.
Electro returns dozens of times after this. But despite his humiliating loss, it’s nice to see downtrodden supervillains reach a level where they have to be taken seriously by their local superhero. Let’s hope Shocker gets this treatment next.