As we left off, the Richards’ marriage took a turn for the worse like all marriages do when couples discuss politics. Sue caused a million dollars in property damage and Reed instinctively almost tried to punch her. Though as far as superhero couples go, the fight’s still pretty plain. Emma Frost could turn Cyclops into a mutant vegetable before he could even finish raising his middle finger. Storm could summon enough electricity to ignite Black Panther’s heart into royal ash before he would even finish taking a threatening step towards her. Though to be fair to Sue, if she wanted, she could explode Mr. Fantastic’s brain into a pile of genius goo with a simple nonchalant hand wave. In summary, Marvel women are super dangerous.
After the Invisible Woman leaves to go collude with other criminals, Mr. Fantastic goes about his usual business. Y’know, helping Iron Man destroy anything resembling a former friendship.
Understand that Mr. Fantastic doesn’t brag or gloat — he merely states facts. He is the smartest person in the Marvel universe. Like many superheroes, the Fantastic Four’s rogue gallery reflects the heroes they fight. Spider-Man takes on tons of animal-based supervillains. Captain America punches World War II Nazis. Iron Man zaps industrial and technological baddies. Wolverine claws other furry dudes. So the Fantastic Four battles geniuses such as Doctor Doom, Wizard, Diablo, Mad Thinker, etc. And while he’s no longer angry (hence just now Thinker), he does possess an intellect close to Reed, and more importantly, he’s not completely insane or consumed by never-ending hatred.
I present to you the real reason Mr. Fantastic joined the pro-registration team. Spoiler alert: science.
Actually, that’s a fairly impressive compliment for Iron Man. Sacrifices for his perceived greater good and whatnot. But we touch upon a Fantastic Four theme that’s brought up time and time again: Mr. Fantastic can sometimes be really dumb for a man who’s so incredibly smart. Also, he’s clearly on the bad guy team. Boo to the Superhuman Registration Act.
Y’see, a sci-fi obsession aside, Reed’s not entirely lying about doing this to protect Sue. During the huge final fight at the conclusion of Civil War — the fight where Captain America surrenders after a horde of civilians rush into a superpowered battle zone to tackle the captain — Mr. Fantastic makes good on his proclamation. And then Sue wrecks Taskmaster.
Taskmaster has proven time and time again that he’s the bravest moron in the supervillain business. A few years later in Siege, he goes up against Doctor Doom and all Taskmaster’s skin burns off. The guy needs to stick to his own league (Moon Knight?). With Mr. Fantastic’s selfless take-the-laser-blast move, he saved his marriage. He didn’t fix it, but the tape has at least been pulled out of the dresser drawer.
Don’t worry, it will be the same the next time the team fights the status quo. But besides a wonderfully human side of Reed we rarely see, it’s good for him to have a reminder of the whole “family” aspect of his life. When Captain America and Falcon disagree, they can happily go and throw shields and flap wings at anyone however they want with no worries about each other’s feelings. But Mr. Fantastic can’t do that with his wife and two kids. As a full disclosure, I know absolutely nothing about how to make a marriage successful, but I do imagine agreeing with the missus probably makes the majority of it work. That’s what every ’90s sitcom has taught me anyway.
The two go on a second honeymoon to rebuild their marriage and spend some much needed alone time. And let’s be fair, as angry as Sue can get, she is married to the smartest man in the Marvel universe. That comes with some perks.
Another marital crisis averted as the middle-aged couple makes out on Saturn’s moon. If only Black Panther and Storm had a spaceship.
It’s a marriage that (almost) tore apart because of a government law. Y’know, two people love each other but can’t be together because of politics — like gay marriage only everything is different and not at all related to gay marriage. Unfortunately, Marvel’s number one couple hits a rough patch every other year or so. Mr. Fantastic tends to have trouble treating his two soul mates equally (Susan Richards and science), and Mrs. Fantastic spends most of her day switching between forcefield-ing catastrophes and taking care of her four kids (Franklin, Valeria, the Human Torch, and the Thing). So all the camel’s back of their relationship needs is a single piece of straw to pierce the camel’s soul and destroy decades of built up happiness and trust (not a great analogy) — until the status quo returns, of course. And thank god, because I don’t think I could ever be emotionally ready for that marriage to end.
Today and Friday we’ll examine the tearing and repair of Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman’s marriage in the following comics in order:
Civil War #2, written by Mark Millar and drawn by Steve McNiven
Fantastic Four #538-540, written by J. Michael Straczynski and drawn by Mike McKone
Fantastic Four #542, written by Dwayne McDuffie and drawn by McKone
Civil War #7, written by Millar and drawn by McNiven
Fantastic Four #543, written by McDuffie and drawn by McKone
Fantastic Four #545-546, written by McDuffie and drawn by Paul Pelletier
As one of the architects of the Superhuman Registration Act enact-ers, Reed Richards spends even more time in a lab coat with goggles. He gets busy imprisoning all his former friends, especially after his brother-in-law ends up in the hospital after a mob attack.
I know the mysterious “Plan 42” isn’t revealed to build suspense, but I’m going to ruin it for you now: Iron Man, Mr. Fantastic, and Hank Pym trap any unregistered in Negative Zone dimension cells never to return to Earth. It’s full-blown supervillain stuff. And despite all Reed’s rationalizations, the two argue pretty much like this:
Mr. Fantastic: “I’m doing the right thing!”
Invisible Woman: “The right thing is helping our friends!”
C’mon, all married couples have fights. A lovers’ spat won’t hold them down as their wedding vows and devotion towards each other’ll propel them to once again unite for the sake of their loved ones. Until the moment when one of the Negative Zone tubes burst.
Remember a few pages up when Mr. Fantastic told his wife that they’ll talk about this later in that same tone I use before I send kids to the principal’s office? It’s time. I absolutely adore both of them, but my goodness, the Invisible Woman’s phenomenal. I completely understand Namor’s infatuation and I can’t see why she doesn’t get more credit for being a positive female role model in comics today. Male writers only gave her an outfit that exemplified her cleavage once briefly back in the ’90s. That’s all. But most importantly, both her kids are well-adjusted, she doesn’t take crap from her husband (or bad guys), and remains the pillar holding together Marvel’s very first super-team. Plus, she’s not afraid of wrecking her home to prove a point.
Let’s talk about Sue’s argument. The Holocaust point doesn’t really hold up, because once superheroes register with the government then they have free rein to go about their happy, law-abiding business. Also, very few Jews can bench press trucks or spout adamantium claws from their hands. But Reed’s “I’m protecting you!” argument also comes out as a pathetic lie the moment the words leave his mouth. Both are wrong mainly because the Civil War sits caked in heavy coating of gray area, but Sue did touch upon something that holds absolute truth: no supervillain in the world can break up their marriage, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be bent from within.
The Thing had the right idea fleeing to France for a while. Look, everything in comics always comes down to Spider-Man’s mantra: with great power comes great responsibility. The responsibility to hold the family together. The responsibility to serve one’s country. The responsibility to stay on the moral path. So how can either Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman possibly win an argument when they’re both right and wrong? But have no fear — on Friday we’ll have a happy ending. Those are the best kinds.
Hercules died. At least for the short time that this article takes place. In an awkward tip of the hat to Delphyne’s intuitions/grudges, Athena betrays Hercules by having him get caught in a god-destroying explosion. She totally feels bad about it, but that doesn’t stop her from doing it. To somewhat justify her actions, Athena’s only allowed one “champion” at a time, and in order for Amadeus Cho to have risen to that honor, Hercules had to go. Like the mob, it was strictly business. Luckily, with Amadeus wielding Hercules’ adamantine mace, Bruce Banner’s Bannertech shields, and his own genius mind and sharp fashion sense, the new Prince of Power puts up a fairly solid fight. But first, a reunion.
After Hercules perished, Amadeus now devotes all his time to locating and retrieving his dear departed friend. Gods can totally die in the Marvel universe — ask any Asgardian. Fortunately, Amadeus discovers a way to access omniscience (y’know, the ability to know everything about everything). But when the supervillain Vali Halfling steals all the ingredients, Amadeus and Thor team up to find and presumably hit Vali with blunt weapons.
But our focus’ll be turned away from these two for a while. While our article today will totally end in a full confession of passion and delight for our two lovers, the climb will be slow and bloody. Before the inevitable make out session, Delphyne has some goals of her own to accomplish first. Like getting out of the awful Olympus Group prison that Athena put her in.
Though Amadeus has that crazy high intelligence that lets him know exactly how maneuver his body to avoid attacks or know exactly wear to smack his mace to subdue opponents far stronger than he is, Delphyne possesses no superpowers. I guess poisonous snakes for hair counts as something, but an escape from a prison full of gods will take every bit of her skill, bullets, and gloating — of which she possesses multitudes of all three. My goodness is this next scene amazingly awesome:
We always forget the fringe benefits of being a cursed reptile. How can Amadeus not fall in love with this woman?
I know Amadeus stated to Delphyne’s face last article that he doesn’t date those who murder. And he probably didn’t enjoy the whole her-trying-light-him-on-fire thing. But one never forgets their first love, right? Besides, Amadeus currently is a full-fledged superhero, and he needs a woman who can protect herself. Poor Spider-Man keeps pushing ladies away by making them unwilling targets in his supervillains’ eyes. But Delphyne? That girl only gets turned on by gunfire and bloodstains.
Curious as to what Amadeus is up to? Battling Thor, it turns out (for the second time).
I understand that some fans may be upset by Thor being taken down in a single strike. Let me defend Amadeus. First, Thor got hit with his own wildly powerful lightning blast. Second, Amadeus totally sucker punched Thor. Third, it’s a comic book and fictional characters will occasionally have varying degrees of vulnerability due to story-related matters. And fourth, it’s important that Amadeus battles Vali solo, because of the cross-symbolism between Amadeus and Delphyne. It’ll make sense in a second.
The next few pages allow comic books to truly shine as a literally medium. As Amadeus fights his opponent, Delphyne fights Atlanta at the exact same time on the exact same page. It’s a small beneficial joy of comics and it works wonderfully — after all, what better way to prove the two are worthy of each other’s affections?
Is this the ending you hoped for? What other literary medium would have the former Amazonian queen/gorgon snake lady kissing the Korean teenager Prince of Power super genius? And right after she shot a magic arrow at a traitorous Asgardian god mere moments away from accessing the omniscience of infinite multiverse knowledge? This isn’t exactly The Notebook.
A happy ending! Next week: more fights. I promise the only kissing’ll involve a superhero’s fist smooching a supervillain’s face.
We pick up soon after we left off. Amadeus Cho, teenage genius and Hercules sidekick, had just been refused by Delphyne Gorgon, the new queen of the Amazons. Mainly because any romance between the two is legally forced to end in Amadeus’ slaughter. The Amazons don’t play around when it comes to love. At least no more than once. Yet with Hercules wrapped up in an Olympian feud (followed closely by Amadeus and Hercules’ half-sister/goddess Athena), our two protagonists are sure to meet up again. Like when Hercules has to battle Hera’s evil Olympus Group.
But what’s the fun in two gods and a child versus four gods and a snake girl? To amp up both the excitement and colors used on the page, the battle gets crashed by Norman Osborn’s Dark Avengers. I know romance doesn’t flourish in a massive warehouse superpowered free-for-all, but maybe some questions could be answered. Like surely Delphyne could look past murdering Amadeus if they ever became a couple, right? Unfortunately, a bigger issue keeps the star-crossed lovers apart: pesky vengeance.
I blame Poseidon more than Medusa. He knows Athena can’t punish her uncle, forcing her to unfairly take out her anger on the girl instead. More importantly, what is Poseidon doing hanging around Athena’s temple? Sure he could find a tipsy mermaid or attractive manatee to seduce instead of a poor priestess who decided to devote her life to (petty) Athena. Despite Amadeus’ unwavering affections towards our gorgon, I imagine Delphyne must still be angry that Athena took away most of her nose. And probably the hair made of snakes.
Unfortunately, any convincing by the seventh smartest person in the world has to be delayed when Bullseye-as-evil-Hawkeye interrupts:
What a fantastic final line by Delphyne. It’s disgusting, arrogant, and makes me like her way more than previous pages. The arc ends with their possible relationship in limbo, and I imagine you figure their next encounter would involve a beach or restaurant or something where feelings could be discussed. But Hercules is a fighter. Delphyne is a fighter. Amadeus could probably fight. So we begin eight issues later with another battle. This time, at least, Hercules gathered up all the (real) Avengers ahead of time. The Olympus Group is much more beatable when you have Wolverine willing to foolishly claw gods.
I should have probably explained this earlier, but Athena’s quite important to dear Amadeus. While Hercules is his best friend, Athena’s his mentor — she’s the goddess of wisdom after all. And despite Athena’s vague speeches, incoherent actions, and suspicious motivations, she still protects and guides young Amadeus. And Hercules. But mainly Amadeus.
Unfortunately, Delphyne didn’t come into this battle empty-handed. She has some tricks up her fishnet sleeves (and a disregard that Amadeus won’t date murderers).
The holes are for the snakes. They would get fidgety when smashed under a helmet. And sadly for poor Athena, the realm of the Olympians means lots of crazy magic. Magic that would totally defeat an unsuspecting god by a woman still horrifically angry at being turned into a walking reptile.
With vengeance fulfilled, the flames of love and passion can finally ignite between Amadeus and Delphyne.
Never mind, wrong flames.
I include the next scene for it’s beautiful simplicity. For two people of absolute opposites, Hercules and Amadeus work so perfectly together. Their friendship brings tears to the eyes of all other superhero friendships. I can’t think of further proof than this:
Delphyne makes her move. It’s confusing and I’m going to give my theory afterward.
Maybe Delphyne genuinely realized that murdering Athena went against her whole Amazonian ideals, but I like to think the real reason is far more wonderful than that: she can’t deny her all-consuming and soul-erupting love for young genius Amadeus Cho. Every thought. Every emotion. Every desire screams into her mind to protect her soul mate, regardless of personal cost to herself or unsuccessful revenge. She just can’t resist the burning sensation of her heart as she meets the eyes of the brilliant teenager. Star-crossed? Not anymore. Not when Delphyne has the power/pistol to save her man from naked gold statues. Or maybe it’s the Amazonian ideals thing. Definitely one of those two reasons.
Unfortunately, Greek gods tend to hold grudges.
I guess pulling someone up from a cliff doesn’t mean much if you pushed them off in the first place. On Friday, our story ends with surprisingly even more combat than today. Love blooms on the battlefield, y’know. But now instead of Amazonian rituals holding them back, it’ll be omniscience, sorcery, and Thor. Especially Thor.
In our continuing series (and by that I mean the second one), we’ll once again explore two supporting characters’ romantic adventures. And I love these two. Amadeus Cho, the seventh smartest person on the planet and the sixteen year-old sidekick of Hercules, will fall madly in love with Delphyne Gorgon, a green-skinned Amazonian warrior with snakes for hair. You can feel the passion between the two just with my words alone. But if you’re not convinced, here’s excerpts from Incredible Hercules #121-128 and #138-141, written by Greg Pak & Fred Van Lente and drawn by Clayton Henry, Salva Espin, Rodney Buchemi, Takeshi Miyazawa, & Dietrich Smith; as well as Heroic Age: Prince of Power #1-4, written by Pak & Van Lente and drawn by Reilly Brown, Zach Howard, & Adam Archer.
Much like Bill and Kelda, our two lovers are recent creations, featuring Amadeus’ first appearance in 2006 compared to Delphyne’s in 2008 which you’re going to witness today. Some backstory from a few years back: Amadeus led a group of Hulk supporters through the streets of New York City (including Hercules) during the Marvel event World War Hulk, and once Hulk’s defeated — he was the (sorta) bad guy after all — the Incredible Hulk series changed to Incredible Hercules as the starring god and Amadeus travel the country. And you have to absolutely read it. Every single issue. Every single word and picture. I cannot stress enough how absolutely wonderful the Incredible Hercules run is, so much so that the series alone propelled Hercules to my top three Marvel superheroes (after Spider-Man and Daredevil). Sadly, Hercules isn’t the focus of this week, but please catch up with some of my previous articles if you’d like.
We begin with the capture of Amadeus Cho. I’m skipping the whole kidnapping event. Y’see, the princess of the Amazonians desires Amadeus for procreation, because I guess Korean teenagers are her fetish or something. The princess’ second-in-command Delphyne Gorgon shows him around his new love nest. Also, and much more importantly, she needs to enlighten our protagonist about this upcoming Amazonian ritual.
Just a typical high school love story. Another boy gets captured against his will to be the love slave of a bossy warrior princess only to be fatally murdered the second he hits his refractory period. Haven’t we seen this so many times before?
So we don’t have to be a genius to realize that Princess Artume is totally using Amadeus to solve some complex puzzle and has absolutely zero intention of sleeping with him. The maiming part’s probably still on though. But even for the seventh smartest person in the world, a sixteen year-old presented with that sort of prize will overlook some obvious logical clues. Sadly, I don’t think he’s into the sort of foreplay she enjoys:
And with Artume’s betrayal sets into motion another traitor emerges — and the focus of this article.
First, Hercules totally still lives. Second, I know that’s a wildly fast courtship, but when you have a young imprisoned genius together with a violent snake woman, how could sparks not fly? Look, if your disbelief can’t be suspended, please understand that Delphyne’s a fictional gorgon monster wearing a kilt and fishnets. That should be your main concern. But story-wise, you know when henchmen hook up with the supervillain’s future paramour/murder victim?
I cut out the waving scene, but we all know that the motivations of supervillains rarely require any real motivations. Oh, before we continue, have you been wondering what’s up with Hercules? I mean, with Amadeus in jail, he’s left to battle the Amazonian forces solo (well, and Namor’s cousin Namora). Let’s check in for a moment:
Atlas used the Washington Monument like a baseball bat to smack Hercules across the National Mall. Have you read Incredible Hercules yet? You’re missing out if you haven’t. Anyway, back to our main story.
What soon follows is an issue-long fake alternative reality as Artume rules as president, Amadeus as her second-in-command, and a failed relationship between the genius and gorgon. You can buy the book for all that, but as we flash back to actual reality, it does end like this:
Luckily for Amadeus, this is only the first part of our story, though that doesn’t make heartbreak any easier. Even in the Marvel universe, one’s first crush takes a while to overcome — especially when she’s the Amazonian queen who’ll now disembowel Amadeus if they ever share the throes of passion.
On Wednesday, their reunion!
The end of our tale has arrived. It’s been full of passion, heartbreak, and lightning bolts. We pick up immediately where we left off as Kelda, in an attempt at redemption or to lessen her guilt or simply out of moral integrity, visits Bill’s parents to tell them about their son’s death. Of course they’re upset, but not as much as a squad of Norman Osborn’s trigger-happy soldiers lying in wait on the front lawn. Because while Bill’s family forgives Kelda, inspires her to move on, and patches up her gaping emotional wound, it’s Kelda herself who has to take that baby step forward to being happy once more. Though impaling bad guys with ice spears must be at least a little therapeutic.
She arrives at Asgard in the aftermath of Siege, the event that turned Asgard into a pile of magical rubble. Oh, and how do you feel about thrilling plot twists?
Bill died a hero’s death, even killing one of the grosser-looking Asgardian traitors as Bill breathed his final breaths. And in the Norse mythology which Thor’s Asgard is based on, soldiers who die valiantly in battle spend eternity in Vahalla — where they war in the morning and dine in the evening. Repeat forever. It’s Viking Heaven. And damn right does Bill deserve a place in these halls.
Now, our protagonists live in a world of magic and aliens and miracles — if there is any universe where Kelda can find a way to reunite with her soulmate, it’s Marvel’s. But despite her ability to summon tornadoes with the flick of the wrist, her necromancy isn’t at the same skill level. Or probably allowed. And as you know, when all avenues have been explored and favors called in, those desperate enough often turn to more unethical methods. Like Kelda lighting child Loki on fire.
Yes, that’s definitely not the Kelda we remember. But standing next to Kelda, the chief witch or shaman queen or druid boss or whatever she’s called has offered our hero a deal: if Kelda’ll help her with one tiny harmless spell, she’ll bring Bill back to life. Y’see, Thor died during the Marvel event Fear Itself. Taking advantage of this opportunity, the evil magician lady used Kelda to summon forth Tartarus, a dude who took Thor’s place in the mind of all of those who knew him. Except child Loki.
Look, I understand that for all the good Kelda represents, it’s odd to see her as an villain’s accomplice. Though the sheer number of superheroes have done some vicious things for their loftier goals is staggering. Seriously, the Avengers and X-Men alone have been to Hell dozens of times just to pull one of their buddies free. If they can make deals and punch demons, why can’t Kelda dabble in the dark arts for her true love? We all know that Bill’s worth it.
Poor Kelda’s too obsessed to notice the wizard lady’s lying. That’s the problem with working for supervillains — they so rarely keep their promises. Plus, as most supervillains partnerships end, we can only look forward to blood and tragedy. Our goddess has done so much and sacrificed even more for a mere chance of a reunion, but we as readers know the only way this can play out — and it’s so frustrating to watch.
I wish I had better news, but even goddesses can’t survive their faces getting ripped open. It’s a wildly (and maybe unnecessarily) violent death for Kelda, but we must remember that she died pursuing truth. And justice if she hadn’t gotten knifed. Tricked or not, Kelda died fearlessly facing down vile and horrific opponents, and well, there’s a funny thing about a death like that.
While big-time superheroes can never sail off into the sunset to their expected bliss (it’d hurt profits), minor characters don’t have those same shackles. Our two lovers are free to experience an ending that they deserve. That we deserve. So as our love story concludes today, I have never been more excited to announce that we finish the only way I would ever accept — brilliantly, romantically, and eternally happy.
See you on Monday! I hope you have the best weekend!
We don’t need a lengthy introduction, right? Bill died at the hand of Asgardian traitors and Kelda’s out for revenge on those that killed him. Like Loki and Doctor Doom. But y’see, while Loki’s the god of trickery and mischief, the evil doctor doesn’t bother with smokescreens and wild goose chases. You want him? He’s in that giant castle with his likeness plastered on it. Go get him.
Kelda is no pushover. She has all that Asgardian super strength and durability as well as that whole summoning lightning and ice from the heavens thing. But let’s be fair: Doctor Doom’s normal battles are when he fights the entire Fantastic Four at once. To be the arch-nemesis of an entire team of superheroes takes some tremendous skill.
Doom’s not exactly a shoulder to cry on. Remember that one story where he sacrificed his childhood lover just for a fraction more of magical power? Dude isn’t terribly sentimental, but this conversation does bring up an interesting point — Doctor Doom knew who Bill was. Someone told the ruler of Latveria and quite possibly the Marvel universe’s busiest supervillain about a sword-wielding human in a backwards baseball cap running around the Latverian forest. In a way, to have a baddie of Doom’s fame speak of Bill brings about a weird sort of honor in itself.
But honestly? Blast the crap out of Doctor Doom — that’s not the eulogy Bill deserves.
See the gorgeous symbolism? A Doombot rips her beating heart out, just like Bill’s death did emotionally. Oh, and if you’re unsure, Asgardians totally need their hearts to live. Look, despite her being ambushed/sudden organ removal, we knew that Kelda could never take down Doctor Doom. The man has complete mastery of both technology and magic, hundreds of robots who can do the same thing, and his monologues only occur after he’s disabled his opponent. Also, did you know Doctor Doom doesn’t wear pants? I never thought about that until right now.
Luckily, Kelda’s death wouldn’t serve the purpose Doctor Doom hopes it would. He’d much prefer to use her to mock and belittle Thor and friends instead of simply stuffing her body in a demon dimensional portal or something and forgetting about her.
So you know who doesn’t take teasing very well? A superhero who has absolutely zero fear of anything Doctor Doom could ever do or say? Someone who’s major decision process hinges on how tough it’d be to clean blood off his hammer?
Kelda survives. Loki saves her life actually. He mainly does it to further his evil plot which I’m not going to cover, but she does survive because of Loki’s interference. Though what kind of life could she enjoy now? She has lived for thousands of years and will live for thousands more, yet that brave bumpkin from Oklahoma brought forth a passion and devotion inside her that she may have never felt previously (y’know, because it would take that level of commitment to attempt a zapping of Marvel universe’s most powerful supervillain).
Recall the first part of our story: Bill essentially abandoned his friends and family to pursue a new life with Kelda in Latverian Asgard. Which means no one back in Broxton, Oklahoma knows about his death. Because Asgardians don’t have an official means of alerting loved ones of a death in battle — they light the corpse on fire in a boat — our mourning goddess has to fulfill the responsibility herself. Now’s a good time to get your tissues ready.
There’s no worse conversation when two parties disagree despite only the truth spoken from both. But unfortunately, Kelda falls victim to one of the many unspoken superheroes laws — anything done that’s honest and kindhearted will be interrupted by combat. Every time. Every situation.
Norman Osborn, complete with his evil Avengers and the full force of the American government, launches an attack on Asgard at this exact moment. And I don’t care what anyone says, I adored Siege. But as we reminisce on how compassionate and loving Bill was — the same reasons Kelda fell in love with him (much like how the horizon loves the sunrise) — those admirable traits of his were totally inherited. The Cobbs won’t let anyone be gunned down on their front lawn, even the woman indirectly responsible for their son’s death.
Her strength and will has finally settled on the correct direction. We wrap up today with not a complete redemption from Kelda, but definitely the glimmer of one. Tomorrow our tale ends and you can finally rest easy as the final fates of Bill and Kelda engulf your sweet dreams of hope and romance. Because trust me — even after four days, three thousand words, and seventy eight images — our finale’ll be worth every single moment.
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?
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.