Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – New X-Men: Childhood’s End, Vol. 5

With a completely new, distinctive art style and the darkest plot and action yet, the five-part “Quest for Magik” story serves as an epic finale to the New X-Men’s adventures.

With Marvel’s popular and successful foray into films with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve finally decided to get back into comics. I grew up a big fan of X-Men and other superheroes but haven’t really kept up since the 90s. Thus begins my grand catching-up of the last ten years of Marvel comics, events and stories.

Thanks in large part to trade paperbacks and the digital convenience of Marvel Unlimited I can make relatively quick progress, and I’ll write down my Final Thoughts for each collection here on my blog. Like my gaming Final Thoughts, this will be full of spoilers. You’ve been warned!

new x-men childhood's end vol 5Writers: Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost

Artist: Skottie Young

Issues: New X-Men (2004) #37-43

In what would sadly become their final major story arc, the wonderful writing team of Kyle and Yost once again put their intriguing New X-Men team through the ringer – this time putting them literally through hell.

The story of the demon lord Bellasco and Magik (Illyana Rasputin, Collossus’ younger sister) is mysteriously told by the mutant Blindfold to the other young students, setting the stage for our heroes to soon be pulled down into limbo, separated into different groups and fighting hordes of demon spawn. With a completely new, distinctive art style and the darkest plot and action yet, the five-part “Quest for Magik” story serves as an epic finale to the New X-Men’s adventures.

When Bellasco attacks Xavier’s Institute in his relentless search for Magik, our heroes get separated into three different teams. Dust, X-23, Mercury, Trance, Elixir, David, and the Cuckoos are directly captured by the demon lord, and spend most of the story fighting him and in turn being tortured. Rockslide, Pixie, Anole and others are sent to Limbo where they fight off demons and meet Magik, who’s not entirely on their side. Finally Surge and Hellion are left on the surface, eventually teaming up with an O*N*E sentinel and fighting their way to the others.

new x-men #40bJuggling all three situations means there’s always something big and crazy happening, from giant demon battles with creatively grotesque-looking creatures to Bellasco’s horrifying tortures and killings. If things were dark and serious before (which Kyle and Yost have never been afraid to tackle) they go the extra mile here. Bellasco is a demon lord and has no qualms about straight up murdering children, including melting X-23 into a pile of bones and plunging his hand into David’s chest and pulling out his heart. Holy. Shit.

The main story happens with the Magik team. I’m wholly unfamiliar with the character and her demonically-challenged situation, so must of what she said went over my head. Something about soulswords. She’s a nifty character, though: a previously innocent soul permanently corrupted by demon influence. She’s got the key to save everyone but she can’t exactly be trusted, and she ends up ripping apart Pixie’s soul to forge a soulsword (which the rest of the team interrupts, so it makes more of a soul dagger).

There’s now a whole lot of complexity to the story – a group is captured by Bellasco and the rest try to rescue them in their own ways. Magik (who goes by Darkchild now and rocks some hooves, horns, and tail) teaches Pixie a teleporation spell using her soul while Surge and Hellion hop aboard a sentinel and use Trance to fight their way through demons into Bellasco’s lair. Five issues actually feels slightly drawn out, compared to the rushed feeling I usually get from most story arcs. The main advantage we get is lots of great characterization for our ‘new’ members of the team.

new x-men #40

For the previous volumes of “Childhood’s End” (which began when Kyle and Yost took over on issue #20, and also when I started reading) our main team consisted of Hellion, Surge, X-23, Dust, Mercury, Rockslide and Elixir. This was the main team for several long story arcs, give or take a few side characters. “Quest for Magik” expands the roster to include more of those recurring side characters, especially Anole and Pixie. Taking a fairly robust team roster and adding in more characters is a risky move but it definitely adds to the epic story-telling, and nicely highlights the fact that there really are dozens of kids at the Institute. Kyle and Yost do a fantastic job making them all interesting and giving everyone important things to do.

Easily the most striking aspect of this volume is the art style. For the entire volume New X-Men picks up artist Skottie Young, whom I recognized from the crazy cover art in the latter half of Deadpool and Cable Book 3. Young’s art style is very anime-inspired but in a dark and twisty fashion. At first I found it completely jarring but by the end really enjoyed it, appreciating it for both its uniqueness and style. Even seeing classic X-Men characters like Wolverine and Beast drawn in this crazy style is interesting – and I’m usually a stickler for the classic looks.

It probably helps that Young does an amazing job with the demons, and Bellasco is drawn and staged in very menacing poses and mannerisms – like a combination of Batman’s Joker and Final Fantasy VI’s Kefka. Previous New X-Men volumes generally played it safe with the art, using a bright, youthful style that meshed well with the tone, but this darker cartoon look is really something special.

New X-Men #37b

“Quest for Magik” ends at #41, which leaves the final two issues as both an epilogue to our cast and a precursor to New X-Men’s tie-ins to Messiah Complex. “Children of X-Men” (#41-42) explores the intriguing drama when the students are mostly just sitting around licking their wounds, as well as the rare glimpses of them interacting with the senior staff of the Astonishing X-Men

Kudos again to Kyle and Yost for making teenage drama surprisingly riveting, funny, heartfelt, and enjoyable. Surge tries to get David (formerly Prodigy before depowered after House of M) by kissing Hellion. X-23 freaks out and tries to understand these odd human emotions she’s feeling toward Hellion. Rockslide and Anole have an ongoing ribbing camaraderie that’s always fun to watch. Hellion and Elixir both brood in their own ways, giving off some bad boy vibes without being eye-rollingly annoying about it.

“Childhood’s End” has been an incredibly fun ride. Taking the New X-Men on their own missions and dealing with the incredible harsh realities of a post M-Day world has been a fantastic angle for a series, and really allowed the New X-Men to stand out as  one of the best X-Men series at the time. It’s a huge shame then that the series ends with the mega crossover event Messiah Complex. Apparently some of the cast continued in another spin-off series called Young X-Men, but it looks like it’s pretty universally reviled and was canceled after the first year. Disappointing to say the least, as I’ve really grown to love all of these characters.

new x-men #43

 

Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – Thunderbolts Ultimate Collection

Thanks to some fantastic art, killer action scenes and wonderful characterization, this new Thunderbolts run was easily the best thing to come out of Civil War.

With Marvel’s popular and successful foray into films with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve finally decided to get back into comics. I grew up a big fan of X-Men and other superheroes but haven’t really kept up since the 90s. Thus begins my grand catching-up of the last ten years of Marvel comics, events and stories.

Thanks in large part to trade paperbacks and the digital convenience of Marvel Unlimited I can make relatively quick progress, and I’ll write down my Final Thoughts for each collection here on my blog. Like my gaming Final Thoughts, this will be full of spoilers. You’ve been warned!

Thunderbolts ultimate collectionWriter: Warren Ellis

Artist: Mike Deodato

Issues: Thunderbolts (2006) #110-121, Civil War: The Initiative #1

House of M had created lots of interesting new series, both limited and ongoing for the X-Men and various mutant teams, but Civil War, marvel’s next big crossover event, didn’t seem to achieve the same level of success with its new series. The event itself was a resounding success and the aftermath changed the state of the Marvel universe for years afterward. The one series to receive a major post-Civil War makeover was Thunderbolts, the dysfunctional team of former supervillains that leapt at the chance to join Tony Stark’s gestapo and hunt down unregistered heroes.

The issues leading up to the Warren Ellis and Mike Dodato run were a confusing mess for someone like me that tried to jump in at issue #100, and their Civil War tie-ins were nothing special. In the one-shot Civil War: The Initiative (included in the Ultimate Collection TPB) we’re introduced and teased to this new Thunderbolts team, lead by Norman Osborne (Green Goblin), consisting of Songbird, Moonstone, Radioactive Man, Swordsman, Venom, Penance, and Bullseye. They take down their fleeing unregistered hero with ruthless efficiency and professional organization – not at all what happens during their official run when Warren Ellis takes over to jump start this series into one of the most action-packed and interesting series I’ve ever read beginning with issue #110.

“Faith in Monsters” (#110-115) actually starts off a bit slow. Ellis takes his time introducing the D-list heroes that our nanite-controlled ex-villain team are tasked with apprehending. Frankly I don’t need several pages of Jack Flagg’s emotional state, nor American Eagle talking politics. The drama bubbling up within Thunderbolts Mountain is much more interesting. These individuals are mostly volatile, conniving, and a few meds or pokes away from going crazy and murdering everyone (save for previous Thunderbolts members Songbird and Radioactive Man, the only two that seem to want the team to work).

thunderbolts #114

Each team member fills out an important role, both on the team and in the drama. Venom is the caged animal, the giant beast that’s drawn like a rippling Hulk. Penance is pure firepower, though his emotional state and character drama makes him dangerously unreliable. Bullseye is the ace in the hole – yes, Warren Ellis somehow makes Bullseye a terrifying psychopath. He’s so dangerous and unpredictable they don’t even use him on the regular team – he’s unleashed when no one else is around for when things get really out of hand.

The reason Bullseye is kept in the shadows is because Thunderbolts is a very marketable, TV friendly task force. Ellis embraces the political implications and discussions that naturally follow the state of fear in The Initiative era of a post-Civil War Marvel universe. Montage panels of political talking heads are used in nearly every issue to discuss the ethics of using former villains as a government task force. Norman Osborne and Moonstone have to constantly wrestle with running the team while also putting on an appropriate show for the TV cameras (which is ironic considering the Civil War’s inciting incident started because of a superhero reality TV show).

thunderbolts #111bThe real treat throughout the entire run is the incredible art by Mike Deodato. Artistic preference can be a difficult thing to vocalize, but most people know what they like and what they don’t. Often I come across art styles that I hate and love, but never encountered anything that completely blew me away in every other page. Deodato is a god living amongst mere mortals. The staging of panels in action scenes is brilliant and inventive – often laying them slightly askew to give a sense of motion, or layering them into a bigger, two-page spread dripping in explosions, scene-filling characters or brutal fight scenes.

Few times when comic characters fight do I believe anyone’s actually getting hurt, but Deodato excels at really putting characters through the ringer. In the first arc alone, Bullseye has his neck snapped, Swordsman is shoved through a window and into a television, and Venom tears the arm off of the Steel Spider. It’s exhilarating in a way few action-packed comics come close to achieving. I’m sure it helps that the roster is much more malleable than traditional Avengers or X-Men teams as well.

thunderbolts #115

“Caged Angels” (#116-121) switches focus from the team fighting and capturing heroes on the streets (and mostly fucking it up spectacularly) to fighting each other. A group of telepaths cleverly get themselves captured on purpose, then begin wrecking mental havoc with our already edgy anti-heroes.

Penance nearly kills a heckling prisoner before Moonstone knocks him out. Norman begins seeing the Green Goblin mask beckoning to him in his desk drawer. Swordsman goes off the deep end, shaving his head and bribing the guards and blowing up the Thunderbolts plane. Venom’s inner animal is unleashed, fully taking control of Mac Gargan’s body and devouring guards left and right.

thunderbolts #119c

 

Everything builds up to an epic climax when Norman finally dons the Green Goblin uniform and goes after Swordsman (who managed to take down Venom). He’s portrayed as very Joker-like, relishing in his insanity. Soon it’s just Songbird and Green Goblin left, and the two have a knock down, drag out fight that ends with both on the ground.

thunderbolts #120Bullseye actually saves them all. After his neck was snapped in the previous arc, he spent the majority of the comic being repaired and steps onto the stage to swiftly kill the imprisoned telepaths after all hell has broken loose. Surprisingly the team is still together in the aftermath and they manage to keep everything that happened under wraps, writing off Green Goblin’s appearance as pure rumor and conjecture.

The art throughout these action-packed scenes is nothing short of stunning. Warren Ellis does a great job making these characters interesting, and drawing a line between likeable (Songbird, Radioactive Man, Penance) and detestable (everyone else) while still making everyone fun to watch and read about it.

Penance particularly has a wonderful side story involving Doc Samson delving into his own psychosis and hang-ups (he’s indirectly responsible for the explosion at Stamford, which triggered the SRA and the Civil War). What could’ve been a sad-sack character is actually made starkly relatable and very human.

Sadly this Ultimate Collection ended Deodato and Ellis’ run on Thunderbolts; it will be interesting to see how different creative teams continue to breath success into the series, as it ran for an incredible six years (going all the way to 2012).

Thanks to some fantastic art, killer action scenes and wonderful characterization, this new Thunderbolts run was easily the best thing to come out of Civil War. My only complaint was that it really should’ve started over with a new #1 numbering system, as it’s completely different from the previous Thunderbolts team, story, and creative staff. Highly recommended if you love amazing art and interested in an unconventional super-team when some of Marvel’s most dangerous villains try to work together.

thunderbolts #111

 

Shadowrun 5E “Not With a Whimper” Session 1 Report

For our first Shadowrun role-playing session I throw our street-level runners in the middle of some good old-fashioned gang warfare, cyberpunk style.

Note that since my players will read these I have to avoid spoilers and background information while the current mission is still in session. Look for our epilogue episode and write-up for more in-depth analysis and feedback.

Watch our sessions live on twitch.tv/gorbash722 every Sunday night beginning at 9:30pm Central!

Last month I teased a return to online, live streaming tabletop role-playing, and last night marked our first official session in the wonderful world of Shadowrun. It was also the first time I GM’d a session outside of the Quick Start beginner mission.

Although a bit overwhelming, I decided to write our first mission from scratch. I have a bunch of well-written and interesting missions to pick from various source books and I plan on eventually using them either mostly verbatim or heavily borrowing their themes in the future. For our first mission, however, I wanted something that would introduce our new players into the world of Shadowrun, provide an action-packed introduction, and throw our street-level runners in the middle of some good old-fashioned gang warfare.

So our runners all coincidentally found each other at a bar, and then I had a bomb go off.

The resulting chaos and destruction provided many opportunities for role-playing, and I was pleased to see that everyone snapped into hero mode and tried to help the injured NPCs. I didn’t put too much prep time into this initial scenario, allowing the players to guide the action, and I came up with random injuries and deaths for NPCs on the fly.

Redd's Bar

Most importantly the players rescued Jeremiah Redd, the owner of the bar, and followed him into the awaiting DocWagon vehicle to receive treatment and hear his job offer. I had a contingency plan in case they didn’t want to enter but thankfully we could go with my initial plans. This lead to an interesting close-range fight inside the moving all-terrain ambulance as our DocWagon medics turned out to be hostile.

The feaux medics were horribly outnumbered (only three total, and one was driving the whole time) so I figured it would be a fairly quick outcome. Combat lasted longer than I expected, and when the shotgun wielder emerged from the cockpit and nearly killed the runners’ beefy troll shaman in a single blast, I was growing worried. Thankfully the player used an Edge point to re-roll the fails, and managed to cut the damage in half. The rest of the team sprang into action raining down bullets and leaping with knives, while the decker smartly attempted to wrest control of the vehicle.

The uniquely crammed quarters proved interesting but sadly I hadn’t built a proper map or grid, instead using a stock photo of the vehicle. I certainly didn’t expect combat to be as long or involved as it ended up being, and we were just moving tokens around a picture. I did have a pretty good grasp of how the inside looked, and could describe the area and situation after each initiative pass.

Doc Wagon Vehicle

Surprisingly the players were not nearly as violent as I expected, attempting to reason with their foes and trying to get them to surrender. I didn’t expect that, and the enemies were having none of it, fighting to the bloody end (which they quickly received). The driver finally surrendered after a successful Charisma check and looked behind him to see the runners standing over his fallen comrades. The decker brought the vehicle to a stop after it had nearly careened out of control (I was very close to crashing the players – they nearly gave control back to the driver to make him pull over and stop the car – ha!)

We ended our session right as the vehicle came to a stop at an unknown location, with one of the foes still alive. It’ll be interesting to see what information they can pry from their captive, and see what Redd has to say about all this. It’s been a rollercoaster ride so far and the players have barely had a chance to even talk to each other yet (they made their characters separately), which was part of the plan. I anticipate that this run will take another two sessions based on how far they got, and so far seemed like everyone has really enjoyed it. Kudos to Roll20 for being such an easy to use system, and the amazingly convenient built-in character sheets that handle tons of macros and details so we can focus on the fun.

Watch our sessions live on twitch.tv/gorbash722 every Sunday night beginning at 9:30pm Central!

 

Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – Silent War

The Inhumans star in this follow-up to Son of M takes that takes way too long to get going and is muddled with a distractingly bizarre art style.

With Marvel’s popular and successful foray into films with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve finally decided to get back into comics. I grew up a big fan of X-Men and other superheroes but haven’t really kept up since the 90s. Thus begins my grand catching-up of the last ten years of Marvel comics, events and stories.

Thanks in large part to trade paperbacks and the digital convenience of Marvel Unlimited I can make relatively quick progress, and I’ll write down my Final Thoughts for each collection here on my blog. Like my gaming Final Thoughts, this will be full of spoilers. You’ve been warned!

silent war coverWriter: David Hine

Artist: Frazer Irving

Issues: Silent War (2007) #1-6

I’ve never held much interest in the Inhumans, but with the way current Marvel events are heading (especially in Agents of SHIELD), learning and reading more about them is becoming increasingly necessary. I find the Inhumans to be a poor man’s mutants – only more secluded and isolationist, with a bunch of archaic social policies and royal family drama.

Silent War is a direct sequel to the events in previous Inhumans-centric limited series Son of M, where Quicksilver stole the sacred Terrigen Crystals (which give Inhumans their powers) and Black Bolt declared war on the US after the government wouldn’t return them. What could have been an action-packed affair takes way too long to get going; Black Bolt is rendered far too impotent and uncertain, and it’s all muddled with a distractedly bizarre art style that makes every character look tiny, weak, and uninteresting.

The war begins in earnest when a small team lead by Gorgon disguise themselves and infiltrate a concert hall. With Jolen the plant master’s help they disable everyone inside and attempt to tell the world about how they were wronged and the crystals were stolen. Unfortunately Jolen ends up going a bit too far and murders a bunch of innocent people left and right, and they’re quickly subduded by the Fantastic Four.

Black Bolt teleports down with a larger team trying to reach the crystals in the pentagon, but they’re deflected to Antarctica and met by the Sentry, who talks to Black Bolt about mutually assured destruction. I’ve spoken previously about how much the Sentry annoys me as the uber-powerful hero that can solve any crisis, and I was really hoping Black Bolt would wipe the floor with him.

silent war #1Unfortunately David Hine spends the majority of the story sowing doubt and uncertainty into Black Bolt’s actions. His wife Medusa can’t read his wishes any more like she used to, and he often acts irrationally and violently. It’s difficult to interpret because Black bolt can never speak. So much as a whisper causes huge amounts of destruction. Despite his lack of characterization, I always considered Black Bolt my favorite Inhuman. A stoic leader who leads by sheer will and actions rather than words, and who has the wherewithal to know when to not use his powers. It’s incredibly annoying then to have Black Bolt portrayed in such a negative, pitying light throughout the story.

The one interesting aspect to Silent War’s writing is that each issue is written from the perspective of a different character, not unlike chapters from A Song of Ice and Fire. Most are Inhumans and most are pretty boring, like Crystal who gets zero agency outside of her jerk ex-husband Quicksilver and mysterious daughter Luna, and Medusa, Black Bolt’s wife and confidant who spends her entire issue having an emotional affair with Black Bolt’s evil brother Maximus.

silent war #5Eventually the humans, lead by Maria Hill, begin experimenting with using Terrigenesis on humans, creating temporary super soldiers with a very limited life span. The Inhumans launch a full scale attack and the Mighty Avengers are soon called to defend against them, finally giving us a satisfying battle in issue #5.

The Inhumans send in a dimensional hopping member (they’re like mutants in that they can have all kinds of interesting and random powers) to free the captured team from the first issue and retrieve the crystals. The Sentry purposefully sits out of the entire fight – credit to him for believing giving them the crystals back would stop the war.

It’s not that simple, however, and the pentagon orders the newly created super soldiers to invade the Inhuman city of Attilan, currently located on the moon. Another battle takes place that’s over way too quickly, and one of the soldiers sets off a major bomb, destroying much of the city. From the ashes Black Bolt’s manipulative brother rises, having seduced Medusa and others with his ‘powers of suggestion.’ The whole thing ends in a very weird place, with only Black Bolt and Luna immune to Maximus’ will, and the evil brother seemingly becoming the new leader of the Inhumans.

As a follow-up to Son of M, Silent War does explore the war that’s so impressively teased at the end of that series, but it takes so long to get going that the majority of the story is just boring. The Inhumans’ meeting with Quicksilver is dumb and pointless (though I enjoyed the mini-guest starring by X-Factor’s Layla and Jamie). The standard Inhumans’ infighting is limited to Maximus’s effortless rise to power, and the first four issues are just a slow plod to get to the invasion that’s over in a single issue.

Worst of all is the odd art style. Characters are washed out and tiny in every frame, and I wished the cover artist had been used to do the actual comic, as a good (or at least decent) art style can certainly save a mediocre story. With both story and art being so disappointing, it’s difficult to recommend Silent War to all but the biggest Inhuman fans.

silent war #6

 

Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – Black Panther (2005), Vol. 4-5

T’Challa and his new temporary team of half the Fantastic Four are dropped into increasingly insane scenarios and situations that range from crazy stupid to crazy fun.

With Marvel’s popular and successful foray into films with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve finally decided to get back into comics. I grew up a big fan of X-Men and other superheroes but haven’t really kept up since the 90s. Thus begins my grand catching-up of the last ten years of Marvel comics, events and stories.

Thanks in large part to trade paperbacks and the digital convenience of Marvel Unlimited I can make relatively quick progress, and I’ll write down my Final Thoughts for each collection here on my blog. Like my gaming Final Thoughts, this will be full of spoilers. You’ve been warned!

black panther cover four the hard wayWriter: Reginald Hudlin

Artist: Francis Portela

Issues: Black Panther (2005) #26-34

The young but resolute Wakandian king went through a flurry of activity in the previous two volumes: a largely publicized but loving marriage to Storm of the X-Men, joining with Captain America and the anti-SRA rebels in the Civil War, and going on a globe-trotting political world tour to several major powers and factions.

Unfortunately these next two volumes illustrate that nobody really knows what to do with Black Panther when there’s not a major crossover event happening for him to join and lend his incredible resources. Reginald Hudlin puts T’Challa and his new temporary team of half the Fantastic Four in increasingly insane scenarios and situations that range from crazy stupid to crazy fun.

In “Four the Hard Way” (#26-30) T’Challa and Ororo join the Fantastic Four as the new husband-wife replacements for Reed and Sue (who are taking a little vacation after their spat during the Civil War). I don’t read Fantastic Four, and issue #27 takes place after an arc in FF that leaves the group with these weird golden teleporting frogs. A monstrous insect figure breaks out of Stark’s Negative Zone prison and terrorizes the Baxter Building, and the team gets teleported away during the fight.

black panther #26

They land on a skrull planet in the crazy alternate Marvel Zombies Universe. I don’t mind zombies but there’s a weird disconnect with the gore-less Marvel. Also the zombies were far more verbose than I had assumed they would be, making it more silly and dumb than anything. For my first foray into the Marvel Zombies, it was not great, and we spend far too much time with them as they eat all the poor skrulls.

“Little Green Men” (#31-34) starts with the tiresome mind-fuck villain of Psycho Man that gets into T’Challa’s head, but his love for Storm is too strong to turn them against each other. Cheesy, sure, but I do appreciate their genuinely solid relationship.

black panther #32The story picks up considerably as the frogs teleport them again – this time to the correct universe but a different planet. A skrull planet that has modeled itself after 30s era gangsters on one half, and 60 eras Civil Rights movement on the other.

Apparently the Fantastic Four have been here before, and Thing fought in the gladiatorial battles. Just to recap – alien world with anachronistic prohibition era gangsters in flying cars with alien gladiators. Most of the team is captured save for Storm, who joins up with Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X to lead the revolution. It’s completely insane and wacky, but at least a lot more fun and interesting than the zombie thing.

Francis Portela’s style isn’t bad but it’s mostly forgettable. The bright colors and lack of shading fit the tone of the light-hearted silliness of their alternate world/universe adventures, though it also exacerbates the problem with the Avenger Zombies. The action sequences are a lot of fun though, particuarly T’Challa fighting in the alien arena, and the team fighting the skrull (and later skrull-zombified) Fantastic Four. Storm is also given several opportunities to unleash the awesome destructive potential of her powers, and it’s pretty damn satisfying.

Both volumes are incredibly forgettable and pretty dumb. It’s a disappointing follow-up to what I thought was an increase in Black Panther becoming more of a major character in the wider Marvel Universe. Joining the Fantastic Four is an interesting move, but immediately puts them in situations that remind me why I don’t read FF – silly plots (even for comic standards) involving alternate universes and golden teleporting frogs that may or may not be malevolent. As far as solo series go, Black Panther is becoming increasingly skippable. This whole series would only last another six issues, ending during the 2008 crossover event Secret Invasion.