Fasten your seat belts... it's gonna be a bumpy night. Not because of potholes or a bad transmission, mind you. Far from it. I mean because Marvel delivered so much epic grandstanding this week, it needed three different comics to bear the lode.
These three books are closely tied together, and because of that I'm 'capping them all in one go. (I do plan to recap other unrelated titles in the days to come.)
Front and center is AXIS, issue 2. Our heroes were overwhelmed at the climax of the first chapter, courtesy of two adamantium-coated sentinels that rose out of the ground like lieutenants of the devil himself. (Seems appropriate, given the Red Onslaught's theme.)
Some time in the last few months, RussKie brainwashed Tony Stark into building the terrible twosome, then wiped his mind of any trace of 'em. Stark is faced with the unique challenge of working out 'If I were going to design two invincible death machines, how would I do it?' while fighting said death machines. To his credit, he stays on his feet— for most of it, anyway.
Marvel's roster of heroes (and anti-heroes) gets to team up for some truly impressive pyrotechnics. This is more than a hastily-cobbled team-up, the fibers of this disaster have been weaving closer together for months. Case in point:
It's kind of awesome to see characters from four different titles standing shoulder to shoulder, working on a problem.
The artwork of Adam Kubert, combined with Laura Martin and Matt Milla's colors are wonderfully on-point. It's dark but not bleak— yet— and the lines are so damn crisp.
To their credit, the plan they've come up with to dispatch the Red Onslaught was starting to work... until Nova (an inexperienced teenager) pulls a Hot Rod and throws himself into the fray when he should've kept his head down.
The result isn't pretty. Iron Man nearly gets crushed beneath an adamantium boot, and Magneto doesn't lift a finger to help him. (Which is totally in his character. Dirty pool, but still authentic.) Luckily the world's favorite fuzzy elf is there to BAMF Stark to safety.
The heroes rally their forces for a second attack. It's a quiet moment sandwiched between big blocks of action, and it's an important reminder of what the good guys are fighting for.
Our heroes go back out into the field to deliver a great offensive. (Some seriously grand comic book action going on. You need to go pick up this comic.)
Pity it doesn't work. Stark is left alone, on his knees, before one supremely pissed off Red Onslaught. He's got nothing left…
Or does he?
Always one for grand entrances, Magneto returns to the field with an entire cadre of supervillains. The Red Onslaught was holding his own against heroes trained to play fair… but how will he handle eleven powerhouses who revel in fighting dirty?
Boom. Round Three begins next week.
Now I mentioned that these events were stretched out across three titles, and I meant it.
Last month in the pages of Loki: Agent of Asgard, the God of Lies found himself in the clutches of none other than Doctor Doom.
Loki's screwed, trapped in a cube of frozen time, unable to do anything at all— not even think. No more clever ploys, no more counter-plots. Doom has the trapped god set up as a piece of artwork, smugly quoting Aleister Crowley (and V): "By the power of truth, I while living, have conquered the universe." The perfectly-captured grandiosity of the moment gives me tingles.
That would be that for our trickster… if he hadn't planned ahead. He brought along Verity Willis for back-up, in case things went pear-shaped. Wearing Loki's amulet of invisibility (stolen, natch), Verity is safe but helpless as Loki's carted off.
In the cleverest twist of the issue, young Valeria Richards — Doom's visiting goddaughter— notices Verity straight away. "[Doom] doesn't have an invisible person for a mom. You learn what to look for." HAH! Al Ewing's writing is full of clever turns.
Verity convinces Valeria to free Loki, while Doom is distracted by ominous news: riots have broken out in his kingdom. The ordinarily well-behaved (and terrified) citizens are at each other's throats, and Doom reaches out with his magic to detect the source:
The long-range talents of the Red Onslaught, spilling across the planet. This image may be my favorite in a comic filled with phenomenal work. The art of Jorge Coelho and Lee Loughridge just crackles for me.
Using a combination of Doom's sorcery, Loki's bag of enchanted tricks, and Valeria's SCIENCE, the 'spell' cast over Latveria is broken. Doom's people are safe. It's enough for Doom to forgive Loki his intrusion… when Magneto shows up.
Now I'll admit, Magneto's comic has not enthralled me much of late. He stands on the fence between anti-hero and outright villain, and he doesn't much care which side he falls on. I get it.
That being said, it's actually kind of cool to see the same events of AXIS #2 go down through his eyes, from his perspective. It could've fallen flat, and to the credit of Cullen Bunn's writing and Gabriel Hernandez Walta's artwork, it doesn't.
Magneto feels guilty over his part in unleashing the Red Onslaught. It is his fault. When the chips are down and the heroes need him… he disappears.
This comic's tone is easily the darkest the three. It's also the least lively. Heroes get off their ass and get back in the fight. Magneto walked away to brood on his past crimes, and their fallout.
If not for Briar Raleigh— a young woman who's been traveling with Erik for some time— that would be where his story ends. But she forces him to witness a recap of his own 'greatest hits'— and the sliver of hope that he found amidst all that destruction. Even at his worst, some mutants still look up to him. He's saved lives, and those lives were grateful.
Result: Magneto stops pretending to be something he's not, and gets to recruiting… visiting some of the worst villains in the Marvel universe, and giving them incentives to fight. Some, he coaxes, others, he persuades, others, he threatens. But they come on board.
The last image is a good one, and it's a grand prelude to one hell of a fight. In T-Minus 6 days…
So that's it. Three phenomenally strong comics, all wrapped around a solid core comic 'event'. This has been well-executed so far, and I'm supremely jazzed to see what they come up with next.
Regardless, it's a credit to Marvel's coordination that they can put all these pieces in place so that they'll be available (and consistent) when they're needed.
What do you think?
Casey Jones is an author, screenwriter, and voiceover artist. You can find his other work here.