Monsters Unleashed #1 Review

Monsters Unleashed #1 Review

Where’s Shuma-Gorath?

Cullen Bunn (W), Steve McNiven (P), Jay Leisten (I), David Curiel (CA)

Cover by Steve McNiven, Jay Leisten, and David Curiel

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Price: $4.99

          For those who don’t know, before the Marvel Age of comics began, and even a little into its existence, Marvel put out many “creature feature” comics. These were comics, often written and drawn by the great Jack Kirby himself, that focused on some form of monster showing up and the quest to halt its path of destruction. Groot was actually originally one of these creatures, and he looked far different back then. It is this that Marvel is channeling with its new big event crossover, Monsters Unleashed.

One of my biggest issues with Marvel’s business model is its love of crossovers. From about 2007-onwards, Marvel has put out at least one big crossover every year. These result waylaying other titles that are mandated to tie-in to said crossover, and the crossovers have, in themselves, often had diminishing returns, see Fear Itself, Avengers vs X-Men, and, most recently, Civil War II. Many take issue with Age of Ultron and Original Sin. I actually thought both were enjoyable, if flawed, stories.

With Monsters Unleashed, Inhumans vs X-Men, and Civil War II, we now have three crossovers running within a month of one another. That is to say nothing of smaller crossovers that took place around the time of the beginning of Civil War II, namely Standoff: Assault on Pleasant Hill and Apocalypse Wars. These are becoming quite overwhelming. Marvel has kicked up the regularity of these crossovers to the point where we are having multiple running at the same time, and it’s becoming really hard to just enjoy a title that you don’t need to check out eight others to understand. We already have Secret Empire on the horizon as well, and I’m sure that’s going to crossover into twenty different books too.

Marvel is risking true impenetrability here. Many potentially new comic book readers are intimidated by the seventy-years of history that Marvel has behind it. With these ridiculous crossovers engulfing all of their books, it will become even harder to pick up a single comic and understand what is going on within its pages.

So, this is the context into which Monsters Unleashed comes out. That is quite a difficult crowd to face for any story. How does Monsters Unleashed due in the face of these insurmountable odds?

It begins with a pencil drawing on paper as a red light streaks across the sky and lands in Boston, Massachusetts. The light reveals itself to be a large, quadrupedal and squid-like monster, which promptly begins to tear up the city. The Avengers quickly take the scene and begin trying to coral the creature while saving as many lives as they can. The combined powers of Thor and Hercules manage to fell the beast, but the relief is short-lived. Two more creatures quickly land to face the heroes, and the Vision informs the team that this is a global crisis.

We next see the X-Men facing a creature in London, Black Panther and Shuri fighting another in the Golden City in Wakanda, the Guardians of the Galaxy struggling one in Seattle, and the Inhumans grappling with a monster in Venice.

Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur are seen studying the “falling stars” in her lab, and she is determined to discover the origin. In Boston, a silhouetted figure is seen studying ancient parchments to discover why this invasion of monsters is happening.

We next cut to Springfield, where a teenager is revealed to be the one making the drawings at the beginning, and he is revealed to have drawn many a monster.

Next, the Champions fight yet another creature in Los Angeles. We then cut to Peru, where the silhouette is revealed to be Elsa Bloodstone, and she enters a trap-ridden crypt and finds cave drawings at its center (as I type that out, I now realize how none of that makes sense). These drawings reveal to her something about the origins of this crisis, the predictions made about it, and something indicating a potential ruler of the monsters.

We return to that teenaged artist, named Kei Kawade, who sees the monsters invading on the television, and he leaves his house to see another light streaking into the woods near his home. He runs towards it and is swept up. The individuals who caught him are revealed to be Fin Fang Foom and a number of other monsters. Foom warns him that he is playing a “dangerous game”. The comic ends here.

I love giant monster movies. I have seen just about every Godzilla movie. My personal favorite Godzilla film has to be a tie between Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters and Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah. I’ve seen many Gamera films, and I absolutely adored Pacific Rim. I’m saying all this to explain why it hurts me that this comic misses the mark.

It seemed like, despite it being a part of the flood of crossovers from Marvel, that this should be an easy sell to me. My favorite super heroes fighting off a plague of giant kaiju-like monsters, this should be awesome. And it’s being written by one of my favorite writers, Cullen Bunn? And it’s being drawn by Steve McNiven (at least the first issue)? This should be such an easy success.

But it’s not. It’s not terrible either though. It’s just…there. I frankly struggled trying to search out the reasons why this comic just didn’t quite do it.

I was able to come up with a few. The first is that this is another in a long line of Marvel crossovers, as I’ve stated many times. As a result, the cities I’m watching be destroyed I’ve watched crumble multiple times in the past two months. That kills the stakes and tension a good bit, because I know they’ll be back up next week.

The other problem is that there is no story in this first issue. There really isn’t a plot. There is a premise, i.e. the monsters invading the world. There are sub-plots that barely get touched on, namely Elsa Bloodstone’s search for the origins, Moon Girl’s research, and Kei Kawade probably causing everything. However, there’s no main plot. This is a result of every major hero needing to be in this one issue apparently, and that means we don’t get to focus on any one or handful of characters.

The dialogue is oddly…retro in this comic too. There is a lot of exposition-heavy dialogue where characters say exactly what they’re doing in detail as they do it. Black Panther in particular shouts out his entire plan of attack as he executes said plan. It’s quite odd and seems out of place next to Nova, Spider-Man and Hulk arguing over whether or not what they are fighting qualifies as a kaiju since they aren’t in Japan.

McNiven’s art is great in this comic, and Curiel’s colors are deep and contrasting. The monster designs are awesome and creative. But even that is undercut by the fact that we don’t focus on any one of them for more than a few panels. This keeps them from being too memorable because there are just so many.

Also, there are some weird perspective moments where some characters look too big, some monsters and building look too small, and the scale of everything gets thrown off. This is particularly apparent in the Seattle scene with the Guardians of the Galaxy. Drax looks about 20 feet tall because he’s being shown next the Space Needle at an angle that makes him look like a significant fraction of its size.

There are a lot of really cool action scenes at least. They look great, and any one of them would make a good wallpaper on a phone or a desktop. Even that doesn’t have much impact because, again, they are all happening concurrently, and no one conflict seems that important. The stakes, drama, and tension just aren’t there.

Mediocre and meandering seem to be the best words to describe this comic. It doesn’t really have a plot, but the art is good and the fighting is cool. I can’t say avoid this comic. It’s a fun action romp, but it probably won’t stick with you for long. Hopefully, the next issue will improve things.

Final Score: 5/10

#2: Baron Helmut Zemo

#2: Baron Helmut Zemo

Art by Marko Djurdjevic

Son of Nazi Officer Baron Heinrich Zemo, Helmut Zemo was raised to believe in the Nazi ideology of his father. After Heinrich was accidentally killed in battle with the Avengers, Helmut took on the identity of the Phoenix and attacked Captain America. During the fight, he fell into a vat of chemicals that disfigured his face. Years later, he rose again working with the scientist Arnim Zola. He took on his father’s title and mask, becoming the 13th Baron Zemo!

His first scheme involved kidnapping a childhood friend of Steve Rogers’ named Arnold Roth as a means of luring the hero into a trap. He allied with fellow rogue Primus in addition to Arnim Zola and created an army of monstrous mutates to challenge the Sentinel of Liberty. Captain America was able to overcome the creatures and save his friend.

Helmut Zemo next cooperated with the Red Skull and his daughter Sinthea Schmidt, the latter of whom using the identity of Mother Superior. They once again took friends of Steve Rogers, this time Arnold Roth and David Cox, the latter of whom was brainwashed to fight Captain America. Zemo eventually turned on Mother Superior but was defeated by her telepathic capabilities.

The next notable ploy by Helmut Zemo was reuniting the Masters of Evil. With this team, he managed to overtake the Avengers Mansion and hold Edwin Jarvis, butler to Tony Stark, hostage. Though they were eventually defeated, this feat stood among one of the most harrowing assaults upon the Avengers.

Zemo met a woman named Heike, whom he married and took to Castle Zemo. The two, whom at the time still subscribed to Nazi ideology, kidnapped a number of children to consider for their own version of the Hitler Youth. They kept 25 of the kids, whom they adopted. The children were brainwashed and inducted into Nazism. Captain America and his then-ally Diamondback discovered the scheme and defeated the Zemos. Heike was never seen again, and the two presumably split up.

After the disappearance of the Avengers, Fantastic Four, and X-Men after defeating the creature, Onslaught, Baron Zemo organized his Masters of Evil once more. This time, he gave them alternate identities and organized the super hero team, the Thunderbolts, Zemo himself taking the identity of patriotic super hero, Citizen V. The initial plan was to earn the trust of the public and use the powers and information given to the Avengers to take over the world. However, a number of the members, specifically Atlas, Mach I, Songbird, and Moonstone, as well as new hero Jolt took to the idea of being super heroes. S.H.I.E.L.D learned the secret of the Thunderbolts after a time, and they exposed them to the world for who they were. Songbird, Moonstone, Jolt, Atlas, and Mach I turned on Zemo, only leaving Techno aka Fixer to side with him.

For a time, Zemo and Techno were able to use their security clearance as well as riots incited through mind-control technology to gain control of much of the world. The Fantastic Four and Avengers returned, and Zemo took control of them as well. However, his former teammates returned, freed the minds of the heroes, and Zemo was defeated. He and Techno escaped. He was later tracked down by another Citizen V, the heir to the original World War II hero, whom attempted to apprehend Zemo as well. He failed and Zemo escaped.

Zemo was next found by Scourge, a vigilante whom hunts down and kills supervillains, and was beheaded. His conscious was transferred to a computer and then, thanks to Techno, to the then-comatose body of Citizen V. He returned to his masquerade as the hero. He was granted leadership by the Commission for Superhuman Affairs over a team of super-powered agents known as the Redeemers.

The team was short-lived, as all but Zemo were killed by the immensely powerful rogue, Graviton. Zemo was forced to reunite the Thunderbolts, whom were disbanded, with former members Mach III, Songbird, Meteorite/Moonstone, and Fixer/Techno. They battled Graviton as well as an alien army using his gravitational energies as a portal. Graviton was killed, but he was able to close the portal. The V-Battalion, the allies of the man whom Zemo was impersonating, attempted to teleport Citizen V/Zemo away from the battle. This, along with resonant gravitational energies of Graviton, caused an anomaly that forced Zemo’s mind out of Citizen V and to the Tech-Pac of Fixer.

The explosion of the portal’s collapse could have killed the Thunderbolts, but Graviton sent them (with the exception of Songbird, whom was out of the blast radius) to Counter-Earth, the planet which the Avengers, Fantastic Four, and X-Men were exiled after their battle with Onslaught. Fixer and Zemo were able to find the Helmut Zemo of this Earth and place Zemo’s mind within his counterpart’s body. Helmut also found the Heinrich Zemo of this Earth and killed him.

He had plans to conquer the troubled Counter-Earth, but the remaining Thunderbolts wanted to help the world. He assisted them, interested in the potential outcomes of this venture.

A group of heroes called the Young Allies informed the Thunderbolts that a void within Counter-Earth caused by an alien spaceship was pulling it and the original article together, threatening to destroy both Earths. Zemo was ready to damn the original Earth, but the other Thunderbolts wanted to save both worlds. Zemo followed, but the deactivation of the void sent the Thunderbolts back to their original Earth.

They met up with Hawkeye and Songbird, whom had organized their own Thunderbolts team, and both teams shut down the side of the void that existed on their Earth. Hawkeye then granted Baron Zemo leadership over the Thunderbolts once more, trusting him to change. Zemo, however, had not changed. He still planned to use the Thunderbolts to achieve world domination.

He started a project known as “The Liberator,” a device designed to absorb supernatural energies from around the world. This plan was challenged by the Avengers, and the two teams did battle. Moonstone, her emotional state decaying due to the energies that gave her power, absorbed the energies of the Liberator, and both teams had to unite to stop her. Zemo took a blast from Moonstone, scarring the face of his new body. He grabbed onto the moonstones that gave Karla Sofen her powers and was teleported away.

Zemo later returned to the Thunderbolts after a period of absence. The team had disbanded and reformed once more in the interim, and he first made some moves from the shadows, causing a conflict with Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, whom had already been challenging the Thunderbolts. When he fully resurfaced, he led the team to aid Iron Man during the Superhero Civil War. The team helped round up unregistered heroes, and it was massively expanded when Zemo and Iron Man began recruiting more rogues to the cause through the use of nanite explosives.

However, a more pressing matter garnered Zemo’s attention. Wellsprings of energy were causing global disturbances, and he, with the power of the moonstones, had designs on harnessing this ability. This brought him into conflict with the extradimensional Squadron Supreme as well as the all-powerful Grandmaster. The Wellsprings began granting power to as well as driving mad much of Earth’s population. Zemo attempted to use the Thunderbolts’ new massive roster to contain the problem, and he used the alien Overmaster to keep the team in contact globally. He knew the Wellsprings needed to be sealed for the good of the world, but the Grandmaster wanted the energies for himself. Zemo eventually challenged Grandmaster to a battle of wills, both harnessing unfathomable energies. Zemo then destroyed the moonstones and removed power from both combatants. Used to the state of mortality, Zemo had the advantage and killed the Grandmaster with a luger. He was then teleported out by the discharging energies.

This led to Zemo travelling through time and experiencing portions of the lives of his ancestors. He manipulated various incidents to occur as they were historically written, leading to much self-examination. Each jump in time brought him closer to the present, and, upon the second-to-last travelling, he met his father during World War II. Hating Heinrich, Helmut attacked his father. This incident was the primary catalyst that caused Helmut to renounce the ideologies of Nazism. He was brought back to the present by a distant cousin named Volker, whom planned on killing Zemo. He talked Volker out of it and took him under his wing. However, Volker was never seen again after this.

After more time under the radar, Zemo next became active to defame the new Captain America, James Buchanan Barnes. He knew of the hero’s past as the Winter Soldier, and he knew that, if he exposed this information to the world, it would lead to Bucky’s downfall. He succeeded in doing this, and Bucky was taken into custody by America, then Russia.

He next decided to torment Hawkeye by sending the archer’s former tutor, Buck Chisholm aka Trick Shot to train Hawkeye’s brother, Barney, to become the new Trick Shot. Chisholm acquiesced, and Zemo orchestrated a bitter duel between the two Barton boys. Hawkeye won and was forced to arrest his brother. Zemo himself was not captured.

Zemo used his resources to become the ruler of Bagalia, a sort of “city of refuge” for the rogues of the world. He has set up a base of operations there and has used it as a headquarters during a number of his schemes.

Among those schemes was the harnessing of an Inhuman named Lucas. Lucas’ blood sterilizes human beings, and Zemo intended to use this to halt the breeding of those who would stand against him and create a “purer” world for himself to control. He organized a new iteration of Hydra to accomplish this goal.

This scheme was challenged by another new Captain America, this one being the former Falcon Sam Wilson. He and Nomad aka Ian Zola ultimately foiled this scheme and destroyed a bomb containing Lucas’ blood that Zemo had intent of launching. He next tried to spread the blood through infected fleas, but this was stopped as well.

He became a particularly unruly inmate at S.H.I.E.L.D’s Pleasant Hill prison facility, where a sentient Cosmic Cube named Kobik was used to brainwash the prisoners into becoming “productive” citizens. However, Fixer broke out of this control and reverted Zemo back to his original identity as well. The two staged a riot and were able to destroy Pleasant Hill. The Avengers showed up and rounded up many of the escaped rogues, but Zemo was able to escape with S.H.I.E.L.D. scientist Dr. Eric Selvig.

Zemo attempted to organize a new Masters of Evil, but this was halted by the returned Steve Rogers. In a more recent issue of Steve Rogers: Captain America, Zemo was supposedly killed. However, this seems unlikely, as Zemo has overcome death in the past. He will undoubtedly return soon with a new plan.

Baron Helmut Zemo is a driven man with vision. He has a familial past that he constantly grapples with, not knowing if he wants to live up to it or defy it. He has had complex perceptions of the world. He has many times shown a belief that he can genuinely make the world a better place. He has, for the most part, abandoned his Nazism and fascism, and he has even helped out the heroes at times.

The main thing that holds Zemo back from true greatness is his own narcissism and vindictiveness. He holds grudges against Captain America, the Avengers, Barnes, Wilson, and others. He does not take being defamed lightly, and this is what has led to many of his failures.

As an addendum, I will say more recent depictions of Zemo feel lackluster and reductive. He has been taken back to a more Nazi-like personality that feels inorganic, as Zemo had left this ideology behind for a time. To me, Zemo is more complex than that, and his hatred for his Nazi father pushes him to move away from this thinking. Rick Remender’s Captain America story with Zemo as well as Nick Spencer’s Pleasant Hill and Steve Rogers: Captain America series are the worst offenders in this regard, the latter of those making Zemo into a punchline.

Despite this and though Zemo is malicious and a megalomaniac, he is a man of great intellect and skill. He genuinely believes his rule is the best thing for the world. He is capable of cooperation and only wishes ill on those challenge him. These are the reasons why Baron Helmut Zemos is my second favorite Marvel Villain of all time.

#3: Thanos, the Mad Titan

#3: Thanos, the Mad Titan

Art by Alex Garner

An Eternal born with the Deviant Syndrome, Thanos was born with the gruesome appearance that would later appear in the nightmares of those that fear his name. He has gray and cragged skin covering a hulking physique. His childhood on his homeworld of Titan was depressive and tormented. He was mocked and ostracized for his gruesome visage. He quickly developed a fixation with death and augmentations to increase his already considerable power. As an adult, he committed his first great atrocity; he committed genocide upon his own people through a bombardment of nuclear devices. This is when he truly became Thanos, the Mad Titan and Avatar of Death.

This great monument to massacre attracted Lady Death, the physical incarnation of all that is no longer living. He fell in love with Death, and he decided to prove this affection by increasing his capabilities further. He pledged to kill more in her honor. He became a conqueror to accomplish this.

His first target was the neighboring planet, Earth. Having enlisted an army to his service, he launched an assault on the planet and seized a Cosmic Cube held by A.I.M. His conquest was challenged by the Avengers aided by Captain Mar-Vell. The Avengers turned back his fleet, but Thanos used the Cosmic Cube to become a god. However, he cast aside the Cube, believing it no longer necessary. Mar-Vell destroyed the Cube, and this reverted Thanos back to his previous state and launched him far from Earth. His lieutenants rescued him, but Lady Death found him wanting and abandoned him.

Thanos next set his site on the six Infinity Gems (at the time known as Soul Gems). He managed to gain the first five without much conflict, but the final one, ironically the Soul Gem itself, was possessed by the cosmic hero, Adam Warlock. This being had an opposing side known as Magus, whom was the head of a widespread religion and, Thanos knew, could pose a noteworthy threat to him. Having already obtained the Time Gem, he decided to travel back in time to sabotage the creation of the Magus.

This scheme involved the adopting and raising of the orphaned Gamora, turning her into an assassin. He also befriended Adam Warlock and warned him of the creation of the Magus. This halted the being’s creation, and Thanos was able to drain Warlock’s Soul Gem of its power and put it within a recreation of the artifact. He then set his plan in motion to blink out the stars themselves. Gamora turned on Thanos, and the Titan killed his adoptive daughter. He then killed Pip the Troll, a friend and ally to Adam Warlock. The cosmic hero then went to Earth and warned the Avengers and Captain Mar-Vell of the impending threat. Mar-Vell was able to destroy the device through which Thanos was able to control the Infinity Gems, and Warlock was killed in battle with the Mad Titan, his soul being locked inside the Soul Gem. Thanos next battled the Avengers and captured them. Spider-Man and the Thing of the Fantastic Four were able to save the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Spider-Man was able to free Adam Warlock from the Soul Gem, and Warlock turned Thanos into stone. Thanos was not dead, however, and the Titan was condemned to a state between life and death.

When Kree hero and protector of Earth, Captain Mar-Vell, succumbed to cancer due to a battle with Nitro the Exploding Man, it was his old rival Thanos that welcomed him to the realm of death to rest for eternity.

Death took pity on her former lover and freed him from this stone, and Thanos chose to not draw attention to himself until he was ready to conquer again. This opportunity came when he learned of the full capacity of the Infinity Gems (at this point he began calling them such) and acquired all six of them once more from six Elders of the Universe: the Gardener, the Runner, the Grandmaster, the Champion, the In-Betweener, and the Collector.

He next forged the Infinity Gauntlet, a glove capable of harnessing the immense cosmic energies of the Infinity Gems.

The Silver Surfer witnessed Thanos’ new god-like powers and escaped to Earth to warn its heroes of the apocalyptic threat at hand. Thanos, as a show of power and sign of commitment to Death, wiped out half of all life in the universe in a blink. The heroes of Earth as well as newly revived incarnations of Adam Warlock, Gamora, and Pip assembled to meet this threat. The Celestials and Elders saw this and feared what he could do next, and a coalition of beings of great power came to challenge them. Galactus, the Stranger, Love, Hate, Epoch, Chaos, and Order went to battle Thanos. The Mad Titan was able to vanquish all these foes, but Nebula, a former servant and relative of Thanos, wrested the Gauntlet away from him. She reversed his previous actions, and the Elders of the Universe as well as the heroes of Earth reentered the fight. Adam Warlock obtained the Gauntlet next and ended the fight.

After the conflict ended, Adam Warlock had sensed that Thanos was beginning to doubt his own actions and motivations. Believing the Titan capable of change, he made him a part of the Infinity Watch, a new alliance dedicated to protecting the Infinity Gems. Thanos was trusted with the Reality Gem.

Thanos, as a part of the Infinity Watch, learned that someone had incapacitated Eternity, the physical incarnation of time. With the aid of Adam Warlock, he learned that this act was perpetrated by the returned Magus, whom had obtained five Cosmic Cubes. Warlock took the fight to Magus, using the Infinity Gauntlet. Magus gained control of the Gauntlet, but Thanos had sabotaged him with a fake of the Reality Gem. Through this, Thanos and Warlock were able to bring him down.

Adam Warlock is a being of balance, and, where Magus represents unbound evil, a new aspect, the Goddess, represents unbound good. In a means of creating a perfect universe, she threatened all that is. Thanos and Adam Warlock knew that she must be defeated, and they united Earth’s heroes as well as Mephisto to stop her. They were able to destroy the Egg, the item which contained the five Cosmic Cubes which she was using to reshape the universe. Thanos was given credit for the feat, an act that earned him trust from the heroes of Earth.

Thanos was also instrumental in stopping a rampaging Thor where other heroes and Asgardians failed.

Thanos next targeted the archive of universal knowledge, the Oracle. He assembled a small group of Earth’s rogues to aid him in the task and abandoned them after achieving his goal. Becoming increasingly bored with his role in the Infinity Watch and resorting to his old tendencies, Thanos massacred an entire army of mercenaries and inquired the Oracle for an opponent that could match his strength. He entered a battle with Tyrant, the first herald of Galactus and won upon Tyrant’s retreat.

He next was informed by the Silver Surfer that Death was looking to court the Sentinel of the Spaceways. This insulted Thanos who promptly beat him to death with his surfboard. She still would not take him back, and Thanos resuscitated the Surfer in defiance. Angered, Death granted Thanos immortality, so that he would never be able to be with her.

Thanos was later trapped within a pocket dimension. He had a failed ploy involving the Plunderer, the brother of Ka-Zar, but this led him to still being trapped within the dimension. He also had a plan to make the Hulk his new body, but this was stopped by Nate Grey aka X-Man.

Later escaping, as he inevitably would, he began a search for an entity called the Designate. This venture would team him up with the beast called Mangog and lead him to conflict with Thor and Odin. He was almost able to initiate Ragnarok itself until the Designate cast him into hellfire and defeated him.

His next action was freeing Marlo Jones, wife of Rick Jones and companion of Captain Marvel Genis-Vell, ironically with the aid of Thor.

He next explained to Adam Warlock and Gamora that duplicates of himself known as the Thanosi had been unleashed and were uncontrollable even by himself. Apparently, his most recent exploits had been perpetrated by the Thanosi.

Thanos next became a subordinate of the extradimensional conqueror, Annihilus, essentially, as he would later explain to hero Moondragon, for the fun of it. Annihilus had initiated a massive takeover of the galaxy, and was showing signs of succeeding. When Nova and Drax the Destroyer showed up as part of a resistance movement against the creature, Thanos decided to aid them. However, Drax, a being designed to kill Thanos, couldn’t resist the chance to kill him. He put his hand in his chest and ripped out the Titan’s heart.

He was later resurrected by Nova and the Guardians of the Galaxy when an invasion from an alternate universe occurred. This alternate universe, dubbed the Cancerverse, was one in which Captain Mar-Vell performed an unholy ritual to banish Death when he was diagnosed with cancer. Consequentially, the universe was overpopulated and spilling out into our own. The Guardians needed his aid to bring Death back to the denizens of the Cancerverse. After killing Drax in a rage, he went into the Cancerverse as the Death’s Avatar and killed this Mar-Vell, reintroducing Death and collapsing the Cancerverse. Nova and Star-Lord, seeing this as an opportunity to remove Thanos from their universe forever, teamed up with a reconstituted Drax and tried to hold Thanos in the collapsing universe. Star-Lord and Drax were expelled by Nova, but Nova remained and died. All this was for nothing, however, as Thanos reentered our universe.

Thanos returned and attempted to conquer Earth with another Cosmic Cube. The Avengers and Guardians met him in conflict and managed to destroy the Cube which he used. The Elders of the Universe promptly defeated Thanos and condemned him to punishment.

There is a Deadpool story here that involves Thanos that I could talk about, but I won’t, because it’s inane.

When the Avengers left Earth to stop the destruction of their galaxy at the hand of the Builders, Thanos took the opportunity to invade Earth once again with an army and his elite Black Order. He had been on a rampage throughout the galaxy in search of his offspring, and he had one upon Earth with an Inhuman woman. The Illuminati attempted to slow his advance, and, eventually, the Avengers returned to meet Thanos. He defeated them handily, and he found his son, Thane. Thane, with ability to create living death, trapped Thanos within this state of living death and a block of amber. The Illuminati secretly stored away the body of Thanos.

Namor, after leaving the Illuminati, started a new alliance, dubbed the Cabal. He freed Thanos and Black Order members Proxima Midnight and Corvus Glade and invited them to join his Cabal united in fighting the Incursions that had been causing the destruction of entire universes. The Cabal handled these incursions with the detonation of colliding Earths. They invaded and laid waste to Wakanda to establish their headquarters. They also had a tendency to commit genocide on the other Earth’s population. This last detail Namor had qualms with, and he betrayed the Cabal to the Illuminati, leaving them upon a colliding Earth. Black Panther, still hating Namor for the destruction of his country, stabbed him and left him to the dying Earth. They found a means of going to the Ultimates Earth and joined up with this Earth’s Reed Richards, the Maker.

With the Final Incursion between Earth 616 (our Earth) and Earth 1610 (the Ultimates Earth) approaching, the Cabal entered a suspended animation aboard a “life raft” and awoke on Battleworld, a planet created and ruled by the God-King Doctor Doom. They instigated an uprising against this ruler along with some survivors of the previous Earth. Thanos coaxed a giant incarnation of the Thing, whom was the infrastructure of a wall separating Doom’s capital city from the Deadlands, desolate landscape inhabited by Ultron drones and the Marvel Zombies, to rebel against Doom. Thanos himself challenged Doom and was promptly killed by his god-like powers.

When Doom was defeated and the multiverse was reconstructed, Thanos was reformed outside of Infinity itself. He fell in love with the nothingness outside all that is. The Ultimates, a team of Earth’s heroes dedicated to tackling the big threats in the universe, escaped Infinity to get a view of it. They were brought back in by Galactus the Lifebringer through a rift. Thanos was able to drift back in through the rift and decided he would bring this nothingness to the universe.

He began a new search for the Cosmic Cubes, and this led him back to Earth, where Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S was attempting to construct their own Cosmic Cube. He attacked the facility and was met by the Ultimates, A-Force, and War Machine. They were warned of his invasion by the new Inhuman, Ulysses, whom has precognitive abilities. Thanos killed War Machine during the fight and was finally brought down.

He was incarcerated by the Ultimates at their headquarters, the Triskellion. While the Ultimates have begun to fall to strife, the Mad Titan telepathically contacted a fellow inmate, the Anti-Man, an antimatter being with nigh-infinite power. He convinces the Anti-Man to break out of his cell, which shuts down power to the Triskellion. Thanos is now free once more and has a world with heroes fighting one another to rampage upon.

Marvel has announced a new solo series for Thanos that is scheduled to be released later this year. I will most assuredly read it and review it here, as I absolutely love Thanos.

Thanos is a maniacal warlord who also has great wit and intelligence. His motivations are constantly shifting and realigning. He is not immune to the weathering effects of time, and he has been blessed with good writers whom have given the Mad Titan a fascinating story arc over the years. He is a nihilistic warmonger, but she also has her soft spots. He is in love with his Lady Death, and he possesses some level of respect for his greatest rivals, such as Adam Warlock and Captain Mar-Vell.

He is also deliciously sinister and arrogant. He is capable of performing great speeches dedicated to his love of death. His reputation precedes him, even from the perspective of the reader. When he shows up, you, as the reader, know that big and bad things are about to go down. People are going to die, planets are going to be ravaged, and things are going to be exciting.

He is a monstrous being with destructive wrath and big emotions, and this is what makes Thanos my third favorite Marvel Villain of all time.

#4: Victor von Doom, Doctor Doom

#4: Victor von Doom, Doctor Doom

Art by Gabrielle Dell’otto

Apologies for the lateness of this post. I was feeling a bit unwell earlier today. But, if it’s any consolation, this may be my longest character entry yet.

Victor von Doom was a Latverian-born Romani. His mother and father both died while he was young. His mother was killed and taken to the underworld in a botched deal with the demonic entity, Mephisto. His father froze to death when the two attempted to escape the fallout from the demonic fraternization. Knowing the cause of his mother’s demise, Victor took to both science and magic in the hopes of finding a way to rescue his mother’s soul.

Victor von Doom would eventually move to the United States, and he was offered a scholarship at State University, a school also attended by Reed Richards, Susan Storm, and Ben Grimm. He became close friends with Reed Richards and became romantically interested in Sue Storm.

One day, Victor began developing a high-tech machine on campus (it was later revealed to be a means of astrally projecting himself into Mephisto’s Realm). Reed attempted to help and noticed a flaw in the calculations, and he tried to correct them. Victor shirked this advice and became angry with Reed for doubting his intellect. Upon activation, the machine detonated and scarred Victor’s face. Victor blamed the accident on Reed and grew to hate the man. Victor was promptly expelled from State University for the dangerous experiment.

He left the United States and travelled the world. He eventually went to Tibet where he was given his notorious armor suit. He returned to his homeland of Latveria and usurped the throne of its ruler. He became the self-proclaimed king of the nation, though he does love its people dearly. However, he began using the resources at the nation’s disposal to put even more ambitious schemes in motion. He also began manufacturing and army of robots known as Doombots that bore the visage of his mask. At this moment, he truly became Doctor Doom.

His first foray that led to clashing with the Fantastic Four was a kidnapping of Sue Storm aka the Invisible Woman. He used this kidnapping as leverage over the remaining three to use his Time Platform, a time machine, to go to the past and retrieve a pair of magic artifacts known as the Merlin Stones.

His second siege against the FF was a collaboration with Namor, one of the few men to earn Doom’s respect. Doom was shrunken during this venture, and he used the resources of a realm called Sub-Atomica to besiege the Fantastic Four with shrink rays. The Fantastic Four sought the aid of Ant-Man, and the five heroes were able to defeat Doom and halt his schemes. Doom and Namor have collaborated in many occassions since this first meeting.

He next enlisted an army of super villains to assault the wedding of Reed Richards and Susan Storm, as he still held a flame for Susan and hated that Richards was her lover.

Another notable clash came when he was able to seize the Power Cosmic from the Silver Surfer. He used these powers to finally defeat the Fantastic Four, and he began to travel the universe with the being’s surfboard. He eventually returned to Earth, and Galactus regained the power from Doom and returned it to the Surfer.

Doctor Doom was among the rogues taken to Battleworld by the Beyonder to participate in his Secret Wars. He took lead of the group of villains that had arrived there with him, and he eventually seized the god-like powers of the Beyonder himself. He created a throne for himself on Battleworld, and he repeatedly defeated the heroes that stood against him, almost destroying them. However, the Beyonder collaborated with the heroes and used the sonic being, the Klaw, to regain his powers from Doom.

After being returned to Earth, Doom initiated another ploy for world domination. This time, he kidnapped the Purple Man and locked him within a device called the Psycho-Prism. This device not only gave Doom the mind-controlling powers of Killgrave, but they also allowed him to broadcast his commands worldwide. He became the Emperor of Earth itself. The planet entered an era of prosperity and peace. However, the cost was being subject to Doom’s control. Wonder Man, an Avenger with an ionic body that gave him immunity to the control, freed a number of other Avengers and led a coalition to Doom’s throne city of Doomstadt. Doctor Doom, exasperated with the revolt and frustrated with the hero’s dissatisfaction with his progress, allowed them to destroy the Psycho-Prism.

With the cooperation of Doctor Strange, Doom initiated a plan to finally free his mother from Mephisto. This plan involved damning Strange to take the place of his mother. Upon learning of this, Cynthia von Doom became infuriated with her son for subjecting anyone else to the torment of Mephisto’s realm. This anger made her morally pure, and she was expelled from the realm. Strange was able to escape the bargain, as Cynthia technically escaped of her own volition.

At some point around these events, Doom was overthrown and he returned to Latveria sometime after the fact. He found a mother and son whom he began to care for. The mother was killed by law enforcement of the current ruler, a man named Zorba Fortunov. Doom took in the orphaned boy, whom would become the man Kristoff von Doom. He would later be reprogrammed by Doombots to believe that he was Doctor Doom himself and rule Latveria at another point of Doom’s absence, though his identity is later restored.

Doom was among the individuals whom were sucked into Onslaught’s dimension upon the being’s defeat. While the others escaped at the first opportunity, Doom remained behind and conquered this Counter-Earth. He was eventually able to move the planet from the pocket dimension in which it originated to our universe. However, he was soon overthrown. Doom returned to his native Earth, and the Counter-Earth was replaced within the pocket dimension.

After aiding in the complicated birth of the second child of Reed and Susan Richards in Reed’s absence, Doom was able to name the new child. He named her Valeria, after an old and lost love. However, true to his scheming nature, this naming initiated a series of events that allowed for a demonic pact that involved the ritual sacrificing of the Valeria whom Doom loved. This allowed him access to a demonic suit that granted him sorcerous powers beyond anything he could previously conjure.

With these newfound powers, Doom ensnares Doctor Strange, sends Franklin Richards, the firstborn son of Reed and Sue, to Hell itself, and depowers the Fantastic Four. He begins tormenting Ben, Johnny, and Sue while forcing Richards to watch from within Doom’s magical library. He believed that Richards, a man of science, would not be able to understand the magic necessary to escape or save his family. Richards proves this theory wrong and saves Doctor Strange as well as his family. Richards then attempts to seal Doom and himself within a pocket dimension away from the rest of humanity. This was undone when the remaining FF members tried to save Reed, and the subsequent battle sent Doom to Hell.

During his absence, Prime Minister Lucia von Bardas took over as leader of Latveria.

The magical resonance of Ragnarok and Mjolnir falling to Earth allowed Doom to free himself from Hell. He retook his throne in Latveria and attempted to wield the hammer. However, he found that it still judged him unworthy.

During the Super Hero Civil War, Doom attempted to court Wakanda with an alliance. However, Black Panther and his then-wife Storm turned down the offer. Then, seeing the desperate state of Atlantis, offered to make Latveria into a refuge for Atlanteans, making Namor indebted to him. He also cooperated with Loki and freed a number of Asgardian rogues from their cells.

He clashed with the Initiative’s Mighty Avengers team next when he returned to the past in an attempt to receive mystical tutelage from Morgana Le Fey. He was defeated by the team and properly arrested for the first time. This was short-lived, as he was subsequently freed and kidnapped by a coalition of heroes from the future known as the Fantastic Force. He was freed by the Fantastic Four of the present. However, he made a point of killing the Sue Storm of the Fantastic Force, as he felt defamed by the kidnapping.

When Norman Osborn rose to power in the shadow of the Secret Invasion of the Skrulls and the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D, he formed a secret council of powerful individuals called the Cabal. Doctor Doom and Namor were among the people on the council, though neither respected Osborn or expected his authority to last.

Despite this, Osborn and his Dark Avengers came to the rescue of Doom when Morgana Le Fey came to the present to exact vengeance on Doom. He had broken their bargain when he was arrested by the Avengers, as she wanted him to become her romantic partner in exchange for the teachings (which is, honestly, a very odd and kind of dumb bargain). After being rescued, Doom sent Morgana back to the past once more, but he gained no respect for Osborn for the aid. He still viewed him as a destructive madman.

His mystical teacher, a being known as the Marquis of Death, returned shortly after this adventure. He was angry with Doom for his failures and crushed him in battle. He sent Doom back to the prehistoric era to wither and die. He then challenged the Fantastic Four himself, but even he was defeated by the team. His apprentice, revealed to be a returned Doom killed the Marquis in his weakened state.

With Asgard reconstituted as a floating city in Broxton, Oklahoma, Loki began sending Asgardians to Latveria as another place of refuge. Doom took these Asgardians and began performing grotesque experiments on their physiology. Thor found out about this and was enraged with Doom. Thor attacked Doom, and Doom unleashed a new iteration of the Destroyer Armor, a suit notoriously capable of standing against even the superhuman Asgardians. The suit was impervious to Thor’s attacks, and he showed Thor that he was capable of defeating him. However, the suit ran out of power, and Doom beat a retreat before Thor could retaliate.

Doom revisited Osborn’s Cabal and told Osborn that he was no longer going to partake in his paltry and self-destructive schemes. Osborn attempted to kill Doom, but Doom had sent a Doombot in his place, wisely not trusting Osborn.

Experimenting with Wakandan Vibranium, Doom learned how to use its absorptive nature to grant himself even greater power. Wanting to exploit this further, he set his sights on Wakanda and its cache of Vibranium. He went to the country and broke into the vault that contained the nation’s supply of the metal. The power was within his reach, but Black Panther activated a fail-safe that made all Vibranium within its area of effect inert. This stopped Doom’s plot, but it also ravaged Wakanda’s economy, which was based around the metal’s value.

Magneto enlisted the aid of the Young Avengers and went in search of Wanda Maximoff, daughter of Magneto and former Avenger known as Scarlet Witch. The search led them to Latveria, where Wanda was an amnesiac and married to Doom. The Young Avengers were able to save her by taking her and travelling back in time. This restored her memories, and they learned that Doom had somehow increased her reality manipulating powers in the past, which led to her previous instability and the chaos that was the Avengers Disassembling and M-Day. Upon their return to the present, Doom seized Scarlet Witch’s powers and attempted to bargain with the Young Avengers. He resurrected Cassie Lang, aka Stature’s, father, Scott Lang, the previous Ant-Man whom Wanda killed during her initial rampage years before. He showed his hand by subsequently killing Cassie. A battle ensued between Doom and the Young Avengers, Avengers, and X-Men. Doom’s new powers overloaded and he lost them. He then escaped once more.

Doom was captured by the Leader, M.O.D.O.K, and their Intellegencia, a group of super intelligent rogues. Years before, Doom had betrayed the group, and the Leader was interested in revenge. He also had the intention of removing other individuals of comparable intelligence from the Earth. As such, he and his group kidnapped the eight most intelligent people on Earth, among them being Victor von Doom, and lobotomized them. While the intelligence of the other eight were restored, Doom’s was not. He was not vegetative, but he was no longer a genius. Due to this, he appointed Kristoff von Doom to rule in Latveria in his stead.

After the death of the Human Torch, Doom offered to join up with the new incarnation of the Fantastic Four, the Future Foundation. However, he only did so on the condition that Richards restore his intellect. His first collaboration with the team was an operation set against a cabal of Reed Richards’ from alternate universes. He was kidnapped by “Reed-Alpha,” the leader and founder of this “Council of Reeds,” and taken to Latveria. There, they along with the Future Foundation rebuilt the connection to the other multiverses known as “the Bridge,” and they were attacked by the Mad Celestials, god-like beings from across the multiverse. “Reed-Alpha” and Doom battled the Mad Celestials, and Doom was blasted unconscious.

He awoke at the former interdimensional headquarters of the Council of Reeds with a number of lobotomized Victor von Dooms from the dimensions of the Council of Reeds. Valeria Richards had placed him there, and she also gifted him with two Infinity Gauntlets from other dimensions. Here, he created the Parliament of Doom, restoring the intelligence of the other Doctor Dooms and collaborating with them. He restored his own intellect as well, and he went back to Latveria to rule once more.

Still wanting to rule but understanding that the heroes would always stand against him, he traveled to the home universe of one of the two Gauntlets, a post-apocalyptic place, and restored it. He became its new ruler, marrying magic and science to create fantastic technology. However, this universe would revolt against him as well. Mr. Fantastic and Valeria travelled to this place and saved Doom once more.

Doom had his first experience with both the Incursions and the Illuminati when another Earth appeared in the sky above Latveria. A group called the Mapmakers were attempting to expand onto this Earth through the Incursion. However, the other Earth was detonated by the Illuminati. Doom contacted Richards and demanded an explanation, but Richards denied it to him and told him to never contact him about these events again.

When the Red Onslaught was born, Latveria was not excluded from the chaos that was caused. However, after the rioting started, Doom, Valeria, and Loki were able to protect Latveria from the Red Onslaught’s telepathic attack. Doom then teamed up with Magneto and partook on the assault on Red Onslaught. He and Scarlet Witch performed the spell that caused the moral inversion of heroes and villains. Having been changed himself, he returned to Latveria and used Scarlet Witch’s powers to resurrect Cassie Lang, whom he had killed. When Scarlet Witch attacked him, he fled and found a way to resurrect Doctor Voodoo. Voodoo’s ghost brother, Daniel Drumm, possessed Scarlet Witch, and he and Doom were able to reverse the morality of the heroes and the villains to their natural state.

Returning his attention to the Incursions, he and Owen Reece, the Molecule Man, began traversing the multiverse to determine the origin. Upon killing the Molecule Man of an alternate universe and observing the decay of said universe, Reece’s memory was activated. The Beyonders had created Molecule Men in every universe to work as universal bombs, intending to eventually kill all of reality. However, if Doom and Reece could preemptively kill those Molecule Men, they could possibly stave off the destruction of the reality in which that Molecule Man dwelled. Doom and Reece spent eight years on this crusade and created a cult around Doom called the Black Swans to further spread this mission throughout the multiverse. Eventually, Doom met up with Doctor Strange, and they and Reece killed the Beyonders.

With the Final Incursion between the Ultimate Earth and the “regular” Earth from which Doom originated, Doom used the powers he seized from the Beyonders to create a single Earth built from the remains of dozens. He called it Battleworld, and he was their ruler. He made this Earth so that he was married to Susan Storm, and Franklin and Valeria were his children. He had a group of Barons that served under him, among them were Mister Sinister, Madeline Pryor, Captain Britain, the Maestro, and others. His police force were the Thors, many individuals gifted with variations of Mjolnir. This world was in constant conflict with itself, and, to make matters worse, a “life raft” arrived from Earth 616 (our Earth), and Mister Fantastic, Black Panther, and other heroes were on board. Furthermore, a new Cabal consisting Thanos, Maximus the Mad, a rogue Black Swan, Namor, and other dangerous individuals arrived. They incited chaos, and Richards had a final confrontation with Doom where Reece removed access to the Beyonders’ powers from both combatants. Mr. Fantastic won this, seized the power of the Beyonders, and recreated some of the multiverse. He also restored Doom’s face, something Victor himself couldn’t manage with the Beyonders’ powers this time.

Now, the Richards are using Franklin’s powers and Valeria’s intelligence to recreate the remainder of the multiverse from an unrevealed vantage point. Doom is back on Earth with his restored face, and he, by all accounts, is attempting to make a change. He has most recently been collaborating with Iron Man and helped him stop a rampage perpetrated by a magically empowered Madame Masque.

Later this year, Marvel is going to release a Doom-centric title called Infamous Iron Man. You can rest assured that I will read and review it here, given my love for Victor von Doom.

Doctor Doom is a complex man. He wants power, but he has only shown visions of a thriving world, not just one bending its knee to him. That being said, he is a rabid narcissist, and he does want people to admire him. He is capable of great affection, shown in his past commitment to Susan Storm and Valeria. He has also shown great ruthlessness, as he did when he brutally killed Cassie Lang in front of her newly resurrected father.

Above all else, however, he loves Latveria, and he will do anything for his people short of stepping down as ruler. Even when they have rebelled, he has done all he can for his people. In Latveria, you can see a microcosm of what Doctor Doom has in mind for the world. He will do anything he can to help it, but he does want to rule it. His often-flawed judgement and arrogance are what makes this problematic.

Where I love Absorbing Man and the Wrecking Crew for their simplicity, I love Doctor Doom for his complexity. He is a multi-faceted and well-designed character layered by the years of storytelling around him. He is an antagonist and perpetrated some pretty horrific acts, but calling him simply a villain feels quite reductive. He is a man of ambition, vision, and great emotion, and this is what makes Doctor Doom my fourth favorite Marvel Villain of all time.

Doctor Doom’s Debut as the Infamous Iron Man

#9: The Wrecking Crew

#9: The Wrecking Crew

Art by Scott Kolins

Dirk Garthwaite was a burglar given powers through a crowbar enchanted by the Asgardian Loki. When he lost his powers, he tried to reclaim them by taking back the crowbar. Upon grabbing it, a lightning bolt struck the weapon while he was surrounded by three other men. This bolt gave Garthwaite his powers back, along with granting powers to Dr. Elliot Franklin, Sergeant Henry Camp, and farm worker Brian Calusky. Garthwaite and his crowbar became powered, and he became the Wrecker. Franklin took a wrecking ball and became Thunderball. Camp became Bulldozer, and Calusky became Piledriver. The four men became a team incarnation of catastrophe and took the name, Wrecking Crew!

So, I’m sort of cheating here by counting four guys for my Number 9. In my defense, it would be really hard talking about any one of these guys individually. They rarely work apart, and there’s not much to say about any one of these characters individually with the exception of maybe the Wrecker and Thunderball. These two have often been at odds, as Thunderball has always believed himself to be better suited for the leadership position due to his intelligence. Thunderball has often also had a softer heart and been more sympathetic than his comrades, and this has led to him interfering with some of the Crew’s ventures.

Their first effort as a team was to reclaim a gamma bomb that Thunderball had a hand in creating years before when he was a physicist. This quest led them to level a number of buildings owned by Richmond Enterprises and, more specifically, Kyle Richmond aka Nighthawk, then a member of the Defenders. They were met by the Defenders and Power Man, whom halted their rampage. Dr. Bruce Banner disarmed the gamma bomb.

The Wrecking Crew were put in separate prisons, but the Puppet Master, an old foe of the Fantastic Four, freed the Wrecker and used mystical clay to force Garthwaite into fighting the FF. The Wrecker was defeated by the Fantastic Four and was imprisoned once more. He escaped and freed his comrades from their prisons.

Their next effort was to defeat Thor, then a member of the Avengers, in an attempt to build validity as genuinely dangerous criminals. They were intercepted by Iron Fist and Misty Knight, the latter of whom they took hostage. They blackmailed Iron Fist into infiltrating the mansion on their behalf. Fist was met by Captain America, and the two cooperated to defeat the Crew and save Misty Knight. The Wrecking Crew was promptly put in prison.

The Wrecking Crew were among the rogues brought to Battleworld by the Beyonder to take part in his Secret Wars.

Upon their return to Earth, they joined up with Baron Helmut Zemo’s incarnation of the Masters of Evil. They divided the Avengers and attacked the mansion, taking loyal Avengers butler Edwin Jarvis hostage. The Avengers were able to reunite and defeat the Masters and the Crew.

After a run-in with Spider Woman, they were imprisoned in the Vault. They staged a riot and took the employees of Damage Control, an organization dedicated to cleaning up after super powered battles, hostage. Thunderball, whom had worked with Damage Control in the past, convinced the rest of the Crew to let them go. Captain America promptly arrived and put the Wrecking Crew away once more.

The Wrecking Crew’s next big scheme involved another hostage situation. This time, a police force known as Code: Blue goes to resolve it. The British super hero team known as Excalibur also go after the Crew, believing they may be able to lead them to the Juggernaut. Loki, Enchantress, and Ulik the Troll also arrive on the scene, as they have business with the Wrecker. This leads Thor to the scene as well. Magic from the Asgardian rogues causes Excalibur to perceive Thor as the Juggernaut. This causes a massive battle between Excalibur, the Wrecking Crew, Thor, and Code: Blue. Lockheed, the small dragon pet of Shadowcat (a member of Excalibur at the time), discovers Enchantress and Ulik, whom flee. The illusion on Thor dissipates as a result. Code: Blue captures the Wrecker, and the rest of the Crew also escape.

In attempt to free their leader, the remaining members of the Wrecking Crew are met by Ghost Rider and Mephisto. The Wrecker becomes determined to bring down the Rider and Mephisto. Loki arrives on the scene once more, and he brings Thor’s involvement. Loki reclaims the Asgardian energy from all members of the Wrecking Crew, with the exception of the Wrecker himself, whom the Trickster God kidnaps. The team later regains their powers, though how they did this was never explained.

The Wrecker later returns, and his team is scattered. His first priority is to take revenge on Thunderball for his constant challenges to his leadership. This brings him to Yancy Street, where brings down the apartment building in which Elliot is hiding. This brings the Thing to the scene, and he easily dispatches the Wrecker. S.H.I.E.L.D puts the Wrecker and the rest of the Crew are put away in the Cage, another superhuman prison.

They manage to escape, only to be beaten by the Thing once again, this time being incarcerated in the Big House, a small prison designed by Hank Pym using his Pym Particles.

After another escape, the Wrecking Crew move to Los Angeles with Piledriver’s son, “Excavator”, whom now has the super strength and invulnerability of the Wrecking Crew’s members. Here, they are challenged by the Runaways, a group of young super heroes. They attempt to recruit Excavator, but he stays loyal to his father and the Crew. This led to another defeat of the Wrecking Crew.

They were sent to the Raft, a New York-based super hero prison. There was a massive breakout staged by Electro. The Wrecking Crew, with the exception of the Wrecker, were able to escape. The remaining members joined up with the Hood’s gang, whom recruited a massive conglomerate of less successful super villains. The Wrecker was able to escape later and join them.

The Wrecking Crew later did battle with Excalibur once again as well as Omega Flight, a Canada-based super hero team. They also had run-ins with the New Avengers as a part of the Hood’s gang, the Punisher, Daredevil, Captain America, and the Enforcers. They even managed a defeat of the New Avengers thanks to the chemical weapons of Chemistro, another member of the Hood’s gang. The worked for the Hood for some time, staying through Iron Man’s Initiative movement and Norman Osborn’s Dark Reign.

They partook in the Siege on Asgard orchestrated by Norman Osborn, where the team fell to in-fighting due to Thunderball’s sympathy for the Asgardians. The Hood’s gang was finally captured here, and the Crew was arrested along with the rest of the group.

They, along with Titania, Whirlwind, and the Absorbing Man were recruited by a villain called Lightmaster to steal technology from Alchemax, and they were met by Spider-Man (then inhabited by the mind of Otto Octavius) and his Superior Six, which consisted of the members of Octavius’ Sinister Six. They were defeated, but they remained with the Masters of Evil for a time. They were on the team when it went against the Secret Avengers.

They were hired by Mister Sinister to obtain the Adamantium-covered body of the deceased Wolverine.

Thunderball recently joined up with the Hood’s new incarnation of the Illuminati, but the team has experienced trouble with in-fighting. The team was a part of Baron Zemo’s revolt against the Pleasant Hill prison, and they escaped during the uprising.

I like the Wrecking Crew much for the same reasons as I like the Absorbing Man. They’re essentially big, dumb thugs who don’t really have many aspirations beyond thieving and self-serving. They’re not the most interesting rogues in the world, but they’re still a lot of fun whenever they take the scene. The in-fighting between Thunderball and the rest of the team gives them it something of an interesting character dynamic, but I’m still primarily interested in them for the reliable henchmen that they are. This is what places the Wrecking Crew at Number 9 of my Top Ten Favorite Marvel Villains.

 

#1: Bucky Barnes, the Winter Soldier

#1: Bucky Barnes, the Winter Soldier

Art by Lee Bermejo and Gabrielle Dell’otto

Orphaned and raised at Camp Lehigh, young Bucky Barnes became something of a mascot for the soldiers at this camp. He walked into the tent of a young soldier named Steve Rogers. He saw this soldier changing into the uniform of Captain America, and Steve trusted Bucky to keep this secret. Bucky became the partner of Captain America, and he fought alongside him throughout his many missions in World War II. Hebattled against enemies such as the Red Skull, Baron Strucker, and Baron Zemo. Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes became the best of friends. He even joined the Invaders alongside Captain America, Namor, the Human Torch, and Toro.

Towards the end of the war, Captain America and Bucky went on a mission to halt a missile launch from a base controlled by Baron Zemo. The two were unable to stop the launch, and they climbed onto the missile as it lifted off. They were able to force an in-air detonation. Captain America was able to leap from the missile before it exploded, but Bucky’s arm was caught. He couldn’t get away from the missile. Both were considered dead for some time.

However, Bucky’s body was found by Soviet soldiers. Knowing of Bucky’s skill and prowess as a soldier, they reprogrammed him in their Red Room (the same program used to train the Black Widow) to become their assassin, the Winter Soldier. He had lost an arm in the missile’s blast, and they replaced it with a super hard and strong bionic limb. He ran many missions for the Soviets, having a high kill count. He worked alongside another covert agent, the Black Widow, on many occasions.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, he was passed around the underworld until he came into the hands of the CEO of Kronas Oil Corporation, a man named Alexander Lukin. Under Lukin, he committed a pair of particularly notable assassinations. The first was the killing of Jack Monroe aka Nomad. The second was the killing of Johann Schmidt aka the Red Skull.

It was around the time of these assassinations that S.H.I.E.L.D began to track him. When he bombed an A.I.M instillation in Philadelphia, he came face-to-face with his old partner, Captain America. Despite the mask and arm, Steve Rogers immediately recognized him. However, Bucky did not remember him or recognize his own name when Steve called it.

While on the trail of a Cosmic Cube held by Lukin, Captain America and the Falcon ran into the Winter Soldier at a former Soviet base. After a fierce battle, Captain America used the Cosmic Cube to restore Bucky’s memories. This caused Bucky to have a breakdown, and he destroyed the Cosmic Cube and escaped.

When a Sleeper, one of Red Skull’s “scorched earth” protocol giant robots, awakened in London, Captain America, Union Jack, and Spitfire were on the frontlines of stopping the machine. Bucky showed up there, and he began to work with Captain America once more.

Shortly after, the Super Hero Civil War broke out, and Bucky worked for Captain America in the shadows, even connecting the Young Avengers. At the end of the war, when Steve Rogers was assassinated, Bucky took up the mantle of Captain America.

As Captain America, he partnered up with the Falcon and battled Baron Helmut Zemo and the now-insane 1950’s Captain America. He also aided the Avengers in their battle against the Skrulls during the Secret Invasion. He joined up with Luke Cage’s underground New Avengers and helped them fight off the Dark Reign of Norman Osborn. He even started a serious romance with Black Widow.

Steve was resurrected by, ironically, his old foe, the Red Skull. Once Steve was liberated from the Skull’s control, Bucky offered his old friend back the mantle of Captain America. Steve turned down the shield and encouraged Bucky to continue his work as Captain America.

Bucky and Steve helped the Avengers fend of Osborn’s Siege against Asgard. Steve then became the new Director of S.H.I.E.L.D, and Bucky joined up with the headlining Avengers team.

From the shadows, Helmut Zemo was continuing to plot against Barnes, and he revealed his former identity as the Winter Soldier to the public. This led to him being tried in U.S. court. He was acquitted, but he was then taken by the Russians and put into a gulag without trial. He was able to escape, but he had to become a fugitive.

When Sin, Daughter of the Red Skull, brought the Asgardian God of Fear to Earth, Bucky took up the shield once more. He took the fight to Sin herself, but she brutally beat him with the power of her own Asgardian hammer. This left Bucky on the brink of death, and he was saved by a dose of Nick Fury’s Infinity Formula. Still a fugitive, he went back underground as the Winter Soldier, working alongside Black Widow and S.H.I.E.L.D Agent Jasper Sitwell.

He began to work at locating and apprehending the other Soviet agents whom were put in deep freeze along with himself. During this operation, he found a conspiracy involving Lucia von Bardas and the Red Ghost. He brought them down. While on the trail of the final agent Leo Novokov, Black Widow was captured and reprogrammed by Novokov. With the help of Daredevil, Wolverine, and Hawkeye, he was able to liberate her and arrest Novokov. However, the process to deprogram Black Widow caused her to forget her memories of Bucky. This ended their relationship. After this, he was ordered to capture an immensely powerful Soviet agent named Tesla Tarasova. However, fter discovering her intent and past, he let her walk free.

He briefly worked with a new iteration of the Invaders organized by Steve Rogers, Namor, and Jim Hammond aka the Torch. They were able to halt a potential invasion of Earth by the Kree Pursuer known as Tanalth.

After the Watcher was discovered to be murdered, Bucky was among the heroes organized by Nick Fury to investigate. He became suspect of Fury quickly, and he was instrumental in discovering that Fury was the one to kill the Watcher. He also uncovered Fury’s secret operations as the “Man on the Wall.” He had preemptively ended many alien threats before they ever approached Earth. Bucky took over this role after Fury was made into the new Watcher of Earth.

Bucky, alongside Quake, began to dismantle many extraterrestrial threats to Earth. He ran amuck of Loki, and he was led to Mer-Z-Bow. This planet was inhabited by a psychically linked race, and Bucky fell in love with their queen, Ventolin. He and Quake were tracked by a Crossbones from an alternate universe as well as an older Bucky from the same universe. This led to a conflict that ended in the older Bucky and the other Crossbones returning to their own universe.

Bucky eventually returned to Earth after discovering traces of another Cosmic Cube on Earth. He discovered that it was held by S.H.I.E.L.D, and they were using it in their new prison, Pleasant Hill. He helped to uncover this operation, and he worked with Steve, Sam Wilson, and the Avengers to bring down the prison as well as halt a riot led by its inmates.

Bucky escaped Pleasant Hill with the Cosmic Cube, then in the form of a little girl named Kobik. He recruited Mach X, Atlas, Moonstone, and Fixer to help him protect Kobik. They became the newest iteration of the Thunderbolts, and they work to help uncover the corruption of S.H.I.E.L.D as well as continue to protect Earth from extraterrestrial threats. This is where Bucky Barnes is in the present day.

Bucky Barnes could be considered a failed super hero. He was corrupted by the Soviets, his tenure as Captain America was tumultuous at best, and he continues to actively rebel against law enforcement. However, all these show how thoroughly committed Bucky Barnes is to leaving a positive impact in the world. He wants to make up for what he was forced to do in the past, and those memories haunt him to this day.

He is frankly quite anti-social, and has never been close to other heroes other than Steve, Sam, Namor, and Toro. He is in constant emotional turmoil from his anger with the state of the world, his guilt over his work as the Winter Soldier, and his desperation to do something good. He’s aware of how many people perceive him, and it would be a lie to say these things do not eat at him. However, he weathers these judgments and continues to do what he thinks is best for himself and others. His retaking of the name, the Winter Soldier, shows how he is owning up to his past, and he wants to do what he can to fix what he’s done. He’ll never stop fighting corruption and malice, and he’ll do anything to make his friends proud of him.  These qualities are what makes him my absolute favorite Marvel Super Hero of all time.

 

Further Adventures of the Winter Soldier:

A Discussion of Standoff: Assault on Pleasant Hill

Thunderbolts #1

Thunderbolts #2

Thunderbolts #3

 

#2: Luke Cage, Power Man: The Unbreakable Man

#2: Luke Cage, Power Man: The Unbreakable Man

Art by Mike Deodato Jr.

Young Carl Lucas struggled to survive in his hometown of Harlem. To try to make ends meet for himself and his family, he started running with gangs. Despite committing numerous crimes, he was never willing to cross the line of murder. However, he was framed for a killing was arrested. As a means of getting let out early, he signed up for an experiment that Seagate Prison was conducting on its inmates. The experiment went wrong, but Carl Lucas emerged with super strength and unbreakable skin. He escaped and changed his name, becoming Luke Cage, the Power Man!

Still needing a means to live, Luke Cage set up a Hero for Hire business in New York. People would pay him when they were in trouble, and Luke would take care of that trouble.

In his earliest cases as a Hero for Hire, Power Man took down rogues such as Black Mariah, Gideon Mace, and Cottonmouth (not the Serpent Society one, a different Cottonmouth). He was even hired by Doctor Doom himself to dispose of rogue Doombots running around New York. However, Doom skipped town before paying his debt (no joke). Power Man then borrowed a jet from the Fantastic Four to go to Latveria, and he (still not joking) beat the tar out of Doctor Doom until he paid his $200 debt. I love comic books.

He joined up with the Defenders for some time, and he was also asked to replace the Thing on the Fantastic Four on a short stint.

Luke Cage met up with another hero named Iron Fist while pursuing a case against a villain called Bushmaster (again, not the Bushmaster that is on the Serpent Society). After teaming up to bring down the criminal, Power Man and Iron Fist united to become the greatest partnership in comic books. Period. End. Stop. Hands down. They are the best dynamic duo.

The two became Heroes for Hire together. They also befriended fellow New York super heroes Spider-Man, Daredevil, and the Daughters of the Dragon.

Luke Cage and Danny Rand fought villains like Scimitar, the Plunderer, and Constrictor. They took to being small-time heroes, only fighting threats that involved their home turf. They left the world-class villains to the likes of the Avengers and the Fantastic Four.

After some time working together, Iron Fist was apparently killed, and Luke Cage was blamed for the death. He escaped to Chicago. After he was absolved of the crime, he started a new Hero for Hire business in the Windy City and began going by Cage. He worked with the Chicago Spectator and brought down villains like the Rhino, Nitro the Exploding Man, and Hardcore. He even ran across Dr. Noah Burstein, the man who gave Cage his powers, creating more Power Men. He also found out his father, whom Luke believed had died while he was in prison, was still alive and living with Luke’s brother.

He also discovered Iron Fist was still alive, and, after some time alone, Luke and Danny restarted the Heroes for Hire business. The two expanded the organization and worked under Namor’s Oracle Incorporated. They enlisted Ant-Man, Hercules, White Tiger, and She-Hulk for the team. They were one of the only lines of defense when the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, and the X-Men were brought into Counter Earth after battling the creature Onslaught.

Luke was also asked to join a team organized by Moon Knight called the Marvel Knights. However, the team quickly crumbled.

He began a romantic relationship with P.I Jessica Jones. After some time, Luke discovered that Jessica was pregnant with his child. The two would later marry, and they are still together in current comic books.

After the Avengers crumbled, Luke Cage was one of the heroes that responded when the Raft prison of super criminals busted open. He was offered a membership in a New Avengers team started by Captain America and Iron Man for this act, and he accepted.

Luke Cage was also a number of heroes recruited by Nick Fury to partake in a stealth strike against Latverian Prime Minister Lucia von Bardas. The battle became a disaster, and there was massive collateral damage. Nick Fury wiped the memory of the event from the heroes’ minds, worrying they would go public with it.

When the Superhuman Registration Act was passed, Luke Cage was one of the first heroes to support Captain America’s fight against registration. He worked as Cap’s second-in-command throughout the conflict. When Captain America surrendered and was killed, Luke started an underground New Avengers team to fight against Iron Man’s Initiative as well as continuing to fight crime. He held the team together against the Hood’s army of criminals and assaults by Ms. Marvel’s Mighty Avengers.

He led the team through the Skrulls’ Secret Invasion of Earth and Norman Osborn’s Dark Reign. Luke was briefly turned over to Osborn when his heart began developing problems and the New Avengers couldn’t treat him. His heart was healed, but Osborn manipulated him into working with his covert Thunderbolts team. However, he and Iron Fist were able to escape before long.

When Registration was repealed and Steve Rogers became the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D, Luke Cage was able to continue to lead his New Avengers as a public team.

He continued to with the team through further threats, such as Norman Osborn’s return with a new Dark Avengers, the Asgardian God of Fear’s assault on Earth, and the Avengers’ war with the X-Men.

He was also tasked by Steve Rogers to lead his own Thunderbolts team stationed out of the Raft. He brought the gang of ex-villains into line, and they were instrumental in stopping the Juggernaut from destroying Chicago when he was controlled by a hammer given to him by the Asgardian God of Fear.

When the Avengers restructured after the war with the X-Men, Luke brought things back to basics and established a new Mighty Avengers team. He kept the membership small and responded to help through a hotline. They helped stop the extradimensional Beyond Corporation and the otherworldly demon called Shuma-Gorath.

When a villain called Midas used an eye of the murdered Watcher, Uatu, to awaken dormant memories in many heroes, Luke discovered that his father had actually worked with heroes before Luke was born. His father worked with a small-time Avengers-like team with the vampire hunter Blade and the sorcerer Kaluu, both of whom were working with Luke on his Mighty Avengers team at that point.

After the Secret Wars event, Luke took a break from the hero business. However, after he and Iron Fist were asked to help their former secretary Jenny Royce, the two restarted the Heroes for Hire business once again, and that is what Luke and Danny are doing to this day.

Luke Cage is a hero with one of the most fascinating character arcs in comics, turning from angry mercenary, to strong partner, to even angrier mercenary, to Avenger and father. He started off as an archetypal tough guy and has become a responsible and caring husband, father, and leader. He can still play the tough guy, and, when pushing the right buttons, you can get the angry Luke Cage out again.

He’s a very layered character and isn’t restricted to one mode of behavior like many A-List super heroes. He’s allowed to be happy, he’s allowed to be angry, and he’s allowed to have a sense of humor. He’s also the epitome of an ever-man super hero. He has troubles making ends meet, he has a family that he has to help support, and he has a best friend whom he tries to work with as much as possible.

Luke Cage is an engaging, relatable, and very endearing hero. He has a will of iron and a heart of gold. He will fight to the bitter end to protect those he loves, and he won’t refuse to kick someone’s ass for threatening those people. These are the reasons that Luke Cage, Power Man has made it to the Number Two slot of my Top 10 Favorite Marvel Heroes.

Further Adventures of Luke Cage:

Slightly More Retro Review #6: Luke Cage: Second Chances

Power Man and Iron Fist #4