#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.

 

Top 10 Marvel Heroes: Honorable Mentions

Top 10 Marvel Heroes: Honorable Mentions

Cover Image by Leinil Yu

Black Panther, T’Challa: I’ve praised this character to great lengths in my reviews, and those comments still stand. Easily one of the most fascinating comic book characters of all time, the King of Wakanda is a genius, determined, and spiteful character who has been made into a deliciously morally ambiguous character in recent years. He wants the best for his people and the world at large until they cross him. Then he is the worst enemy you could ever make.

Art by John Romita Jr.

 

Spider Woman, Jessica Drew: A private investigator, an Avenger, and now a mom, Jessica Drew is a character who is thoroughly charming through her enjoyably ill nature. She is fairly anti-social and very much not a people person. The only heroes she has really connected to are Captain Marvel, Hawkeye, and Luke Cage. She is an interesting study in how a misanthropic individual can still have the drive to help others. She has also been made into one of the most relatable heroes of recent years.

Art by Javier Rodriguez

Ant-Man, Scott Lang: A deadbeat dad who thieved his way into being a hero, Scott Lang is another very approachable character. He is one whose life has essentially been one failure after another, but he still became an Avenger. He’s never stopped striving to be better, and he has (almost literally) gone to hell and back for his daughter, Cassie. He’s aware of his flaws, but he does his best to overcome them for the betterment of those he cares about as well as people at large.

Art by Mark Brooks

The Hulk, Bruce Banner: A literal embodiment of man struggling against his savage nature, this Avenger really can be discussed as multiple characters. This is true through the existence of multiple identities within Banner, but it’s also true through the broad and interesting character arc that this character has gone through over the years. Banner has been an optimistic humanist, a bitter cynic, and an outright hero. As Banner has gone through these various phases, the Hulk has changed with him. He’s been a mindless savage, a furious warlord, and even Banner himself. He has been shot to other planets, hunted by heroes and the military, and the savior of the planet. The Hulk and Banner are simultaneously empathetic and aspirational characters, and they are among the most intriguing Marvel characters to read about.

Art by Adi Granov

 

Further Adventures of Black Panther:

Black Panther #1 and #2

Black Panther #5

The Ultimates #7

Further Adventures of Ant-Man

Ant-Man #8

Further Adventures of Spider Woman

Spider Woman #9

 

Civil War II #3

Civil War II #3

I really wish this series worked for me.

Brian Michael Bendis (W), David Marquez (A), Olivier Coipel (A), Justin Ponsor (C)

Cover by: Marko Djurdjevic

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Price: $4.99

And we’re back. I know I said that I wasn’t going to keep going with this series, but impulse buys and curiosity are two very strong forces. So, here we are.

You know, I was all on board with All-New, All-Different Marvel when it was first announced. I know many people weren’t, and Marvel was catching a lot of flak when they were showing the new titles and teams. I loved it. A new Avengers team being launched under Mark Waid, Ultimates and New Avengers by Al Ewing, Nick Spencer on Captain America: Sam Wilson, and new Thunderbolts, Black Panther, and Power Man and Iron Fist series, the last of which being penned by the great David Walker? Sign me up. Plus, Astonishing Ant-Man and Spider Woman are keeping their creative teams? I couldn’t have been happier.

Then this new Civil War story was announced, nakedly cashing in on the movie and trying to make lightning strike twice with the modern classic that was Mark Millar’s Civil War. Yeah, I was suspicious. Plus, it had me uneasy because I like it when comics get into a rhythm and get a status quo going. It’s one of the reasons I like shared universe comics. They have an interesting and continuous flow to them.

Now we have this “Divided We Stand,” Marvel Now and Again or whatever they’re calling it. This gave me a “glass pane shattering” moment. It hit me that Marvel really doesn’t like having a status quo. They feel like if they don’t stay in constant motion, continue swapping around creative teams, and consistently shake up the shared universe that their entire Rube Goldberg machine is going to spontaneously combust. I don’t know what the big meetings between Quesada, Alonso, Buckley, Fine, and the rest of the higher ups are like, but I picture a lot of espresso and Red Bull.

People (myself included) have been critical of the full-scale reboots that DC has every decade or so. The irony of that is, DC is good at getting a status quo going. They like to let things run their course (New 52 B-List titles not withstanding) and don’t force every book to tie-in with every big crossover that comes up. They don’t even have that many crossover events. The only reason Rebirth has happened so soon (relatively speaking) after the launch of the New 52 is because the ship was sinking, and they desperately needed to do something to patch the hull.

In contrast, Marvel has only had one full blown reboot in its 75 years of existence, but they can’t seem to allow a status quo since the early 2000s. Every year or so there is a major crossover event that “changes everything” or another iteration of “Marvel Now.”

I know this is starting to sound like an editorial, and it really is in a lot of ways. I may extend these thoughts to their own article. I may not. This little diatribe currently contains all the thoughts I have on the subject. We’ll see.

From here I’m going to throw down two things. First, I’m going to go ahead and say that I actually liked this issue. It was interesting, and it had a nice flow to it. Secondly, a major spoiler warning is needed here. This comic cannot be properly discussed without speaking on the major events that occurred within its pages.

Last chance to jump off. No? Okay, here we go.

So Clint Barton aka Hawkeye has killed Bruce Banner aka the Hulk. He killed him dead, putting an arrow through his eye. Carol Danvers and Tony Stark are drawing lines in the sand. Barton is getting put away for murder (probably). He claims that Banner’s eyes were going green, and he reveals that he was instructed by Bruce to kill him if he ever looks to be Hulking out again. Plus, he and everyone else were on edge because of the vision that Ulysses showed them last issue, where Hulk is shown killing the Avengers. The issue ends with the verdict on Barton’s trial being read and Stark finally finding out how Ulysses’ powers work.

I’ve decided something. This series should really be a self-contained graphic novel that isn’t necessarily in-continuity with the regular Marvel slate of comics. It would solve a lot of the problems I have with this series. The pacing issues wouldn’t be as big a deal because I would be reading all of the story at once anyway. All the “out of character” moments that keep bugging me wouldn’t be because I could take it as read that these aren’t exactly the same characters to which I’m accustomed.

Explaining why this comic works is pretty simple. It’s a good story on its own. This could have been a one-shot called “Death of the Hulk” and it would have worked just as well, if not better. The tension is heavy. You know something is going to go terribly wrong. It’s only a matter of when and how. You can understand where most of the characters are coming from, even if they all still seem a little…off.

The pacing is still a little weird. Banner dies pretty early on in the comic. The book seems more interested in telling the story of Barton’s trial than the death of Bruce Banner. That’s unfortunate, because the trial seems a little cliché and forced. It’s a lot less interesting than the scene outside Banner’s laboratory.

I don’t understand why this story wants to keep Steve Rogers relegated to the background. He’s not one to stay as silent as he’s been in this series. It seems so odd for his personality. The only time he speaks seems to be for the exclusive purpose of reminding the audience that he’s present.

Forced really is the best word to describe this series. The characters seem forced to be in their positions and commit their actions. It seems like Bendis had this idea planned out with different characters, and someone forced him to use these heroes instead. There’s a scene where Kamala Khan, Miles Morales, and Sam Alexander start choosing sides that’s forcing you to remember that this is a civil war and the heroes are choosing sides. The ending is a massive cliffhanger designed to force you to buy the next issue.

That being said, I can actually buy Banner trusting Hawkeye to kill him, and I can buy Barton being so unnerved by these events that he would actually do it. That bit actually really works for me, and it’s the glue that holds this book together.

I can’t say I’m really ingrained in rooting for either side yet. Both Captain Marvel and Iron Man seem to be thinking in extremes. Ulysses is a potential boon that can be used without prematurely executing or incarcerating both friends and enemies. Danvers and Stark are so far on either side of the fence that it’s hard to empathize with either one.

I’m going to do the expected thing compare it to the original Civil War. That conflict centered around a government mandated, yes or no choice. Choosing either side had believable rewards and consequences for this fictional society as a whole. I easily bought that Captain America and Iron Man made the choices that they made. I could intuit their reasons for each action. Maybe super powered humans should be held more in check, but should they be forced to give up their privacy and become soldiers for an unstable government? That’s an intriguing decision, and it’s completely binary. There is no middle ground, so Rogers and Stark never really seemed irrational by picking their sides. It was a genius yet obvious storytelling decision that prevented much of the audience from choosing neither. Neither is the worst response a series like this could get from the general audience. Most readers, myself included, could firmly plant themselves behind a faction in the first Civil War (Captain America for me, in case anyone was wondering).

In Civil War II, the story wants you to choose a side, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. They both seem extremist, so I’m inclined to choose neither.

Again, this issue does work. It’s well-written, and, once again, Marquez and Ponsor have put together a comic that is gorgeous to look at.

However, as I wrote this review, I did find myself finding more negatives than positives. Those negatives were more attributed to the series as a whole than this specific issue, but this issue is a part of the machine that is Civil War II. It seems foolish to look at it as anything else.

If you’ve liked the series so far, I can see why. There are some interesting parts to it, and it’s far from the worst crossover I’ve ever read. Keep reading it if you’ve liked it. If you haven’t, this issue is interesting, but I can’t say with full confidence that it’s worth your money.

I really wish I could like this series more. I feel like there was a draft of this that was brilliant, but, somewhere down the line, it was bungled.

Final Score: 6/10

Civil War II #0

Civil War II #1

Civil War II #2