Monday, June 3, 2013
THE ULTIMATE SUPER-VILLAINS Part One - August 1996
To the Victor
Written by Richard Lee Byers
Summary: Kang uses his fortieth century technology to kill New York’s heroes and rule the Earth. Baron Mordo, Cobra, and the Abomination volunteer to act as his governors and help Kang defeat the other villains that challenge his rule. Years later, Baron Mordo double-crosses the weary Kang and allows Dormammu to invade the Earth. Kang travels back to the day he detonated a bomb in New York, and with the aid of his reluctant adviser Bruce Banner, stops his younger self. Having averted that reality from existing, Kang fades away.
Continuity Notes: Kang invades during the early days of the Marvel Universe, when Namor is still considered a villain and before Galactus visited Earth.
I Love the '90s: Kang’s rule in the present day is referred to repeatedly as “the 20th century.” I don’t know how Byers could’ve avoided this, but surely someone noticed that this reference would’ve been outdated in just a few years.
Review: Years before Kurt Busiek will pen an extensive “Kang rules the world” storyline in Avengers, horror and fantasy writer Richard Lee Byers opens this anthology with a similar theme. The story also predates Mark Waid’s treatise on a supervillain actually conquering the world in Empire, so he was clearly on to something. The story’s hook is that Kang is simply unqualified to rule the world, as if any one person could dictate everything from flood relief in Central America to food distribution in the Sahara to a resolution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Kang’s also at a disadvantage because the only people willing to serve him as lieutenants are scum like Cobra and the Abomination. Byers creates an interesting dynamic between Bruce Banner and Kang at the end of the story, and manages to keep a nice balance between drama and humor up until the end. Kang’s realization that he’d rather be the aggressor over the defender sums up his character pretty well, and as a character study for a villain I’ve never cared about very much, this actually works as a decent opener for the anthology.
Connect the Dots
Written by Adam-Troy Castro
Summary: Magneto and Xavier independently travel to Sunset Falls to recruit a young mutant named Joshua. Joshua, a boy with mental problems obsessed with “connections,” possesses the ability to merge humans and objects together, creating gestalt creatures. After Joshua merges Magneto and Xavier together, they’re forced to defend themselves from the massive monster of merged townspeople, and Joshua, who’s absorbed a portion of their powers. With Xavier’s help, Magneto focuses on his childhood memory of being buried underneath his dead family and uses it to inspire the townspeople to free themselves. The psychic backlash leaves Joshua comatose. Later, Xavier and Magneto part as enemies, but with a new understanding of each other.
Continuity Notes: Magneto’s memory of Nazis killing his family, leaving Magneto fighting to free himself at the bottom of the pile, was dramatized in Uncanny X-Men #274.
I Love the '90s: More references to the story taking place in the twentieth century, this time the “closing half” and “final days.”
Review: While not as weighty as the Chris Claremont material that inspired it, this is still a worthy addition to the pantheon of Xavier/Magneto stories. Knowing that this was published simultaneously with Marvel’s sad efforts to make Magneto a genocidal maniac, followed by an amnesiac teenager, just irritates me. There’s so much that could be done with Magneto following Claremont’s framework, but instead he was squandered for over a decade as fodder for holographic event comics and inane mysteries with no real resolution. Castro is able to cut right to the core of the character, drawing upon his life of sadness and guilt, while also acknowledging his transparent efforts to justify his cruel acts as necessary for the defense of mutantkind. The only person Joshua can find that Magneto shares any connection with is Xavier, who has his own issues, but they’re not as inherently interesting as the damaged goods Magneto’s been saddled with. It's likely the best Xavier and Magneto story from this era, even if an inordinate amount of time is spent on the rather absurd villain of the piece.
Written by Michael Jan Friedman
Summary: Loki secretly follows Thor as he rescues people from a tenement fire. He watches as Thor falls for the trap set by Hrok of the Surtursons, who boasts that he will torture Thor for all eternity. Loki uses his magics to defeat Hrok, without Thor’s knowledge. As Thor flies away, Loki reflects that only he will have the privilege of defeating his stepbrother.
Review: This is a decent character story on Loki, the twist being that after an extensive monologue about his hatred for his brother, he ends up saving him from the story’s true villain. Personally, I think Loki’s more entertaining when he has some level of affection for Thor (the initial Thor movie handled this well, I thought), as opposed to Friedman’s premise that he’s saving Thor because he doesn’t want anyone else to have the bragging rights. Regardless, it’s a solid read that’s easily accessible for anyone scared away by the faux-Shakespeare interpretation of the characters from the comics of this era.