The Warriors continue their battle against Mr. Sinister, offered up by the creative team of Mathew Rosenberg, Javier Garrón, Will Robinson and Israel Silva.
The last issue ended in a rather terrifying cliffhanger as it was revealed that the Inhuman children Sinister and The Dark Beast abducted had been transformed into living bombs. The boy the Warriors had returned home was detonated… The Warriors were able to escape thanks to Magik’s teleportation powers, but we have to assume the kid and his family were all killed. And two other kids also detonated, likely killing themselves and their families as well. Which is freaking horrifying! Furthermore, it has all resulted in the Secret Warriors being suspected terrorists sought out by the authorities…
The investigators have tracked the children back to the secret laboratory The Dark Best had used. There, the authorities found all sorts of scientific equipment – all of which could be traced back to the Ennilux Corporation, a conglomerate founded, led and staffed by Inhumans. This has left Ennilux looking extremely suspect and the local police in Venice converge on the Ennilux headquarters to make arrests, seize assets and investigate its involvement. And all of this had been in accordance to Karnak’s plan.
Ennilux had made the equipment that Sinister and the Dark Beast used and Karnak made sure that the authorities could track it back to them. Furthermore, Karnak has arranged an intricate plan of asset re-allocation hiding the majority of the company’s corporate holdings. Backed into a corner, Ahura, the current chief executive officer of Ennilux, is forced to go along with Karnak’s plan, authorizing the remainder of the assets to be transferred into the dummy fronts and extra-jurisdictional banks. Karnak promises that doing so will act to save the company.
Which it does. Unfortunately for Ahura and the others, Karnak’s plan did not make allowances for the company’s employees and all of them are arrested… except for Karnak whom it would appear has arranged things so that he has complete control over Ennilux.
Meanwhile, back on New Attilan, The Warriors are recovering from the terrible ordeal of the kid they had saved blowing up. Led by Iso, the forces of New Attilan has succeeded in rounding up the remainder of the children Sinister had abducted and now have them in healing pods to ensure their safety and undo whatever it was that had done to make them into bombs. Iso chides the Warriors for their poor decisions, suggesting that it would have been wiser to have the kids checked out before sending them home.
Many of The Inhumans of New Attilan do not appear to be too happy with the Secret Warriors. The Warriors had led the charge to liberate New Attilan at the end of the Secret Empire ordeal, but now their actions have left The Inhumans suspects in a string of terrorist bombings. On top of that, Naja and Grid are still quite bitter toward Inferno for his abandoning them at the beginning of the Secret Empire takeover.
Magik doesn’t have much interest in the affairs of The Inhumans, but she still feels responsible in that The Dark Beast had escaped custody on her watch. She’s committed to making things right by ensuring that both the Beast and Mr. Sinister face justice for their terrible acts. To this end, Magik gathers up Inferno and the two teleport to Venice to try to confront Karnak… also she ‘accidentally’ take the television remote with her…
The two don’t find Karnak in Venice but do encounter Ahura, who is in the midst of allowing Karnak to transfer holdings in the effort to save the company (he doesn’t yet realize that Karnak is going to betray him). A quick skirmish arises between Ahura, Inferno and Magik when Ahura refuses them access to Karnak. The Italian police are closing in and Magik and Inferno realize they are not going to get the answers they seek. As they leave, however, Ahura does offer Inferno a clue, noting that Mr. Sinister may be found at a specific abandoned Shield facility in the states.
The two return to New Attilan where they are once more admonished by Iso. Inferno has had enough and storms off. Ms. Marvel is concerned for him and wants to go talk with him, but Quake dissuades her, suggesting that Inferno just needs time to cool off.
Some time later, Ms. Marvel brings lunch to Inferno’s quarters. She discovers that Quake is there and that the two had just had a role in the hey. Ms. Marvel is kind of heartbroken and leaves in a huff. Inferno is a bit confused by this and Quake explains that Ms. Marvel has had a bit of a crush on him and is likely jealous and saddened to see that he has hooked up with Quake instead.
Quake then proceeds to make it very clear to Inferno that their getting together was merely a hook-up and not anything more. She’s rather harsh in making this clear, so harsh that it appears Quake may be overcompensating – preventing herself from getting close to someone for fear of losing them the way she has lost so many others she has been close to in the past. Of course this goes right over Inferno’s head and he is left hurt and angry by it all.
Meanwhile, Moon Girl reveals that this whole time she has left Karnak’s son, Leer, in the care of her pal, Devil Dinosaur… who it turns out is the best babysitter ever.
With Magik’s aide, Moon Girl recovers Leer and Devil D, bringing them both back to New Attilan.
Still stewing over Quake’s comments, Inferno comes out to say hello to Leer. Leer feels partially responsible for Sinister having abdusted Inferno’s niece, Ariella. Of course none of this is Leer’s fault, but he feels that had Sinister been able to utilize Leer’s genome to unlock the secrets of Terrigenesis then Sinister would not need Ariella as a bargaining chip and none of this would have happened.
Inferno tries to convince Leer not to blame himself. Leer explains that what Sinister truly needs to fulfill his goal is a sample of Terrigen, the crystalline substance that triggers transformation in Inhumans. Furthermore, Leer recounts a riddle his father used to tell him about how the Inhumans would bow before Terrigen when they knelt before the royal throne.
It’s not a particularly difficult riddle and even Inferno is able to figure it out. In short, a Terrigen Crystal has been hidden inside the Throne of Attilan. Desperate to save his niece, Inferno makes the rash decision to obtain the crystal, steal a ship and head to Sinister’s secret lair, hoping that he might trade the crystal in exchange for his nieces’ freedom. And it is with this gamble that the issue comes to a close, to be continued with the next installment.
Although substantially lower in the action department, this is another thrilling installment of Secret Warriors, with lots of plot twists, some terrific laughs and a great deal of fun and interesting character development.
All that has unfolded has been an intricate chess match between Karnak and Sinister with everyone else, from the Warriors to Ahura, Leer and Ariella, even the Dark Beast, made to be mere chess pieces, pawns, knights and rooks. What the end game is, how the final gambit resolves is yet to be seen. And once more I’m left at the end of the issue very much looking forward to the next one.
As deduced by Moon Girl, Karnak’s goal is the recreation of a means for Terrigenesis… a way to offer his people a new future. Apparently to achieve this goal Karnak has needed to steal the Enillux Corporation and all its holdings, leaving poor Ahura to twist. One would think that with his psychic abilities Ahura might have foreseen Karnak’s betrayal. As it stands, it looks as though Ahura is out at Ennilux.
Mr. Sinister’s goal, as we learn from Leer, is to unlock the secrets of Terrigenesis. Sinister’s purpose has always been the advancement of the Mutant genome and perhaps he is hoping that there might be something in the mutagenic properties of Terrigen that will further facilitate Mutant evolution.
Whatever the case, Leer may be much more like his father than he lets on. He plays up being all innocent and naive, but I’m starting to suspect that he may be as much a manipulator as his father. He all but spells out to Inferno what it is that Sinister wants and how Inferno can get it to him.
Anyways, let get into the juiciest part of the issue… Daisy and Dante totally hook up! Wha!?!
Wow, that was fast (figuratively and literally). Nine issues of rather subtle hints the two were into one another and them *boom* before you know the two have knocked the preverbal boots. Must admit I did not see that coming (ahem).
Daisy is rather forward in letting Dante know that their getting together was simply a means of stress-relief and not to read more into it. Daisy’s being so harsh with him leaves me feeling that she is actually trying to protect herself.
Everyone who Daisy has cared for has been taken away from her, and the prospect of being in a romantic relationship is likely very daunting to her. Understandably, she doesn’t want to get hurt again so she keeps a distance by pushing Dante away. Of course this is not how the mind nor heart actually works, but people often act irrationally when trying to protect themselves from emotional hardship.
Unfortunately, Dante is an impulsive guy who doesn’t always think things through. Daisy’s efforts to protect herself are kind of overt, but it flies over Dante’s head and he just reacts to base insult of feeling rejected. Which is understandable… Dante’s in a pretty anxious place. He is so worried about his niece that it’s difficult for him to be mindful of the bigger picture. And this also helps to explain how he could be so dense over why seeing him together with Daisy might be hurtful for Kamala.
My fellow Ms. Marvel fans are likely to object to the idea that Kamala could have had a crush on Dante. Kamala doesn’t want to date anyone. She’s rather traditional in her attitudes toward romance, seeing it as something that should be waited on. Yet that doesn’t preclude her from having passing fancies on cute boys. She’s crushed pretty heavily on Kamran, and Kareem after that. Tall dark and handsome is definitely her type and Dante very much fits the bill. Of course he’s too old for her and I doubt Kamala had any real interest in the two getting together, but that certainly doesn’t stop her from feeling hurt when seeing he has been with someone else… especially when that someone else is Daisy, someone who has very much been Kamala’s opposite in terms of attitudes and values. That must really sting.
I’m kind of a sucker for these soap opera style tropes. Matt Rosenberg has such a great feel for these character and knack for dialogue. It all becomes fun, funny and totally engrossing.
Not to be outdone by the writing, Javier Garrón’s illustration continues to impress. The action scenes at the Enniulx headquarters are especially cool. And I love the wall art Enilux has chosen to hang up in their foyer. ‘Hey, you know what would really bring the room alive… a big ol’ group portrait of The Celestials.’ This is a great touch.
Garrón’s use of exaggerated facial contortions to relay emotion and add punchlines to the jokes just kills me. I didn’t think Daisy’s look of exasperation toward Kamala in the previous issue could be topped, but Lunella’s reaction to Daisy and Dante’s hook-up is just priceless.
Once again, I’m totally looking forward to the next issue and another terrific job by Rosenberg, Garrón and company. Highly recommended. Four and a half out of five Lockjaws.
The sinister machinations continue in this latest installment of the Secret Warriors, from the creative team of Mathew Rosenberg, Javier Garrón, Wil Robinson and Israel Silva.
The last issue saw The Warriors in pursuit of The Dark Beast, the evil Mutant who had abducted Inferno’s niece. They were aided in the mission by the former X-Man, Magik. By way of Magik’s ability to teleport, The Warriors were able to follow leads and eventually track down The Dark Beast’s liar, where they battled a horde of his patchwork monsters. The monsters were defeated and though the Warriors did not find Dante’s niece, they did locate a large number of abducted children fastened into strange stasis chambers.
This issue opens up with the team finishing up the task of returning these various children to their homes. Once more, Magik’s power of teleportation proves invaluable as she, Quake and Ms. Marvel crisscross the country, returning the children to their parents. Ms. Marvel keeps insisting on specifying that they weren’t the ones who abducted the children in the first place; which annoys Quake to no end in that it inadvertently makes them seem guilty.
Also, none of the children vomit after Magik’s jarring process of teleportation, which annoys Dante to no end because he always had and has a running bet with Quake that at least one of these kids will puke.
Back at the Beast’s former laboratory, Moon Girl has been studying what The Beast had been up to. She hasn’t found any leads regarding the location of Dante’s niece, but has discovered that each of the children the Beast had abducted were latent Inhumans whose Inhuman genes have yet to be triggered into bloom via Terrigenesis.
The narrative then shifts to the Ennilux Corporation headquarters where young Ahura is conducting a board meeting. Karnak enters the meeting asking for an allocation of funds; and in so doing outs one of the trustees who has been embezzling money from the corporation.
Having once more proved his worth, Karnak again requests funding for a side project he has cooking. What exactly Karnak is up to remains a mystery (for now).
Back in Florida, Magik, Quake and Ms. Marvel return to the Beast lab from reuniting more of the abducted children with their families only to discover that The Dark Beast has returned with his monstrous forces and have captured Inferno and Moon Girl. The Beast had tried out Quake’s ‘advanced interrogation’ methods (re: torture) on Inferno sans the questioning… in short, he beat the kid to a pulp.
A fight ensues. Magik frees Moon Girl who in turn frees Inferno and the team takes on the Beast and his monsters. The Warriors are tired and outmatched and soon bested by the Beast’s forces. The Beast manages to get the drop on Quake, clutching her around the neck with his massive paw and suggesting that Quake would not have the time to use her powers before he chokes the life out of her.
The fight ends when Mr. Sinister enters onto the scene and orders The Beast and his monsters to stand down. Sinister is also able to get the Warriors to stand down by presenting Dante’s infant niece and commenting that a super powered battle is not exactly safe for babies.
Also, we finally get to learn the name of Dante’s niece… it’s Ariela. That’s a nice name 🙂
Sinister introduces himself to the Warriors, presenting himself as a man of science and discovery who actually has no bone to pick with these heroes as long as they allow him to continue his work. He promises not to harm young Ariela if the Warriors can convince Karnak to allow Sinister to finish the project the two had started many months ago.
Ms. Marvel claims the Warriors have nothing to do with Karnak, yet the Dark Beast suggests that Moon Girl knows exactly what Sinister is referring to. Moon Girl has secretly remained in communication with Karnak and hence has the means to reach out to him and relay Mr. Sinister’s demands. With that, the villains take their leave. Inferno chases after them desperate to get his niece back, but they have disappeared.
In the wake of all this, the team turns to Moon Girl, demanding explanations. Off the bat, Lunella doesn’t care for her teammate’s sanctimonious tones. Each of them have done unscrupulous things, none of them are innocent. She then goes on to explain that she has continued to maintain contact with Karnak because what he is seeking to achieve is a worthwhile endeavor. She states that Karnak is attempting to obtain a new method of Terrigenesis, a way of offering the doomed Inhuman race a new future.
The team then contacts Karnak over the video conference application on Moon Girl’s laptop. Karnak admits that he had helped Sinister in his research because they shared a mutual goal, yet Karnak had cut of his assistance over a disagreement with Sinister’s methodology.
Inferno is livid. He introduces Karnak to one of the kids Sinister had abducted; he states that first the team is going to finish returning these kids home and then they are coming for Karnak and force him to make things right and get Inferno’s niece back.
The call ends and Karnak ponders for a moment the situation. Then he makes an interesting decision. Inferno had stated that the child they were going to return home is from Des Moines, Iowa. Karnak telephones the local news affiliate in Des Moines and informs them of a scoop for a feel-good story about a superheroes returning a kidnaped child to his family. Why exactly Karnak does this, what the matter is meant to achieve, remains a mystery.
The Warriors teleport to Iowa to return the child home and are met there by a bunch of news crews looking to report on the event. Quake and Magik are bemused by the presence of these reporters, but Ms. Marvel doesn’t see why it’s so bad… they’re heroes after all, what’s so bad with the public knowing about their heroic deeds?
The child’s parents are overjoyed to have him home. The boy’s mother gives the Warriors big old hugs as thanks. Again, Quake and Magik are disquieted by the display of thanks and affection, but Ms. Marvel is happy to receive it.
The boy then steps up to the news team to make a statement. He says that he is an Inhuman and for far too long the human world has not respected his people’s power. He then states something in the ancient language of Tilan. Karnak watches the news broadcast from his office. Upon seeing the boy issue this statement he remarks, ‘Sinister, what have you done?’ Clearly this boy has been implanted with some sort of brain washing, perhaps something more.
The child’s parents are perplexed by his bizarre outburst, attributing it to the ordeal he has been through. The Warriors are similarly mystified, until Ms. Marvelk comes to a terrible realization. She shouts for everyone to get back and then uses her embigoning powers to reach out and grab the boy. It’s too late. The programing Sinister had instilled in the child has triggered some sort of chain reaction. His body glows with a yellow energy and he suddenly explodes, a detonation that appears to envelope the entire areas, the Warriors included.
And it is with this harrowing cliffhanger that the issue comes to a close with the promise of continuation int he next installment.
Holy crap, what a frightening turn of events. Are the Warriors okay? Is that little boy dead? Did his making that statement in Tilan on TV activate the other latent Inhuman children Sinister had abducted? Will they blow up too? Did Karnak suspect that this was going to happen?
…Daunting questions that I’m not sure I want to know the answers to…
Rosenberg and company kick things up a notch in this thrill ride of an issue that acts to answer a number of longstanding questions, but doing so in a fashion that asks all new questions. There’s lots of thrills and intrigue, as well as the fun character beats and moments of levity that has been the hallmark of this series to date.
We now know that Karnak has set upon a mission to find an alternative means of bestowing Terrigenesis without the Terrigen Mists. He had previously given into despair over the looming end of the Inhuman race, but now appears to have taken action (drastic action) to attempt to offer his people a new future. And he has been willing to go to extreme ends to achieve this goal… namely aiding the research of the diabolical Mr. Sinister.
Yet what is Mr. Sinister’s interest in all this? In the past, Sinister’s central goal has been the forced advancement of Mutant evolution. He believes that the Mutant race is destined for greatness and that this greatness must be forged by fire… that the weaker Mutants must be culled out and the stronger ones forced to adapt and evolve via dire adversities. To this end, Sinister orchestrated the Mutant Massacre, where his team of Marauders killed off the majority of the Morlocks, believing that Mutants with weaker genes needed to be killed off less they pass on their less powerful DNA. Of course this is not at all how evolution works and Sinister’s basic grasp of natural selection could use some serious brushing up on, but this is comics so we’ll let that one go.
More recently, Sinister became quite interested in the Inhuman genome when the Terrigen Cloud was poisoning and sterilizing Mutants all over the globe. Sinister sought to attain a solution to this threat by combining Mutant and Inhuman genes to create an aggregate species; yet his scheme was thwarted by the intervention of the Extraordinary X-Men.
So what is Sinister up to now? It’s clear that he doesn’t see the Inhumans as possessing superior genetic stock. When he sees that Magik has joined forces with the Warriors he comments that her standing amongst them was tantamount to ‘slumming.’ My guess is that Sinister’s end goal is to either kill off The Inhumans in that he sees them as a threat to Mutant evolution, or that he might find some aspect of the Inhuman genome that will help to facilitate some sort of jump in Mutant evolution. Whatever Sinister is up to, it’s no good and Karnak made a significant error in facilitating his research.
Which asks yet another question… how is it that Sinister is so in need of Karnak’s assistance? What knowledge or resource does Karnak possess that Sinister so requires? Karnak is a rather smart and knowledgeable fellow, but Sinister and the Dark Beast are both geniuses (diabolical geniuses but geniuses nonetheless). It all leaves me quite curious as to what it is that Sinister so needs from Karnak.
A final question is how did Karnak know where to direct those news teams? Des Moines isn;t a booming metropolis, but it’s still a rather large city. Did he know the actual location of this kidnapped boy because he helped Sinister in locating him, or did he simply deduce the location by searching out missing persons notices for the city? Or was it just a plot hiccup in the narration?
For me, having these sorts of excited thoughts and burning questions is a sign that a comic has definitely succeeded in offering up the kinds of thrills and intrigue that have made me a lifelong fan. I already cannot wait for the next installment, so mission accomplished to the creative team.
The issue being heavier on plot squeezed out some of the fun character building beats that Rosenberg and company so excels at. We only got a little bit of flirting between Daisy and Dante and only a hint of Magik and Quakes exasperation over Ms. Marvel’s un-jaded idealism.
Although Quake does not appear to be the central character in this arc, the central premise contrives to relate to her character development.
By this I mean that Quake is continuing to struggle with the basic question of whether or not the ends can justify the means.
The idea of ends justifying the means is a notion attributed to Niccolò Machiavelli from his 1505 work, The Prince. Although to be fair, Machiavelli never actually used the term but rather suggested the idea that embracing vice is acceptable as long as the ultimate goal is virtuous. This is the core tenet of the theory of consequentialism… that the consequences of one’s conduct are the ultimate basis for any judgment about the rightness or wrongness of said conduct.
Karnak has clearly embraced a consequentialist approach in his efforts to find a new means of Terrigenesis. The end result of saving The Inhuman people is viewed as justifying Karnak’s decision to out his own son and many other children in great jeopardy. The means (which are terrible) is seen as outweigh the strived for ends (which is nobel).
The rest of the team sees this as abhorrent, but Moon Girl aptly points out that they have each acted in a fashion that is not all that different. Quake resorted to torture in her effort to take down Hydra… is such a terrible act truly justified by the virtue of what she was trying to achieve?
It’s a tough question and not one for which there is an easy answer. Are terrible acts forgivable if they are done to attain a virtuous goal? At first blush this may seem to be a question easily answered. One might think: yes, the ends justify the means if the ends provide for the greater good. Yet this creates a rather slippery slope wherein what is virtue and what is vice becomes an arbitrary matter rationalized by countless factors. A person can be murdered and their organs used to save ten people’s lives… surely ten lives are more valuable than one life, so is the murder justifiable? And who gets to make this decision?
Of late I’ve received a good number of ‘asks’ in regards to Quake and whether or not she should embrace a more bloodthirsty approach to achieving her goals. A lot of her fans are annoyed by Ms. Marvel and how Kamala has acted as a foil to Daisy’s trajectory of taking on a harder edge. Some fans want to see Quake become more like The Punisher, basically a ‘consequentialist hero’ wherein deadly means are justified by nobel ends.
Quake remains balanced on the edge of a knife, she has not yet decided what kind of hero she is going to be. Is she going to be more of a manipulative and Machiavellian hero, like her first mentor, Nick Fury Sr.? Or is she going to be a more deontological and idealistic hero like her second mentor, Phil Coulson? She has yet to decide and it is possible that seeing Karnak and Mr. Sinister take terrible actions so to attain what they see as the greater good may help her make this decision.
It might be just me, but Javier Garrón’s illustration seemed more crisp and better detailed in this issue compared to the previous issue. There was a bit less compression of the panels on the page and it allowed Garrón to illustrate the characters with greater detail. This made the Dark Beast and his monsters seem less cartoony and more frightening… cooler looking.
Having more space on the page also helped hammer home the humorist bits, such as Quake’s side-eyed bemusement with Ms. Marvel as she tried to assure the parents that they had not abducted their kids.
Once more, I’m not a huge fan of pairing Garrón’s illustrative style with that of Will Robinson. I found the switching back and forth between these styles to be jarring. Once more, however, this is merely an issue of personal taste. Plus, if Will Robinson’s drawing several of the pages allows for Javier Garrón to take more time and put better effort into his pages, then I suppose the ends justifies the means…
(sorry, couldn’t help myself :3)
Again, Israel Silva’s coloring is all but flawless.
Another great issue and definitely recommended. Four out of Five Lockjaws.
The tale starts off in Lunella’s underground laboratory where The Thing (Ben Grimm) and Human Torch (Johnny Storm) have brought Lunella some of the many boxes of storage that had previously been collecting dust in the old Baxter Building. The boxes are loaded up mostly with memorabilia, but also a number of Reed Richards’ old intentions and Ben and Johnny thought that a fellow big-brain like Lunella might find some use for it.
While Ben and Johnny bicker and banter with each other, Lunella discovers an old H.E.R.B.I.E. unit and accidentally switches it on. The robot comes to life some time later and is likely to show back up some time down the line.
Lunella takes Ben and Johnny up to her listening outpost on the roof of her apartment building. There she explains that she has been monitoring different frequencies across the cosmos and multiverse in search of some sign of Reed Richards. She has been dedicated to finding Reed, Sue and the kids not only because the world needs them, but also for her own reasons. As the currentsmartest person in the world, Lunella is left feeling quite lonely and pines for the chance to meet and talk with the former smartest person in the world.
As much as Ben and Johnny appreciate her efforts, they see Lunella’s search for Reed, Sue and the kids as being in vain. It’s still not entirely clear what Ben and Johnny know about their family’s disappearance; what exactly they recall from the conclusion of the Secret Wars event. Do they know that Reed and the others remained behind to help the Molecule Man recreate the multiverse, or do Ben and Johnny simply believe them to have died? In either case, neither seem to feel Lunella has much of a chance of reaching Reed and the others.
Elsewhere, a mysterious set of forces has been thieving various items as part of some sort of sinister scheme. An experimental isotope of anti-yellow quarks is stolen, as is a large cache of gold, barrels of toxic waste and a huge amount of electricity. To what end these items have been pilfered and who or what is behind the thefts remains to be seen. The thief or thieves remains just out of the panel; yet what we do see of them bears a good deal of resemblance to the Fantastic Four (one is invisible, another has massive strength, another appears to have stretching powers, while the fourth seems to be composed of fire).
Back at school, Lunella offers up a bunch of the old Fantastic Four comic books to Eduardo, who is very excited to receive them. Eduardo and Zoe are Lunella’s friends, but not really the kind of friends that she can feel she can talk to, whom she can relate to on a deeper level.
Lunella’s parents come to pick her up after school and are met their by Ben and Johnny. There is something Ben and Johnny need Lunella’s help with, but Mr. and Mrs. Lafayette want nothing to do with it. They’re done with Lunella’s dangerous super hero adventures and want her to come home. Johnny is crestfallen that Lunella’s parents barely even remember the Fantastic Four. No one bothers to ask Lunella whom she would prefer to accompany.
This whole argument over who Lunella is going to go with is interrupted by The Silver Surfer, who arrives above the school to deliver a dire message. Ben and Johnny both assume The Surfer’s message is for them, but it is actually meant for Lunella.
Ben and Johnny don’t take tio kindly to the matter and before you know it, yet another fight breaks out between The Thing, The Torch and The Surfer. A fight that only comes to an end when Lunella threatens to obliterate them all with her latest invention.
This stops them all in their tracks, whereupon Lunella reveals that her latest innovation is actually just her leftover sandwich from lunch. Still, it sufficed in getting the trio to quit fighting and The Surfer is finally able to deliver his warning. The Surfer no longer requires words to relay this warning, all that is needed is a mere gesture. He points to the horizon where the enormous figure of Galactus looms, peering out over the Lower East Side.
Lunella is of two minds in considering the world-ending threat that Galactus represents. On the one hand she is daunted over the prospect of having to face this threat without her trusty pal, Devil Dinosaur. On the other hand, however, she also feels solace that if the world is to come to an end at least Devil D will be safe back in his home dimension.
And it is here that the issue comes to an end with he promise of continuation in the next installment.
My ability to offer up at least the semblance of an unbiased review for this issue is all but entirely undermined by the fact that I am a huge Fantastic Four fan and so very much miss getting to read their adventures on a monthly basis. And if missing the FF is a kind of itch, then this issue of Moon G and Devil D definitely helped to scratch it. It is such a treat to get to see Ben and Johnny bickering again… and Lunella worked out great acting in the dual roles of Sue and Reed. This Fantastic Three might not be quite as good as The Fantastic Four, but it is an excellent consolation prize. Although what it most achieved was to remind me just how much I miss the FF.
It seems a good bet that The Galactus who appears at the end may not be the real Galactus. Instead of wearing his traditional mauve and blue armor, this Galactus is donned in armor of gray and gold. My guess is this being may actually be an artificial Galactus composed of those various items that were shown as being stolen earlier in the issue. Yet who might be behind this all? Is it some evil version of the Fantastic Four from another dimension? Is it the U-Foes? Some other dastardly threat? Whatever the case, I’m looking forward to finding out.
Edit – I’ve been informed that this is what Galactus looks like now…
Although it is a minor complaint, I was a little confused by Lunella’s motivations for searching out the missing members of The FF. Clearly Lunella is very much missing Devil Dinosaur and I can get that she is longing to be able to talk with someone on the same intellectual level as herself, but this thematic was already very well addressed in the ‘World’s Smartest’ story-arc and it feels a touch like returning to the same well. Besides, Lunella could have just taken to searching out Reed, Sue and the kids simply because it is a challenge worthy of her intellectual prowess.
It was nice to see Lunella’s mom and dad again, although I continue to wish we could see further development of their characters. And where are the sentient robot duplicates Lunella made to cover for her when she was off rescuing Illa the Girl Moon? Again, these are the kind of complaints that are merely a product of my having become so invested in Lunella and this comic. These are good complaints… the kind of complaints I never have for comics I don’t really care about. (but seriously, Mr. and Mrs. Lafayette need some more screen time…)
There’s also a neat little side-joke for longtime Fantastic Four fans. Johnny shows contempt for the little robotic H.E.R.B.I.E. unit that Lunella uncovers and Ben jokes that Johnny doesn’t like him because he’s jealous of the time that H.E.R.B.I.E. had replaced him.
What Ben is referring to here is actually took place in a cartoon. The first Fantastic Four cartoon was produced in 1967 by Hana Barbara and was actually pretty terrific, with character designs by Alex Toth and stories derived from he comics themselves.
A second, more ‘kid-friendly’ series was produced in 1978 by DePatie-Freleng Enterprises. At the time Hana Barbara still owned the IP rights for The Human Torch so this new cartoon opted to replace him with HERBIE, an annoying Robot who was meant to be cute but was actually quite grating.
This cartoon was just terrible and hating HERBIE is pretty much a badge of honor among big time FF fans.
Anyways…. It is awesome to get to see Natacha Bustos illustrate The Thing and Human Torch. The Kirby-esque elements of her style are highlighted, but the over-all look remains very much her own. I have become such a huge fan of her and just love the way she draws The Thing and The Torch; her knack for fun and animated facial expression perfectly capture the playful banter between Ben and Johnny as well as Lunella’s exasperation over their nonsense. I especially liked how Bustos chose to depict Johnny in his flamed-on form. She opts for a minimalist approach, maintaining the expressiveness of in the face whilst also creating the illusion of dynamic flames dancing about. It’s quite well done.
As always, Bustos’ art is augmented and brought to life by Tamra Bonvillain’s expert colors. Bustos and Bonvaillan work so well together, I could just gush over it all day. The aesthetic they have created for this comic has been a key feature to it being a comic easily enjoyed by older and younger readers alike. It’s… well, it’s fantastic!
Definitely recommended. I’m biased because it met my FF jones, but keeping that in mind I’m going to go headband give it Five out of Five Lockjaws anyway!
Even in paradise there is death. The Royals succeed in their quest to obtain the Primagen, yet it comes at a terrible and deadly cost. From the creative team of Al Ewing, Javier Rodriguez, Alvaro Lopez, Kevin Libranda, Jordie Bellaire and José Villarrubia.
The team has traveled to the World Farm, the mysterious home of the equally mysterious Progenitors. These godlike beings appear to be equal parts organic and synthetic, their lifeblood the ultra-potent mutagen known as Primagen. It was through this Primagen that the savage prehistoric Kree were transformed and developed into an advanced space-faring race. The Kree used a derivative of the Primagen, Terrigen, to transform mankind on earth into subspecies known as the Inhumans.
And yet the Terrigen was lost. It’s aerosolized form proved deadly to The Inhuman’s cousin race, The Mutants, and the entirety of it had to be destroyed so to avoid the Mutant’s genocide. The future of The Inhumans was lost unless their former queen, Medusa, and her team of Royals might venture into the stars and discover a new source.
This quest has brought the Royals to the World Farm, an entire solar system condensed into a singular world… a kind of laboratory wherein the Progenitors use the Primagen to grow and cultivate new forms of life. Yet The Royals are unwelcome guests on this world. They are unaccounted for variables that threaten the precision of the Progenitors’ experiments; they are vermin that must be exterminated.
The Progenitors have seeded life in many corners of the universe. The created the Kree and in turn many different species of Inhumans on many different worlds. And they monitored the progress of these new forms of life by sending Sky Spears to collect data on this life and transmit the information back to the World Farm. It turns out that these Sky Spears are crystalline shafts of pure Primagen. Young Flint of The Royals had touched one of these spears on NovaHalla and it has unlocked in him enhanced power and awareness. An awareness that enables him to lead the others to the heart of the planet where they might obtain a purified sample of the Primagen; a sample that they might be able to refine into Terrigen so to bestow their people and way of life a future.
But they must hurry, fore an Exterminator and Destroyer Class Progenitor follow them in hot pursuit.
Before she can formulate a plan of action, Medusa is seized by a coughing fit. She has been slowly dying throughout this entire affair. She was the one who chose to destroy the Terrigen on earth and in some fashion the Terrigen has been taking its revenge. A mysterious illness has besieged Medusa, an affliction that Noh-Varr has only been able describe as ‘a poetic revenge’ in which the Terrigen is attempting to kill her in response to her killing it. Medusa has done her best to fight off this malady until her mission is complete, but the end appears to be drawing near.
The Exterminator and Destroyer Class Progenitors enter into he antechamber. They are enormous, fearsome beasts that dwarf the Royals. Hopelessly outmatched, The Royals fight on anyway.
The team’s pilot, Swain, has never been much of a combatant and is unsure what to do, how she might contribute. She dashes closer to the central Primagen structure. Drawing closer to giant crystal has the effect of greatly amplifying her Inhuman power. This power is the ability to read and manipulate emotion. At first she is swept up in the sheer intensity of her enhanced abilities. Her mind reaches out and somehow communes with her love back on earth.
Swain’s girlfriend on earth is a fellow Inhuman named Ash. Ash’s own Inhuman transformation has altered the way she experiences emotion. She no longer feels emotion in the traditional sense… rather she seems to experience it as matters of logic and consequence. At first, Ash’s apparent lack of emotion made her an ideal match for Swain. Swain lived in fear that she might not be able to fully control her powers, that she might inadvertently manipulate a partner into loving her as she loved them. Yet Ash was functionally immune to Swain’s powers and Swain could feel assured that their relationship was mutual and authentic.
The specific way in which Ash processes emotion enabled Swain to feel assured their relationship was legitimate, but it also left her feeling in some ways unfulfilled. While Ash cannot be emotionally manipulated, she also cannot relay feelings in a more conventional fashion. She cannot tell Swain that she loves her and not being able to hear these words has weighed heavily upon her. Indeed Swain had accepted this mission to venture off into the stars as a means of getting away from Ash, escaping the mounting sense of dread that not being told ‘I love you’ would ultimately lead to an ending to their relationship.
All these fears and doubts wash away as Swain is bathed in the elevated levels of her Inhuman powers. She is able to reach out to Ash, hear her and communicate with her unencumbered by the limitations of language. Words are simply placeholders, ways of communicating feelings in an approximated fashion. The different ways in which Swain and Ash experience emotion are neither better nor worse; they are simply different… and its essence, its source code is the same. Ash cannot say ‘I love you’ to Swain, but she can say, ‘you fascinate me,’ and in this moment of clarity Swain realizes that these two phrases are for all intents and purposes one and the same.
Swain is shaken free from it all when Noh-Varr’s body lands with a thump near her. He has been struck by one of the Progenitor’s rays, causing him to be engulfed in fire. He’s not dead, but dying and seeing her friend in such a condition fills Swain with rage. She stands up and reroutes her augmented powers against The Progenitors. She transmits the feelings of rage and contempt into the two Progenitors, causing the two beings to hate each other with the same fervor that Swain hates them. The Progenitors attack one another and quickly tear each other to pieces.
The threat has abated, but only for the moment. The others look outside the antechamber to see a variable army of Progenitors bearing down on them. Medusa recollects herself and formulates a plan. She orders Flint to form a crystalline shape around them, a de facto spaceship that he can use to send them home; Crystal will use her own powers to generate a breathable atmosphere within this ship; while Maximus is order to collect a grouping of the smaller Primagen shards. His hands were destroyed in a past battle with his brother and are now replaced by robotic prosthetics. The artificial hands allows him to handle the Priagen without it effecting him.
They all hurry to their duties; it’s a good plan, but they lack the time to fully execute it. The Progenitors are upon them and they will not be able to escapee unless someone stays behind to delay them. Gorgon volunteers.
Medusa objects. She cannot, will not leave a man behind and the prospect of Gorgon’s nobel sacrifice fills her with dread. Yet Gorgon will not be swayed. He has been the Royal guardian and viceroy since his youth and he feels it his duty and destiny to give his life in the service of his queen and family. Medusa realizes quickly that Gorgon will not be dissuaded from this course of action. She kisses him goodbye and turns away.
Flint creates the ersatz spaceship around the Royals as Gorgon faces his foes. He lays hands on a nearby structure of crystal primagen, its properties imbuing him with greatly intensified power. He them leaps forward to into the horde of Progenitors, proclaiming that he is ‘Gorgon of House Petragon’ and that his son, Petras, will know his name and know that he had fulfilled his promise.
Power coursing through him, Gorgon slams his cloven hooves into the ground below him. It generates a massive explosions that cracks the central planet of the World Farm in half as the Royals’ spaceship makes good its escape.
The issue ends with the others looking back, knowing with great solum that their freedom has come at the cost Gorgon’s sacrifice. A panel reads that the tale will continue with the next installment.
As has been the case with each issue off The Royals to date, this installment opens up with a prologue set some five thousand years in the future. There Noh-Varr The Accuser and Maximus The Last Inhuman have traveled the wastelands of a ruined earth to awaken the Moon King in order to meet the inevitable return of the vengeful Progenitors.
It remains to be seen how exactly these series of prologues will ultimately connect to the narrative unfolding in the main story. What does appear to be the case, however, is that this Moon King is the future version of Flint – his transformation into this giant crystalline creature the ultimate result of his touching the pure Primagen.
At the center of the Moon King’s translucent form is a human skeleton, mounted upside down, with one leg crossed and its arms out at the sides. The visage of this skeleton is evocative of the twelfth card of the Tarot de Marseille, The Hanged Man.
There are multiple meanings to the Hanged Man, the most common of which entail patience on the path toward spiritual growth, martyrdom, and sacrifice to the greater good. It makes for an interesting use of symbolism and foreshadowing. Flint may be the one whom must patiently grow toward actualization of his destiny, yet it is Gorgon who ended up sacrificing himself for the greater good.
The main crystal structure of Primagen that the Royals encounter at the hub of the World Farm is in the shape of a large tuning fork. The tuning fork glyph has been a constant and recurring symbol in the Inhuman mythos… appearing in their architecture, on the foreheads of Inhumans such as Mosaic and Lockjaw, and as a symbol on the royal garb of Black Bolt; it additionally shows up among the iconography of The Universal Inhumans. It would appear that this symbol represents something of a collective memory of all Inhuman peoples, a unifying tether connoting that they were all created and connected by way of the Primagen, the ‘prima materia.’
Way back in issue number three, it was revealed that Maximus went through Terrigenesis in utero, exposed to an ultra purified rendering of the Terrigen. Maximus’ parents were obsessed with understanding the Terrigen, uncovering its connection to the prima materia. Their experiments imbued Maximus with an enhanced awareness that has allowed him to see and understand the true mechanisms of Primagen. He could see that Flint was able to lead them to the hub by way of a pre-programed knowledge sewn into the fabric of his being (into the fabric of all Inhumans). Likewise, Maximus understood that proximity to the central Primagen crystal augmented Swain’s power. The others were shocked by Swain’s ability to fell the two Progenitors, but Maximus was not. He understands that the Primagen is the key to unlocking unlimited powers in Inhumans.
It is Medusa’s goal to provide the earthly Inhumans with a new source of Terrigen, yet it is unlikely that Maximus will be satisfied by such a relatively small accomplishment. Maximus feels it his destiny to bring far greater things to his people; he wants them to ascend to godliness, and it is likely that he sees the Primagen as the key to achieving such a thing.
Swain’s experience of having her powers bolstered via proximity to the Primagen offered a very interesting interlude in the action. Her quasi-communion with Ash and reconciliation over the nature of their relationship made for kind of a jarring intermission. Still, it proved a stirring and emotional scene as well as a compelling exploration of the nature of affect.
Because Ash does not experience or process emotion in the more mainstream conventional sense, it can be possible to arrive at the erroneous conclusion that she cannot feel or express love… that she is unable to reciprocate the affection that Swain gives her. Yet the difficulty here is not with Ash and her emotional functioning… rather the difficulty lies with Swain and the confines and limitations of ability to understand emotional in a multidimensional fashion. This is a common dilemma faced by many individuals identified as being on the further-left end of the so-called ‘Autistic Spectrum.’ Quite often these individuals are mistakenly viewed as being unable to feel or express emotion. This is incorrect. It’s not that they cannot feel or express emotion, but rather they do so in a fashion that is different then the predominant conventional norm. Emotion is far too complex and multifaceted to be confined to a narrow modality of expression. Accepting the possibilities of a multitude of different pathways for relaying and understanding affect helps to open a broader understanding of emotion as a whole.
The boost in her powers that Swain experiences provides her a crash course in multidimensional emotion. It allows her to better understand the different but equal ways in which Ash experiences affect as well as enabling her the ability to utilize this enhanced power to take out the attacking Progenitors.
very cool stuff!
Right from the onset of this series we were told that one of the cast members was destined to die. It was part of the hook that writer, Al Ewing, dangled out there to create dramatic tension and a sense of looming peril. Plenty of clues and red herrings were offered up regarding which member of the team was destined to perish. Medusa’s illness made her the first likely candidate, and she is still by no means safe. She continues to be bedeviled by this mysterious illness; yet if she is able to succeed in bringing Terrigen back to earth it stands to reason that her ailment will remit. Flint was the next potential candidate after it was revealed that his laying hands on the Sky Spear had initiated a significant change in his being. And he too is not exactly safe. He may not die, but it looks as though he is in the process of transforming into the mysterious Moon King, a creature destined to lay in doormat stasis for thousands of years.
Yet neither of these two ended up being the one to die. Rather it was Gorgon who valiantly sacrificed himself to allow the others to escape.
Gorgon was actually my earliest guess as to which character was going to perish. I’m certainly not happy about it, but can nonetheless understand the decision to have him be the one to die. Gorgon has changed and grown a great deal over the last few years. He has transformed from the impulsive and headstrong brawler into a more introspective and compassionate soul. The time in which Gorgon was paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair forced him to reconsider and reevaluate his ways and his legacy. He let go off his violent and hedonistic ways and instead fully embraced his role as a teacher and parental figure. He owed up to his failings as a father to young Petras, making amends by taking under his wing lost souls in need of guidance such as Flint, Naja and Dante.
Gorgon was even able to finally express his love for Medusa, a forbidden love that he kept buried for years in fear that it was inappropriate and would prove unwanted. Seeing herself as dying and freed from the confines of her duty as Black Bolt’s queen, Medusa was able to reciprocate this love and Gorgon came to know a brief albeit fleeting happiness in Medusa’s arms.
That and Gorgon was granted the kind of death befitting what he had always aspired to be – a nobel warrior and guardian of his people.
A constant in the world of superhero comics is that death is not a constant. Mr. Ewing has stated that the Inhuman who dies in his story will remain dead as long as he is writing the book. And yet it appears quite possible that Mr. Ewing’s tenure stewarding The Inhumans may end with the conclusion of the upcoming event, Inhumans: Judgement Day. In short, it is possible that Gorgon may return some time in the future. It may not be for a long, long while, but in the world of comic book super heroes anything is possible. I’m normally not a fan of resurrecting characters who have died… I feel it undermines the emotional heft of a given story. In this case, however, I wouldn’t mind at all in that Gorgon is awesome and I already miss him.
Intense action, wild, way-out concepts, cool character development and fantastic art. It doesn’t get much better than this. Five out of five Lockjaws.
The next chapter of the adventures of The Secret Warriors begins here, by the creative team of writer, Mathew Rosenberg, illustrators, Javier Garrón and Will Robinson, and colorist, Israel Silva.
The very much lives-up-to-his-name Mr. Sinister has been kidnapping young Inhuman subjects as part of some nefarious scheme and this has included Inferno’s infant niece. And this has proven reason enough to get the band back together as The Secret Warriors reform to hunt down Sinister’s forces and rescue Inferno’s niece.
The tale opens up on a school playground somewhere in Dearborn Michigan where a group of youngster are playing with action figures. These kids are interrupted by Sinister and his accomplices, The Dark Beast and a group of bizarre and monstrous creatures. It turns out that one of these kids possesses genetic marking identifying him as in some way special… that he is a Mutant or Inhuman. Sinister has some sort of device, what looks to be a brain in a mechanical box, that acts as a detector for genetic aberrants. And having identifying the subject, Sinister’s goons abduct the child, putting a bag on his head and hauling him away.
Although it is illustrated in a somewhat comical fashion, it’s actually a rather jarring and frightening scene.
The narrative quickly shifts to Venice, Italy, to the executive offices of The Ennilux Corporation. Ahura, the son of Medusa and Black Bolt and current CEO of Ennilux has come to the branch headquarters to see what his newest employee, Karnak, has been up to. Ahura had hired Karnak to work out kinks in the company’s global shipping network, yet he has come to Karnak’s office to find it transformed into some dimly lit den, with he windows boarded up and plethora of notes tapped to the wall.
Karnak emerges dressed in nothing more than a loin cloth. He informs Ahura that he already has the branch’s shipping network up to 98% efficiency, but that he must now be allowed to continue with his work. Ahura knows that Karnak is up to much more than he is saying, but is quickly ushered out of the room.
Once more the narrative shifts, this time to the suburbs outside of Toledo, Ohio. This is where Dante’s sister, Gabby, lives and the scene of the crime when The Dark Beast had kidnapped Gabby’s baby. Gabby and the reformed Secret Warriors gather around, spitballing ideas over how to locate the abducted child.
Gabby’s consternation over her missing daughter is compounded by the Warriors constant bickering… for which Ms. Marvel apologizes, noting that bickering is pretty much what this team does best.
Moon Girl suggests utilizing Karnak, but Quake disagrees; Ms. Marvel opts to contact the X-Men, but Dante refuses seeing them as being part of the problem. Their argument is interrupted when a loud thump echo out from up stairs.
The Warriors rush to investigate and discover that The Mutant and X-Man known as Magik has teleported into the home. After a brief and tense standoff, Magik lowers her sword, stating that she has come to aid the Warriors.
The Dark Beast had escaped on her watch and she is offering her assistance as recompense. And it turns out that Magik has learned of The Warriors’ location by way of ‘The Forum,’ and internet chat board in which the various young heroes (and Hercules) all talk with one another, gossip and exchange mission details.
Moon Girl had initially contacted Mass Master hoping The Power Pack might assist them. Mass Master then spread the matter to other young heroes, it gradually leading to the younger X-Men and finally to Magik. This is all merely a narrative tact for explaining how Magik might know the location of The Warriors, but is also my favorite part of the issue and I hope to see much more of The Forum in other comics; it’s a great means of tethering together all of the younger (or as Lunella phrases it, ‘cooler’) heroes out there (…and Hercules).
Anyways, Dante is reluctant to accept Magik’s help, but his sister won’t hear of it. She is desperate to get her daughter back and willing to take whatever help is offered – even if it comes from a creepy teleporting young woman with a giant sword and overly revealing outfit…
And Magik’s aide proves helpful indeed. Her ability to teleport the entire squad through portals that tie through a hellish limbo enables the team to investigate multiple locations in tracking down the Dark Beast. Although traveling in this fashion ends up being extremely disquieting for the team, especially Dante who cannot help but to vomit with every jump.
The various leads the team track down are provided by Moon Girl and her trusty laptop as she utilizes her extreme intellect to search the internet for purchases of the kind of laboratory equipment the Dark Beast might require for his diabolical plans.
A cut-away scene shows Karnak at his own computer, connected in to Lunella’s search. Here I must admit I was a bit confused as to what was going down. It is not clear (to me at least) whether Karnak was assisting Lunella in her search, or actually obstructing and rerouting her so to cover up his own involvement.
Whatever the case, Karnak’s interference leads the team to an industrial lot in Clearwater, Florida. There the squad comes across what appears to be just a normal work plant. Once inside, however, the Warriors encounter a host of monstrous foes. These creatures seem to be some sort of test subjects whom the Dark Beast has mutated and stitched together so to create powerful minions.
The team engages the monsters. One gets the drop on Quake, but Inferno has her back and shoot it down (and this leads to a rather embarrassing exchange where Dante tries to act cool and flirty with Daisy but trips over his words).
Magic is a good deal more savage than Ms. Marvel is used to. She intercedes to both save Magik from the monster as well as save the monster from Magik. Magic is clearly annoyed by Ms. Marvel’s innocent idealism; whereas Ms. Marvel is clearly disquieted by Magik’s ruthlessness.
In any case, these monsters prove no match for the Warriors and they quickly defeat them. In the wake of the battle, Moon Girl ventures deeper into the facility and discovers a huge antechamber where countless kids are imprisoned in some sort of stasis chambers. It is not clear who these kids are and what they are being used for. Are they all latent Inhumans? are some Mutants? Are they going to be okay? It all remains to be seen, but it is here that the issue comes to an end with the promise of continuation next month.
This was a wild ride with lots of fun details and interactions between the characters. The overarching plot remains a bit nebulous. It’s not clear what Sinister and The Dark Beast are up, nor how it may or may not connect to what Karnak is doing at Ennilux.
The Warriors’ protracted search for The Dark Beast felt very much like just an excuse for funny banter and sight gags. To this extent, the issue as a whole doesn’t lift above the sum of its parts… which is fine in that the interchanges between the characters is so much fun.
The highlights of these interactions include Quake and Magik bonding over their both feeling annoyed by Ms. Marvel, the running gag of Dante puking every time the team teleports, Karnak’s particular idea of what constitutes ‘business casual’ attire, Dante’s botched effort to flirt with Daisy, and, of course, The Forum. Getting to see The Forum in and of itself is worth the cover price…
Javier Garrón illustrated the majority of the issue, with Will Robinson illustrating the scenes in Italy between Karnak and Ahura. Both are terrific artists, but I did not feel the two styles gelled together well. The shift in artistic styles was a bit jarring and sort of took me out of the story, although this is likely a matter of personal tastes and I can imagine there are other readers who like the shifting of artistic styles.
Garrón’s knack for facial expressions is heavily leaned upon in Rosenberg’s script. He really excels at capturing gestures of exasperation, annoyance, mirthfulness and confusion on the character’s faces. And this really hammers home the punchlines in the dialogue. It can be an easy matter to take for granted, but Rosenberg and Garrón work together especially well.
And Garrón’s ability to relay facial expression on a more subtle scale is especially impressive considering the high number of panels he squeezes onto the page.
I’m actually not a huge fan of how Garrón draws monsters, they’re a little too cartoony for my tastes, but once more this is just a matter of personal preferences.
As always, Israel Silva’s coloring is exceptional throughout.
From it’s first issue, Secret warriors has been a very character-driven book. The plots have often been secondary to the development of the characters, and this continues in this new arc. While the first two arcs of Secret Warriors focused very strongly on Daisy, this one feels much more evenly spread out with all of the characters getting relatively equal attention.
The inclusion of Magik works quite well. The hows and whys of her joining the team are kind of shoe-horned in, but it works just fine and Magik fits in with the team right off the bat. Her stodgy contempt for Ms. Marvel’s idealism and challenging of Quake’s leadership skills fits in nicely with the general acrimony that existed between the teammates to begin with. Malik’s inclusion looks as though it will help to further the development of the Warriors; although it is yet to be seen whether or not this will be bilateral, if she will grow or change by way of being apart of the team herself. Time will tell.
All in all, a really fun read and definitely recommended. Three and a half out of five Lockjaws!
G. Willow Wilson, guest artist, Diego Olortegu, and colorist, Ian Herring, finish up this (somewhat) light-hearted mini-arc illustrating just how badly poor Kamala could use a break in the action.
In the previous issue, Kamala was surprised to discover that her family friend, Kareem, had come to Jersey City for a semester abroad. Kamala had met Kareem when she spent a summer vacation in Pakistan… an eventful trip that saw Ms. Marvel teaming up with the hero of Karachi, the dashing Laal Khanjeer (or Red Dagger). Obvs Kareem and this Red Dagger are one and the same, but it would appear that neither Kamala nor Kareem have put together the other’s secret identity. A matter made even more incredulous when the Red Dagger showed up in Jersey City shortly after Kareem’s arrival.
Secret identities aside, Ms. Marvel and The Red Dagger are forced to team up in an effort to stop a slow-speed runaway train. Acting in concert, the two were able to prevent a number of catastrophes but have yet to actually get the train to stop.
All manner of hi jinx ensues and the two heroes continue to do their best to keep the train and its passengers safe. This involves Ms. Marvel pulling off some rather incredible (and implausible) feats… all of which leaves The Red Dagger all but babbling in amazement.
Ms. Marvel’s impressive skills abilities notwithstanding, The Red Dagger can tell that something is different in her. She doesn’t seem to have that same zeal as when he first encountered back in Karachi; something has changed. Whist continuing to protect the runaway train, the two heroes further their discussion and Ms. Marvel talks about how run down she has been feeling of late. The events of the last few months have been pretty hard on her. The battle against Doc. X and Jersey City being temporarily taken over by the bigoted, xenophobic Worthy Administration have taken quite a tole on her… further compounded by still missing her best friend, Bruno, and discovering her other childhood pal, Josh, had become the super villain, Discord. Ms. Marvel has prevailed, yet it has all left her feeling tired and disheartened.
The bloom is off the rose, so to speak… Kamala had very much enjoyed being the new hero on the block and everyone’s darling. But such a thing can only last so long and it’s been a hard landing as Kamala has had to contend with there being people out there who just don’t like her. It’s proven quite taxing and The Red Dagger can tell Ms. Marvel has lost some of the skip in her step from when her first met her back in Pakistan.
The Red Dagger suggests that perhaps Ms. Marvel might take a break; take some time for herself, recharge her batteries and possibly regain a greater sense of purpose. Ms. Marvel expresses reluctance toward such a prospect because Jersey City needs her. Who would look after her town were she too take such a break? Red Dagger counters that she basically won’t be doing Jersey City any favors by burning herself out. There will be others to pick up the slack were she to take time for herself. Ms. Marvel has a lot of friends; she just needs to rely on these friends and know they will be there for their town were she to take a much needed break.
This whole back-and-forth goes down as the two continue to keep the train safe and attempt to come up with some means of getting this runaway train stopped. They finally come up with a plan, a bizarre, physics-defying plan and the day is ultimately saved.
And yet Kamala’s sense of being unappreciated and needing a break is further hammered home when the press arrives and seems much more interested in her dashing new partner and his fantastic hair.
Ms. Marvel walks off knowing that it is indeed time for a break… that she needs time to reflect, adjust and regain the sense of purpose that led to her to become a super hero in the first place.
This was a pretty fun mini-arc. A touch light on plot, with he slow-speed runaway train being a bit of an on-the-nose metaphor for Kamala feeling like her life has gone off the rails. In a different story, Ms. Marvel would have likely been able to ascertain a means of stopping the train within a page, page and a half tops, but prolonging the ordeal offered up a nice venue for Kamala to openly struggle with all the matters that have her feeling so down.
The hard time Kamala has had in contending with the mere fact that there are people out who just don’t like her reminds me a lot of the early tales from Lee and Ditko’s seminal run on The Amazing Spider-Man. Spider’s angst over the Daily Bugles’ campaign against him acted as a great metaphor for the kind of alienation anxiety that many teenagers have to cope with. This is similarly the case with Kamala, although with a significantly different edge to it.
Ms. Marvel and Spider-Man have a lot in common, but there are also some very important differences. Not the least of which are the facts that Kamala is a girl, she is a person of color, and she is a Muslim. She’s a Muslim living in America during a time in which our elected officials have been openly hostile and condemning of the entire religion as a whole.
Wilson and company have danced around this issue for a while now, creating a number of thinly veiled stand-ins… yet there can be no doubt that these real-life matters are certainly impacting the stories and themes Ms. Wilson has been creating for Ms. Marvel.
After the intense emotional weight of the Doc.X and Mecca story-arcs, I was hoping that this mini-arc might prove a lighter affair; a respite from these pressing matters. And while the arc was indeed lighter in tone, the over-arching theme is something that really cannot be avoided. It’s the kind of thing that always manages to seep in. For far too many people out there, the specters of racism, sexism and religious intolerance are just unavoidable things… there is no respite. And it stands to reason that this should be true for Kamala as well.
And I think it is smart of Wilson and company not to name these matters for what they actually are. Overtly, Kamala is struggling with the simple fact that there are people out there who just don’t like her – leaving the ‘why’ they don’t like her kind of nebulous. In the Marvel Universe, she may be disliked for being an Inhuman, for being a super-powered being, for just being different. Yet the covert reasons are plainly evident for anyone to see. And it all offers a sense of commiseration for anyone dealing with similar matters while not alienating any who are not. It’s all a rather thorny matter, but one Wilson navigates it with deft precision… all the while adding in some great moments of levity to vent the tension. (My favorite of which was Kamala’s bemusement over an unflattering photograph.)
Diego Olortegu does fine work illustrating the issue. He is very talented, but I still feel not quite the right fit for this comic; and I’m very much looking forward to Takeshi Miyazawa return next issue. Olortegu is given a tough assignment in being asked to illustrate the New Jersey landscape in a fashion that mirrors Kamala’s feelings… being a place that is both magical but also run down. He does great work, but again I miss all the fun little details that Alphona, Miyazawa, and Leon would add into the illustration. Still, this is all just a matter of individual tastes and, as always, Ian Herring’s colors do a fantastic job of maintaining the visual continuity and making this feel very much a Ms. Marvel comic.
Recommended. Three out of Five Lockjaws.
The Royal squad have finally made it to the mysterious World Farm, the hone of the god-like Progenitors; yet meeting their makers does not prove to be peaceful affair. With script by Al Ewing, pencils by Javier Rodriguez, inks by Alvaro Lopez, and colors by Jordie Bellaire.
Retracing the trajectory of a SkySpear, the Inhuman spacecraft, The Asterion, has ventured deep into the unknown regions of the cosmos and finally come upon the incredible sight of the World Farm. This farm is something of an artificial solar system, with numerous planets encased in synthetic orbs, connected to each other and encircling a larger planet at its center, acting as a sun with its blazing furnaces. It’s a rather difficult speckle to try and describe… in short it looks like this:
Coming into range of the closest of these artificial planets, a Harvester Class Progenitor becomes aware of the approaching Asterian and forces the craft to come to an immediate halt with a mere gesture of its massive hand.
Within the Asterian, young Flint is continuing to go through some strange type of transformation. His laying hands on the SkySpear on NovaHala has clearly had a dramatic effect on him. His hand and now forearm has become encase in some kind of crystalline substance, translucent so that the bones of his hand and arm are visible.
Furthermore, what Flint has gone through seems to allow him to sense the Progenitors’ intentions. He realizes the Harvester Class Progenitor has identified them as a foreign body and potential threat to its crop. Realizing their ship is about to be destroyed, Flint acts quickly and emits from his hand a giant crystal orb that contains him and the other, protecting them as the Progenitor’s gesture causes the Asterian to explode.
Medusa issues orders quickly and the others follow her command. Crystal uses her powers to create a breathable atmosphere within the orb; Flint hurdles the orb itself toward the main planet of the farm; and Noh-Varr utilizes his pocket battlefield to protect them all from the impact of the crash. All of this is just wonderfully depicted in a great splash page from the art team of Rodriguez, Lopez and Bellaire.
They crash land into the bowls of the main planet, finding within it a strange realm of artful structures that seem to be some kind of combination of botany and technology. The air is breathable, but tastes odd. The strain of his actions has caused Flint to pass out… more alarming, the crystalline substance that had grown over his hand and arm appears to be spreading, it has spread over half his body exposing and making visible the bones of his skeleton. As gruesome as it appears, it doesn’t seem to be causing him any pain and there isn’t time to fully take in or address what exactly is happening to him.
Noh-Varr had touched the SkySpear on NovaHalla as well. Though it did not effect him as profoundly as it has Flint, Noh-Varr is able to understand the nature of this strange world to a heightened degree.
The World Farm appears to be both organism and machine, an intricate computer made up of organic hardware brought to life by a liquid blood composed of trillions of quantum processors, mini-computers the size of molecules.
The whole planet is a computer, it is alive and aware and it can certainly detect the presence of foreign bodies. The Progenitors are aware that The Royals have survived and know exactly where they are. As if on cue, an Ordinator Class Progenitor arrives to eliminate the unwelcome guests.
Like the World Farm itself, the giant Progenitor appears to be both organism and machine, a giant anthropomorphic mechanism with a floating orb in place of a head. The Ordinator Class Progenitor acts something like a maintenance program, identifying errors in the code and attempting to eliminate such errors so that the system as a whole will run as it should.
The Royals run from this colossal being, the others dashing off as Gorgon carries the unconscious Flint. Crystal uses her elemental powers to cover them, erecting a wall of rock and sediment between them and the Progenitor. The Progenitor tears through this wall and fires a laser beam from its eye that strikes her near the ankle.
Crystal continues to fight, using her powers to take control of the air and moisture around the Progenitor’s head, compressing it to blind their attacker and take out its laser-firing eye. Medusa takes up her injured sister assisting her as they all continue their desperate effort to escape.
Maximus, meanwhile, has had enough of running away. These beings are androids, but they nonetheless have brains… minds made up of artificial tissue and liquid processors. Maximus has been manipulating minds for as long as he can recall and he feels confident that he can seize control of a bio-mechanical mind with the same effect as he can an organic mind.
Yet as Swain points out, their mutual powers act to cancel each other out, that Maximus is left powerless as long as Swain is in his proximity. Maximus disagrees, arguing that their powers only nullify each other because they don’t act in concert. Maximus can manipulate cognition whereas Swain manipulates emotion; he is ego whilst she is id. All they have to do is work together and their abilities will be enhanced rather than canceled out.
Swain agrees to give it a shot and the two work toward aligning their powers. It is a struggle at first, but soon Max’s supposition is proven correct and their two powers act as a sort of potentiate, becoming much more powerful than the sum of its two parts. Together, Max and Swain’s consciousnesses reach out, they can feel the enormous mind of the World Farm, its near endless physical structure akin the neural pathways of a brain.
They could become lost in the vastness of it all, but Maximus orders that they focus themselves on the workings of the Ordinator Class Progenitor that has been pursuing them. They concentrate their psychic connection on this being and Maximus squeezes his fist. It is too much for the Progenitor and its orb like head implodes.
The threat has abated, but only for the moment. Elsewhere on The World Farm, the whole ordeal has been monitored by the Overlord-Class Progenitor and its enforcers.
The Overlord reaches its hand forward as if to make a decree and utters a single phrase: ‘End/Threat.’ And it is on this ominous note that the issue comes to an end with the promise of continuation int he next installment.
There’s a lot of cosmic, high-concept stuff at play here. And while learning more about the Progenitors and the way-out coolness of the World Farm is hugely interesting and fun, it also acts to sort of swallow up the characters; the neat development we have been seeing for Medusa, Gorgon and Maximus takes a backseat as The Royals are essentially fellow passengers in this wild ride of exploring the World Farm.
One of the things I have been the most interested in is how The Progenitors were going to be differentiated from The Celestials. At first blush, the two seemed to be quite similar, yet Ewing and company do a nice job of showing off the differences. Whereas The Celestials are space gods in the mold of Erich von Däniken-style astro-theism, The Progenitors seem to be machines that have hyper-evolved… developing into a techno-organic conglomerate that proliferates by way of growing itself like sewn and harvested crops. It’s an exciting concept, kind of a combination of Stanisław Lem’s Solaris and the planet, Cybertron from the old Transformers cartoon.
I’ve no idea whatsoever how The Royals can possibly stand a chance against such an overwhelming power, much less how they can hope to obtain a new source of Terrigen from these near-omnipotent beings. My best guess is that it all has to do with the alarming transformation that young Flint is going through.
It would seem that Flint has bonded with the crystalline material that makes up the SkySpear, that it is changing him as well as likely augmenting his powers.
It’s rather clear at this point that Flint is destined to become the Moon King, the powerful and monstrous being that Maximus and Noh-Varr seek out some five thousand years in the future. This also makes it seem pretty certain that Flint will be the member of the team who doesn’t make it back. It’s not that he will die, but rather he will become transformed into something huge and unrecognizable from his former self. It’s all quite cool, but also saddening in that this turn of events will essentially take Flint off the table for… well, forever.
Rodriguez, Lopez and Bellaire work wonderfully together in bringing to life this wild and bizarre world, an amalgam of biological and technology awash in shapes and colors that are totally foreign and alien yet in tune with its own, unique sense of natural. The World Farm is a welcome addition to the cosmic locales of The Marvel Universe and I’m very much looking forward to seeing how The Royals might manage to survive this adventure.
Once more, as much as I enjoyed exploring this wild alien realm, I would have liked to have seen a bit more from the characters themselves. The dialogue leaned a bit on exposition as Noh-Varr and Maximus explained their theories about what exactly the World Farm might be.
The issue moved at such break neck speed that I didn’t really get the chance to take in what is happening to Flint, how exactly Maximus and Swain managed to combine their powers, what the deal is with Gorgon’s aching back, or how being so close to the Primagen might be effecting Medusa’s illness.
Of course, it’s also entirely possible that I just read the issue too fast in that I was so curious and excited to see what was to happen :3
Definitely recommended. Three and a half out of Five Lockjaws.
The plot thickens and the fact that Inhumans love swag is finally revealed in this penultimate installment of writer, Christopher Priest, and artist, Phil Noto’s terrific miniseries.
The young Inhumans have fled to the human world, fearing a plot to destroy them that may or may not even be accurate. There they have made allies with Bentley Whitman, the human scientist who is secretly the super villain known as The Wizard; as well as a mysterious Alpha Primitive named Elisha whose intellect forces them to question the very tenets of Attilan’s culture and practices. Now Black Bolt, his brother, Maximus, and their cousin, Medusa, are preparing to return home to take down The Living Terrigen and reclaim the throne.
The last issue ended with Black Bolt having spotted The Amazing Spider-Man, mistakenly identifying the friendly neighborhood awl-crawler as a fellow Inhuman who might be recruited to their side int he upcoming battle against The Living Terrigen.
Of course Spidey is not an Inhuman, nor is he one to take kindly to being ordered around by someone assuming to be his king. The encounter quickly devolves into a battle as Spidey is walloped by Black Bolt’s sonic powers (modified and controlled via one of Whitman’s inventions). Yet Spidey is much tougher than expected and he fights back, webbing Black Bolt to an adjacent building. Watching on from he street, Maximus intercedes, using his telepathic powers to try to force Spidey to surrender. And it is here that things get pretty weird.
Maximus’s mental powers do not mix well with the preternatural awareness entailed in Spider-Man’s ‘spider-sense.’ They are two very different versions of psychic power and the interaction of the two creates a bizarre psychic feedback loop. Maximus’ mind is flooded with the thoughts and feelings of Spider-Man as is Spider-Man’s mind flooded with he thoughts and feelings of Maximus.
The feedback is raw and overwhelming for both Spidey and Maximus and neither is able to handle the cognitive/emotional onslaught. Spidey is unable to handle Max’s ambivalent feelings of love and rage toward his brother and is taken by a jealous hatred toward Black Bolt… causing him to attack Black Bolt with a near delusional fury. Maximus, meanwhile, is similarly befuddled by all of the neurotic feelings of guilt and responsibility that he had gleaned from Spidey.
It turns out that Spider-Man was in a bit of a hurry when Black Bolt had encountered him. His aunt is in desperate need of her medication and Spidey (or rather Peter Parker) needed to get photographs to his editors at the Daily Bugle in order to afford Aunt May’s medicine at the local pharmacy. Maximus comes to understand this and he is suddenly taken with the desperate need to get Aunt May her medicine.
Spider-Man, meanwhile, fights with Black Bolt whilst voicing all of the mixed up and conflicted feelings that Maximus’ holds toward his brother. He loves his brother, but hates him as well. He feels that he should sit on the throne, that he is the one destined to rule Attilan.
The fight between Spidey and Black Bolt is interrupted by the arrival of Kaldec The Seeker. The Seeker attacks, but is quickly defeated by the combined efforts of Spider-Man and Black Bolt. This interruption proves to be just what is needed in order for cooler heads to prevail. Black Bolt, Spidey and Maximus realize that they are not enemies. Furthermore, the importance of getting Aunt May her medicine takes precedence.
All of this leads to an amusing scene where Maximus rushes into the pharmacy demanding the prescription for a patient first name ‘Aunt’ last name ‘May.’ I love this bit.
Medusa has somehow tracked down Max and approaches him in the pharmacy. Maximus is still somewhat affected by all of the thoughts and feeling he gleaned from Spidey’s mind and it’s quite stirring for Medusa to see this softer side of her cousin. The two are eventually able to get Aunt May’s prescription and make haste to deliver it. In so doing, Maximus accidentally drops the last of his own medication, antipsychotic capsules that he has been told are necessary to keep his madness at bay. The pharmacist notices this after the two have left. He inspects the capsule and realizes that it is merely a placebo, just sugar and water. whoa…
Maximus and Medusa take a cab to Queens where Max delivers the medicine to Aunt May. Back in the cab, Maximus notices that he had lost his own medication and is beset by the worry that now his own madness will return. He is still processing through the feelings and values he had gleaned from Spidey, causing him to wax on about the sanctity of life, about what a kind and gentle soul this May Parker is; how much he had misjudged the nature of the humans of earth. He kisses Medusa in a fit of impulsivity. Medusa is initially taken aback by Max’s actions… yet after seeing this kinder, softer side of him her feelings seem to change and she kisses him back. wha!?!
As all of this is occurring, the narrative switched back to Attilan where young Crystal meets the Stewardship King and his new Viceroy, Gorgon. With the aid of Lockjaw, Crystal is confident that she can go to the human world and convince her sister and the others to return home; and The Living Terrigen offers her his blessing promising that no harm will come to the runaway royals.
Crystal and Lockjaw teleport back to the apartment of Bentley Whitman, where Crys discovers Elisha. She is surprised to find an Alpha who can speak and wears the clothes of a human. Elisha seems to know Crystal’s parents (might they have been the ones who taught him to read?). In any case, Elisha is able to convince Crystal that he is on her side, that he can lead her to her sister and then they can all return to Attilan together. Of course doing this requires a bit of bribery as Crys insists on some ice-cream as well as Elisha’s baseball cap (because Inhumans love swag :3).
Elisha is happy to give up his cap, after all he has a new hat and dons the battle helmet designed by Whitman (a side panel shows that Whitman had returned home and Elisha had knocked him out, thieving the inventors’ weapons). Uh oh…
A third storyline is also weaved throughout the narrative this one focusing on Triton and his brother, Karnak. Triton had been captured by a movie crew that had been filming some sort of see monster creature-feature (a story that was actually detailed way back in the pages of The Mighty Thor vol. 1 #’s 150-151). Triton had been offered up to some sort of research agency, studying him as though he were some mysterious alien species. The chemicals used to clean the tank where Triton is kept had befuddled his sense, but he has finally been able to clear his mind and manages to communicate with the researcher studying him. And in so doing manages to get her to let him go.
Soon there after, Triton locates his brother, Karnak, who has been searching for him; catching up with Karnak as he takes a ride not he ferris-wheel at Coney Island (okay?). In any case, Karnak and Triton are reunited and the two make haste to reunite with the others.
And all of this is leading up to the final confrontation where each of these various plot lines, secrets and true motives will come together and be revealed in the last issue of the series. Just cant’s wait for that!
There’s a whole lot to unpack here, not including the continuity weirdness where Black Bolt is apparently younger than Spider-Man. It remains to be seen whether or not The Living Terrigen is as benevolent a stewardship king as he claims or if he indeed has eyes to do away with Black Bolt and keep the throne for himself. Elisha’s fate is equally mysterious… will he be responsible for Attilan’s decision to do away with the Slave Engine? Maximus’ antipsychotic medication have been placebos all along; what does that reveal about the nature of his mental illness? And what’s all this with Medusa and Maximus making all kissy-face?
The device of having Maximus and Spider-Man experience a mental feedback loop acts as a really cool means of depicting the intense and confusing ambivalence that Max feels toward his brother. And the fact that Spidey’s dialogue was able to express this whist at the same time stay in tune with his knack for funny banter is really impressive. It’s seamless and funny, but also complex and poignant and a testament to Christopher Priest’s skills as a writer.
As much as I enjoyed the scenes between Spider-Man, Black Bolt and Maximus, I was a little let down by how quickly the side plot involving Triton and Karnak resolved. It almost felt like Mr. Priest might have had a slightly longer series in mind, but was forced to truncate and expedite matters to have things conclude faster than initially anticipated. It was also a bit confusing as to how Medusa was able to so easily locate Maximus at the pharmacy; likewise how it was that Whitman got home to soon and was taken down by Elisha. I wonder if this series was originally designed as being six issues long, but reworked to being just five issue after the fact. Still, it’s a minor complaint in that Priest and Noto work so well together that it doesn’t require too much imagination to read in-between the lines. That and I’m fine with clunky narrative jumps if it facilitates a scene as wonderfully bizarre as Maximus hugging the ‘reverend Aunt May.’
The final issue is sure to be a bittersweet affair. I cannot wait to see what happens, to learn how all of this will resolve, but I’ll also be quite saddened to see this series come to an end in that it has been such an absolute joy to read. And, as always, Phil Not’s illustration is second to none. I’ve always loved the way in which Mr. Noto draws figures and faces, yet in this series what has truly impressed me has been his deft skill for action, panel composition and backgrounds. The battle between Spidey and Black Bolt was just terrifically dynamic, cinematic; and the quieter scene between Max and Medusa was equally intense, but n a softer, more romantic fashion. I’m pretty much out of adjectives to laud Mr. Noto’s work. It’s just so good! He could illustrate the phonebook and I’d eagerly lap up each page!
Oh, and there’s a fun two page Lockjaw backup feature by Ryan North and Gustavo Durante. It’s basically a quick depiction of how the upcoming movie, Avengers: Infinity War should go down…
A quick thought on Maximus’ taking placebo medication before ending this review. Placebos are actually rather commonly utilized in psychiatry. A patient’s expectations and beliefs about a given medicine can be sometimes be just as powerful as any actual pharmaceutical agent. Of course doctors would never prescribe placebos for severe conditions, but products like St. John’s Wart or Ginkgo Biloba (which have no discernible medicinal values) have nonetheless often succeeded in proving highly effective in countless clinical situations.
That said, offering a placebo for psychosis is just unheard of. And this suggests that Maximus’ doctor may not believe that Max truly suffers from schizophrenia. Perhaps Maximus’ ‘madness’ is merely a product of his imagination, a means of coping with his terrible feelings of guilt over his role in the accident that caused his parents’ deaths. To this extent, the doctor prescribed Max the placebos in the hope that Max’s mere belief that the medication would curb his madness would in and of itself prove effective. Fascinating.
Another great and definitely recommended installment. I wish this series was never to come to an end! Four out of Five Lockjaws.
Artist, Javier Rodriguez, and colorist, Jordie Belleaire, join Al Ewing for the beginning of a new arc in the pages of The Royals, one that will see out heroes go up against the godly powers of the mysterious Progenitors. Quick recap/review following the jump.
As has been he case for the previous issues of The Royals, the story beings with a prologue set some five thousand years int he future. An aged Maximus, the Lat Inhumans, travels with Noh-Varr The Accuser to the post-apocalyptic ruins of Manhattan, where a crystalline Sky Spear remains inert amidst the crumbling and dilapidated building of the once-bustling city. The dialogue between the two is as quixotic as ever. Us readers remain uncertain as to what these two are talking about. What can be discerned is that The terrible Progenitors are returning and Maximus and Noh-Varr are intent on some sort of last ditch effort to save what is left of the earth.
Within the superstructure of the Sky Spear is what appears to be a human skeleton. Maximus refers to it as the Uni-King, hoping that it will arise… that perhaps it will prove their salvation against the Progenitors. It’s all quite mysterious.
The scene switches back to the present where we find Flint in his stateroom aboard the spacecraft Asterion. In the previous issue, Flint had laid hands on the Sky Spear planted on the outskirts of NovaHala. Touching the spear had imbued Flint with the augmented powers needed to defeat the Snarks, but it would seem that the action was not without its aftereffects. There’s an odd glow in his eyes, the robotic words of the spear continue to rattle through his mind. Then Flint is shocked to find that his right hand has somehow transformed, made into a crystalized substance through which the skeletal bones of his hands can be seen. Poor Flint, he’s horrified.
Elsewhere on the ship, Medusa and Gorgon have pillow talk after the two had consummated their new relationship with one another (gross!). Medusa is in rather bad shape. The mysterious illness she is suffering from has continued to ravage her. What is left of her once-bountiful hair has gone gray and she coughs up blood into the sink. Gorgon is unfazed. Although laid low by this sickness, to him Medusa is still the vibrant woman he has loved from afar for a long while now. Somehow, the crew of The Asterion has learned of Black Bolt’s escape from the space prison (as detailed in Black Bolt #6). Medusa and Gorgon wonder allowed what this may mean for them. Will Medusa be compelled to return to the side of her one-time king?
Medusa explains tha the spark between her and her ex-husband has long since gone out. She had felt obligated to stand at Black Bolt’s side during The Inhumans; darkest hours in hope that the sight of it might imbue their people with a sense of strength. Yet, she is no longer queen and no longer feels the obligation to put her needs second in the service of duty to their people.
On the bridge, Crystal and Maximus attempt to make sense of this sudden pairing between Medusa and Gorgon. At first Crystal imagines that it all may be the product of Maximus’ trickery for mental manipulation. Max assures her this cannot be the case; Swain’s presence acts to cancel out his powers as his does hers. And for once Max says something entirely plausible, even mature: Medusa and Gorgon are both consenting adults; why should there be anything wrong with their seeking comfort in each other’s arms?
Besides, Maximus has grander matters filling his head. The space ship is following the trajectory of the Sky Spear, tracking the spear to its source where they will find the mysterious Progenitors, the makers of the Prima Materia!
Maximus waxes on over what it must have been like for the astral gifs to come across a prehistoric Hala and transform its savage populace into The Kree People. The visuals that go along with Maximus’ words offer up an interesting visage… a turning of the tables wherein the Progenitors capture and experiment upon Kree savages in the same fashion that the Kree had done on earth when they created the Inhumans.
The substances that The Progenitors use to mutate the Kree cavemen is the Primagen, the true goal of the Royals’ quest. With this substance they can offer the Inhumans of earth a new lease on their collected future. Exactly how the team is planning on accomplishing such a goal, however, remains a mystery.
Swain chimes in with concerns about the matter. Her thought are for Medusa who appears to be suffering from an illness derived from the Terrigen. According to Noh-Varr’s postulations, Medusa is suffering from a poetic revenge the Terrigen has cursed her with. If this is indeed the case, and the primagen represents a more pure and powerful version of the Terrigen, might this further hasten Medusa’s illness?
There isn’t time to debate the matter, Flint comes rushing onto the bridge. He ignores the other’s concerns over what has happened to his hand and shouts that they have arrived. Some sot of giant cloaking shield dissipates before the ship, revealing the awesome sight of the Progenitor’s home: The World Farm. I’m not even going to attempt to describe what it is they see… it looks like this:
On this strange world, a harvester-class Progenitor picks fruit from an alien tree, studying the results and finding that the bizarre fruit as bore a crystal… a shard of unknown properties that the Progenitor refers to as ‘the quintessence.’
The being senses the approach of the Asterion spacecraft and appraises it as a threat. The being makes a motion with his hand and the spaceship explodes in fireball, apparently killing the entire Royals team on board.
and it is with this shocking cliffhanger that the issue comes to an end.
There’s a lot to unpack here. I’m just going to skip my embittered feelings over Medusa and Gorgon being together since the matter has already been addressed in a dozen ‘asks.’ In short, I’m not a fan of the pairing and sad to see my hopes of Medusa and Black Bolt reuniting so dashed. ‘nuff said…
Us readers and fans have known from the start that a crew of seven Royals would venture out on this mission, but only six would return. The specter of one of the character’s dying has been along fro the ride since the first issue. I had previously expected the character destined to perish to be Gorgon, but now I’ve changed my mind and my worry is fully focused on Flint.
The juxtaposition between Maximus and Noh-Varr looking up at this mysterious crystalline Uni-King and the way the scene so quickly switched to Flint has me feeling that Flint is to be the one who is ultimately transformed into this Uni-King… a suspicion that was further augmented when his he discovered his hand had taken on the same bone-inside-of-crystal properties. In short, I’m quite worried for Flint and the prospect of his making some heroic sacrifice to save the day is feelings like an increasingly viable prospect.
Javier Rodriguez’s illustration is just tremendous, made all the more vibrant by Jordie Belleaire’s masterful coloring. Rodriguez maintains his own unique style while at the same time letting his inner Jack Kirby run wild for the scenes with the Progenitors. Words fail me in trying to describe it. It’s just super cool.
This issue was notably short, with a number of added on pages in the back that act as a refresher course of who the inhumans are and how The Royals ended up on his mission. That bonus is likely helpful for new readers checking out The Royals for the first time. For me, however, it was a bit disappointing in that I’m so eager to learn more about the Progenitors and see our heroes engage in this incurably strange, incredibly cool world.
I definitely got a bit impatient with Medusa and Gorgon’s prolonged pillow talk, as well as annoyed with the perfunctory recap-oriented bonus pages. Yet this is only because I’m so enthralled by where the main story is going. Only because I just need to know what is going to happen to Flint; why Noh-Varr refers to the World-Farm as ‘home;’ what’s Maximus’ ulterior motives are; whether or not Medusa is going to be okay; what new visually stunning images does Rodriguez and Belliaire have in store for us?
And yet, I suppose that is part and parcel with the nature of serialized comics. The endings of a given issue are meant to leave the reader excited to pick up the next installment. And to this extent, Ewing et al. have certainly fulfilled their job.
A touch unsatisfying, but visually stunning, curiosity piquing, and surely recommended. Three out of Four Lockjaws.