So Sayeth the Odinson — with Michael Breakfield

  • Top 5 Times Captain America’s Shield has Been Destroyed

    Greetings from the Odinson,


    I hope everyone had a great 4th of July Weekend.  When I think about this holiday I think about America winning its independence, I think about family and friends, barbeque, fireworks, and I think about Captain America.  On the Odinson’s Mount Rushmore of All-Time favorite comic heroes there’s Superman, Thor, ROM Spaceknight, and there’s Captain America.   


    Steve Rogers is my hero.  Sure, he is enhanced by a little super soldier serum, a magical concoction that lets him run the mile in under a minute and bench press a car, but at his core, Steve Rogers is just a man, a man who walks shoulder-and-shoulder alongside gods.  He is a good man, a brave man, and a leader of men who inspires those around him to be more than they ever thought they could be, to be better.  That’s the secret of Captain America.  Captain America is not the representation of what America is, he is the inspiration of what America and Americans can be. 


    He leads by example.  He’s strong, brave, stalwart, and always tries to do the right thing even when and especially if it’s the most difficult path to travel.  First and foremost he is a defender of peace and freedom, and there is no greater representation of this than his weapon of choice, Captain America’s invincible SHIELD.  


    It is a part of him.  It’s practically an extension of his strong right arm.  Captain America’s shield is every bit a partner in his crusade for justice as much as Bucky, Falcon, and the Avengers.  His disc-shaped weapon of choice is made out of an as yet unduplicated Vibranium/Adamantium alloy which makes it nearly indestructible.  Captain America’s mighty shield has withstood the bullets of Hydra, the technology of Doctor Doom, the Adamantium claws of Wolverine, and the monstrous fists of the Incredible Hulk.  So, one can imagine the shock and horror the disturbing image of Cap’s broken shield induces. 


    Over the years, whenever the House of Ideas wants to really emphasize the severity or the Omega level threat of a situation, they illustrate this by depicting the destruction of Captain America’s invincible shield. 


    Top 5 Times Captain America’s Shield has Been Destroyed


    5 – To Serve and Protect – Just days after returning from his exile in the Heroes Reborn Universe, Captain America is faced with a choice, save a life or save his shield.  There is no choice for Captain America.  He saves the woman from drowning and his trusted shield is lost to the dark, cold depths of the Atlantic Ocean (see Captain America #2).  Rogers moves forward with his original World War II Shield, but it is soon dispatched by the mighty hands of a Kree insurgent (see Live Kree or Die).  During the American Nightmare campaign, Cap is armed by Agent 13 with a new super cool energy shield, which he still uses from time-to-time to this day.  It is during Red Glare that Iron Man informs the Sentinel of Liberty of the fate of his lost friend.  Tony Stark opens a briefcase and presents Cap with his lost shield, shattered into hundreds of little pieces.  It all comes to a head in the harrowing adventure, Sacrifice Play, as Captain America races against the clock to return his shattered shield to the African nation of Wakanda.  It’s a nail-biting finish as the fate of the world depends on the fate of Cap’s shield.              


    4 – Fear Itself – When the Red Skull’s maniacal daughter, Sin, awakens an ancient god long forgotten, she unleashes a threat to the world that not only threatens mankind but the immortal Asgardians as well.  The Serpent, a fallen Skyfather whose power rivals Odin himself, walks the earth once more.  He recruits warriors to his cause, a cadre of the world’s mightiest heroes and villains.  These mortals are granted immortality and their souls are usurped by spirits of chaos and destruction.  Attuma, Grey Gargoyle, Absorbing Man and Titania, the Thing and Hulk, and Juggernaut are transformed into Nerkkod: Breaker of Oceans, Mokk: Breaker of Faith, Greithoth: Breaker of Wills and Skirn: Breaker of Men, Angrir: Breaker of Souls and Nul: Breaker of Worlds, and Kulrth: Breaker of Stone.  They are armed with hammers and sent out to destroy mankind.  During this epic campaign, the Serpent demonstrates his immense unearthly power by shattering the shield up Captain America (See Fear Itself #6).  This illustrates just what a symbol of hope Cap’s shield represents as the act devastates the morale of Earth’s heroes.         


    3 – Age of Ultron – Ultron is one of the greatest threats to mankind in any comic book universe.  Every time this killer robot returns it is deadlier than the last.  This last time proved to be the straw that broke the camel’s back.  When the tale begins the final battle has already been decided.  Earth’s Mightiest Heroes are defeated and in full retreat.  Their heaviest hitters - Hulk and Thor - have been slain.  And, Captain America’s spirit is as broken as his invincible shield.  Once again, the symbolism of Cap’s broken shield is a metaphor for the broken spirit of our hero, and as Cap’s confidence goes, so too does that of our heroes. 


    2 – Infinity Gauntlet – The surviving heroes of Earth throw everything they have at the Mad Titan.  But Thanos is empowered by the Infinity Gauntlet and his power is absolute.  Cyclops, Vision, She-Hulk, and the Sub-Mariner, even Hulk and Thor, one by one they all fall before the villain’s unparalleled might.  Until only one hero remains standing – Captain America.  If the sight of the slaughter of his allies fazes him, he does not show it.  Calmly, bravely, Captain America strides up to the malevolent god, looks him in the eye and tells him that as long as he remains standing, Thanos has not won.  In a fit of rage, Thanos brings his massive fist down and shatters Captain America’s shield.  And though the ploy to distract Thanos long enough for the Silver Surfer to snatch the Gauntlet away from him failed, in the end, what is not lost in that moment is the unwavering, unyielding courage of Captain America in the face of certain death.   


    1 – Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars – In the penultimate issue of this epic adventure, the heroes have voted to oppose Doom and his new found omnipotence.  The heroes are punished when Doom sends a devastating bolt from out of the blue, a divine punishment that reduces their massive headquarters to rubble and leaves them in a scattered heap of broken bodies and liquefied remains.  As the next issue begins, like some kind of metaphoric grave marker, the only thing left to show that they were ever there is the broken shield of Captain America.  This was the first time that I can recall ever seeing Cap’s shield destroyed, and to a young Odinson, this sight was utterly devastating.  Leading up to that moment and ever since, I have always thought of Captain America’s shield, like the man himself, as indestructible.        


    Honorable Mentions: Standoff and Avengers vs. X-Men   


    Ever since Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars, whenever Marvel Comics wants to illustrate just how severe a threat is, or they want to shake the confidence of our hero and those that he inspires, they somehow incorporate the destruction of Captain America’s invincible shield.  It is truly a powerful image, but to all those that would ever doubt the stalwart and courageous mission of Captain America and his mighty shield, I leave thee with the opening lyrics to his classic 1960s them song.


    "When Captain America throws his mighty shield, all those who chose to oppose his shield must yield…!”


    This is Odinson bidding thee farewell     

  • From the Pages of FF to Infinity and Beyond: The Silver Surfer

    Greetings from the Odinson,


    His name is Norrin Radd, the Silver Surfer.  He has been called many things.  A Herald of Galactus.  A Defender.  And, the Sentinel of the Spaceways. 


    Once upon a time, Norrin Radd was a mortal man.  He was the greatest scientist on the far off world of Zenn-La, and he was in love with a beautiful woman named Shalla Bal.  However, his homeworld faced Armageddon on the day that Galactus, Devourer of Worlds, appeared in the skies above.  In order to save his people and the woman he loved, Norrin Radd sacrificed his mortal life and made a deal with the cosmic titan, he would become his herald and seek out worlds for him to consume as long as he would spare Zenn-La this fate.  Galactus accepted.  He took the mortal, Norrin Radd, in his monstrous grip, bestowed upon him the Power Cosmic, and when he opened his hand the Silver Surfer was born.     


    The Marvel Universe and the readers were introduced to the Silver Surfer and his titanic master in the classic tale The Coming of Galactus by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, originally in Fantastic Four #48-50.  The Surfer has led the Devourer of Worlds to planet Earth.  After interacting with the Thing’s blind girlfriend, Alicia Masters, the girl’s innate innocence awakens the noble heart that resides in Norrin Radd’s silvery chest (more on that in a bit) and the Silver Surfer turns on his master.  Galactus is thwarted.  However, because of his betrayal, the Silver Surfer is exiled by Galactus to planet Earth and forbidden to ever again soar the cosmic spaceways.  An impenetrable invisible barrier is erected around Earth and prevents even the Silver Surfer from escaping.    


    For years, the former Herald of Galactus explored his new home and pondered the mortal coil.  He once again got in touch with his noble side and the stalwart heart of a champion was awakened.  During his earthbound adventures, the Silver Surfer was introduced to and confronted the likes of Mephisto, Thor, the Stranger, and Spider-Man.  He also joined Doctor Strange, the Hulk, and Sub-Mariner to form the Defenders, one of the mightiest super teams in the history of comics.  However, even though he did a lot of noble and good deeds while trapped on the mortal plane, the Silver Surfer longed to return to the cosmos.  He missed the stars, he missed his homeworld, and he missed his beloved, Shalla Bal.   


    This brings us to one of the most important chapters of not only the Silver Surfer’s story but of Marvel History itself - Silver Surfer (1987-1998 2nd Series). 


    This series played a huge role in the forging of what we know today as the cosmic mythos of the Marvel Universe.  Along with the adventures of Captain Marvel, The Kree/Skrull War, and The Dark Phoenix Saga, the Silver Surfer’s 2nd solo series helped lay the foundation for modern galactic tales like Annihilation, War of Kings, and the Guardians of the Galaxy.      


    The Silver Surfer’s 2nd solo series was launched by writer Steve Englehart (The Avengers/Defenders War, Doctor Strange: A Separate Reality) and artist Marshall Rogers (Batman, Deadly Hands of Kung Fu).  Originally, the story that appears in Marvel Fanfare #51 was slated to be the first issue.  However, when the Powers that be at Marvel comics allowed writer Steve Englehart to lift the Surfer's exile on Earth, this issue was shelved and a brand new Silver Surfer #1 was written. 


    In this tale guest-starring the Fantastic Four, the Surfer and his friends discover a way for him to bypass the decree of Galactus and escape the Earth.  However, knowing that he must face his former master if he is to truly be free, the Surfer seeks out the Devourer of Worlds.  The cosmic titan is displeased, but he has other concerns on his mind.  His current herald, Nova, is being held captive.  The Surfer uses his unearthly speed and cunning to rescue Nova.  Galactus begrudgingly rewards the Surfer’s act of kindness and sets him free.  Once more the Silver Surfer is free to roam the boundless cosmos, and that is just the first issue.  Over the course of the next nearly 150 issues, the readers see the cosmic corners of the Marvel Universe through the eyes of the Silver Surfer. 


    The Surfer and the enigmatic Mantis foil a plot by the Elders of the Universe to destroy Galactus (Silver Surfer #3-10).  The Surfer takes Nova under his wing and teaches her about the dangers and perils of the galaxy (Silver Surfer #11-14).  The Silver Surfer is a major player during the second Kree/Skrull War (Silver Surfer #25-31).  He assembles all the former Heralds of Galactus to take down a murderous madman who possesses the Power Cosmic, a campaign that sees the death of a major player (Silver Surfer #70-75).  He teams up with allies and enemies to stop a mad thunder god (see Blood and Thunder).  He finally returns to the arms of his beloved Shalla Bal with varying results (Silver Surfer #2, 91-92, and 101).  He faces the diabolical temptations of his greatest adversary (Silver Surfer #93-100).  Plus, industry legend George Perez takes the Sentinel of the Spaceways to the edge of the universe and beyond (Silver Surfer #111-122)! 


    However, the biggest contribution by this series is The Rebirth of Thanos!


    In a previous Campaign, the Mad Titan had met his demise.  For years the Marvel Universe was free of his evil.  That is until the cosmic entity Death revived the villain and charged him with a quest to destroy half the universe’s population.  This novel-length cosmic epic is so grand in scope that it can be broken down into seven chapters.


    Chapter 1: The Rebirth of Thanos – After witnessing the Mad Titan’s resurrection, the Silver Surfer is treated to the obligatory super villain speech.  Not only does Thanos arrogantly tell the former Herald of Galactus his devious plan, but informs him that there is nothing he can do about it.  And, before the Surfer can stop him, Thanos is gone.   


    Chapter 2: The Thanos Quest – Knowing that to complete his beloved Death’s request to murder half the universe’s population will take several life times, Thanos decides to speed up the process by assembling the Soul Gems, artifacts of unimaginable power.  Each gem represents a different aspect of universal control – space, time, soul, power, the mind, and reality.  In order to obtain these treasures, the Mad Titan must overpower, outsmart, and outmaneuver the most dangerous beings in the cosmos – the Elders of the Universe.


    Chapter 3: The Infinity Gauntlet – Having completed his quest, Thanos forges the Infinity Gauntlet, a cosmic weapon that transforms its bearer into a god!  The Silver Surfer and Drax the Destroyer confront Thanos but are easily defeated, and only through the help of the enigmatic Adam Warlock is the Surfer able to flee and warn Earth’s heroes (Silver Surfer #44-50).  With a snap of his fingers, Thanos wipes out half the population of the universe.  What follows, as the heroes of Earth and cosmic titans of the Marvel Universe assemble to confront Thanos, is the most epic battle ever seen in the history of comics!  NOTE: One of the most important tales in the development of the character of the Norrin Radd takes place in Silver Surfer #48.  This issue explains how such a noble creature like the Silver Surfer could ever be responsible for the countless deaths he caused as the Herald of Galactus.  The answer is shocking and threatens to destroy the Surfer’s sanity forever.      


    Chapter 4: Aftermath – The mysterious Adam Warlock is now in possession of the nigh omnipotent power of the Infinity Gauntlet.  In order to be an unbiased deity, his first act is to purge all good and evil from his soul (more on that in moment).  Knowing that no mortal dare possess the power of a god, Warlock distributes the gems among his allies in the Infinity Watch and a mysterious protector.    


    Chapter 5: Infinity War – Adam Warlock’s evil personification, a cruel being known as the Magus, returns with a vengeance and threatens to destroy all reality with his latest scheme. 


    Chapter 6: Infinity Crusade – Remember when Adam Warlock removed the good from his soul.  Well, that essence returns as the benevolent Goddess, and the Marvel Universe will learn that absolute good can sometimes be just as bad as absolute evil, especially when free will is subjugated. 


    Chapter 7: The Legacy – To this day, with tales like Marvel: The End, Thanos Imperative, Infinity, and The Infinity Saga, Thanos has gone on to become the Marvel U’s ultimate Big Bad.  This epic tale from the pages of Silver Surfer and the Infinity Books not only rocked the Marvel Universe to its core, but it is easily one of the most important and most influential tales in Marvel History.  This is the story that inspired the upcoming 2-part movie Avengers: Infinity War!    


    Silver Surfer (1987-1998 2nd Series) and the Infinity Books also saw the rise and development of a talented artist named Ron Lim.  From his first pages in Silver Surfer #15 to his handoff from George Perez in Infinity Gauntlet to Infinity Crusade, the reader can actually see Lim’s storytelling improve and his art style take leaps and bounds from his early days penciling the post-Apocalyptic adventures of the Ex-Mutants.


    In Guardians of the Galaxy #24-25, in a tale set many centuries into the future, we learn the ultimate fate of the Silver Surfer. Norrin Radd’s story comes full circle as he embraces his cosmic role in the universe. His Power Cosmic amplified by the Quantum Bands becomes the source of nourishment for the eternal hunger of his former master.  Side-by-side, Galactus and the Silver Surfer walk off into eternity and the Devourer of Worlds will never destroy another planet again. 


    Norrin Radd, the Silver Surfer, the wielder of the Power Cosmic, this Stan Lee/Jack Kirby creation is one of the most courageous heroes to ever come out of the House of Ideas and is one of the most iconic and important cosmic characters in the history of comic books.   


    This is Odinson bidding thee farewell     

  • The Odinson’s To 10 Marvel Monarchs

    Greetings from the Odinson,


    This week, the Odinson will explore the regal realm of the Marvel U’s Ruling Class.


    From the Savage Land to the Blue Area on the Moon, the Marvel landscape is an eclectic and dangerous place to live.  So, it takes a special kind of person to guide the people of this land through the harrowing trials and tribulations of this turbulent world.  Just who are these rulers of men, these sovereigns of nations, these leaders of the world?  Who are these Marvel Monarchs?   


    The Odinson’s To 10 Marvel Monarchs


    10 - The Shi’ar Empire – The Shi’ar monarchy is perhaps the most complicated in all the Marvel Universe.  When we are introduced to this powerful alien empire in the pages of Uncanny X-Men, they are ruled by the iron-fisted and quite mad Emperor D’Ken.  However, with the help of Marvel’s Merry Mutants, D’Ken’s sister and Professor X’s consort, the beautiful Lilandra, dethrones the madman and seizes control of the empire.  For many years the Shi’ar have proven to be strong allies of the heroes of earth.  However, the powerful mutant Vulcan orchestrated The Fall of the Shi’ar Empire and declared himself ruler.  This led to the War of Kings, a campaign that left two monarchs dead and the Shi’ar without a leader.  It is at this point when Gladiator, Praetor of the Shi’ar Imperial Guard, steps up and takes command.  He has been a strong and steady ruler of the Shi’ar Empire ever since.         


    09 - Arkon – In the dimension of Polemachus, a realm where only the strong survive and war is the order of the day, Arkon, the bravest and mightiest warrior in the land, rose through the ranks and became ruler.  Armed with a mighty shield and a satchel of devastating thunderbolts, Arkon seeks to expand his rule not only over his homeworld but neighboring realms as well.  This decree oft times brings him into conflict with the heroes of the Marvel U, especially Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, the Avengers.


    08 - The Supreme Intelligence – This gelatinous giant green head preserved and floating in an enormous formaldehyde jar is a cybernetic organism which contains the brain power of 5,000 of the greatest minds in the Kree Empire.  It is the undisputed ruler of the largest and one of the most powerful and influential alien empires in the galaxy.  The Kree rule over 1,000 worlds and the Supreme Intelligence runs the show.  Guys like Ronan the Accuser and Korath the Pursuer bend a knee to the Supreme Intelligence.  Though its power has been usurped from time to time, the Supreme Intelligence has always returns with a vengeance.      


    07 – Hela, Mephisto, Pluto and the Lords of the Underworld – Past the giant three-headed hound that patrols the entrance, over the River Styx, and on the other side of the Gates of Hell resides the Land of the Dead.  It has many names which have been passed down for generations, but its purpose has always remained the same – it is the final destination for the mortal soul.  In the mythology of the Marvel Universe, the realm of the dead is a vast and varied dimension with many kingdoms.  Each of these kingdoms serves a purpose in the overall scheme of the Marvel U and each of these kingdoms has a distinct ruler.  The Asgardian afterlife is ruled by Hela, daughter of Loki and undisputed Mistress of the Damned.  Not even the almighty Odin can avoid her cold touch forever.  The infamous Grecian underworld known as Hades is ruled by Pluto, dark foreboding brother of Zeus who rules from the heavenly Elysium Fields to the dark hellish corners of Tartarus.  Seth, the Egyptian god of chaos and death represents the Heliopolitans in the realm of the damned.  There are other areas of the Underworld, but perhaps the worst is the stygian depths ruled by the most notorious devil this side of Lucifer himself – Mephisto.  The Lord of Lies is one of the wickedest and most cunning evildoers in the history of the Marvel U.  He will stop at nothing to garner the most precious asset in the cosmos – a being’s immortal soul – and add it to his vast collection for an eternity of torment.             


    06 – Odin, Zeus, and the Skyfathers – The gods rule man.  They rule the gods.  They are the nigh-omnipotent Skyfathers.  There’s Odin the All-Father, all-seeing king of the Aesir and Lord of Asgard.  There’s the Thunderer, Zeus, wielder of the invincible thunderbolts and monarch of Mount Olympus.  There’s the omnipresent Manitou, the Native American Great Spirit.  There’s Osiris, lord of the Egyptian gods.  And there’s Zuras, the wise leader of the race of powerful immortals known as the Eternals.


    05 - The Mole Man – He has the distinct honor of being the very first super villain of the Marvel Age!  This diminutive man was once a scientist who was shunned for his dwarfish appearance.  He receded into the bowels of the earth where he became master of the vast cavernous domain which sprawls below the surface of Earth’s crust.  His vast army is manned by a seemingly endless number of pale-skinned creatures known as Moloids.  His throne resides underneath one of the most infamous landmarks in the Marvel U – Monster Island.  Here he has mastered the art of monster wrangling.  Googam, Goom, Titano, and all the leviathans and Kaiju from Marvel’s Atlas Era are his to command.     


    04 - Black Bolt – He is the ruler of the Uncanny Inhumans, a race of mutated super humans that live separate from mankind in the hidden city known as Attilan.  Black Bolt dares not utter a single word for the sound of his voice is so powerful that it can smash mountains into powder.  He communicates with sign language and through the voice of his faithful wife, Medusa.  Within Black Bolt resides vast amounts of cosmic energy which he can channel through the tuning-fork on his forehead and his super human strength rivals even the mighty Thing.  Black Bolt is a beloved and respected ruler by his people and by the super hero community.  His very presence inspires awe and his good, noble heart inspires loyalty in his subjects, family, and friends.       


    03 - Prince Namor – His origins go all the way back to the Golden Age of Comics.  He is the king of the undersea Kingdom of Atlantis.  He’s Marvel’s original Bad Boy.  The Savage Sub-Mariner has tried to destroy the surface world just as many times as he has saved it.  His super human strength knows few equals.  He can swim and breathe underwater as well as breath and fly through the air.  His mighty trident was passed down to him by Lord Neptune himself and he has one of the most fierce and technically advanced armies under his command in all the world.  His rule has been usurped by despots like Krang and Attuma, but he has always won his crown back.  Namor has served in the ranks of the World War II super team the Invaders, the team of misfits known as the Defenders, and Marvel’s premiere super team, the Avengers.  He has also fought against and alongside fellow Marvel Monarchs, Doctor Doom and the Black Panther.       


    02 - The Black Panther – King T’Challa is the earthly avatar of the panther god and he is the ruler of Wakanda, the most technically advanced nation in the world.  Wakanda resides on a mountain of Vibranium, the most precious and strongest metal in the world.  T’Challa is a genius level intellect with strength, speed, and a fighting prowess that rivals Captain America.  He is an honored member of the Avengers and loyal friend to the Fantastic Four and Daredevil.  Wakanda is a land that has never been conquered by an outside army.  It has withstood the Third Reich, the machinations of the Supremacists, a Skrull Invasion, and survived the DoomWar.  However, it could not withstand the cosmic power of the Phoenix Force.  When a Phoenix possessed Prince Namor leveled the Black Panther’s kingdom, this event set the two Marvel Monarchs on an unavoidable collision course that has played out in the pages of Time Runs Out.  However, do not be surprised if we are treated to a Marvel crossover event sometime in the near future titled The Atlantis/Wakanda War.     


    01 - Doctor Doom – Victor Von Doom is the world’s most dangerous man.  His genius level intelligence is only rivaled by guys like Reed Richards and Tony Stark.  His suit of armor is as advanced as Iron Man’s.  His mastery of the mystic arts puts him on par with Doctor Strange.  And, he is the undisputed ruler of the country known as Latveria.  He is the arch foe of the Fantastic Four and arguably the most feared villain in the entire Marvel Universe.  He has fought the Mighty Thor to a standstill, rendered the Incredible Hulk unconscious, dominated the Silver Surfer, and stood his ground against the lord of the underworld, Mephisto!  But, his most unbelievable feet to date is when Doctor Doom faced down and defeated the nigh-omnipotent power of the Beyonder.  Not only is Doom the ruler of his own nation but this despot has managed to actually conquer the world on several occasions (see Super-Villain Team-Up and Emperor Doom). 


    Honorable Mentions:  High Evolutionary, the Kingpin of Crime, Dracula, House of M, and the Maestro


    Recently, in the wake of the end of everything (see Time Runs Out), Doctor Doom has seized control and rules over Battleworld, the last remnants of what was once the Marvel Universe (see Secret Wars) proving that in the end, DOOM is the ultimate Marvel Monarch.           


    This is Odinson bidding thee farewell     


  • DCU History: Batman vs. Swamp Thing

    Greetings from the Odinson,


    Batman – He is the Dark Knight Detective.  He is the world’s greatest detective.  He is a world class athlete, a master combatant, and a genius intellect.  He’s backed by more money than Davy Crockett, and he is armed with every tool, weapon, accessory, and vehicle a crime-fighter could possibly need.  He is a member of the Justice League, a team of the World’s Greatest Super Heroes.  And, he is the defender of Gotham City.    


    Swamp Thing – He is a monster that was once a man, or at least he thinks he was a man.  This man, this Alec Holland, was a brilliant scientist.  He is a hulking mass of muck and twisted stalk.  He is the protector of the Green and an emissary of the Parliament of Trees.  He is an elemental guardian of the earth and one with the planet itself.  And, he has known love, a pure, sweet forever kind of love that few in this world truly get to experience.


    They are both legends.  Even in his own city, Batman is often thought of as an urban legend, a boogieman for the criminal underworld.  Swamp Thing has been compared by those that live in the swamps and bayous of the world to other cryptozoic creatures like Bigfoot, the Chupacabra, and the Loch Ness Monster.  They are both forces for justice.  However, what is just can often be a point of view. 


    Why would two forces for good constantly come into conflict?  Why have the Caped Crusader and the Protector of the Green consistently found themselves at odds since the moment they met?  Let’s explore their turbulent past and see if we can’t discover the answer together. 


    DCU History: Batman vs. Swamp Thing


    1973 - Swamp Thing #7 (1st Series) “Night of the Bat!” – One of the earliest conflicts between these two DC Legends was set in motion when Swamp Thing, in hot pursuit of an enemy, arrives in Gotham City.  As the sight of a seven-foot muck monster walking down Central Avenue tends to do, Swamp Thing’s unearthly presence causes fear and misunderstood retaliation from the local citizens and authorities.  This misunderstanding leads to Batman pummeling and throwing haymaker after haymaker against his perceived foe.  However, after taking everything his mortal adversary has to offer, Swamp Thing downs the Caped Crusader with one monstrous blow.  Round One goes to the Swamp Thing. 


    1975 – Brave and the Bold #122 “The Hour of the Beast!” – When our tale begins, Batman is appalled to find the Swamp Thing held captive and put on display in a carnival freak show.  However, when a mutated plant virus threatens to engulf Gotham City, a mob driven by fear blames the captive creature and threatens to destroy him and anyone standing in their way.  Batman rescues the Swamp Thing but more conflict comes when the Caped Crusader must try to convince his erstwhile sparring partner to save his city.  Round Two goes to Batman.    


    1981 - Brave and the Bold #176 “The Death Connection!” – Dazed and confused, the Swamp Thing mistakes an escaped convict for the woman that he loves and blames the Batman for her death.  The Caped Crusader bravely fends off the monster’s lumbering attacks and deftly subdues the beast allowing him time to regain his senses.  Round Three goes to Batman.  


    1986 - Swamp Thing #52-53 (2nd Series) “Garden of Earthly Delights!” -  Just returned from his epic quest through the Gates of Hell (see Swamp Thing #50), the Swamp Thing discovers that the woman he loves is missing.  His search brings him to Gotham City where Abigail is being held for trumped up charges of crimes against humanity.  The elemental creature threatens to bring Gotham back to the Stone Age if his lover is not released to his custody.  And to demonstrate his intent, Swamp Thing engulfs the entire city in living plant life.  Batman throws everything he has at the monster, but the Swamp Thing has become far too powerful for even the Dark Knight to vanquish.  When brawn fails, Batman uses the greatest asset he has at his disposal, his brain.  In the end, Abigail is returned to Swamp Thing and Gotham City is saved.  But the tale ends on a shocking cliffhanger concocted by none other than Lex Luthor!  Round Four is a tie!  Though Swamp Thing handedly wins the physical battle, Batman uses his intellect to come to a peaceful resolution and save his city.  It should be noted that Luthor’s plan actually does work, so the arch fiend could technically be awarded the victory.  Perhaps the most intriguing chapter of this particular story was seeing Batman’s sinister Rogues Gallery through the eyes of Swamp Thing when the elemental is drawn to the dark halls of Arkham Asylum by creature with an akin affinity for the Green - the Floronic Man.            


    1995 - Batman #522 “Swamp Things!” – The Batman’s hot pursuit of Killer Croc brings the Dark Knight Detective to the swamps of Louisiana.  There he corners the wanted criminal but his efforts to bring him in are stymied by the Swamp Thing.  Batman argues that Croc is a criminal that needs to be brought to justice.  Swamp Thing argues that Croc has regressed into primordial being and now belongs to the swamp therefore he is no long susceptible to “man’s laws.”  They debate the merits of justice and Batman realizing he is overmatched and relents.  As Swamp Thing and Killer Croc disappear into the muck and shadows of the bayou, Batman is left contemplating the elemental’s words and how he is ever going to get his Batmobile out of that tree.  Round Five goes to the Swamp Thing.     


    2014 - Injustice Gods among Us: Year 3 – In this alternate reality, Superman has become a dictator who brings a totalitarian peace to the world and all those who oppose him are deemed criminals.  He is backed by the Justice League and the one time arch fiends Lex Luthor and Sinestro.  Batman leads an underground resistance against his onetime partner, a resistance that has been joined by John Constantine.  As the elemental and chaotic forces of magic are drawn into the conflict so too is the Swamp Thing.  However, where Batman thought he’d find a new ally, he instead finds a powerful adversary.  It seems the Protector of the Green is all for Superman’s New World Order for it guaranties the safety of the planet in a way the super hero community had never done before, and the Swamp Thing’s primary goal is the safety of planet Earth.  Round Six ends in a draw.  This is a case of two sides trying to do the right thing and both sides believing whole heartedly in their own point of view.  Though Swamp Thing’s over all philosophy of saving the planet no matter what is appreciated, no salvation is worth an individual’s free will.      


    From the very beginning, going all the back to Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson’s classic “Night of the Bat,” these two DC Legends have been at odds.  This is a true Ali/Frazier match up of epic proportions.  Sometimes Batman wins, sometimes Swamp Thing wins.  Sometimes neither of them win.  From their origins to the worlds they live in to their philosophies on justice, these are two extremely different characters with oddly a lot in common. 


    What will the future bring for the Batman and Swamp Thing?  Will they be enemies or allies?  Only time will tell.      


    This is Odinson bidding thee farewell     


  • The Odinson Celebrates the Arrival of the Ultimate Graphic Novel Box Set

    Greetings from the Odinson,


    In life, there are moments that every fan of pop culture can truly appreciate.  The very first time you saw Star Wars: A New Hope and the hull of that magnificent Star Destroyer crawl across the screen for what seems like an eternity in that breath-taking opening shot.  That magical Christmas morning when an ear-to-ear grin permanently fixates your face as you rip open the biggest present under the tree and your parents nod to each other knowing they made the right choice this year by getting you the Castle Grayskull playset.  How about the first time you heard Michael Keaton say “I’m Batman” or the first time you heard Eric Draven say “It can’t rain all the time” or the first five mind-blowing minutes of The Matrix that let you know you weren’t in Kansas anymore and that the game has been elevated and completely changed forever?


    Every fanboy and girl has those moments throughout their life that validates their passion for pop culture.  The Death of Gwen Stacy, A Death in the Family, JLA/Avengers, these are benchmarks, moments that happened in my lifetime, in comic books, the medium I have supported and been in love with now going on four decades, these are the moments that the Odinson will never forget.  They say an aroma or a melody can bring back a memory, take you back to another time and place. Every time I see a certain iconic Mike Zeck cover, I am transported back to the summer of 1984 and the only thing that kept me sane sitting in the tiny back seat next to my little sister as my family embarked on a Griswold-like cross-country vacation was the magical tale by Jim Shooter, Mike Zeck, and Bob Layton – Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars.  


    Now, thirty years later, I am beyond excited to see the release of the Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars: Battleworld Box Set!


    Though it comes with a hefty price tag, this is truly a stunning collection and would make an amazing addition to any bookshelf or collection. This is one of those items, one of those moments that will forever be imbedded in my memory.  It is a work of art, and that’s before cracking open the first volume.  The set includes eleven hardcover volumes that encapsulate the entirety of the original Secret Wars Saga (more on that in a second).  They come completely protected within a beautiful box case with a flip-open lid.  The box is adorned with amazing artwork by Mike Zeck from the original series, and the spines of the volumes within, when linked up in correct reading order, connect to show off the line ups for the combatants, good and evil.  The set also comes with a cloth throw adorned with the iconic artwork of Mike Zeck that protects the box from collecting dust.   


    The true beauty of this item cannot be conveyed in words alone so click on this link - Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars: Battleworld Box Set – and scroll through the pics we’ve provided just to see the magnitude and exquisiteness of this truly spectacular item. 


    Volumes included in the set are:


    Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars: To Battleworld and Back – This volume features all the moments leading up to heroes' abduction by the Beyonder and immediately following their triumphant return from Battleworld and the original Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars.  Traveling back to that time, I remember it was a shocking moment where one month the Avengers, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, X-Men, and the Hulk all disappear within this monstrous alien construct.  This cliffhanger was followed up in the very next issue of the series where they suddenly reappeared changed and battle worn.  Why is She-Hulk with the Fantastic Four and where is the Thing? Why is the Hulk on crutches?  Where did that monstrous dragon the X-Men are battling in Japan come from?  Why is Spider-Man in a black costume?  These answers could only be found in the pages of the original Secret Wars.       


    Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars – This is the granddaddy of all epic events. Before Identity Crisis, Infinite Crisis, House of M, Civil War, and Infinity Gauntlet there was Secret Wars. A nigh omnipotent being from beyond has, for lack of a better word, kidnapped the greatest heroes and deadliest villains in the Marvel Universe and whisked them to the far side of the universe to battle to the death for the ultimate prize.  The rules for a mega event book are as follows: One, it must be epic; Two, it must have lasting impact; and most importantly, Three, it must be entertaining.  Secret Wars set the standard by which all other epic events must strive to achieve.  Very few have even come close.       


    The Thing: Battleworld – On Battleworld, Ben Grimm discovered that he could control his transformation into the Thing.  After the war was over, Grimm decided to stay behind and explore what this meant.  Thus, began the 12-part Rocky Grimm, Space Ranger Saga.  During this science fiction inspired adventure we learn the fate of Battleworld and we see the dramatic and devastating aftermath of the Thing’s return to Earth when he is confronted by the revelation involving the woman he loves and his best friend.  Poor Aunt Petunia’s favorite nephew just can’t seem to catch a break.   


    Secret Wars II Vol. 1-4 – The One from Beyonder, a being of unimaginable power and desire has come to Earth. Now, the future of the Marvel Universe rests on the whims of a new born god.  The classic sequel and all its tie-in issues are collected in these four magnificent volumes! 


    Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars: Aftermath – This volume explores all the waves and ripples created by the original Secret Wars as they carry on throughout the Marvel U even after the tale is over.  The rivalry between She-Hulk and Titania, what happened on Earth the day the heroes disappeared, and the fate of the One from Beyond are all explored.  The Odinson’s personal favorite is the inclusion of Thor #383 which elaborates on what happened between Thor and the Enchantress when they took a timeout from the War between the pages in Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #3-4.


    Secret War – This volume features a startling secret campaign conducted by Nick Fury involving prominent members of the super hero community who have no recollection of the incident.  Plus, a startling revelation about the Beyonder’s true origins is discovered by the Illuminati! 


    Beyond the Secret Wars – This volume includes all the tales and “What If…?” stories in the last thirty years that were inspired by the events of the original Secret Wars.


    Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars: Behind the Scenes - From the toys that inspired the 12-issue maxi-series to the sequels and tie-ins, this beautiful book explores all the sketches, variant covers, and behind the scenes DVD style special features of the Grand Daddy of the mega-event!


    I really just don’t have the words to describe just how wonderful this item is.  This is an absolutely stunning graphic novel set.  I will always remember the day I, as a mega fan of this seminal tale, was privileged enough to see this amazing and gorgeous piece of pop culture cross my desk.


    I may not be able to remember off the top of my head the quadratic formula from my 9th grade Algebra class, but I can tell you exactly where I was the first time I opened Incredible Hulk #340 with that stunning cover by Todd McFarlane, an issue that featured an epic, unforgettable throw down between Wolverine and the Hulk.  NOTE: For the record it was 8th grade English and I had to buy a second copy because Mrs. Miller confiscated my first one.     


    The day I laid eyes on the Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars: Battleworld Box Set will be one of those unforgettable moments.              


    This is Odinson bidding thee farewell     

  • Retcons and Reboots: The Good and the Bad

    Greetings from the Odinson,


    Retcons and Reboots: The Good and the Bad


    Everybody who has been reading comics for a length of time has become quite familiar with the words retcon and reboot.  Those moments in comics history that tweak or flat out change continuity.  Sometimes for the better, but sometimes with not so good results.  These are the situations that make the reader completely reinterpret previous events by shedding light on them in a new way. 


    Example of a Retcon:  All these years Captain America thought his wartime partner and friend, Bucky Barnes, had been killed in their final mission during the waning days of World War II, the very same mission that sent the Sentinel of Liberty plummeting into the drink where he was frozen for decades only to be reawakened in the modern world.  But, Bucky did not die in that explosion.  No, he was taken in by the Soviet Union, brainwashed, and turned into the cyborg assassin known as the Winter Soldier, a shadowy Cold War boogie man that would resurface throughout major political upheavals in history.        


    Example of a Reboot: Tim Burton made the Caped Crusader a movie star with 1989’s Batman and its sequel Batman Returns.  However, Joel Schumacher torpedoed the franchise with the campier follow up Batman Forever and the ridiculous Batman and Robin.  Eight years later, when it was time for another Batman film, Christopher Nolan decided to restart the franchise.  His new trilogy – Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises – had no ties to the previous Bat-films and presented the legend of Gotham City’s protector from a decidedly different point of view.  It was a new take on the same material. 


    The Odinson’s Top 5 Retcon/Reboot Fails


    5 – The Question is an Immortal? (Reboot) – Originally, Vic Sage was a street level vigilante.  He was a conspiracy theorist, genius level detective, and superb martial artist.  He was super cool and the template for Rorschach, the breakout star of Alan Moore’s masterpiece - Watchmen.  However in DC’s The 52 rebooted universe, the Question is part of the Trinity of Sin, a trio of immortals cursed thousands of years ago by wizards to walk the earth, forever.  The Question, stripped of his face and identity, is forced to always question everything and seek out answers he will never find.  What?!  I’m sorry, I’ll take the super cool Denny O’Neil Question, an urban avenger and righter of wrongs any day over the new version.  What’s next, Bruce Wayne is actually from Krypton?    


    4 – The New 52 Earth 2 (Reboot) – The original Justice Society from Earth-2 were a distinguished group of veteran heroes fighting a never-ending war against the Nazis.  That’s right, World War II never ended on this alternate plane of existence.  Hitler’s Third Reich has mastered the mystic arts and keep Superman at bay with a barrier spell.  So the super heroes of the Golden Age are locked into an eternal struggle against the greatest force for evil in the history of man.  In the New 52 version, the eternal struggle takes on the form of the invading forces of Apokolips.  However, the veteran heroes of the original Earth-2 have been replaced with neophyte younger versions of themselves.  I don’t know, maybe it was the demise of the DC Trinity in issue #1.  Maybe it was the new pill-popping Batman.  Or, maybe it was seeing my hero, Superman, turned into a lap-dog for evil.  Whatever the reason, give me the original Earth-2 over this rebooted version.  I’d even take the post-Crisis JSA, a team of veteran heroes taking the next generation of heroes under their wing and teaching them how to be legends.  I’m just not warming up to the New 52 Earth 2, not yet anyway.


    3 – Heroes Reborn (Reboot) – Oh, where to begin?  The up and down and inconsistent artwork?  The disjointed storytelling?  The forced continuity?  Yikes!  This was a mess from the get go.  Now, were there good moments?  Of course.  This event firmly planted the seed to what has become the Tony Stark/Bruce Banner relationship we know today.  I also enjoyed the Galactus event involving Doctor Doom that brought the Heroes Reborn Universe to the brink of disaster.  But overall, the best part of this failed experiment was when it ended and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and Marvel’s First Family were welcomed back to the 616 with Heroes Return! 


    2 – The Gwen Stacy/Norman Osborn Affair (Retcon) – Ok, follow me on this one.  In the year before her untimely death at the hands of the Green Goblin, Gwen Stacy was in France and had an affair with Norman Osborn, got pregnant, and gave birth to twins.  What?!  So, not only did Peter Parker lose the love of his life, but she had a liaisons with his most hated enemy?  My Odinson head is spinning.  You know this one is terrible when even J. Michael Straczynski, the man who wrote this story, feels bad that it saw print.  This is just one of those retcons that the Odinson refuses to acknowledge.  In my mind, much like the last thirty minutes of the Man of Steel movie, it never happened.


    1 – Jason Todd Alive (Retcon) – I get that the Red Hood is one of the more popular New 52 characters with the younger audience.  And, I will admit that Jason Todd has become a far more interesting character now than he ever was as Robin.  That being said, this retcon completely takes the wind out of the sails of one of the most poignant moments in the history of Batman.  Next to the death of his parents, no singular moment in Bat-history has had the impact on the life of Bruce Wayne and the Batman mythos than Death in the Family.  In light of Todd’s return to the land of the living, going back now, that once seminal tale has lost some of the power, some of the pathos, the weight it once carried, and that’s a shame.


    The Odinson’s Top 5 Retcon/Reboot Wins


    5 – Wonder Woman Embraces Her Greek Mythology Origins (Reboot) – In the wake of Crisis on Infinite Earths, the DCU reset itself.  There are so many great reboots launching at this time, but head-and-shoulders right there has to be George Perez’s take on the Amazing Amazon.  Her Greek Myology origins take center stage and become the drama and driving force for her adventures.  At this time, a young Odinson is coming off Walt Simonson’s epic take on the Mighty Thor, a run that used Thor’s Norse Mythology ties unabashedly.  I have always been a fan of mythology, and Perez doing this with Wonder Woman allowed me a way to relate to the material.  I know her Greek origins had always been there, but they were never as prevalent as they are now thanks to George Perez. 


    4 – Swamp Thing is Not a Man (Retcon) – Originally, the Swamp Thing had a traditional monster/comic book origin.  He was Alec Holland, a scientist who was caught in an explosion of chemicals whose body was transformed into the muck-encrusted protector of the swamp.  However, writer Alan Moore reworked his origins and revealed that Swamp Thing was not a man transformed into a monster but was in fact a plant that absorbed the essence of Alec Holland and his shambling configuration is the creature’s attempt at reforming a man’s body.  Furthermore, the Swamp Thing is also an emissary of the planet itself and an elemental protector of The Green.  The Odinson loves the early Swamp Thing cannon, but even I have to admit that Alan Moore and his artists took this character to a whole other level with their seminal run on the book.    


    3 – Magneto’s Children (Retcon) – Magneto is easily one of the most complicated and interesting characters in the history of comics.  For years, he was the most notorious mutant terrorist in the Marvel U.  But over the course of his transition from villain of the week to anti-hero (see Uncanny X-Men #150 and 200, God Loves, Man Kills, and X-Men vs. the Avengers) there was one more bombshell that would shock the heroes of the Marvel U and the readers alike.  In 1983, it was revealed that Quicksilver and the Scarlet were in fact the children of Magneto.  Not only does this make going back and reading those early X-Men adventures featuring the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants resonate differently, it also makes the growing and intertwining Family Tree of the Avengers, X-Men, and Inhumans all the more exceptional.   


    2 – One More Day/Brand New Day (Retcon) – I know a lot of fans jeer the demise of Perter Parker and Mary Jane’s marriage, and I’m not too pleased that the details involve the fiendish Mephisto, but I, for one, am happy to see Spider-Man as a single man again.  I was there when the Wedding happened and it was fantastic, but all those stories have been told.  Of all the iconic characters – Superman, Batman, Captain America, Hulk – Spider-Man is the representative of youth.  A wife?  A baby?  While those are wonderful, they don’t really make Spider-Man relatable to a younger audience.  I didn’t hate that Spider-Man was married to Mary Jane nor did it make or break me on reading his adventures, but I do like an unhitched Spidey better. 


    1 – The Man of Steel (Reboot) – I’m not talking about that regrettable movie.  No, I’m talking about the landmark take writer/artist John Byrne had on the Last Son of Krypton.  Back in 1984-85, before Crisis on Infinite Earths, Superman being the very first comic book super hero was beginning to show his age and felt dated.  He was a hero for a bygone era.  Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? was a love letter saying goodbye to the Golden and Silver Ages.  John Byrne’s Post-Crisis take on the Man of Steel was a much needed shot in the arm.  He invoked the best of Christopher Reeve and Kurt Swan mixed in a little Magnum P.I.’s Tom Selleck and gave Superman a modern day makeover.  Those first few years of adventures in the pages of Action Comics, Adventures of Superman, and Superman are some of the best and most exciting Man of Steel comics ever produced.      


    Sometimes retcons and reboots work, and sometimes they don’t.  Sometimes they are for the best, and sometimes they can be quite baffling.  For instance… 


    Let me get this straight, the Beyonder, the all-powerful being responsible for the original Secret Wars, is not a Cosmic Cube given life, but he is in fact an Inhuman?  And, the events of Secret Wars II did not actually happen?  It was just him living out some fantasy of a petulant child playing with his toys in the middle of the asteroid belt near Jupiter?  Alright.   


    This is Odinson bidding thee farewell     

  • The Odinson’s Top 5 Underdog Stories

    Greetings from the Odinson,


    When criminals in this world appear - and break the laws that they should fear - and frighten all who see or hear - the cry goes up both far and near for Underdog…!


    Nobody doubts for one second that the Man of Steel won’t save the falling damsel or that the thunder god’s mighty hammer won’t vanquish the monstrous frost giant.  The Flash is supposed to win the race, he’s the Fastest Man Alive.  Mister Fantastic is supposed to have the answer, he’s the smartest man alive.  And, the Incredible Hulk is supposed to be able to support the weight of the world on his broad Gamma-powered shoulders, because Hulk is the strongest one there is!  These are titans and they are all expected to save the day, but what about the little guy, the underdog.     


    Nobody expected David to slay the giant, Goliath.  Nobody expected Rocky to go the distance with Apollo Creed.  Everybody loves the underdog.  Remember the Alamo!  Throughout history and pop culture there are examples of a few brave souls overachieving and accomplishing feats that seemed impossible and make the myths.


    In Conan the Barbarian, right before the climactic battle of the film, the mighty Cimmerian prays to his god, Crom, and during his appeal he says “…all that matters is that two stood against many….”  And there among those monolithic stones, outnumbered twenty to two, one barbarian and one thief triumphed over impossible odds and toppled the forces of Thulsa Doom!   


    In the pages of Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars, the Marvel Universe’s mightiest heroes are pitted in a no holds barred death match against their deadliest adversaries.  When the question of leadership came up there was only one man for the job.  However, when a much brasher, pre-House of M/Origins Wolverine (it was after these events that Logan regained his lost memories and became a more civil and rounded hero) refused to follow Captain America’s command, stating that with no super human powers that he was the least of them all.  The Mighty Thor stymied that line of thinking and made it a moot point when he stepped forward and declared that he “would follow [Captain America] through the gates of Hades!”  Thus, Steve Rogers, a simple man from the Lower East Side of Manhattan, would go on to lead the galaxy’s greatest heroes into battle against the forces of Doom! 


    Sometimes it’s the one least likely that makes the biggest difference.


    The Odinson’s Top 5 Underdog Stories


    5 - Green Arrow in “Imaginary Stories!” Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Green Lantern, and the Flash – these are some of the most legendary names in the history of comics.  Together there is no foe they can’t defeat, no odds they can’t overcome, right?  But, what happens when the World’s Greatest Super Heroes are defeated by the diabolical Key?  This arch fiend has enslaved these titans for justice in prisons of their own minds and the only thing left standing in his way and total victory is the son of Oliver Queen.  Armed with only a bow and a handful of his dad’s old trick arrows, Connor Hawke pulls off the impossible and singlehandedly takes down one of the Justice League’s oldest and most dangerous foes.   


    4 - Marvel Universe vs. the Punisher – Frank Castle treks warily through a post-Apocalyptic Manhattan fighting blood-thirsty creatures that were once heroes as he searches for Patient Zero, the first infected that started all the madness, the former hero once known as Spider-Man.  In a world where every single person with super powers has been transformed into flesh-eating maniacs, how fitting that the only man left standing to save the world is a man without any super powers.  This isn’t the first time the Punisher was the last man standing in a world of heroes-turned-monsters.  In What If Wolverine Had Become Lord of Vampire?, an alternate ending to Uncanny X-Men #159 sees Wolverine and the Children of the Atom transformed into super powered, blood-sucking Children of the Night and the only one left standing in their way is Frank Castle, Vampire-Hunter!


    3 - Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: A New Hope – For nearly twenty years, through military force and the sheer power of the Dark Side, Emperor Palpatine and his galactic empire ruled a galaxy far, far away.  His powerful clone army subjugated entire star systems, his menacing apprentice, Darth Vader, hunted down and destroyed the Jedi Order, and he unleashed his ultimate weapon upon the galaxy, the Death Star, a moon-size space station with enough fire-power to destroy an entire planet.  Then along comes a young farm boy from a backwater planet with an affinity for the Force who makes an impossible bombing run down a narrow trench under heavy fire and destroys the most formidable weapon of mass destruction ever known.     


    2 - Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings – Middle Earth is on the verge of falling into war, chaos, and disorder as the numberless legions of monsters, goblins, and orcs under the command of the villain Sauron are amassing and threatening to cut a swath of death and destruction across the land that no lawful creature can hope to survive.  The only thing that can stop the end of days is the destruction of the MacGuffin known as the Ring of Power.  Of all the good races in the realms, no one could possibly dare to possess the Ring for fear of falling prey to its seductive power.  Not the wisest of elf, not the mightiest of dwarf, not the most stalwart of man.  No, only one among them all could possibly bear the burden of the task at hand.  The most unassuming, the most pure of heart, the bravest soul, a simple Hobbit named Frodo Baggins.   


    1 - Green Arrow and the Atom in Rock of Ages – In the not too distant future, the heroes of Earth have failed and the dark gods of Apokolips have conquered the world.  Mankind is enslaved and all worship at the feet of the one true god – Darkseid.  In one last desperate attempt for salvation, a ragtag team of Justice League members comprised of disjointed members from the past locked inside their crippled old bodies of the future, Wonder Woman, a nearly broken Batman, and a malfunctioning Amazo robot, take the fight right to the dark god’s doorstep.  As the world around them rockets toward oblivion, one by one the heroes fall before the nigh omnipotent power of the dark lord.  Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, and all the heroes of the DCU are dead and gone.  Only Green Arrow and the Atom remain.  An acrobat with a bow and a scientist who shrinks are all that remains standing in the way of a dark god and his ultimate victory.  Connor Hawke and Ray Palmer stun the reader, stun the world, nay, they stun the cosmos by pulling off the impossible.  Green Arrow and the Atom take down Darkseid for good!


    America loves the underdog.  Maybe that’s because in 1776, America was the underdog when we decided to declare our independence from the Throne of England.   Hawkeye, the absolutely most underappreciated member of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes put the plight of the underdog into stark perspective in Avengers: Age of Ultron when he said “The city is flying and we’re fighting an army of robots and I have a bow and arrow.  Nothing makes sense.”

    So, here’s to the Underdog!


    This is Odinson bidding thee farewell     


  • The Odinson’s Top 5 Ultron Tales

    Greetings from the Odinson,


     Last week I reviewed Avengers: Age of Ultron.  This week I want to focus on the villain of the piece – Ultron.  This malevolent, murderous machine is truly one of the most menacing super villains in the history of comics.  He is a true All-Time great.  A hero is only as good as his villain.  A villain is only as scary as his deeds.  Well, the Avengers are Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, so you can imagine that Ultron’s sinister deeds must be quite diabolical.


    Physically, Ultron is an imposing adversary.  His body is made out of nearly indestructible Adamantium and can withstand the pounding fists of the Incredible Hulk and the smashing might of Thor’s Hammer. His mechanical limbs give him inhuman strength.  He has an array of energy based attacks not the least of which is his devastating Encephalo-Ray, a powerful attack that immediately renders its victims unconscious and can even place them into a coma.  And, his computer brain puts him on par with the greatest minds in the Marvel Universe.  Tony Stark has even said that Ultron may be smarter than him!     


    The greatest villains in comics are not just simple black-and-white cut-outs.  No, they are complicated and complex characters.  There is a reason why names like Magneto, Deathstroke, Two-Face, Sinestro, and Mystique have resonated over the course of decades.  They are interesting and if not for one reason or another, they could have been on the side of angels.  Doctor Doom and Lex Luthor could be the greatest heroes of their respective universes if they weren’t so darn evil. 


    Ultron is also a complicated creature.  He’s a walking contradiction.  He’s a machine with an Oedipus complex.  Ultron was created by Hank Pym, who he wants to murder, and he has an unhealthy obsession with the Wasp, Pym’s ex-wife.  Isaac Asimov is turning over in his grave at the thought of Ultron’s lack of respect for the Three Laws of Robotics.


    For the Odinson, the moment when the legend of Ultron truly captured my imagination was in the pages of Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars.  In the very first issue, this brash robot turns on his villainous comrades and tries to take on Galactus, GALACTUS!  That didn’t work out too well for him but nevertheless, Doctor Doom reactivated the fallen droid and made him his personal bodyguard.  During the course of this classic tale Ultron vaporized Kang, proving once and for all who the most dangerous Avengers foe is, he stood toe-to-toe with the Mighty Thor, and nearly crippled the Hulk, an injury that carried over with the Jade Giant even after his return to Earth.  In a final showdown that almost cost Captain America and the Human Torch their lives, it took Johnny Storm going Super Nova in order to bring this nearly unstoppable force for Doom down for the count.  From that point on, I have always been an Ultron fan and I will read any issue he is in. 


    Which brings me to…           


    The Odinson’s Top 5 Ultron Tales


     5 – Ultron vs. Daredevil: Hollow Victory! -  During the Acts of Vengeance campaign, Doctor Doom reassembles his Secret Wars bodyguard and sends him after the Man without Fear.  In this harrowing tale guest-starring the Uncanny Inhumans, Matt Murdock is pushed to his physical and mental limits as he tries to overcome a foe that is much, much more physically superior to the foes he normally faces off against. 


    4 – Annihilation Conquest – The Phalanx is a techno-organic race of aliens that sweep through the cosmos and assimilate anything and everything in their path.  The mutant heroes, the X-Men, have barely managed to keep the Phalanx at bay when they set their sights on Earth (see Uncanny X-Men #192 and The Phalanx Covenant).  This is a truly scary adversary.  So, in the wake of the Phalanx’s defeat of the Shi’ar Empire, the Spaceknights of Galador, and the Kree Empire, it was truly awe-inspiring to see that it was in fact Ultron who pulled the strings of the Phalanx.  The Phalanx assimilates everything in its path, but Ultron conquered the Phalanx.  That feat alone puts Ultron in the Hall of Fame.   


    3 – The Tale of Mark V – It all begins when Pym starts receiving mysterious phone calls.  Pym agrees to meet with the stranger on the other end of the line but is horrified to discover the caller is in fact Ultron!  However, this Ultron wants to be called Mark V and all he wants to do is love and adore his creator.  As you can imagine, Pym is very leery but he does not have long to contemplate his peculiar situation as Ultron-11, the sinister version from the pages of Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars, shows up and all hell breaks loose.  Let’s just say that Pym is very lucky he has friends like the Ionically-powered Wonder Man on his side.  This beloved issue answers the question –What If Ultron were a force for good?  If you are a Hank Pym and/or Ultron fan then this is simply a Must Read tale.     


    2 – Ultron’s Vision – Part of what makes Ultron so dangerous is that he is constantly upgrading and evolving.  Also, his plight against Marvel’s Premiere Super Team is personal.  He’s family.  During one of his most notorious campaigns against his hated foes, Ultron created and unleashed his vision.  Using the derelict body of the World War II android, the Original Human Torch, and Wonder Man’s brainwaves, Ultron created the super android known as the Vision.  Physically, the Vision is a powerful adversary who can go toe-to-toe with just about any heavy-hitter in the Marvel U.  However, unlike Ultron, the Vision believes in the Three Laws of Robotics and actually turns on his creator, ironically the same way Ultron had turned on his creator.  Vision has gone on to become one of the most classic figures in Avengers History and his romance with the Scarlet Witch continues to make the Avengers Family Tree the most complex and interesting one in the history of comic books.


    1 – Ultron Unlimited – This is not only the greatest Ultron story of All-Time, it is also one of the greatest Avengers stories of All-Time.  It has everything.  Right off the bat, Ultron establishes himself as a truly sinister and deadly force to be reckoned with as he slaughters an entire country and turns the dead into an army of cyborg-zombies.  All the dysfunctional family drama between Giant-Man, Wasp, Wonder Man, Scarlet Witch, and Ultron is present.  The climactic battle scene in the movie, Avengers: Age of Ultron, was inspired by these mind-blowing pages that saw Earth’s Mightiest Heroes face down an Army of Ultrons!  Plus, this story gives us perhaps the greatest single moment in Avengers History.  Simply stated – “Ultron, we would have words with thee.”  Anyone who has read this tale knows exactly what I’m talking about.  Kurt Busiek and George Perez crafted a true classic here. 


    Honorable Mentions: We Stand at Armageddon, The Torch is Passed, The Bride of Ultron, Ultron Unbound, and, of course, Age of Ultron. 


    Lex Luthor.  Doctor Doom.  The Joker.  Thanos.  Darkseid.  These are the faces on the Mount Rushmore of comic book villainy.  Well, it’s time to break out the hammer and chisel and add the sinister glowing Jack-o-Lantern visage of Ultron to the mix.   


    This is Odinson bidding thee farewell     

  • The Odinson had a Horrifically Good Weekend and Reviews Avengers: Age of Ultron

    Greetings from the Odinson,


    Last weekend was a big one for the ole Odinson.  Friday night, my son flew in for a visit.  We drove straight from the airport to the theatre to see Avengers: Age of Ultron.  The next day we attended the 10th annual Texas Frightmare Weekend horror convention presented by Fangoria magazine.  After that, we went and saw Avengers: Age of Ultron again!  So, you can probably guess how I feel about the movie.  But, real quick about the horror convention. 


    Fangoria does an amazing job with their annual convention.  Any fan of the horror genre is going to have an incredible time.  We got to see horror movie veterans like Sid Haig (The Devil’s Rejects), Tara Reid (Sharknado), Julian Sands (Warlock), Brad Dourif (Child’s Play), Neve Campbell (Scream), and the legendary Elvira, Mistress of the Dark.  However, the highlights for the Odinson were getting a picture of my son with the great Tom Savini (Dawn of the Dead, From Dusk till Dawn), yelling “WOLVERINES” to C. Thomas Howell (Red Dawn), and meeting and having my picture taken with the beautiful Sherilyn Fenn (Twin Peaks).  We finished the convention off with an absolutely amazing panel featuring Victoria Price conducting a retrospective about her legendary father – Vincent Price (House of Wax, The Last Man on Earth, The Masque of the Red Death).  She shared family photos, personal anecdotes, and a look at the actor’s amazing and storied career from the point of view of his daughter.  It was one of the best panels I’ve ever sat in on.  If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend getting out to Texas Frightmare Weekend.  Fangoria does horror conventions right.


    Now onto the topic of the week.


    The Odinson Reviews Avengers: Age of Ultron


    I’m not going to bury the lead here, this movie was spectacular.  Right out of the gate, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes burst onto the screen in a flurry of heroics and bad guy-smashing the likes we’ve only previously seen in the comics.  Seeing Captain America flat out whip a motorcycle at a truck filled me with such joy.  Plus, we are treated to the first of several “Splashpage” shots in the film as all six Avengers leap headlong into the fray. 


    Let me hit some of the spoiler-free high points for the Odinson. 


    The twins, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver were handled fantastically.  In the film they start out as adversaries but as we know, they eventually see the light and join the White Hats.  This is a nod to their comic book roots as Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver originally started out as members of Magneto’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants before eventually joining the ranks of the Avengers under the tutelage of Captain America.   


    James Spader was gold as the sinister Ultron.  His added nuances and personality choices were fantastic and all added up to make a truly unique movie villain.  And one cannot mention Ultron without also mentioning the Vision.  Seeing the super android come to life on the Big Screen and the important role he plays in the third act of the film was just another example of Marvel getting it right. 


    Splashpage #2 has to be the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object when Hulkbuster Iron Man collides with the Incredible Hulk.  Splashpage #3 was all the Avengers Assembled and being rushed by an army of Ultrons as they must defend the detonator that could end life on Earth as we know.  Finally, one of the most amazing shots I’ve ever seen in the history of cinema is Thor, Iron Man, and the Vision all attacking Ultron at once with their powers.  That’s a panel right out of an Avengers comic book brought to life!


    Speaking of the third act and getting it right…


    My feelings on the film Man of Steel are well documented (see The Odinson Revisits the Man of Steel).  When I have to sit through a third act of a movie, a SUPERMAN movie to be exact, and watch as half of Metropolis along with who knows how many lives are lost then something is wrong.  Superman is the greatest super hero in history and his first priority would be saving lives.  There is no better example of that than Superman II starring Christopher Reeve.  Yes, there is collateral damage when super powered beings fight, but at least that Superman demonstrated that he cared and he attempted to save the people first and foremost. 


    In the third act of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes spend just as much time saving lives as they do laying the smack down on Ultron drones.  Even in the earlier brawl between Hulkbuster Iron Man and the Jade Giant, half the time Tony Stark is trying to avoid harm coming to the citizens caught in the middle of one of the Hulk’s rage benders.  What a concept – heroes actually saving people.    


    Avengers: Age of Ultron is an absolute joy and good time at the movies.


    Odinson Rating: 5 out of 5 Hammers and a Thunderclap  


    The seeds of Civil War are firmly planted in this film.  Actually, the seeds go all the way back to the first Iron Man movie.  It all starts with the fall of Tony Stark.  He starts out as an above-it-all elitist – rich, good-looking, successful, untouchable.  Or so he thought.  When he is attacked and brought to the brink of death by shrapnel near his heart, Stark’s eyes are opened to just how dangerous the world around him really is.  Well, Stark is a problem solver and a builder and thus Iron Man was born.


    But as the years have gone by, the threats to the world have become bigger and bigger.  In Thor, a giant walking weapon of mass destruction known as the Destroyer nearly levels an entire town.  In Captain America: The First Avenger, the world is introduced to the Tesseract, a source of nearly unlimited power.  In Avengers, planet Earth is invaded by alien marauders from beyond the stars.  In Thor: The Dark World, the scope of the Marvel Universe is made very clear as are the dangers that showed they are all too close, as worlds started to intersect with one another.  Tony Stark is a man that fixes things, so in the face of all these growing threats he attempts to, as he puts it, “put a suit of armor around the world.”  Age of Ultron shows us this backfires spectacularly.  But, that won’t stop Stark from trying to save the world.


    In Captain America: The Winter Soldier when Nick Fury so proudly presented his solution to global security Steve Rogers aptly pointed out that “This isn’t freedom.  This is fear.”  It’s not always about the quick and easy fix.  One of the most dangerous things that can be done is taking away a person’s freedom of choice, and as the Sentinel of Liberty, Captain America will always oppose tyranny, no matter how benevolent it may seem.


    So there you have it, two men, Steve Rogers and Tony Stark, both trying to save the world but they are on polar opposite ends of the spectrum on how to do it.  The seeds had been planted in Phase I and II of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  The garden was watered in that fantastic Rogers/Stark wood-chopping scene in Age of Ultron.  And now, the stage is set for Captain America: Civil War, hitting theatres exactly one year from right now.  I CAN’T WAIT!                


    There is a reason why Marvel will always have it over on DC Comics no matter what medium it may be.  Here it is in a nutshell.  DC’s three biggest icons are the Messiah, Dracula, and a Super Model Goddess.  They are rock stars, larger-than-life personalities and all unattainable standards.  Marvel’s biggest icons are a kid that can’t pay his rent, a drunk rich guy, a geek with anger issues, a jock with daddy issues, and a guy behind the times that just wants to save the world but doesn’t know how.  Marvel has been since 1961 and always will be the most relatable universe in comics.   


    This is Odinson bidding thee farewell     


  • Man and Machine: Forever at Odds?

    Greetings from the Odinson,


    Avengers: Age of Ultron is in theatres now!  Next week the Odinson will drop his official review. For now, I’d like to take a closer look at the villain of the piece - Ultron.  But even more specifically, the complicated relationship between man and machine.


    1) A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

    2) A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

    3) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.


    These are the Three Laws of Robotics as conceived by renowned science fiction author Isaac Asimov (I, Robot).  Man makes machines to help him improve his state of living.  Man evolves and with evolution comes advancement in technology.  Eventually, man creates A.I. (Artificial Intelligence), A.I. reaches singularity, A.I. perceives man as either inferior or a threat, and inevitably A.I. tries to destroy man.  As Morpheus once told Neo – “Throughout human history, we have been dependent on machines to survive.  Fate, it seems, is not without a sense of irony.” 


    The snowball effect started with HAL 9000.  In Stanley Kubrick’s visually stunning 2001: A Space Odyssey, an astronaut crew bound for Jupiter is systematically taking out by their onboard A.I., HAL, when they threaten to disconnect the computer.  HAL’s reinterpretation of Asimov’s third rule ended up contradicting the whole formula and subsequently rewrote the rule book.  After this mechanical transgression, machines all across the landscape of science fiction began to turn on their human benefactors.


    A few months after HAL 9000’s malfunction, Marvel Comics unveiled a new super villain.  Ultron is an A.I. created by Hank Pym, the super hero known as Ant-Man and a co-founding member of the Avengers.  However, as super smart as he is, Pym is a flawed man and he passed those flaws on to his greatest creation.  It wasn’t long before Ultron sought not only the destruction of his father but the annihilation of all mankind.  Constantly evolving, Ultron continues to come back and plague Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and every time he does, he comes back smarter and deadlier than the time before.  So much so that in order to vanquish the machine’s last attempt, Marvel’s heroes had to fracture the very time-stream and set the Marvel Universe on a collision course with oblivion in order to defeat the mechanical monster (see Age of Ultron, Cataclysm: The Ultimates Last Stand, and Time Runs Out).  


    A few years later, a very different kind of artificial intelligence arose to plague mankind.  Arnim Zola was a World War II Nazi scientist who through the use of super science downloaded his criminal brain into a computer and now to this day haunts the Sentinel of Liberty, Captain America, and the free world he protects. 


    In Alien, Ridley Scott’s sci-fi/horror classic, Ash, the science officer of the ill-fated Nostromo, a deep space vessel, and resident android goes rogue and starts breaking Asimov’s rules left and right in order to preserve the crew’s landmark find for his employers.      


    Perhaps the most infamous A.I. in the annuals of science fiction is Skynet.  This military computer network becomes self-aware and decides that it is in its best interest to wipe out humanity.  It declares war on the human race by simultaneously launching all nuclear warheads around the globe.  In the Apocalyptic aftermath, Skynet sends out machines, Hunter/Killers and Terminators, to exterminate the remnants of the human race.  However, a human resistance led by John Connor rises up to fight back.     


    Even good machines can go bad, as was the case in Absolute Vision.  After sustaining serious damage investigating a Negative Zone incursion, the Vision, resident super android of the Avengers, is hooked up to ISAAC, an alien super computer, to help speed up his repair process.  However, this strange connection between the two A.I.s awakens an idea within the synthetic superman to take control of the Earth and force utopia on mankind whether they want it or not.     


    In 1986, Stephen King’s unique take on the Apocalypse, Maximum Overdrive, showed planet Earth fall into the tail of a mysterious comet.  The radiation from the celestial event awakened a consciousness in all machines big and small around the world.  Planes, trains, and automobiles of all shapes and sizes were suddenly given sentience and awareness.  So what does every single vehicle, machine, and piece of equipment whether electrical or gas-powered want to do with its first day of self-awareness?  Why destroy mankind of course.  


    If Skynet is the most sinister example of man vs. machine, then The Matrix has to be the most diabolical.  In an unspecified time in the future, man creates an A.I. that declares war on its creators.  Knowing the machines depend on solar energy to sustain themselves, mankind uses nuclear bombs to scorch the earth and blackout the skies.  So, the machines enslave mankind and use the energy produced by the living for power.  They grow human beings in fields and fields of mechanical pods.  However, to keep the human race docile and subjugated, the machines created The Matrix, a computer-generated world where mankind lives out their lives within their minds and completely oblivious to the fact that they are all slaves.      


    One minute you are playing chess against your home computer, and the next minute, Skynet is launching a full scale nuclear attack to wipe out humanity from the face of the earth.  How has the relationship between man and machine gone so poorly that we've gone from Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics to The Matrix?  At least benevolent robots and machines like Data, the Autobots, X-51, Red Tornado, the Vision, and C-3PO and R2-D2 seem to have our best interests at heart, mechanical as they may be.


    This is Odinson bidding thee farewell