Hank McCoy (Before the Fur)

Dark Reign. Wow. Kind of loving it. It’s sort of like...all of the things that people warned Tony Stark might happen. The Illuminati, the Initiative...all that power and it’s finally in somebody else’s hands. The wrong hands. I’ve really got to hand it to Marvel. Changing the status-quo of the universe comic book characters liven has, for a long time, been the cardinal sin that writers can not do. The idea was to make it seem like the character’s world was changing...but to keep cranking out the same comic that people have loved for years and years. But from Civil War to M-Day, stuff has...happened in the Marvel Universe. And what has really impressed me is that all of it has been fairly well coordinated from title to title. For example, even if such and such writer did try to change the greater scheme of a character’s existence- it was anybody’s guess whether another would honor the impact of that change in their own title, or even unwrite what had happened in one issue flat. For me, what I really love about what’s been happening lately is...this certain new level of realism. Yeah, you heard me, realism. Maybe not in the traditional since- but in the last few years I’ve seen some things happen in comics that I always thought should have happened and wondered why they hadn’t...okay, not my most grammatically stellar moment, but you understand. I hope. Take the Skrulls, for example. Total joke- for years. Not only that: who could even keep track of the needless number of silly, over complicated storylines about their race? They were always at war with the Kree, or the Shi’air, or...or having a civil war...or something. For years, the Skrull were just a bunch of guys that the Avengers or the Fantastic Four could pound on, just to show off how superheroic they were. Which was funny, if you thought about- because IF you thought about, logically, the Skrull’s are frickin’ scary powerful! They could all shape-shift, had advanced technology- and some of them even replicated the superpowers of others (as showcased in the horde of superpowered skrulls in Secret Invasion). “Super-Skrull” (I know- worst name ever) has all of the Fantastic Four powers combined- complete with a big, stony-Thing fist. And yet, the Skrull’s were among the least threatening things in the entire Marvel Universe. They always seemed to be putting together pathetic, cheesy schemes that made little sense and getting the snot kicked out of them. You’d think an entire race of militant shapeshifters would be a terrifying threat. And I think that’s what I really loved about Secret Invasion- the Skrulls finally got their due. The level of deception and subversion they used was insidious- to a point where they almost conquered the whole damn planet. I thought finally, these guys are scary, not pathetic. Kl’rt (S.S.’ real name...in...Skrullarian...or something) has become one of my favorite characters now, actually. Like I said- you’d think a guy so powerful would have stomped the floor with the F.F. and the Avengers. But that’s just it- nowadays, Kl’rt is this sort of this aging, underappreciated Skrull “hero.” The guy that everyone thought would lead the Skrulls to victory never really succeded. He still gets the formal recognition of status- courtesy of his rank- but even the Skrulls don’t really take him that seriously anymore. That’s what I loved in Annhiliation- Kl’rt isn’t just fighting to save the Skrull empire, he’s worried about his career, trying to get his reputation back. Annhilation, by the way, and all of its subsequent sequels is another great example of what I'm talking about- there's all of these different alien races and cosmic beings in the Marvel Universe, but what's it like when you put the whole thing together? I like seeing Annihilus become the threat everyone always worried he would be, and with a cast including Nova, Quasar, Firelord, the Silver Surfer, Drax the Destroyer, Galactus and others, it's hard to go wrong. But I digress. So Dark Reign- with the Illuminati and all that. I loved the idea of the Illuminati from the beginning. It wasn't just that it involved a bunch of the smartest, most powerful characters in the M.U., it was that they represented almost every element of superpower IN the M.U. Atlantis, the Inhumans, Mutants, the F.F., the Avengers, magic...it made sense, in this weird way. It was the whole picture, together. Maybe Asgard was the only thing lacking- but frankly, I kind of think Asgard works better as the sort of "magic fairytale land you almost never go to" kind of thing. And now? The Dark Illuminati- such a perfect lineup. Of course I'm somewhat bias. I love Doom so much. I always have. I love him because no matter how many good qualities he may have- and there are a few, always keeping his word, ruling somewhat benevolently, etc.- he is, ultimately, a power-hungry, monstrous son-of-a-bitch. How many stories explore the complex psychology of Magneto? Is he a hero? A villain? His motivations are so intricate. Maybe, deep down, Magneto really has that ounce of humanity win out one day and he'll become the force for good Xavier has always believed he could be. Can you think, of a single moment, where you felt this way about Doom? Once? One thing? Didn't think so. Oh, okay- saving his mother's soul from the torment of hell. Can you say "Oedipus complex?" Anyway, if there's a Dark Illuminati- it's gotta have the Latverian ruler heading it up. I like seeing Emma Frost on board too, because despite being every schoolboy's fantasy, Mrs. Frost and the Hellfire Club were pretty heinous villians for some time. I don't know how or why the writers ever got so...sympathetic, with her. Being vulnerable, and likable, in ANY way has never sat right with me. Frost has done some horrible stuff and I think her transition to hero should have taken much longer and been much more difficult. As for Namor- he's never exactly been the poster boy for mental health. Loki as a woman is a nice touch. And the Hood- if you've read New Avengers, you know just how frickin' hardcore this guy is. He has some strange connection to Dormammu, making him a kind-of Dr. Strange parallel. And, of course, Norman Osborn. I liked when Osborn was a crazed, murderous psychopath who ran around dropping pumpkin bombs on Peter Parker and friends- but the bit about him that I always thought was fairly underexplored was the extent of his wealth and resources. In fact, in this regard, it always kind of mystified me that Parker wasn't immensely outmatched by the amount of money and technology Osborn could have thrown at him. Nope-just pumpkin bombs. Okay, granted, Osborn has to keep cover- people working for Oscorp don't realize their employer IS the Green Goblin. But the point is, this is just a side of the character that never seemed to shine through that much. I've been a Thunderbolt fan for a while, too. The Thunderbolts are kind of like the INjustice league of the marvel universe. Most of them have served as supervillains on various odd teams that have gone toe to toe with the Avengers- like one of the many, many, MANY incarnations of the Masters of Evil. The funny thing is- they're trying to pass themselves off as legit. Make the public think you're heroes- and do whatever you want, under the table. Good scheme. Imagine a comic book like the Avengers. Now strip away the kind of heroics, decency, trust, and affection between all of the characters in the comic. That comic book is Thunderbolts. Of course, it isn't that bad. But there's jockeying for position, betrayal, manipulation- it hurts bad. For a long time, this comic has fascinated me. But I wondered if they would cancel it- because a lot of the time, it seemed as if the main Avengers book barely acknowledged its presence, save for one or two toss away crossovers. That's why I'm loving Dark Avengers. Seeing the Thunderbolts and Osborn take center stage for a bit here. Here's Osborn doing more than throwing pumpkin bombs and everything you worried would happen with Tony Stark's plan- a bunch of government-endorsed, power-hungry maniacs. It isn't ethics- it's politics. In the right hands, with enough money, you can make whatever you want happen. Justify anything. And that's when the whole organized "machine" Stark built falls apart. When there's no Captain America to go ABOVE the law- to KEEP the law. Dark X-Men intrigues me as well. What a whacked out lineup: I'm sort of fascinated with Cloak and Dagger (who haven't had their own comic in something like ten years now). They actually ARE mutants though, is the thing. But it's complicated- something to do with a drug they were forced to take jump-starting their mutant powers. And something to do with the "Dark" and "Light" dimensions, as well. Okay, frankly, the writers have never really been that clear on the origin of their powers. But they're mutants. Sort of. The mimic, on the other hand, ISN'T. He's an old, old, old, OLD X-Men bad guy. Some mix-up with chemicals lets him duplicate mutant powers. That's why the visor, the wings, the big hands...it's Cyclops, Angel, and Beast. The original team of X-Men. So he can generate ice and move objects with his mind too. And, you know- anybody else's power he comes across. Guardian is from Alpha Flight, the Canadian version of the Avengers that Wolverine was formerly a member of. There have been a few different Guardians, if I recall. I could be wrong, but I think his powers were actually generated by his suit. So again, not-a-mutant. Of course, why this team is coming together and for what purpose is anybody's guess. Only time will tell. And whatever Marvel comic you're reading, you'll be likely to see it.