We here at the Fantasy Comic League have decided to start highlighting the character beats we track each month. These articles are designed to give some story context to each big moment we award Character Development to, and look at how they fit into the larger storylines at play in the Marvel Universe. Without further ado, let’s jump in.
(Cover Photo art by Javier Pina & Brian Reber, Doctor Strange Volume 5, Issue 19)
X Gon’ Give It To Ya
Arch-Angel, Husk, Wolverine, Jean Grey, Monet, Mystique, Nightcrawler: The Death and Rebirth Cycle (House of X Volume 1, Issues 4 & 5)
The Death and Rebirth cycle in comics is a tired trope that no-one seems able to escape. Jonathan Hickman tackles it with a brutal efficiency here, killing off several of the most important X-Men during an attempt to stop a new form of Sentinel AI from taking off. Interestingly, Husk and Monet are the only first-timers when it comes to death in this group of ill-fated mutants.
Hickman uses these deaths to address the very idea of cycle of death and rebirth in comics, bringing a new concept into play. The death of these X-Men serve as catalyst for Charles Xavier to start a new program that brings immortality into the mutant culture of Krakoa.
Goldballs, Hope Summers, Proteus, Tempest, Elixir: Became The Five, Krakora’s Immortality System (House of X Volume 1, Issue 5) (Brian’s CD of the month)
Xavier’s system of immortality involves five seemingly unconnected mutants coming together to form what is essentially a Godhood. Goldballs, last seen in the pages of Miles Morales’ various ongoing series, is revealed to be a producer of bio-genetic material that function as eggs when altered by a reality warping mutant, Proteus. Elixir’s healing touch produces life within the eggs when they became injected with a sample of mutant DNA (courtesy of Mr. Sinister’s databases). Tempus accelerates time within the egg, maturing the mutant inside it to match the age of the original host’s untimely demise. Xavier then uses Cerebro to imbue the memories of the deceased back into their body, losing at most a week of development. Hope Summers is the last piece of the puzzle, using her powers as a catalyst to enhance each element of the immortality machine into perfection.
Jonathan Hickman has used House of X to create a culture for mutant-kind and The Five have become their religious figureheads. Frightening but fascinating stuff.
Drax: Returns from the Dead as the New Avatar of the Church of Truth (Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 5, Issue 9)
Drax sacrificed his life last year in the cosmic event, Infinity Wars. Within that event, Drax’s soul was split into two; the Destroyer and Arthur Douglas. Arthur and Drax held open a portal within the Soul Infinity Stone, that allowed a group of cosmic level Avengers to defeat Devondra, a reality warping being, and restore the Marvel Universe to its proper form. As a reward, Arthur was allowed to find peace with his wife while the Destroyer was granted endless battles within the Soul Stone.
In the current Guardians of the Galaxy, the Universal Church of Truth rears its ugly robed head once again. This time, it is spreading across the galaxy, forcefully indoctrinating all those who would stand against them. Peter Quill’s father, J’Son of Spartax, has become their new Patriarch and he draws Quill and many of the current Guardians to the Church. Quill fights against the Church’s indoctrination, earning himself the right to die by the hand of their reborn Champion, Drax the Destroyer.
Mr. Fantastic: Redesigns The Marvel, the Ship the Fantastic Four Took To Space (Fantastic Four Volume 6, Issue 14)
Dan Slott’s Fantastic Four is taking the series back to a simpler, Pre-Hickman, place and this character development for Reed Richards is another step in that process. Reed Richards’ latest obsession leads him to redesign The Marvel, the first ship the Four took into space, pre-powers. Reed’s obsession involves redoing the original flight plan, which has mixed reactions from the other members of the Fantastic Four. Despite this, they all embark on the recreation of their original voyage into the unknown.
Reed Richards (1610): Bonds with Hybrid Symbiote (Venom Volume 4, Issue 18)
Ever since the Venomized event, the Fantasy Comic League has become rather lax in rewarding Character Development points for bonding with symbiote. The Maker, an evil Reed Richards from the Ultimate Universe, is the latest in a long line to receive this Development. He bonds with the Hybrid symbiote, bringing the four (clever, Donny Cates) disparate parts of symbiote into one being once again.
Hulk: Bonds with Venom Symbiote (Absolute Carnage Volume 1, Issue 3)
I’m honestly amazed it has taken this long for the Hulk to bond with a symbiote. Outside of a single non-canon What If issue, the Hulk has never bonded with a symbiote in the Marvel Prime universe. Fearing Eddie Brock may not be a strong enough host to stop Carnage and Knull, Venom makes the conscious choice to bond with Bruce Banner and tap into the strength of his alter ego, the Immortal Hulk.
Silver Surfer: Spares Galactus’ Life as an Infant (Silver Surfer: Black Volume 1, Issue 4)
Silver Surfer: Black sees Norrin Radd and Ego, the Living Planet teaming up to fight against Knull, God of the Symbiotes. In order to secure Ego’s help, Norrin removes something draining Ego from within the planet’s core. Norrin discovers that it is the incubator of Galan, the man who would later transform into the Planet-Eater, Galactus. Norrin and Galan have a long complicated history, which leads Norrin to decide to rid the universe of Galactus’ terror before he can ever begin. However, it is through conversation with Galan that Norrin realizes the key to defeating Knull does not lie in following a similarly dark path, but in fighting him with light and hope.
Down To Earth
Giant Man: Joins Agents of Atlas (Agents of Atlas Volume 3, Issue 2)
Raz Malhotra, the 4th Giant-Man, is an Indian-American citizen who has been a member of a few different teams; most recently the Underground team that fought against Hydra Leader, Steve Rogers in Secret Empire. Raz is a guest lecturer in Mumbai when it merges with several other Asian based cities to form Pan, a city that brings several diverse Asian cultures together into one. Raz becomes one of the first defenders of Pan and is recruited into the new Agents of Atlas by team leader, Amadeus Cho.
Ironheart: Learns her Father is Alive (Ironheart Volume 1, Issue 10)
In Riri William’s solo series, she has gone up several times against a resurgent Ten Rings. Her main antagonist is a villain named Midnight’s Fire, who was once a man named Aaron Chord. Chord actually grew up on the streets with the original Night Thrasher (awesome deep cut, Eve Ewing). It is revealed in this issue that Chord and the other villains of the series are working for Riri Williams, Sr, drawing the run together as it nears its conclusion.
Doctor Strange: Regains Use of his Hands (Doctor Strange Volume 5, Issue 19)
Mark Waid’s Doctor Strange is hard at work taking Doctor Strange to new places and skill levels. After traveling the universe to learn new magic, and becoming a craftsman of magical artifacts, he restores his hands back to their original state. Seeking this spell brings him before Channok, the keeper of Forbidden Spells, who promises Strange that the spell willl have untold consequences in the future. These consequences will likely play a big part in the next relaunch of Doctor Strange, Doctor Strange: Surgeon Supreme, coming in December of 2019.
Walking Into Spider-Webs
Otto Ocatvius: Makes a Deal with Mephisto to Restore his Old Body (Superior Spider-Man Volume 2, Issue 11) (Shaun’s CD of the Month)
The fact Marvel didn’t market Christos Gage’s Superior Spider-Man as a 12 issue Maxi-series in the vein of Tom King’s Vision feels like a missed marketing opportunity but it makes for a great surprise ending. Picking up the disparate threads of Gage’s Spider-Geddon event, Otto Octavius is faced against his own version of Peter Parker’s arch-nemesis, Norman Osborn. This one comes from Earth 44145, where Noran is the Spider-Man of this universe. Norman is able to beat Otto around every corner, using his newfound compassion for others to best him over and over. Realizing that only the man he was before will be able to beat Norman, Otto makes a pact with Mephisto to restore himself to his old body, sans the physical and mental illnesses. Mephisto agrees, on the condition that any and all aspects of Peter Parker are stripped from Otto’s psyche as well. A Character Development rooted in both Gage’s own works and Spider-Man history, this is a big one for Otto Octavius fans who have enjoyed the work Dan Slott and Christos Gage have put into him.
Green Goblin (Earth 1610): Enters the Prime Universe (Miles Morales: Spider-Man Volume 1, Issue 10)
Parts of the Ultimate Universe are slowly bleeding into the Marvel Universe. The biggest examples of this have been The Maker (Venom, Future Foundation, New Avengers, Ultimates 2), Ultimate Thor’s hammer (who found a new wielder in Volstagg during Jason Aaron’s Mighty Thor), and Jimmy Hudson (Cullen Bunn’s X-Men Blue). Now the Ultimate, undying, version of Norman Osborn makes the jump into the Marvel Prime and that can only spell bad things ahead for Miles Morales.
Ghost Spider: Finds Catharsis Facing 616 Versions of her own Rogues (Ghost-Spider Volume 1, Annual 1)
Gwen Stacy of Earth-65 recently had her identity exposed to her world at large. In hopes of living a normal life as Gwen Stacy, not Ghost-Spider’s alter ego, she traverses to the Marvel Prime Universe to attend Empire State University. This issue finds her lured into an old trap of Arcade’s, where she faces down robotic versions of characters from her own life. The first is The Lizard, her best friend who died in her arms back home. He is followed by Vulture, Kraven, and Rhino, who were major villains in the first two volumes of her Spider-Gwen series. Arcade decides to mix things up by throwing costumed heroes at her, but in her universe The Punisher and Daredevil were actually villains. This gauntlet causes Gwen to reflect on the journey that lead her to where she is now and the issue culminates in Gwen saving a robotic version of herself, defining herself as more than just a damsel in distress.
Spider-Man (Miles Morales): Celebrates a Birthday (Miles Morales: Spider-Man Volume 1, Issue 10)
In what is easily the most clever CD of the month, writer Saladin Ahmed has Miles Morales celebrate his birthday… but the second number in his age is constantly concealed by comedic means, so we are never quite sure what teenage birthday Miles is celebrating. It’s a fun way of playing with the ever sliding timeline of the Marvel Universe.