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Casual Saturdays: John Locke – In Memoriam May 31, 2008

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If anyone hasn’t already had the LOST Season Four finale spoiled by reading yesterday’s post, then the title of today’s post gives it away. (That’s your fault for not watching the episode yet anyway, you untrue LOST fan. :p 😉 ) So yes, John Locke, my favorite LOST character, and one of my favorite fictional characters ever is now dead. There is some hope, assuming we see what happened to the Island after it vanished, we will likely get more of his story and learn just how he died. Likewise, there are rumors floating around that if Locke’s body returns to the Island, it will come back to life like Christian’s did. Then again, I think Christian seems more a phantom than alive, so who knows really? Personally, I’ve accepted that this awesome character is going to die, but at least we know he probably died happy. After his miserable existence before the Island, we see that Locke was finally able to learn the secrets of the Island and to lead a group of people who believed in it as strongly as he did.

So why all this fuss about a dead fictional character? No, I’m not traumatized at his death, nor will I be wearing black the next several days. But his character was awesome in so many ways, that I figured he deserved a little memorial post. (Don’t tell me Dumbledore wasn’t on your mind for several days after reading Harry Potter 6!) Locke, more than any other character in the show, “got” the Island. While everyone else was merely trying to survive and get rescued, Locke was surviving effortlessly and exploring this new world around him. It wasn’t long before he stumbled upon some of the secrets of the Island and spent his time trying to solve their mysteries.

Of course, what caused this intense curiosity is likely the healing that the Island brought to him. I’m not just referring to his paralyzed legs that were suddenly healed, he also got his life “healed.” Before the Island, Locke had had a traumatizing and tragic life. Everything that had brought him joy had been stolen away by a sad event, oftentimes involving his con artist father. On the Island, Locke finally had a chance to escape that. He had the opportunity to lead, to learn, and to have what he did actually matter. He began to realize in his explorations of the Island that “everything happens for a reason.” Locke was able to see things where other people did not want to see them. Truly, the Island chose him for a very special reason.

Here’s to the memory of the unforgettable character named John Locke.

-LOTRKing

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My Reactions to LOST Season Four, Episode Thirteen: There’s No Place Like Home – Part Two – Season Finale May 30, 2008

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NYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR *takes a deep breath* RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGG! John Locke is dead! The moment I’ve been dreading since the moment in the first season when John began to question the purpose of the hatch has arrived. Forget Jin, we already knew that was coming, this took me by surprise, and I am deeply depressed. Or perhaps I’m just in denial, I didn’t believe it when John “died” in season three, and I don’t want to believe it now. However, we actually saw the dead and embalmed body, so as much as I don’t want to believe it, I know it has to be true. Only two things give me comfort, one, assuming the next season will show events on the Island shortly after it disappeared, there will still be an opportunity for closure in Locke’s story. Two, since he finally learned all the secrets of the Island (presumably) and since he got to lead a group of people who believed in the Island as much as he did, I know that he must have died happy. If I could compose music, I’d write “Requiem for Locke” in this sad time. Let’s all take a moment of silence right now to commemorate one of the coolest fictional characters ever created.

As tragic as this shocking death is, there is of course much more that happened in the season finale, so I’ll move on, as always, in no real order whatsoever. The actual moving of the Island scene seemed very much to echo the scene where Desmond turned the key at the end of season two. Both Ben and Desmond knew they were making a sacrifice (okay, so Des thought he was going to die, but still, neither man looked forward to the outcome), but they knew it was going to happen for the greater good. Both scenes took place in a mysterious chamber underground. And of course, the most obvious, the sky turned purple in both instances. As Locke always used to say, “everything happens for a reason,” and if the fact that these scenes were very similar is just a coincidence, then I’ll eat a backgammon set. When Desmond turned the key, the Island showed up on radar or GPS (or something) just long enough for Penny to know what general vicinity to look in. This time around, the Island has moved … somewhere. So the first incident allowed the Island to be found, the second allowed it to be hidden, two sides of the same coin, yet another common theme throughout LOST. Where did the Island go? Did it move through space? Time? Both? If it really was a temporal nexus, as I’ve been guessing most of this season, how does the movement of a nexus affect the space-time continuum? So many questions have once again been brought up, but with so many things that have been answered this season, I have faith that the creators will tell us everything we need to know in the final two seasons, even if they do leave a few pieces lying about for us to fit in on our own. Also, as a side note, it was good to finally see a redeeming action on Ben’s part as he sacrificed his life on the Island to save the Island and its inhabitants.

As for Jin’s death, while it was very sad, I can’t say I wasn’t expecting it. Ever since the episode that showed that Sun lived alone with Ji-Yeon, I harbored a small hope that Jin might somehow still be alive (since we had not seen how he had died), but this episode pretty much confirmed otherwise. The only possibility I can see is that when Christian appeared with Michael and said “you’re done now,” he (and/or Jacob) somehow transferred Michael and the other passengers off the freighter, but I highly doubt it. With the exception of Locke in season three, and the creepy Mikhail who seems to be immortal, there have been no miraculous “resurrections,” and I really don’t expect any more.

Finally, we get the promise that the six need to return to the Island to set things right. One thing confuses me here. Last we saw of Claire, she was with Christian in Jacob’s cabin, and therefore seems to side with Jacob. But in Kate’s dream Claire told her, “Don’t you dare take him back!” referring, presumably, to Aaron and the Island. So if Ben wants the Six to return to benefit the Island, but Claire doesn’t want the return to happen, something doesn’t add up here. Either Claire has abandoned Jacob and her father for some unknown reason, or Ben, perhaps enraged for having to leave the Island, is no longer working in best interest of the Island. Personally, I don’t care who is right, now that Locke is dead, the only thing I want to see have happened by the end of this series is the guaranteed safety of the Island, as that is what Locke would have wanted. (Oh, and Jack is still an idiot for not listening to Locke.) So I side with the Island and with Jacob, and as far as I’m concerned Charles Widmore can burn.

Well, seeing as how this is the season finale, my weekly reaction posts are now over. To replace this column, I’ve started a new column last week entitled “Casual Saturdays.” (Click here to read last week’s entry.) In it, I will actually using this blog as, well, a blog, and comment on whatever I feel like for that week. Originally, I had different plans for tomorrow’s post, but I will bump them to next week. Now you can check back tomorrow for a special commemorative post, remembering the life, works, and pure awesomeness that was Locke. John, here’s to you.

This is LOTRKing signing off of LOST reactions.

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Review of New Avengers 41 (3.5 stars) May 29, 2008

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Overall rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

After a Skrullish interlude, we get back to an issue actually about the Secret Avengers (well, sort of). It begins in the middle of the battle featured in Secret Invasion 2 just as the T-Rex pops in to mess everything up and Spider-Man gets separated from the rest of the group. Here, he runs into Ka-zar, Shanna, and a whole bunch of Savage Landers. After a rather humorous scene in which Spidey believes they are all Skrulls, we finally get a flashback explaining the events in the Savage Land arc in the early New Avengers issues (3 – 6, I believe).

In the past, we see that Ka-zar and Shanna discover the rogue division of S.H.I.E.L.D. mining vibranium. When these two see the cruel way that mutates are being forced to work as slaves, they infiltrate it, and attempt to take it down. While they don’t succeed, they do discover that this division is a bunch of Skrulls and that Skrulls have infiltrated every major world organization. They leave to gather an army and they return weeks later just in time to see the New Avengers attacking the S.H.I.E.L.D. base. The story then leaves off where earlier New Avengers picked up. (In other words, go back into your long-boxes to fill in the gap.)

Back in the present, Spider-Man says parts are missing from their story, and therefore he finds them very suspicious (I must say, I didn’t see anything missing, so perhaps I better dig into my long-box as well.) But before this confrontation goes anywhere, who should come bounding through the jungle but … Captain America! *bwah bwah bwaaaaaaaah* Okay, cheesy sound effects over. Of course this Cap has to be a Skrull (real Cap has to be dead, no way Brubaker would cheat and say the dead Cap was Skrull), but this makes what, four Captain Americas running around? New Cap (James), Old Cap from the past (In Avengers/Invaders), 50’s Cap (aka Grand Director, currently brainwashed by Dr. Faustus and working for the Red Skull), and Skrull Cap, man what’s next, Captain America 2099 visiting from the future? Already superfluous Caps aside, I’m looking forward to both confrontations, because I want to know exactly what parts are missing from Ka-Zar’s story (though I trust him and do not think he is a Skrull), and I want to see whether this Cap truly thinks he is the real thing, or if he is just pretending.

Overall, this was a pretty fun story, though it was mostly action as Ka-Zar and Shanna took down Skrulls. Likewise, there weren’t any major reveals, sure we did learn that Skrulls were behind the strange Savage Land activity, but as soon as we were told that that early NA arc tied-in to Secret Invasion, that could have been easily guessed. Still, it was an entertaining Ka-Zar and Shanna story, these are hard to come by (we’re talking about a Tarzan rip-off living in the “Land Before Time” after all!)

-LOTRKing

Review of Uncanny X-Men 498 (3 stars) May 28, 2008

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Overall rating: 3 out of 5 stars

This issue was really just more of the same. It opens with a flashback a few days after M-Day, where some aging hippies stumble upon a woman unconscious on the sidewalk. They offer to help her and she mentions something about “not seeing them” before she de-ages the hippies and they realize they she is special. Slowly, her influence spreads to the “hippification” of San Francisco. We eventually learn that her name is Martinique. I’m not sure if that is supposed to be an important person from the X-past, but at least it tells me that she is not Scarlet Witch.

The story then jumps back to the Red Room where Logan is being tortured in attempts to get Piotr to talk. Piotr remains silent so the director threatens to kill Kurt. Kurt is able to teleport away just in time (but not before getting severely shocked) and free Logan. Of course, this leads to another all-out-brawl as these three attempt to escape (the last few issues may have featured these three in a fight, but with Choi’s beautiful artwork, this hasn’t gotten old yet). Just as it looks that they might make it out, they run into Omega Red.

We then are taken back to San Francisco where Scott and Emma run into Warpath, Iceman, Hepzibah, and Angel who are all under the control of the Goddess to stop them at any cost. Perhaps to further serve as a hippie annoyance, we learn the new “Hippie Names” of these characters: Running Sun, Frosty, Lady Kitten, and Angel (yup, it stays the same). Anyone else find the fact that we had to be told their new hippie names incredibly cheesy? Anyway, I realize this is a somewhat short review, but it was a quick read and can be summed up exactly like last month: hippies are annoying, fights are fun, art is spectacular. Hopefully with the conclusion next month, we’ll get a much more satisfying issue.

-LOTRKing

Review of Amazing Spider-Man 560 (3 stars) May 27, 2008

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Overall rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Well, this certainly was an improvement over last issue, but it was still nothing spectacular. It opens with Paper Doll killing the waitress (the one that Bobby Carr struck last issue) in an extremely creepy way before we see more confrontations between Peter and Bobby, more of JJJ’s post-heart attack angst, and more of Harry’s disgust with Pete’s new line of work. We finally get back to the interesting stuff as the police discover the flattened body of the victim, with Vin, Al, and Carlie on the scene. If anything, these three characters (along with Freak) are my favorite thing to come out of BND, as the cops constant bickering about Spidey provides for a lot of humor. Also, despite my original comments on her similarities to Deb Whitman, Carlie is actually an interesting character. I realize she is supposed to be a love interest for Peter (and when that storyline finally happens, I may cease liking her), but a genius C.S.I. babe? It’s not hard to see why Vin has a crush on her.

As the story moves on, we see that Robbie feels guilty for the death of the waitress, as it was the DB photos that made her famous. He tries to rub this guilt off on Pete, and Pete reluctantly watches over a fellow photographer named Frankie Collins who he also recently photographed being assaulted by Carr. This is another annoying example of Peter’s recent lack of responsibility, he seemed to feel almost no remorse for the waitress’ death even though he partially had a hand in it! (Not to mention my already existing annoyance that he has become another member of the soulless sleaze-bucket paparazzi society!)

The climatic scene shows a fight between Paper Doll and Spidey as he fights to protect Frankie from being attacked. This scene was easily the most enjoyable, because it shows just how creepy Paper Doll is, though at the same time, reminds what makes her character so irritating. In a vacuum, Paper Doll is an extremely interesting and frightening character. She can flatten herself and “chameleon” herself onto walls, and can kill people by completely flattening (not crushing) them, not to mention her Edgar-Allen-Poe-poem-come-to-life look. But despite all of these cool attributes, she still is nothing but an extreme fangirl with a crush on a movie star. She is acting likely a really immature twelve year old girl. That’s not amusing, it’s stupid and annoying.

Finally at the end, we get the moment that we’ve been waiting for was Bobby Carr’s mystery girl is revealed to be: Mary Jane Watson! Now I could complain about the fact that her character had evolved to a deep character that was a loving wife to Peter has returned to her trashy, sleep with an ego-centric, moronic movie persona. Or the fact that Marcos Martin draws her horribly. But, instead I’m just going to be glad that she is finally back, because the return of MJ is one step closer to the return of the marriage (albeit a small one).

-LOTRKing

Flashback: Review of Fantastic Four 378 (July 1993) May 26, 2008

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In Flashback, LOTRKing reviews a random back issue (in most instances, one he hasn’t read before) and attempts to make sense of both the story and its place in Marvel history.

As mentioned here, welcome to the first round of Flashback! Though this was my first time reading the issue, I am somewhat familiar with what was going at this point in history. Johnny had recently accidentally burned much of Empire State University in a fight with villains (if I recall, this is one of several instances in Marvel history where something similar to the SHRA was almost introduced) and is currently on trial for his actions. This issue also has guest stars galore, including Spider-Man (who was going through Maximum Carnage), Silver Sable (where has she been anyway, anyone know the last time she popped up?), Sandman (back when he was good and worked for Silver Sable), Daredevil, and the Avengers.

This issue opens in the middle of an intense fight between the FF (along with Lyja, who apparently is pregnant with Johnny’s baby. I knew that they were once married, but I never realized that she got pregnant. I’m assuming that she went the way of MJ and had a miscarriage?) and a group of villains (I’m assuming the current incarnation of the Frightful Four, as the only villain I recognized was Klaw) taking place in the middle of the court room. The issue evolves as the battle moves from the court to the city streets, and the majority of the story is devoted to it as the fight becomes more intense and life-threatening. Spider-Man and Daredevil (who were present in the court room as their alter egos) quickly join the fight, and finally when it looks like our heroes may be defeated, the Avengers arrive. The Avengers at this time consisted of Vision, Crystal (the only two I recognized), Thunderstrike (who looked a lot like Thor, not sure if Thor changed his name or if he was a copycat), Sersi, and Black Knight. Upon their arrival, the Frightful Four realize they are extremely out numbered and one of their members opens an extradimensional portal to ensure their escape. The last thing we see is that Ben’s former girlfriend Sharon Ventura, then going by the moniker Ms. Marvel (I’m assuming Carol was Warbird at this time), is captured by agents of Dr. Doom (who was supposedly dead at this time, so I’m assuming this was the shocking reveal of “he’s still alive”) and is transformed into a hideous monster, which is the cliffhanger of the issue. I’m also assuming that this was the beginning of her transformation into “She-Thing,” but I could be wrong. (Lots of assumptions on my part.)

Overall I get mixed feelings from the issue. The fight scene was a lot of fun, and the art was very well done. Luckily, it was early enough in the nineties that the art was not yet bleeding with color and over-the-top indistinct action. Likewise, I loved all the guest appearances, it almost felt more like “Marvel Team-Up” than Fantastic Four. However, most of the dialogue in the thought bubbles was cheesy and narrative and sometimes downright childish. Had I read this when it came out, I probably would have loved it (given, I was about a year away from learning how to read when this came out, so I couldn’t really have done this), but since I’m not five years old, the dialogue just didn’t entertain. So if want to read an issue that took place in a somewhat important time in Marvel history, that had several fun guest appearances, a good fight scene, and a rare example of enjoyable nineties art, take a look at this, just try your best to bear with the dialogue.

Next week: Amazing Spider-Man 340

-LOTRKing

Casual Saturdays: Superhero Films Ranked May 24, 2008

Posted by lotrking in Casual Days, Comic Book Stuff, Other Random Stuff.
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Following yesterday’s trend of announcements, here is a new one for today: since next week will see the season finale of LOST, and therefore my weekly LOST comment column, I’m starting another new weekly column to replace it (in addition to the Flashback column already mentioned). It will take place on Saturdays starting this week and is entitled “Casual Saturdays.” Here I will make use of the “and Other Random Stuff” title of my blog to take off my comics reviewers gloves for a while and talk about, well, other random stuff. So yes, this blog may actually end up sounding like a blog! 😉

Today’s topic doesn’t stray too far from the world of comics, as it is a post I’ve been meaning to do for a while now. You’ll recall that in my review of Iron Man I mentioned that it just may be the best superhero film I’ve yet seen, though I’d have to see it a few more times before I decided for sure. Well, now that I’ve seen it six times (long story short: I work at a movie theatre and get free movies if I accompany the guest, and I have several friends/relatives that wanted to see it) I think I can safely say that it is indeed my favorite superhero film yet, and just to give you a since of who it ranks with, I’ve decided to list my ten top favorite superhero films:

1. Iron Man
2. X2: X-Men United
3. Spider-Man 2
4. Spider-Man
5. Batman Begins
6. X-Men
7. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (it counts!)
8. X-Men 3: The Last Stand
9. Hellboy
10. Doctor Strange (yes, the animated one!)
With honorable mentions Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer and Daredevil and the absolute worst being Elektra and Hulk.

Of course, with three awesome superhero films yet to come out this summer, as well as Marvel’s astounding recent announcement, this list will likely look radically different in a few years. And if you want to spark an interesting discussion, leave a comment on what your top ten hero flicks are.

Next week: something having nothing to do with comics! I promise!

-LOTRKing

Review of Ayre Force – Graphic Novel (4 stars) – And Other Matters May 23, 2008

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Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Cool story: so a few weeks ago I was contacted by an agent of Bodog, an international media company, and asked to write an advance review for their upcoming (and first so far) graphic novel, Ayre Force. After checking out what the book was about, I agreed. I was soon sent the free copy and took a few days to read and review it. When I asked why my site was chosen as one of the reviewers, I was told that I was found through Google’s blog search, which rewards blogs that are both frequently updated and frequently read, which means I owe a portion of that to you guys! So thanks for reading! 😉 As for the actual review, I asked if I would be allowed to post it instead on WCBR, since it gets more reads, and would therefore likely be more beneficial to the publisher. Nonetheless, since you guys are in part what got me this opportunity, I want to make sure you know about it, so a link to this review is here. (You were supposed to click that. No really read it, then come back, that’s why tabbed browsing was invented. No seriously, this will still be here, go read the review first.) Back now? Good. Now that you’ve already been given the purchase link once, I’ll bombard you with it again: http://ayreforce.bodoglife.com

So why do I want to buy it? No, its not because I got a free book and now feel obligated to promote it. As I mentioned in the review, it really was a great read with tons of action. No, the reason I want you to buy it is for another reason mentioned in the review: all proceeds go to fighting animal cruelty, mostly bear bile farming. So, for $20, not only do you get an action-packed novel, you also get to participate in the same deeds that the book’s heroes are (though in a less cool way).

And now for the “and other matters” portion. Announcement: starting Monday (and following on Mondays thereafter) there’ll be a new column entitled “Flashback.” The inspiration for “Flashback” came from two sources: one, from Comics Daily’s Dusting Off weekly column, and two from my recent purchase of some of GitCorp’s Complete Collection DVD-ROMs but not having time to read them. So what will Flashback be? Once a week, I will use a random number generator to select a random back issue of Fantastic Four, Amazing Spider-Man, Avengers, or Uncanny X-Men, which I will then read and review. With the exception of ASM, I will never have read these issues before, so much of the review will be me trying to make sense of the issue, and trying to place it in Marvel history. I will not be giving these issues stars for two reasons, one trying to review a potentially decades old comic by modern standards just isn’t fair, and two, because I will not have read the preceding story, it will be hard to judge its place, especially if I get confused. So check back on Monday for confusion, babbling, and old-schoolness!

-LOTRKing

Review of Captain America 38 (4 stars) May 22, 2008

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Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Well, it appears that the newly awakened mystery man is indeed Captain America. Just not the one you think, he is the Captain America from the 50s, the Grand Director, altered to look like Steve Rogers and kept in stasis for the last several years. I have to say, this is a brilliant move of Brubaker’s part, one that is unexpected, but at the same time makes sense and doesn’t seem to be pulled out of nowhere. It was even slightly hinted at early in his run when we saw the return of the 50s Bucky, Jack Monroe. After we learn the secrets of “Cap’s” return, we see that Sharon is recaptured.

We then see that Senator Woodman, who secretly works for the Red Skull, is doing fairly well for a third party candidate with twenty percent of voters considering voting for him. Faustus complains to the Skull that these numbers are not high enough, but the Skull assures him it will be taken care of. I know that the Red Skull always has a master devious plan, but I wonder, how does he plan to ensure that Woodman wins the election? Fixing the numbers? That would be a tough task, even for him. Personally, I think he plans to take the other candidates out of the race, perhaps assassinating one and shaming the other? No matter what his plan, as always in will be entertaining to see it unfold and see how Captain America stops it.

Next, we get the first team up of James as Cap and the Falcon as they attempt to take down one of Zola’s complexes. This is where all the action of the issue is, and it is great to see that James has indeed gotten the hang of using the shield. Zola, wanting to ensure that he is not captured, transfers himself to another computer, and self destructs the entire complex, with James and Sam just barely getting away in time.

The last thing we see is that Faustus is manipulating the Grand Director to kill James, because he is “an impostor” Captain America (G.D. believes he is the true Cap) and even worse, because he killed his partner Jack Monroe aka Bucky (which is true, though it was done while James was the Winter Soldier, so it’s not really his fault.) All in all, this was a satisfying issue, and I can’t wait until the two Caps come face to face (as is likely to happen next time.)

-LOTRKing

Review of Mighty Avengers 14 (4 stars) May 21, 2008

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Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of the Sentry, but only when he is done right (which is why I loved World War Hulk). Lately, Bendis has just been using him as a big Deus Ex Machina, so I’ve been rather annoyed, but finally my faith has been (somewhat) restored. The story opens with a Sentry flashback to before the “forgetting” showing Bob’s first run in with the Skrulls who at this time were launching an attack on the Baxter Building. Bob stops them and is injured in the explosion, later to be saved by Reed. We then jump ahead to before the Civil War where Skrull-Jarvis collects information about the Sentry and presents it to the other Skrulls who debate what they should do about him. After a while, they come to the conclusion that there really is nothing to do, and they just have to hope that his insanity will keep him out of their plans.

Finally, the story jumps to the battle being fought in Secret Invasion 2 where the Skrull-Vision morphs into the Void to essentially scare Bob away. Bob is so frightened at the thought that he is causing the Skrull invasion that he flies to the rings of Saturn just to be alone. A lot of people may take this as a sign of weakness and “wussiness” and be annoyed, but I see this as another great example of his character. To me, the Sentry is an extreme example of what a Marvel character could be. Back in the days of Stan Lee, he tried to make Marvel characters more interesting by giving them flaws, how much more flawed and interesting can you get that by making potentially the most powerful person on the planet extremely mentally unbalanced? We didn’t know the Scarlet Witch was crazy, her actions seemingly came out of no where, but in the case of Bob, we know he’s insane and that he’s a ticking time bomb. As the Skrulls note, Tony does not know what to do with Bob, so he’s doing his best to make sure that he never reaches a “Disassembled” level threat. Call me crazy (pun intended), but I find this extremely compelling.

The very last thing we see is the Skrull attack in New York as a Super-Skrull invades the Watchtower and is about to attack Lindy when a shadowed caped figure flies in and beats the crap out of the Skrull. It is then revealed that the Void has returned, he claims he is here to do that which Bob cannot, and he intends to protect Lindy. It looks as though the Void may actually do something good for a change, and with any luck we may see him help to turn the tides in Secret Invasion.

-LOTRKing