Characters Appearing: Blackwulf (Lucian), Bristle, Caitlin Maddox, Godstalker, Khult, Korath the Pursuer, Kree Sentry 459, Lady Trident, Mamie Muggins, Mammoth, Oliver Broadhurst, Schizo, Shatterax, Skrull (Hangar 18), Skrull Prime, Sparrow (Underground Legion), Tantalus, Touchstone, Toxin, Ultimus, Wildwind, Wraath
Issue(s): Blackwulf #7, Blackwulf #7, Blackwulf #9, Blackwulf #10
I wonder if Mammoth, aka William Amos, is related to Imus Champion. Both are wealthy brown haired reclusive giants; maybe Amos and Imus derive from the same (Deviant?) root word.
Anyway, the Underground Legion have infiltrated a fund raiser for a group called "Club Galaxy", who advocate that space travel shouldn't be "reserved exclusively for scientific community". They have their own space shuttle, and the Legion want it. Dr. Oliver Broadhurst has detected some solar flare activity and has determined that Tantalus has "escaped" through the Stargate near the Earth's sun. Lucian had been driven away after his fight with Sparrow, but Broadhurst has reprogrammed the Kree Sentry to work with the group. They also take the non-Deviant Skrull. Dr. Caitlin Maddox is the only person who can communicate with him (telepathically), and they didn't want to endanger her by taking her along, but she's stowed away on the shuttle.
When they get through the Stargate, they are attacked by Shatterax, who thinks that they are part of Tantalus' entourage (and Tantalus's ship was apparently destructive on its way through Kree space).
With Shatterax are two more members of Starforce: Ultimus and Korath the (non-cockroach) Pursuer.
Korath is able to shut down the Sentry, but Starforce and the Underground Legion are able to have a civil conversation after that and explain that they are after Tantalus. It turns out that Tantalus was the person who trapped Ultimus on Earth (see Thor #209), so they are very willing to help chase him. The Skrull says its first words when it hears that Tantalus is headed to planet Armechedon (i think the cheesiness of the name was the final straw that finally caused him to break character).
Meanwhile, Blackwulf is in New York city when he is attacked by Godstalker, who is under the mistaken impression that he is Tantalus.
Note that Godstalker is saying that Arishem is who judged Tantalus unworthy, which is probably why the MCP tagged that Celestial as appearing behind-the-scenes last issue. Arishem is the Celestial who judges, though, so it could just be that Arishem judged Tantalus and another Celestial deployed Godstalker.
Godstalker won't believe that Blackwulf is Tantalus' son, saying that it's impossible for Tantalus to have offspring. Blackwulf is not a match for Godstalker (who says that he's much weaker than the last time "they" fought, still thinking that he's Tantalus). But then Sparrow shows up. Sparrow grabs Blackwulf's Shadowlance. The lance is fueled by rage, but Blackwulf has been learning to keep his emotions in check. Sparrow, on the other hand, not so much.
Sparrow seemingly disintegrates Godstalker and takes Blackwulf back to her apartment to recuperate. But it returns, destroying the building. Sparrow is caught in the rubble, but she survives. Some interesting talk from Godstalker about the Celestials' perspective on humans and Deviants.
Also in the rubble is Spider-Man's former (and Sparrow's current) landlady, Mrs. Muggins.
Godstalker is not as concerned about all of the "mainstream" humans, who do not shine with the same "light" as Sparrow. This seems to fit with the idea that the Celestials' tampering with humans gave some of them an "X-Factor" that made it possible for them to develop super-powers (either through mutation/birth or an external trigger like a radioactive spider-bite). And apparently Celestials only care about the ones with X-Factors. But Godstalker nonetheless teleports Blackwulf to a different dimension which (coincidentally?) removes the threat to the humans.
Meanwhile, Tantalus returns to what turns out to be his homeworld.
The Underground Legion also arrive at Armechadon. Their ship is captured and they are brought to a local Underground and what appears to be the original Blackwulf.
But it turns out that he's a new one. The Blackwulfs are part of a program designed to fight Tantalus.
During the subsequent fight, we learn that Schizo of the Peacekeepers is related to the Underground Legion's Touchstone.
Tantalus leaves the battle to his minions and goes to his castle to find his wife, Nirvana. But it turns out that she's dead. Or undead.
And this all turns out to be a scheme by Tantalus' advisor, Khult.
Khult is Nirvana's father, and he's been plotting against Tantalus for 20,000 years for taking Nirvana away from him. Nirvana tried to kill herself to avoid abuse from Tantalus, but she was preserved by Khult's magic.
Among other things, Khult has been deceiving Tantalus about the transponder that he's been working on; he's already got the capability to teleport between Earth and Armechadon. He opens the transponder and shows that the Earth-born Deviants that Tantalus was ruling there have fallen to civil war in his absence, and he offers Tantalus a choice of going back to Earth to quell the rebellion or staying on Armechadon.
Tantalus tries to kill Khult, but he's saved by Dr. Caitlin Maddox, who turns out to be a dead ringer for a pre-undead Nirvana.
Wildwind and Toxin try to rescue Maddox, but Wildwind is stunned by the revelation that she's a robot, and Tantalus reveals that he created the suit that keeps Toxin's powers in check, and he destroys it. Toxin and Maddox had been developing a little romance, but, with his suit destroyed and his inhuman appearance fully on display, Toxin is as distraught as Wildwind, telling Maddox that "there's no place for impurity in your race".
Khult goes back to Earth and surveys the damage of the Deviant in-fighting, once again blaming "Id" for it. But Sparrow is also at the base, and she takes credit for it. She says that the original Blackwulf thought that Khult might be a secret ally, but Khult says that he only wants control of the Deviants for himself. But Khult is interested to hear that Lucian has been taken by Godstalker, so he provides some background on the Tantalus family.
When Tantalus conquered Khult's world, he found out that Nirvana was a specially bred, genetically stable, Deviant, and her nature made her immune to Tantalus' "death touch". So Tantalus "fell in love" with her and had a number of children, each of which was also stable until the birth of Lucian, who was not. At that point, Tantalus abused Nirvana, and she tried to kill herself.
I'm more interested in the idea that the Celestials "exiled" Tantalus, but that's just casually mentioned in passing.
Khult then upgrades the Shadowlance and sends Sparrow to the dimension where Godstalker took Lucian.
Lucian destroys Godstalker, and then its essence enters the Shadowlance, which speaks, saying that he's been judged worthy enough to carry out the Celestials' mission.
Back on Armechadon, the fight continues between the Peacekeepers and the Underground Legion (and various allies).
I wondered earlier about the "baseline" Skrull's powers; it turns out he had an X-Factor that was triggered.
Armechadon's Blackwulf is killed, but Lucian arrives with Sparrow and confronts Tantalus. He also frees his mother from her undeath. Maddox distracts Tantalus by dressing herself up as Nirvana (a move that Touchstone predicted when they first met), allowing Lucian to defeat him. Tantalus is "displaced" until a day when "his ego can recover from what transpired this day", according to Khult.
Khult says that the plan for the Deviants to take over the universe is still sound, but he escapes with the Peacekeepers (including Toxin) for now.
Sparrow recaps the fallout from the battle.
And Lucian has mutated further.
I continue to appreciate Glenn Herdling's use of obscure characters - from Starforce to Mrs. Muggins!. But the elements of the series that were tantalizing early on - the non-Deviant Skrull and the general promise to look into the nature of the Celestials' creation of Deviants - never get developed into anything further. The focus is on the characters themselves, and even when we get flashbacks it's just into the characters' shared background and not the larger Celestial/Deviant picture. Which is of course how any rational writer would structure a story; we're supposed to care about the characters and the plot, not the background elements. But the characters aren't very engaging and it's the background that got me excited about the series. I mean, the big reveal that Khult was scheming against Tantalus was met by me with a complete blank stare. And things are left hanging; for example we learn very little about "Skull Prime". And what's up with Id? The finale is especially cluttered with the Underground Legion and Starforce and the Skrull and a third Blackwulf fighting Tantalus and all of his minions. It may be that Herdling expected to be able to delve further into things if the series continued, but frankly expecting this to last even ten issues was optimistic (an editor's note in the final issue says, "It seems the market was too saturated to support a monthly title featuring all-new characters and entirely new premise". Well, duh. And who helped saturate it?). It seems like you'd want to frontload the series with as many of your ideas as possible even if it meant not concluding the plot, which - in the Mighty Marvel tradition - could have been concluded in another book. There were cameos building up to this series in Avengers and Thunderstrike, and another cameo in Secret Defenders. And as noted below, there was a concurrent appearance in Daredevil. So it should have been possible, and might even have been cooler, if the story could have concluded in some other book. I'm also surprised that Herdling didn't bring some of the cast over to some other book (as Michael notes, Namor was canceled soon after this, but Herdling subsequently wrote Avengers Unplugged which would have been a good place for a wrap-up, and he later co-wrote Marvel Team-Up). Instead, it doesn't seem like any of the cast of this series appear again, not even in crowd scenes in like Maximum Security or Annihilation where forgotten cosmic characters generally resurface.
Another problem with the series is the art. Angel Medina is a good artist but he seems to need to work at a bi-monthly pace. That manifested with the back-ups and fill-in issue earlier, but for these final four issues he fully pencils all four. Unfortunately, the art is increasingly sloppy looking, and we also have a lot of inkers. To be fair, there were a lot of characters to juggle and Medina does avoid the overuse of splash panels.
In general, despite an overall feeling that something was missing, i'm glad that the series existed. I love that we got to see a baseline Skrull even if we didn't learn much about him, and the other Celestial and Deviant elements at least provide good fodder for discussion and fan theories. When i first found out about Blackwulf i thought it was going to be a random swords & sorcery story that was randomly inserted into the Marvel universe (and the Thunderstrike appearance did little to dissuade me of that), but it turned out to be a lot more relevant to Marvel lore than i ever would have guessed.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: I've allowed some time to pass between the previous issue and this arc, with the idea that it takes a while for Godstalker to get to Earth and for Dr. Broadhurst to analyze the solar flare and reprogram the Kree Sentry. This needs to take place after Tantalus' cameo in Secret Defenders #25, since he's defeated in this story.
Oliver Broadhurst only appears in a flashback in issue #7, but that flashback takes place shortly before the main story so i'm counting it as an appearance.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
There's something about this series that reminds me of Marvel: Lost Generation. Thank you for reading this so I didn't have to. I have always been intrigued by this series, but never picked it up because I just didn't have a good entry point and it seemed confusing, but it certainly has elements that I find interesting.
Posted by: Mark Black | March 6, 2018 7:51 PM
Regarding the Celestials' exile of Tantalus, note that Khult claims that Tantalus was created by the Dreaming Celestial. I think the idea was that creating Tantalus was the Dreaming Celestials' crime, and when the other Celestials happened upon Tantalus on Earth, they realized what the Dreaming Celestial had done and trapped both the Dreaming Celestial and Tantalus on Earth. That could have come across more clearly but Herdling was in a hurry to wrap things up.
Posted by: Michael | March 6, 2018 8:30 PM
Blackwulf / Lucian also appeared in Daredevil #337-338, but I really have no idea where that story is supposed to be set in relation to the events of this series. Obviously it has to be *before* issue #10, but given the hectic pace of events there's not much wiggle room to fit any outside appearances. I'm interested to see where fnord will decide to place those DD issues.
Posted by: Ben Herman | March 6, 2018 8:57 PM
@Mark, it's funny you mention Lost Generation. I have a nagging feeling that that series mentioned the Skrull crash near Roswell, but i can't find it. I do think i have to look at She-Hulk #29 again, though.
@Michael & Ben - i don't intend to cover those Daredevils any time soon but it sounds like it would have to take place after this series with the idea that his final mutated state in this series receded.
Posted by: fnord12 | March 6, 2018 9:27 PM
I've always felt that the fact that when Wildwind called Mammoth "Mr. Amos" that name was in quotes within the speech balloon meant that Mammoth was using an alias and actually just posing as the reclusive heir of the Amos fortune. Also, in issue #1, Mammoth spoke of something that Sun Tsu had TOLD him which I took to mean that Mammoth was actually over 2,000 years old. But I could be wrong on both counts.
Also, the voyage to Armechadon was supposed to be the start of a multi-issue storyline called the "Six (I think) Worlds of Tantalus" that would have taken the heroes to the various planets ruled by him but that was cut short by the cancellation. That's too bad because I would have liked to have seen what other revelations would have been made along the way.
Finally, the Skrull starship that crashed in 1947 in the Marvel: The Lost Generation miniseries has no connection to the two Skrull ships that also crashed in 1947 in this series. I guess that year was just a bad time for Skrulls to be piloting starships near Earth.
Posted by: Don Campbell | March 7, 2018 4:14 AM
Oops. Michael obviously started typing his comment after I loaded this entry on my computer, hence my not seeing it until after I posted my own reply. Apologies for the duplication.
fnord, thanks for the look back at one of the underrated entries that Marvel published in the mid 1990s. It's unfortunate that Blackwulf got lost amidst all the other stuff that was coming out, and that it got cut short when the market started to tank. I'd be happy to see these characters appear again... just so long as they aren't trotted out to be cannon fodder in some big company-wide crossover.
Posted by: Ben Herman | March 7, 2018 4:01 PM
The Captain Marvel series that Godstalker appears in is the Fabian Nicieza one (1995, 6 issues) not the PAD one.
Also, re-reading the series carefully, you can see that Wraath is Mammooth's future self, but it appears that no one cares.
Posted by: Peter Garcia | May 3, 2018 6:50 PM
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