Unspoken Issues #0 – Our Zero Issue

 

It has been in the works for a little while now and “Unspoken Issues” has finally arrived! 

Chris Armstrong and Jesse Starcher bring you their newest bit of podcast content for The Unspoken Decade.   Here you will get the “zero issue” explaining who these two are, what the plans for the podcast will be, and how YOU can help determine what may be covered on following episodes.

Click below to enjoy Unspoken Issues #0!

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Top 10 Moments: The Infinity Gauntlet

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Twenty-eight years later The Infinity Gauntlet stands as one of the finest comic book events, not just of the 90’s, but of all time.  Written by Jim Starlin (with pencil art from George Perez and Ron Lim), the Infinity Gauntlet concerns the threat of Thanos, a death worshipper who has collected the six Infinity Gems in order to please his dark mistress.  The saga of The Mad Titan’s struggle to retain his newly acquired godhood and his nemesis Adam Warlock’s plans to thwart him with the aid of Earth’s super heroes has endured.  So enduring, in fact, that the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe film franchise was built up to its adaptation.

From my own perspective, The Infinity Gauntlet was the first “Event Comic” I experienced.  It’s still my favorite, with no real competition.  The Infinity Gauntlet #4 stands out as the highlight issue, with that being where various Avengers, X-Men, and other super-heroes throw down with the big bad, only to be dispatched in brutal fashion one by one.  As a pre-teen and even into my early 20’s, this top 10 list would be loaded with stuff like “Spider-Man gets bludgeoned to death with a rock!” and “Iron Man gets his head ripped off!” but with re-read after re-read, I came to appreciate the smaller character moments more and more, especially those dealing with Thanos and Adam Warlock.

As much as I love the Thanos brought to life by Kevin Feige, The Russo Brothers, and Josh Brolin on film, no one does it up like Starlin.  There’s a poetry to the way he writes Thanos and Warlock that no one else has been able to match.  It’s also no small difference in personality between the two versions.

The Thanos of the MCU is cold and calculating, but essentially good intentioned, which works well for the film franchise.  Starlin’s Thanos is a lunatic, drawn even more mad with the immense power he’s gained.  He literally worships Death itself, and is so love sick he often comes off as a petulant child when he doesn’t get the attention he wants.

The Infinity Gauntlet has sweeping action, savage deaths, cosmic warfare, and heroic last-stands, but it is often the conflict of personalities that lead to the most satisfying moments.  If it’s been awhile, I hope this look back reminds you of how great it truly is.

(This SPOILER HEAVY rundown of the ten best moments from the series is entirely subjective, and  and as such, it’s no problem if you disagree with the moments chosen, or the order in which they are ranked. Feel free to make your own list – this is mine.)

Before I get to the Top 10, a few honorable mentions:

Mistress Death Silenced (The Infinity Gauntlet #1)

While Thanos is in love with the personification of Death, the cosmic entity does not speak for herself.  Instead, she communicates through a servant.  When Thanos hears of her distaste for his actions, his response is explosive.  I include this only as an Honorable Mention because a near identical scene takes place in the Infinity Gauntlet precursor, Thanos Quest.

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Farmer Thanos? (The Infinity Gauntlet #6)

Once the conflict is ended and Adam Warlock has wrested control of the Gauntlet, Thanos fakes his own death.  Warlock, now omniscient, isn’t fooled.  In the near future he visits Thanos, free of his desire for ultimate power, living a quiet life of solitude.  While Thanos doesn’t face justice for nearly tearing the universe asunder, we are left with an even more satisfying version of closure.

 

“Prepare thyselves for battle most fierce and awesome.”

(The Infinity Gauntlet #3)

I, uh… I just really like this line.

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10. “We’re both monsters, pal.” (The Infinity Gauntlet #3)

As Earth’s heroes prepare for battle, Hulk and Wolverine find themselves alone atop Avengers Mansion. Despite an extensive history of violent confrontation, the two engage not in fisticuffs, but conversation. As Hulk confesses his admiration for Wolvie and acknowledges their similarities, Adam Warlock approaches to entrust them with the task of killing The Mad Titan, should the opportunity present itself.

 

9. Mighty Galactus, Humbled (The Infinity Gauntlet #3)

Knowing the mortals of Earth haven’t the power to deal with Thanos, Adam Warlock also employs a cadre of cosmic beings to take part in his plans.  Planet consuming powerhouse Galactus scoffs at the notion of following Warlock’s scheme, and after being insulted, lashes out.  Despite initial appearances, Warlock proves unscathed and once the other cosmic beings throw their weight behind Warlock, Galactus is left with no choice but to agree to join them.

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8. “Stay thy hand.” (The Infinity Gauntlet #4)

So powerful is Thanos when the heroes of earth approach, his first instinct is to simply freeze time and erase them from existence as he had so many others.  It’s his “advisor” Memphisto who prevents this calamity.   For his own reasons the devilish deceiver convinces Thanos that the key to earning Mistress Death’s admiration could be proving himself in battle, going as far as to engineer Thanos lowering his power levels in order to allow the heroes a chance at victory.

 

7. Shattered (The Infinity Gauntlet #4)

In a rare moment of seeming vulnerability, Thanos falters under Thor’s assault.  Our narrator for this issue, Thanos’ half-brother Eros, silently implores the Asgardian to finish the job.  Not to be, however, as Thanos utilizes his power over reality to transform his foe into a glass statue, diffusing the threat.  After admiring his handiwork, he dispatches his most powerful opponent.  Muses Eros: “Thanos is inevitable.  All light is lost.  All that is left are tears.  And the echoes of dreams shattered.”

 

6. “A GAME!” (The Infinity Gauntlet #4)

While Thanos battles Earth’s warriors, Adam Warlock and The Silver Surfer observe from afar.  When Eternity, the living embodiment of all that is (don’t overthink it), insists the cosmic entities take part, Warlock shoos him away.  While Warlock is an artificial man, he’s still only a man, and his dismissiveness takes The Surfer by surprise.  When called on it, Warlock doesn’t mince words.  Despite his power, Eternity is a game piece, like the others.  Seeing them as such is necessary for him to keep his machinations in play.

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5. Delusions of Granduer (The Infinity Gauntlet #4)

Before his 90’s resurgence, Thanos faced the original Captain Marvel in some of his earlier appearances.  Mar-vell, now long dead, has been replaced by Quasar.  With a job description that reads “Protector of the Universe”, and possession of the Quantum Bands, Quasar seems a match for almost any foe.  Until he faces Thanos, who simply eradicates the Quantum Bands, and Quasar soon after.

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4. Doomed (The Infinity Gauntlet #3)

While Adam Warlock gathers Earth’s forces at Avengers Mansion, Vision and She-Hulk discuss their chances of victory.  Not good, says the android Vision.  While the Avengers had defeated Thanos in the past, it was with no small amount of aid from Thanos himself.  Now, as before, if he doesn’t give them their chance, the battle itself is a formality.

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3. “SNAP” (The Infinity Gauntlet #1)

Thanos, being in love with Death herself, had once pledged to exterminate half of all life.  It was his pursuit of this promise that led him to collect the Infinity Gems, but after attaining ultimate power, he had yet to make good on his promise.  With Mistress Death spurning the lovesick Titan at every turn, Memphisto suggests that making good may be what it takes to impress her.  Thanos walks to the edge of his shrine to Death, overlooking his universe, and exterminates half of its life with a snap of his fingers.

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2. “Even gods err…” (The Infinity Gauntlet #5)

After Thanos loses his prize to Nebula, he finds himself on Earth with Adam Warlock and the few remaining champions.  In a private moment, Warlock requests Thanos’ help in dealing with the new threat presented by his granddaughter.  Not one to offer aid, Thanos needs convincing, and Warlock has only knowledge to offer.  Revealing that he was within the Soul Gem when Thanos attained it, Warlock now knows the Titan better than anyone.  Confronted with the harsh truth that he knows, subconsciously, that he is unworthy of the power he craves and has attained multiple times, Thanos struggles and stammers.  Humbled and defeated, Thanos agrees to take part in Warlock’s plan.

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1. Captain America Stands His Ground (The Infinity Gauntlet #4)

Captain America led the charge against Thanos, only to witness all of his friends and allies fall, many in brutal fashion.  Despite lacking the power of Thor, Hulk, Namor, or even Cyclops, he approaches Thanos head high, chest out, giving no thought of surrender.  Cap faces the Titan and sneers: “As long as one man stands against you, Thanos, you’ll never be able to claim victory.”  Cap’s play is a final gambit, luring Thanos into position for The Silver Surfer to relieve him of the Gauntlet.  Again, failure.  Eros ruminates: “The Surfer misses his mark and Thanos retains his godhood.  The echoes of failed plans and good intentions wasted in futile acts… Nothing remains of hope.  Nothing remains but sweet oblivion and an end to this nightmare.”

 

Well, there you have it.  While these ten moments stand out to me as the best of the series, there is no shortage of greatness that I was unable to spotlight here.  The Infinity Gauntlet is truly one of the 90’s, and indeed history’s, greatest comic books.  The story didn’t end here, with The Infinity War and The Infinity Crusade following in subsequent years.  A far cry from the original, but those sequels have plenty to love as well.

Marvel is still using Thanos (more than ever, really) in its comic universe, but I suggest seeking out Jim Starlin’s recent graphic novel series for the best of it.  Nobody has a handle on The Mad Titan like he does.

 

 

The Case of the Venomous Offspring (Part 2)

RCO001_w_1463374424-1-1-1-1Greetings and salutations, you sexy and clever fans of The Unspoken Decade! What’s that? Why am I kissing your butts? Me?! Never! Can’t a narrator praise his amazing readers? Good. I’m glad we cleared that up. (By the way, have you all been working out? It shows!)

Now that everyone is feeling good about themselves, let’s begin my review of the second half of the “Venom: Lethal Protector” storyline, shall we?

When we last left our hero, he had been captured by an organization called the Life Foundation, and the villains were only interested in his symbiote’s offspring! Nope, things don’t look good for ol’ Venom! As we begin this issue, things haven’t gotten any better. Brock and his symbiotic “other” continue to float in an energy orb of comprised of pure sound. Venom thrashes and roars in defiance as Carlton Drake calmly looks on. Venom threatens to “suck his lungs out through his nose!” (Now that’s thought provoking. Can this be done? Does one need symbiotically enhanced lungs or simply Justin Beiber-level of ability to suck? Hmm….)

RCO004_w_1463374573-1-1Drake merely brushes the threat away and begins speaking of his master plan. Simply put? He wants Venom’s offspring to enhance bodyguards for the wealthy that have already purchased condos from him. (Devious, eh? He’s essentially like if Dr. Doom had an evil love child with the Monopoly Guy!) Just then, the fifth and final symbiote is born and quickly contained. Venom continues to thrash in outrage!

Meanwhile, Spidey is seen doing what Spidey does best – fighting crime. As a group of young hoods race away from the convenience store they have just robbed, they take their collective gaze off of the road ahead just long enough for the Amazing Spider-Man to drop down onto their hood! He webs their windshield and leaps to safety. The escape car, now driving blind, hits a nearby tree! Later, as the local police thank the wall-crawler, he asks for change to make a call.  (For you youngins, the change is for an ancient device that we neanderthals called a phone booth. Nope. No cell phone for selfies or texting! Truly frightening, huh?)

RCO006_1463374573-1He notifies his wife that, though Venom has recently dropped off of the grid, crimes are being committed in true symbiote fashion all around the city. His stay in San Francisco may just be longer than expected. Back in the desert compound of the Life Foundation, Venom continues to attempt an escape. Sadly, the force of the Sonics is just too strong for the symbiote. But for the human within….? The thought coming to the venomous duo, Venom grins his many-fanged smile.

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Back to ol’ web-head. Following a few leads he finds himself in a mall. A young woman is thrown from above, but Spidey gets there just in time to catch the girl, saving her from certain death. He then follows the gaze of the onlookers and sees the source of their fear….a female symbiote?! Rather than acting afraid of the sudden appearance of a seasoned superhero, she seems positively pleased! (You know, there’s just something exciting about a woman who could either kiss you or bite your face off on a whim. Mmmm! Sexy!)

RCO017_1463374573-1Back to Venom. While the villain has his back turned, speaking further of his sinister plans, Venom suddenly reaches through the orb with his human arm and seizes a guard! He then throws the minion into the control center for his prison, effectively shutting it down! Now free, the Lethal Protector begins tearing his way through the security personnel as if they’re no more than tissue paper! As he reaches for Drake, however, he is suddenly shot in the back by a sonic rifle! Brock and the symbiote drop unconscious. (Nekkid again, it should be noted. Someone, anyone, get this man some tighty whiteys!)

We then return to the mall, where Spider-Man battles the female symbiote with all that he has! As the fight rages on, he notices that she is extremely fast and strong but couldn’t be any more of a rookie in combat. Using this to his advantage, he lures her away from the civilians, pretending to surrender, and then springs into a fierce attack while she’s unprepared! Now down, she calls for an extraction. She tosses another would-be victim toward a wall. Spidey quickly cushions the man with his own body. Returning his gaze to the symbiote, he sees that she is gone. A hovercraft begins to lift off, but before it can get too far, the wall-crawler fires a web onto it! He is then pulled with the vehicle towards its destination. (Has anyone else noticed how this has become less of a Venom miniseries and more yet another excuse to showcase Marvel’s “big gun,” AKA Spider-Man? Like the dude doesn’t have enough comics in the 90’s! Let the V-Man have his moment in the sun! Geez! Rant over.)

Meanwhile, in a dark and hidden room, the torture of a homeless man finally comes to an end. Treece grows impatient. He wants the homeless exterminated. That way, he can claim the gold he’s discovered beneath the park! If he could just locate their hidden lair….

RCO023_1463374573-1When the craft reaches the Life Foundation compound, Spidey enters and sneaks along the ceilings, unseen until that’s no longer an option. He battles armored goons left and right, slowly advancing upon the room where Venom is held captive. Within, Drake has decided that Eddie Brock has become more trouble that he’s worth! Using his sophisticated machines, he actually painfully strips the Venom symbiote from Eddie Brock! (Way to go, web-head! Just had to stick your nose where it didn’t belong! Now there is no Venom to finish this storyline! Well, I guess I could finish this with some thoughts on Marvel’s Powdered Toast Man Special #1. What’s that? Oh. The comic’s not over yet. Well, color me embarrassed. Please. Do continue.)

Moments later, Spider-Man breaks into room only to find a taunting Carlton Drake on a computer screen, and what appears to be the fresh corpse of one Eddie Brock lying on the floor!

RCO005_1463374619-1On to the next exciting issue! Spidey, still fighting guards, replies that Venom is a lot harder to kill than he thinks. Just then, one of the lab techs alerts Drake that they have found a faint pulse! Eddie Brock lives! Disgusted with this turn of events, he switches off the monitor and orders the tech to perform an autopsy anyway! As for Spider-Man? Let him meet “the children!” The five symbiotes enter the room! (Man! Spidey looks like he’s kinda screwed, eh Unspoken fans? I mean, he usually has trouble with just one symbiote! Is the wall-crawler’s number finally up? Will Marvel lose its biggest cash cow without an “X” in the title? Stay tuned….)

RCO008_1463374619-1Meanwhile, Treece has had enough of his “homeless problem” and pulls the tarp from the back of a large truck, revealing crates of explosives! He means to bury those poor people alive! Seeing this, spies for the underground city return to their home with the alarming news!

Back in the desert compound, just as the Life Foundation lab techs are about to begin their autopsy, Brock suddenly leaps to life and attacks! A guard enters the room and fires a sonic blaster at our hero, but the joke’s on him. Without his “other,” Brock no longer fears loud noise! While it is assumed that these men are being beaten to death, Spidey continues his battle in a nearby room with the five symbiotes!

RCO011_1463374619-1Two of the aliens trap his arms in tendrils as a third charges with sharpened fists! When the symbiote gets close Spider-Man pulls all three together with his enhanced strength! Another then attacks with barbed hands and, strangely enough, excretes a strange acid from them! (Does anyone else remember this “acid thing”? I mean, I admittedly haven’t read this in years, but isn’t that a strange ability for a symbiote to possess? I don’t remember Marvel bringing this up ever again either. Hmmm. The House of Ideas, forget something? Impossible! Write in if I’m wrong here.) Spidey ducks and webs up their faces. Just then, Brock enters the room! He tries to call his symbiotic children to him in peace. They answer by attacking him in unison, forcing the heroic duo to momentarily retreat!

Webbing the door behind them, Brock leads Spidey to the dissection room, and they each arm themselves with the fallen guards’ sonic rifles. Both fire as the five symbiotes break through! Four are incapacitated but the fifth ducks the attack and lunges forward with bladed arms! Webbing the symbiote, both heroes retreat to yet another room. Once inside, Brock is relieved to see his “other” being held in stasis! Quickly breaking the alien free, the two become one once more, and Venom is reborn! (That’s right kiddies, daddy’s back and it’s time to line up for your spankings!)

RCO017_1463374619-1While Venom tangles with the other symbiote, he orders Spider-Man to look to the keyboards of the many computers for help of any kind! Accidentally, he discovers a ray that, once it hits the alien’s skin, ages it to death! Venom tells Spidey to hit them all with it as the others burst in! Spider-Man, not wanting to risk the lives of the humans within, refuses! (What a weenie! I’m sorry, but thats why I root for the anti-hero! I mean, I get the whole moral compass thing, but these guys had no qualms about making Spidey-kabobs just minutes earlier! Sheesh!)

Wasting little time, Venom sends a tendril snaking behind Spider-Man’s back. His spider-sense, of course, not sensing it, is caught by surprise when Venom chokes him out! At that very moment,  the five symbiotes break in! Using the ray at full blast, Venom ages the symbiote halves of the five humans to alien dust! The humans within survive, though unconscious. Spider-Man awakens in just enough time for both heroes to escape the Life Foundation compound before it explodes! Losing track of Venom, Spidey begins his search anew. Venom, on the other hand, heads back to San Francisco. He has unfinished business there!

RCO003_w_1463374663-1At the home of Roland Treece, the chief of security is in a state of shock! It seems that all security measures for the estate have been bypassed and all guards lie beaten and unconscious! Who could have done this? What happened? That’s when he turns and the answer to his question becomes clear…..Venom happened! To his credit, the man tries his best to protect the property, even from the likes of the Lethal Protector! But, in the end, he talks. (Finally, the secret of why there’s gold in them thar hills will be explained! Umm. At this point, do we even really care? Don’t we, the readers, just want to see justice served to the bad guy? Agreed. Moving on.)

RCO012_1463374663-1Learning that the homeless are in danger from the explosives in the park, an outraged Venom knocks out the security chief and heads toward the park. Spider-Man, however, is already there. When Venom arrives, he is met by two red-booted feet in the gut from our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, quickly followed by a quick punch to the jaw! Venom retaliates by entangling the hero in symbiotic goo! As the arachnid hero attempts to free himself, Venom states that there is no time to fight. Innocent people are in danger. He finishes by asking the hero for help. Surprised by all of this, Spidey agrees. (Wow! Venom was the voice of reason in this scene! Is the world nearing its end? Quick, someone check on Betty White! Everyone knows she’ll outlive the planet itself!)

RCO013_1463374663-1Now united, the heroes quickly leap into action! Never losing a step, Treece sends the digger armored suits to stop the heroes from reaching the bombs! Spidey lets loose a webline at one as it fires a heat ray and swings it towards another, effectively using both robotic armored suits to take each other out! Not to be outdone, Venom pushes a suit’s drill arm down, towards its own armored knee! Treece then does what anyone in his situation would do – runs away!  (Yep. Things are coming crashing down on the villain, aren’t they? He’d have gotten away with it too, if it wasn’t for those meddling heroes and their symbiote!)

Spider-Man continues battling the diggers while Venom races after Treece. The only problem is that some fuel has ignited due to the crashing of metal on metal. Fire. One of the two main weaknesses of the symbiote race! Inside a nearby trailer, Treece continues to begin the process of blowing the bombs! If he goes down, he isn’t going alone, it seems. Venom, risking the very life of his symbiotic “other” and fighting against unimaginable pain, reaches through the flames and pulls Treece out, ending the threat!

RCO020_1463374663-1Spider-Man runs up to check on his once-enemy. Venom is already healing itself. Sirens sound in the distance. Spidey turns momentarily. When he returns his gaze, Venom is gone. (Batman, eat your heart out!) Later, Eddie Brock is once again called upon by the council of the underground city. Having witnessed how he saved them, he is offered sanctuary. He accepts. Not only will he live as one of them, he will be their protector – a lethal protector!

End.

RCO023_1463374663-1(This article is dedicated to my lovely niece, Angel Marie Miller. You’ve always had my back throughout your young life. Always defending your uncle no matter what. Words cannot express just how much you mean to me. I love you.)

 

 

 

 

 

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