Welcome to the Marvel Mangaverse!
It's like the regular Marvel Universe, only filled with confused Americanized takes on Japanese pop culture are merged with familiar superheroes. Only now the superheroes are being killed off one by one by The Hand who are lead by Elektra who is working for a mysterious council consisting of The Silver Samurai, Sunfire, and Lady Deathstrike. Last time a rag-tag group of survivors consisting of Spider-Man, Spider-Woman (Mary Jane), Wolverine, The Human Torch (a girl in this universe), Black Cat, and Tony Stark's disembodied head banded together, but weren't able to stop Elektra from stealing Captain America's shield. (Cap died during the Liberty's Doom arc of the prior Mangaverse series.) Making matters worse our trio of villains now possess the awesome power of the Mandarin's rings.
Last time issue I compared the carnage we've seen in the series so far to the to the works of anime director Yushiyuki Tomino, however on second thought this series reminds me more of Akira Toriyama's early Dragonball Z storyline. For those who don't know Toriyama's Dragon Ball series started out as whimsical action-comedy, but for the final arc of the manga/anime Toriyama decided to end things with a bang. Changing the manga's name to Dragon Ball Z, the plot took on an apocalyptic tone as the book's supporting heroes were killed off by new villains named Nappa and Vegita who threatened to blow up Earth. What followed next was something no one, not particularly Toriyama could predict; Dragon Ball Z proved so popular, so lucrative that Toriyama was unable to end his own creation and was contractually obliged to keep the plot going.
This lead to a seemingly never ending series of over-the-top fight scenes, villains turned heroes, heroes coming back from the dead, even more obscenely powerful villains, and Goku undergoing numerous super powered transformations. By the end of the series Toriyama was somewhat frazzled by demands both stuio and fan based, turning the series into something of a self-parody. After 7 long years, and three massive story arches Dragon Ball Z finally came to a close, but not before a new Dragon Ball series entitled Dragon Ball GT went into production without Toriyama's involvement. Toriyama since the end of Dragon Ball Z has returned to humorous roots (which started with Dr. Slump) with new series like Sandland. He also provides character designs for video games like Chrono Trigger and the popular Dragon Quest series.
Ok that's your manga history lesson, on with the plot of this issue or lack there of.
Two jet pilots nicknamed Warbird and Diamondback are flying over Japan investigating strange signals coming from Mount Fuji. Their investigation is promptly called off as they receive a distress signal. We cut away to Yokotsuka Air Force Base where the Silver Samurai, Lady Deathstrike, and Sunfire are slaughtering some hapless infantry just for fun. Lady Deathstrike slices up a jeep full of troops that try to stop her. Not to be out done, The Silver Samurai slices a helicopter in half in homage to Geomon from Lupin the III. Sunfire blows up a hanger, prompting Diamondback and Warbird to retaliate by firing a missile at him. Sunfire retaliates by shooting down Diamondback.
Warbird dodges Sunfires attacks bent on avenging her fellow officer, but is ambushed by the Silver Samurai who manages to jump off of a control tower and slice a wing off of her aircraft. Carol Danvers manages to survive the crash only to be greeted by Deathstrike, who decides this would be a prime moment to try out her new Mandarin enhanced jewelry blasting Warbird with an blast of energy. The trio of bad guys glower over their work and disappear, leaving wreckage in their path.
Meanwhile back at the disembodied head of Tony Starks secret lair, our heroes are watching a news report of the villains attack and arent happy. Mary Jane is worried that the team is out of their league, but Joanie Torch responds with a solid nomination for non sequitur dialog of the year by asking what kind of redhead are you Spider-Woman?
The team bickers over the best course of action, resulting in a very brief fight between Wolverine and Black Cat, with James Logan Howlett literally disarming Felicia. Good thing Felicia has bionic arms. Spidey finally has had enough, and throws off his mask in a fit of frustration. We sat here and did nothing as our friends were murdered by these psychos. Im not going to let it happen to more heroes! Weve been given powers... and with these powers there must also come responsibility. And right now the hand is our responsibility. Bravo Peter!
The heroes rally together and head out in the disembodied head of Tony Starks jet. Tony Starks head wordily explains how he was able to track the bad guys by the S.H.I.E.L.D technology they somehow used. Spidey meanwhile explains to Mary Jane that he now has the ability to shoot webs, even though we havent actually seen him use this power in the comic, but apparently its somehow connected to an earlier battle with Venom, which we also never saw in this comic. One cute bit of characterization comes when Mary Jane places a kiss on Peters cheek, prompting Felica to try and feel jealous and give Logan a little smooch. Apparently she forgives him about the whole arm thing. The team arrives at the center of the hands citadel, or The Palm of the Hand as Peter calls it only to be greeted by our bad guys. A double-page spread fight scene follows, with Peter convenient new web slinging power. Elsewhere Carol Danvers wakes up in the hospital having survived Deathstrikes attack and wouldnt you know it she has super powers. She discovers them by inflicting RANDOM VIOLENCE AGAINST AN EKG MACHINE! Carol is just so happy by her discovery she lifts her hospital bed over her head with one hand and proclaims Oh, yeah! Its payback time!
I'll give the creative team credit for trying something new with the somewhat ill conceived Maganverse characters but I think in retrospect I think things would have been better off if they just redid the concept from scratch or maybe just gave them something to do within the actual Marvel Universe. This is sort of a good example of what happens when a bad project happens to a good artist and a competent writer.
I still have some problems with the violence presented in this book as well, it seems too brutal to hand too younger readers while being too simplistic to recommend to anyone else.
Still Mary Jane looks adorable in her little superhero costume.
Will we see the debut of Mangaverse Ms. Marvel? Will our heroes thwart the Asian Triad Plus One? Will Marvel finally pull the plug on this world? Will we see a Exiles/Mangaverse Crossover? Tune in next issue true believers.