Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Citizen Kang, part four (will make you miss Atlantis Attacks. Or Bloodlines.)

I didn't cut Deathhunt 9000's head off in the scan there.
Last time, after your typical Marvel misunderstanding fight, the combined Fantastic Four and Avengers force faced Kang's Anachronauts; warriors Kang gathered from throughout the timestream. Yeah, they're not great. Among others, there's a Bloodstone, a Black Knight, and a Red Wolf from the past; but none are the ones we've seen before, which begs the question, why?

Since the Anachronauts were ordered to capture the heroes, they opt to throw the fight and hopefully be taken to the still-missing Vision, Captain America, and Thor. The heroes are thrown into a hyper-cube, and Kang drops fifteen hundred words of hard exposition. Then Kang adds the missing heroes to the cube, which is also shrinking six inches per minute and will crush them all shortly. Oh, and Kang promises them three chances to stop him, between 1992 and December 31, 2000.

But, while Kang's been carrying on, the Temptress has snuck up on him, with weapons intended to stab through his force field, which she does. Sadly, she doesn't even get a panel of triumph, since the real Kang traps her in another field: the dead one was yet another of Kang's crosstime counterpart/lieutenants, and one that definitely wasn't paid enough for that. Kang explains this whole endeavor has been less about messing with the heroes, than it was to lure out his female foe, who's killed a number of his men.

Kang uses his future weapons to "strip away all artifice," by which he means get to the Temptress's real identity: Ravonna. We've seen her before, but she's from early in Kang's history (that we know of): she was the queen of a city-state conquered by Kang, and thus subject to death. Kang wanted to spare her, since he already was smitten, but his men then turned on him, and Kang had to enlist the Avengers to help him. Kang's lieutenant took a shot at him, but Ravonna, her heart swayed at last, threw herself in the way and took the bullet, or ray blast or whatever. Dead, or at least mostly, Kang had her put into cryogenic freeze; and would later try to win back her life in a contest with the Grandmaster.

Now, Kang would win that one, but only mostly: the Grandmaster would only give Kang one power, either life for Ravonna or death for the Avengers. After three seconds thought, Kang picks death, reasoning that he'll figure out how to save Ravonna himself later. Yeah, 'cause curing death is gonna be a snap compared to, I don't know, killing the Avengers in their sleep or childhood or something. Kang even fails there, since Grandmaster only gives him power of death over the Avengers, and the Black Knight hadn't joined yet.

What Kang, and we readers, didn't know: cheesed over his loss (even though he managed to completely dick Kang over) the Grandmaster went back later, swiped Ravonna's body and left a copy in her place, and revived her. Pissed over being left for dead, she set out for revenge over Kang's betrayal. And Kang finds that hot. He actually had gone back in time, more than once, and taken other versions of Ravonna as his consort...until they bored him, since they were all more "compliant," and not "his" Ravonna.

Even with the cube still shrinking, Reed's watching this rather intently...guy digs his soaps. Kang offers Ravonna a chance to fight him, she says she'll do him one better and kill him. Kang is digging this. Ravonna armors up, calling herself Terminatrix now...seriously? With a straight face? All right...

Meanwhile, Sersi--the older, present day Sersi; the younger one Cap met in his annual isn't seen again--had disguised herself and taken the place of the Bloodstone-type, and frees the heroes to pummel down the Anachronauts; while the main event goes on. Ravonna calls Kang incompetent, that he should've killed the heroes while he had the chance. But Kang rebuts, that Ravonna still doesn't understand him: he could've killed them, and her, at any time, but he's not in it for slaughter. Kang's future was boring, and he didn't become a conqueror to be bored.

The Avengers and FF watch the fight, which is behind a forcefield. Thor offers to take them down, kind of wanting to be the hero of the game for once, but it goes sour. To save Ravonna, Kang throws himself in front of the hammer, and takes a brutal hit. (Did I say brutal? It looked more embarrassing than anything, like it just pitched Kang on his ass, but he hit his head when he fell.) Ravonna isn't impressed, she feels more cheated than anything. She takes Kang's corpse (or 'corpse,' the Black Knight points out they've seen Kang come back from more convincing deaths than that) and disappears.

And the heroes...pretty much just pack up and go home. Maybe you guys wanna do something about Kang's weird crosstime city, the point of which still escapes me? Nah, even Cap's like, later. Sigh...so, Citizen Kang wasn't the best Marvel Annual crossover (although it beats the hell out of 1993's Superstars of Tomorrow Annuals) and wasn't the best Kang story either, although it beat the hell out of the Crossing.

It's funny, but these Annuals did make me look at Kang differently, since a lot of writers only go with his sense of honor, or a power-mad wannabe dictator, or as a ersatz Dr. Doom. (As in Secret Wars or Infinity War.) Kang could conquer earth in twenty minutes if he wanted to, he could go back in time and kill the Avengers as infants, but that's really not what he wants. Kang's really only in the conquering business for the challenge. He could really care less about the actual conquering, as long as the Avengers or whoever put up a good fight. At least, that was Kang, that day.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Not sure you covered the best thing about "Citizen Kang": the reveal that, as far as Kang is concerned, he has already conquered the 20th century. Kang has been introducing futuristic technology since 1900 to turn the world into a place more to his liking, and if he considers that a conquest, I think I can agree with him. It explains how all the future tech got there (thanks Mark Gruenwald!) and it gives a little more depth to Kang, who really is the blandest supervillain most days.

Conquering the past is tricky business, though: standard Marvel temporal rules say that, when you change the past, you are really just creating an alternate timeline. There are exceptions, as we learned in MacDuffie's FF run (if you can keep your changes small enough that their influence attenuates, they get absorbed into the timeline rather than causing a divergent timeline). So even if Kang killed Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, etc in their infancies, all that would do is create different timelines; I'm guessing Kang is playing a tougher game that requires more finesse.

I am thinking about this way too hard, but when you're talking about Kang, you have to do a lot of the work yourself to make it at all interesting.