Toronto Fan Expo 2009: Marvel's DARK REIGN Panel

It appears that Marvel’s superheroes won’t be catching a break in the near future. At the Toronto Fan Expo Friday, Marvel’s Dark Reign panel focused on their massive crossover that has been running through their books lately. On hand were C.B. Cebulski, Amazing Spider-Man associate editor Tom Brennan, and Marvel Marketing Manager Arune Singh.

Their slide show kicked off by poking fun at Canadians and their beloved, yet dead, regional team Alpha Flight before moving on to a picture of a screen with headshots of characters including Cyclops, Hulk, and one blank.

This was to promote next month’s Dark Reign: The List where after the events of "Utopia", Norman Osborn decides there are either seven or eight other threats he has to take care of, and one very secret target.

Brennan jumped in to talk about Dark Reign: Spider-Man written by Dan Slott with art by Adam Kubert. The last in the series of the List books, it hits high gear when Spider-Man finally confronts Norman Osborn. “It’s got an ending you have to see to believe,” teases Brennan. “It’s got the throw down people have been looking for.”

Singh continued that the specials are not all interconnected yet if you read them all, they do all form a larger picture of what’s coming in 2010. Oh, and Norman Osborn has a much bigger plan you expect.

The next slide mostly featured some of Marvel’s powerhouse females and no wonder. Singh detailed how in December, there will be two annuals from Brian Michael Bendis. In New Avengers Annual #3, Clint Barton/Ronin has mysteriously disappeared and consequently, some powerful female friends go kick ass in their search for him. Then Dark Avengers Annual #1 explores Marvel Boy/Captain Marvel and what he does after Dark Avengers #6 where he learned exactly who Norman Osborn is and what his intentions are. This will reveal Captain Marvel’s fate with the Dark Avengers.

One ominous image had a somber Thor standing over Tony Stark on a slab. Hyped that after "World’s Most Wanted" ends in October, the Eisner-winning The Invincible Iron Man starts a top secret story called "Stark Disassembled" by Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca.

The final image depicted three covers beginning with Norman Osborn sporting a Spider-Man costume and then a New Avengers cover by Stuart Immonen featuring Spider-Man and Spider-Woman. Lastly, The Amazing Spider-Man presents Anti-Venom: New Ways to Live had a reverse Venom with a Punisher symbol on his chest and a gigantic gun. “It picks up with Eddie Brock as Anti-Venom and he’s taken on a drug cartel doing his best to purify the city,” explains Brennan. Obviously, he runs into the Punisher and lots of violence and fighting ensues!

At this point, the panel opened the discussion to the floor where one reader voiced concerns about Spider-Man not getting his dues as a central figure in these sweeping epic events, especially now that his greatest enemy Norman Osborn is basically running the world. He felt it was time for the Wall-Crawler to step up.

Agreed this was a valid point, they said that Spider-Man was one of the pivotal characters in Civil War and plays a major part in what is planned next year, especially with the eventual fight against Osborn

“At the same time, you want to be careful about a character like this because his strength has always been more of the everyman; he’s had his moment in the Marvel Universe, but we want to use him the right way,” says Brennan.

With the first arc of New Mutants over, Cebulski teased that "Utopia" is a key moment for New Mutants fans. “We’ve seen a lot of the old team get back together and there’ll be some old faces from the past come back very soon,” he added.

November will also see a crossover between New Mutants/X-Men Legacy/X-Force and Cebulski reported that while each part was a chapter, you would get a piece of the puzzle every week

There was a question over the identity of a shadowy figure Osborn showed in Dark Reign and while it was joked it might be Grimace, it was promised that like the Cylons, Bendis has a plan.

One fan was weirded out with Peter Parker having sex with his former roommate’s sister, but Brennan defended Peter’s actions, saying that he’s a twenty-something dealing with real problems that regular folk do.

Asked whether there were plans for the Starjammers, Cebulski noted that the group straddles the two worlds of X-Men and the cosmic universe and while they will ride both lines, for now they will be more prevalent on the cosmic side.

A compliment about War of Kings led to the announcement that next month’s War of Kings: Who Will Rule special will be followed by Realm of Kings where The Fault that was previously introduced will be explored. Furthermore, someone apparently died in War of the Kings and apparently that person’s husband is going to be very pissed off so count on fallout from that.

A reader praising Hercules prompted a spoiler concerning the Olympian Gods and an assault on Mount Olympus.

For the scoop on Frank Castle, it was suggested to check out Dark Reign The List: Punisher, as well as Punishermax which Jason Aaron and Steve Dillon will be taking over.

On the topic of Jessica Drew, Spider-Woman explains to Peter Parker in Amazing Spider-Man #601 that she knows he’s Spider-Man and ends up considering returning to the superhero game.

A person thrilled to see old school baddie Shocker was errrr….. shocked that kicking off in Amazing Spider-Man #612, a storyline called "The Gauntlet" will see classic Spider-Man villains resurface such as a brand new take on Electro, followed by the Rhino, and Mysterio.

For Hulk and Spidey followers, this week’s Strange Tales is highly recommended and Brennan added it contains “a Namor story that is the funniest thing I have ever read.”

Perhaps partially due to the movie, Deadpool has become extremely popular and the events of "Utopia" will affect him profoundly. Once again, he will be very involved with the X Universe and in Amazing Spider-Man, original Merc with a Mouth series writer Joe Kelly will bring Deadpool versus Spider-Man. If that weren’t enough, Deadpool reaches issue #900, a milestone Singh joked that even Batman and Superman haven’t achieved.

As for a possible Marvel Team-Up book, even though the subject has been broached at summits, there are no plans for it right now.

Creators told the crowd to keep an eye on Wolverine’s son Daken. Cebulski mentioned that just like Kitty Pryde was a POV to the Marvel Universe for him, Daken will provide an interesting point of view and what the universe is like through his eyes.

At this point, the audience was asked to name characters they’d like to see more of and the first name was Apocalypse. The creators revealed that things have been set in motion for Apocalypse and that in 2010, some old X villains that have been neglected will be back in a big way.

<a href=><img src= border=0 align=right></a>The next character mentioned was none other than the controversial Ben Reilly. Brennan explained that the upcoming Clone Saga isn’t connected to the main Spider-Man story and is another take on what original writers Tom DeFalco and Howard Mackie might have done. Furthermore, Amazing Spider-Man #608-610 will be dealing with the character Raptor from the recent annual and his hunt for Ben Reilly. “He comes back and you’ll be seeing a couple of faces from the Clone Saga show up,” teases Brennan. “We can’t confirm Kaine but…..”

A reader praising Ultimatum noted the recent big deaths, including Wolverine, and was curious if that dark writing would continue in that comic. It was pointed out that Mark Millar was still writing Ultimate Avengers and that the identity of the Red Skull and how it relates to one of those heroes means it isn’t going to be easy for the Ultimate Avengers anytime soon. There was also a reminder that a new Ultimates book by Jeff Loeb is on the horizon as well as an Ultimate Armor series starting this fall.

Concerning Doctor Strange, the panel announced there is going to be a new series called Brother Voodoo: Avenger of the Supernatural focusing on Jericho Drumm’s role as the Sorcerer Supreme and a different take on magic in the Marvel Universe. They will also be launching a limited series written by Mark Waid called Strange     starting in November that will answer ‘What does Stephen Strange do and who he is after not being the Sorcerer Supreme?’

The last question of the day went to the guy sitting next to me who was wondering if they could expect another major crossover after Dark Reign. Cebulski explained that they would go into the third act that Civil War started but once that concluded, Marvel would be taking a year off from doing any major big event storylines. Apparently, there can still be self-contained events in particular books such as the Avengers line, but nothing on such a huge scale as Dark Reign.

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