Fan Expo: Marvel's Dark Reign Panel

There didn't seem to be much news revealed during Marvel's Dark Reign panel at this year's Fan Expo in Toronto, Canada, with announcements expected Saturday and Sunday at the show from the publisher, but panelists did lead a discussion on recent announcements and took questions from fans in attendance.

After a slow start due to technical difficulties the panel discussing the recent shadow over Marvel's characters began. Beginning the panel Arune Singh, Marvel's Marketing Manager, went over a number of recent announcements, including next month's beginning of "Dark Reign: The List" one-shots. "The List" follows Norman Osborn, in the wake of the current "Utopia" arc, targeting a number of Marvel characters standing in his way.

Tom Brennan, assistant editor of "The Amazing Spider-Man," stated that "Dark Reign: The List: Spider-Man" written by Dan Slott with art by Adam Kubert is the last in the series of "The List" series.

"It's a throw down," Brennan assured fans.

December brings Brian Michael Bendis' "New Avengers Annual #3" as well as "Dark Avengers Annual #1" to stands.

The "New Avengers Annual" will follow the leading ladies of the team as they investigate the disappearance of current team leader and longtime avenger Clint Barton, Ronin. If the cover is any indication, Jessica Jones may very well be returning to the superhero gig after a long standing hiatus in her more domestic role as mother and wife. Although this was hinted at in "Amazing Spider-Man #601," it looks like fans of Jones will finally be seeing her return to action.

While on the other side of the Avengers pool, "Dark Avengers Annual #1" will focus on Noh-Varr, the Captain Marvel of Osborn's depraved team, after learning who exactly Norman Osborn is and what his intentions are.

Taking the audience by surprise, Singh then displayed a picture of Tony Stark on a slab with Thor sitting next to him. The image is reminiscent of the "Civil War" conclusion which saw Stark sitting next to the body of the recently slain Captain America, Steve Rogers. Karma may be a real bitch for Stark if the promotional art for Matt Fraction's upcoming "Stark Disassembled" arc in the Eisner winning "Invincible Iron Man" is any indication. It's safe to say the future of the armor clad industrialist is bleak at best.

"I can't really say much more but Fraction would kill us," said Brennan.

Presenting more upcoming "Dark Reign" covers saw Noman Osborn wearing Spider-Man's costume, to which panelists kept silent on further details, followed by a cover for "New Avengers" featuring Spider-Man and Spider-Woman back-to-back done by Stuart Immonen (accompanied by applause for the Canadian artist by the Toronto crowd). Finally, the cover for "The Amazing Spider-Man Presents: Anti-Venom" in the "New Ways to Live" arc showed the vigilante Eddie Brock sporting a punisher symbol while armed with a monstrous machine gun. The issue will see Brock cross paths with the likes of Frank Castle, The Punisher, to take down a drug cartel both vigilantes had been targeting.

A Possible Alpha Flight return was hinted at by the next slide in Singh's presentation. But, much to the dismay of the canuck crowd, the panelists were just having their fun.

However, Alpha Flight action figures are out there.

Still dead, though, sorry folks.

"We're very aware of the passion people have for Alpha Flight and I think we all agree that's it better we do a book when we have the right people involved than just putting out a book," said Singh "I mean we could easily do 'Dark Alpha Flight, right?'"

Asked whether everyone's neighborhood friendly web-slinger will ever play a central role in any Marvel Universe spanning events, Brennan feels Spider-Man has always been well situated throughout monumental arcs.

"During 'Civil War' there were essentially three main characters: Iron Man, Captain America and Spider-Man," said Brennan.

Panelists agreed that Spider-Man works best at a street level rather than taking center stage during these events, but Brennan assured fans that Spidey will be playing a large part in what happens next year.

"It's going to be a really great year for Spider-Man," said writer/editor C. B. Cebulski of the panel.

For X-fans, "New Mutants," "X-Men Legacy" and "X-Force" will come together with Necrosia where each book will act as a layer similar to what is happening in the "Utopia" arc.

"While each part isn't a chapter, like it was in 'Utopia,' you'll get a piece of the puzzle each week," said Singh.

The Starjammers will appear throughout the X-Titles as well as the more cosmic books occurring in the Marvel Universe.

"The Starjammers have always been interesting - we just had our X-Men retreat a couple weeks ago and they kept coming up," said Cebulski.

"You'll be seeing them."

Regarding the fallout of the critically acclaimed "War of Kings" miniseries, Singh briefly discussed the plans to explore "The Fault" among other big events coming up in the Marvel's cosmic titles including a look at what the future holds for Dark Hawk.

"He's taken a radical role in the cosmic stuff...he's going to play a very large role in things coming up," said Cebulski.

A brief discussion of the upcoming "Amazing Spider-Man" arc "The Gauntlet" brought about another rehash of similar details from the panel. Starting with issue #612 in November "The Gauntlet" will see Spider-Man face off against a number of familiar faces from his rogues' gallery.

"All the old guys are coming back, starting with Electro kicking it off," said Brennan.

With promises of old villains returning, Brennan seemed particularly excited about the assailants that attack Madame Web at the end of "Amazing Spider-Man" #600.

Hearing criticism from fans regarding the latest happenings in Jeph Loeb's run on the "Incredible Hulk," Singh assured the audience that issue #601 explores the dynamic between Skaar and Banner.

"Issue #601 explains how Banner and Skaar are in the same boat and why one hasn't killed the other," said Singh.

Jumping to the fan favorite Merc-with-a-Mouth, the future of Deadpool will coincide with the effects of "Utopia" currently happening in the X-Men books. Also, "Amazing Spider-Man #611" will see six-shooter versus web-shooter in the middle of the aforementioned "The Gauntlet" arc.

Still going to audience members for questions, the fate of Daken in the Marvel Universe was asked.

"He's the son of wolverine, so I expect if you're a Daken fan you'll be seeing him a lot next year," said Singh

Returning to the X-titles once again, panelists announced that old villains will make their way back into the books. Apocalypse being a major force returning to the titles.

"The beginning of next year, you'll be seeing Stryfe, Apocalypse, more of the old villains," said Cebulski.

A surprising question from the crowd came in regard to the fate of Squirrel Girl in the Marvel Universe. Luckily, the question was asked by none other than Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada.

As Quesada and his daughter joined the panelists on stage, Singh made the comment that things will not be getting better for Marvel's heroes in the wake of Osborn's Dark Reign.

"There are even bigger and badder things, you might not like to see what happens with your favorite characters and heroes," said Singh.

As time woumd down for the panel, the question of Brother Voodoo and Steven Strange was asked. According to the panel a "Doctor Voodoo" series will deal with Jericho's role as the new Sorcerer Supreme with a very different flavor than Doctor Strange. Also the limited series "Strange" will focus on Steven Strange's life after losing his mantle.

The final question of the panel inquired about the future of the Marvel Universe in terms of another monumental arc such as "Secret Invasion" or "Civil War" to which Quesada took the reigns to explain the editorial plans for the next year.

"You'll be seeing eventsm but they'll be smaller...sort of where we were before all this event craziness began. It'll be a new era in the Marvel Universe," said Quesada.

"We're going to try this out for a year and see where this takes us."

As the panel concluded, when asked about the future of "Runaways," there was no official word on the fate of the book but Singh stated there will be an announcement this weekend.

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