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Astonishing Tales (2nd series) #2

Issue Date: May 2009

Story Title: The Hard Way (1st story)
Bobby and Sam in Mojoworld – Mojo Makes a Deal (4th story)

Staff: First story: C.B. Cebulski (writer), Kenneth Rocafort (penciler), IroBot (colorist), Troy Peteri (letterer), Joe Sabino (production), Jody LeHeup (asst. editor), John Barber (editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Dan Buckley (publisher) Art by Top Cow Productions -- Special Thanks to Top Cow’s Rob Levin
Fourth story: Jonathan Hickman (writer/artist), Nick Pitarra (artist), Nathan Fairbairn (colorist), Dave Sharpe (letterer), Michael Horwitz (asst. editor), John Barber (editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Dan Buckley (publisher)

Brief Description:
First story:
Wolverine and the Punisher face off against Predator X. Logan tells the Punisher to deal with Viper and leave the mutant-hunting beast to him. The Punisher finds himself in single combat with Kimura, an agent of the nefarious Facility. It is Kimura who is intent on selling Predator X to Viper. The Punisher’s normal tactics prove ineffective on Kimura’s indestructible body, so he decides to feed her to Predator X. He tackles her and launches them both into Predator X’s jaws!

Fourth story: Sunspot and Cannonball enter into contract negotiations with Mojo. This involves various games played and broadcast by Mojomedia, Inc. The winner of each round gets to name a term of their contract. Mojo wins the first two rounds and sets the timeline for completion of the films and the penalty if Sam and ‘Berto fail: a lifetime as Mojo’s slaves. The boys decide to change things up and choose board games from Earth that leave Mojo stumped and help them win some deal points that give them creative control and various perks… namely hot girls and Mojoworld’s finest booze. The two prepare to sign their contracts with Mojomedia and approach the venture with a playful sense of adventure.

Full Synopsis:
First story:
Predator X stands over Logan growling fiercely. Logan says to it “Heel, puppy… I don’t wanna have ta hurt you.” Punisher thinks to himself that this isn’t something he sees every day and admits that Wolverine has more experience with this type of foe.

The mutant-devouring creature lunges at Logan who slides under it and slices it with his claws as he admits “Ah… like hell I don’t!” Predator X roars loudly and tosses Wolverine away from him. Logan lands deftly and says that the shiny beast “…kinda reminds me o’ me.” The Punisher enters the fray, thinking to himself that he didn’t track this case halfway across the globe to sit on the sidelines.

He fires both his handguns at Predator X with little effect. Logan tackles him and tells him not to provoke it. As he does so, he explains to Castle that Predator X is programmed to hunt mutants only and is only after him. Predator X dramatically proves Logan’s point as it bites down hard on his arm. Logan yells out to Castle to find Viper and leave Predator X to him. Punisher gets to his feet but is quickly attacked by an unseen figure who tells him that getting involved in her business was foolish and killing her men was stupid. She adds “But following me here to Madripoor? That’s suicide.” The woman is revealed to be Kimura, an agent of the mysterious group known as The Facility.

She tells Castle that she didn’t spend six months getting her “brain re-wired after Emma Frost’s mental meddling” to let The Facility’s plans be thwarted by a “small-time vigilante like you”. She grabs him by the shirt, gloating about how easy it will be to kill him. He proves her wrong by easily grasping her with his legs and throwing her aside. The Punisher knows little about Kimura beyond that she is selling bioweapons to Viper. Kimura recovers quickly and tells him that he’ll find she’s not so easy to kill either. He tells her he isn’t afraid to do things the hard way and grabs a gun from a fallen Hydra agent. He aims it directly into her chest and fires. The bullets merely bounce off her indestructible bosom and one grazes the Punisher’s shoulder. Kimura backhands him and sends him flying. She tells him that the “hard way” is how she prefers to handle things as well.

The Punisher ponders the nature of animals and how when they are cornered and threatened, the adrenaline rush can cause them to do crazy things. He asks Kimura if she’s a mutant given her indestructible nature. She tells him that if she were, Predator X would be after her instead of focusing solely on Wolverine. Castle tells her “We’ll just see about that…” and tackles her, driving her into the waiting jaws of Predator X. As he does so, he tells her that he bets that her mutant-eating monster doesn’t mind snacking on “plain ol’ humans” once in while. She cries out “You maniac… NO!” as Predator X bites down on the both of them! Wolverine looks up at Predator X with disappointment and says” Aw, hell! I was just gettin’ warmed up…”

Fourth story:
Roberto says to Mojo “Let’s get this thing going, big guy. Let’s sign some contracts and make a movie.” Mojo quickly corrects him, they’ll be making movies together, plural. Sam points out that that wasn’t the deal and Mojo says that they’ve yet to make a deal, they’ve simply agreed verbally to work together. He tells them that whenever they’re ready to enter into contract negotiations, they can “say when.” Bobby folds his arms and says simply “When.”

Mojo shouts, “Roll cameras!” and the walls of the plain square room they are in roll back to reveal an immense studio space. Set pieces from numerous game shows are set up throughout the studio. Sam exclaims, “What is going on here?” Mojo and his right hand man, Major Domo explain that in the Mojoverse contract negotiations are handled via televised game shows. Major Domo reveals that this is their third variation on contract negotiations. The first attempt involved battles to the death for deal points but this led to the voiding of the contracts since the involved parties were dead. Next they tried a version where Mojo always chose the games and subsequently won every deal point. After this aired, no one wanted to enter into negotiations with Mojomedia. Sam agrees that it did seem unfair. Domo goes on to explain he format they will be using. There will be seven rounds of negotiations with the winner of each round naming a condition of the contract. The loser of each round gets to pick the next game to be played. No powers until the contract is settled.

With the parameters set, Mojo names the first challenge: MOJO FEUD! Sam and Roberto face off against a family of Mojos… Mojo as the “dad”, a Mojo mom, Mojo grandpa and two adorable Mojo kids. Major Domo acts as the show’s host and asks the Mojo family to name the person most associated with the phrase “Male Motion Picture Sex Symbol”. The family brainstorms ideas: Brad Pitt, George Clooney, David Hasselhoff. Finally, they come up with their answer: Mojo! Every answer on the board turns out to be some version of Mojo and thus, he wins this round of negotiations. Sunspot begins to protest saying “Oh, this is bull—.” As the winner, Mojo gets to name the first condition of their deal --- Sam and Bobby will produce eight movies in one month!

As the losers of round one, Sam and Bobby get to pick the next game. They ask how they know what to pick and Major Domo provides them with a list of choices. Sam enthusiastically suggests “Mojowood Squares” and says that he loves Jim J. Bullock! ‘Berto suggests that it might be a whole board full of Mojos and they should pick something random and points to a Mojo version of “Press Your Luck”. Sam agrees since the game’s rules would allow them to avoid Mojo with the chant “No Mojos!” Despite their hopes, the game is clearly rigged in Mojo’s favor and he wins the round, despite Sam’s heartfelt chants of “Big bucks, no Mojos!” Mojo sets Rule #2: If they fail to make the allotted number of movies in the given time, they both become his slaves for all time!

Once again, Sam and Bobby get to pick the game. They ask if they have to stick to the recommended game list and despite Mojo’s orders, Major Domo tells them they can pick any game they like. Cannonball points out that Mojo only knows TV stuff and so they pick a popular tabletop game: Helicarrier (The Marvel equivalent of Battleship!) Mojo calls for E4… every time and Sam swiftly sinks his Helicarrier winning them the round! They decide to choose full creative control over actors, story and budget.

Next up is a Mojoworld version of $100,000 Pyramid. Mojo plays with Major Domo and every category is “Things that are Mojo.” Major Domo gets Mojo to guess it with clues like “Yellow and obnoxious” before moving on to “Fat, rotund, grossly obese” Mojo warns him to “Watch it” and moves on to safer prompts such as “Master, owner, boss.” Naturally, Bobby and Sam get much tougher categories like “Things that are Cerulean” and “Things that are Corporeal”. Bobby gives clues for one category that at first stumps Sam “Selene…the Black Queen”. Sam guesses “Things that you fight”. Bobby adds “Amara… Betsy” and Sam guesses “Things that are Attractive.” Finally, Roberto adds “Uh… your sister Paige.” Sam puts his hand to his forehead and says “Things you made out with” which proves to be the correct category. ‘Berto smiles and says “Sorry.” Despite guessing this category correctly, the pair of mutants lose the round and Mojo sets yet another rule. Rule #4: Mojomedia, Inc. owns all the rights to the movies you make.

Sam and Roberto stick to their winning strategy and Mojo loses at Clue with his guess of “Longshot with the light bulb in the media room” Roberto picks their next deal point, they get to choose who distributes the films! Mojo chooses the next challenge “AMERICAN ANNIHILATORS” featuring giant killer robots. Sam and Roberto take one look at the monstrously huge mechanoids and decide to pass on this one. Mojo adds the caveat “The distributor you choose must be located in the Mojoverse” as Rule #6.

For the final round, Sam and Roberto choose Connect Four and easily best Mojo. Sunspot asks him if he realizes that this game is marked for ages 7 and up. Mojo pounds his fist on the board as Roberto declares their final rule “While making our movies you have to supply us with all the hot girls and fruity drinks we want!” Mojo declares this a deal and Major Domo gets to work on the paperwork. He reminds the mutants that all powers are suspended until they fulfill the contract. He tells them that the allotted month of production time will begin as soon as the papers are signed. When he asks if there’ll be anything else, Mojo demands that every board game in the Mojoverse be destroyed. Domo agrees and asks if there’s anything for Sam and Roberto. Bobby replies “Sure. Bring us the finest of your women and booze!” and ruffles Sam’s hair playfully.

Characters:
First story:
Wolverine

Punisher

Kimura

Predator X

Fourth story:
Cannonball, Sunspot (both former New Mutants)

Mojo
Major Domo
Unnamed Mojo “family” members
Unnamed Mojo Productions crew members

Notes:
This issue features four different heroes in feature stories:
Second story: Iron Man 2020 in “Endless Stolen Sky” – Part 2
Third story: MODOK in “Hero’s Diner”

The second story starring IRON MAN 2020 is set in the future and features a brief appearance by Warren Worthington IV. His lineage is obvious not only by his name but by his avian mutation which includes feathered wings like his father. His mutation is even more pronounced as he looks like a bald eagle! His head is basically that of a bird complete with beak.

First story:
Wolverine and the Punisher have teamed up and clashed on numerous occasions, including three different limited series and several guest appearances in each other’s titles. The two share a grudging respect for each other’s abilities despite the personal friction between them.

Predator X was a creature created by the nefarious Facility to hunt and feast upon mutant DNA as shown in the pages of NEW X-MEN #34. The Facility infused the creature with biological samples from the young mutant called Mercury, granting it a super-tough, silvery hide. Originally, there were three such creatures but two were killed in NEW X-MEN #36. The final Predator X was destroyed by Wolverine in X-MEN (2nd series) #207 after playing a pivotal role in the MESSIAH COMPLEX storyline. Where this Predator X originated has yet to be revealed.

Kimura is also a product of The Facility and was empowered by them to serve as X-23’s handler. Kimura is virtually indestructible with skin that can resist even X-23’s razor-sharp adamantium claws. After X-23 escaped The Facility, Kimura was sent to hunt her down. Her quest to return X-23 to her masters at The Facility brought her into conflict with the team of young mutants called the New X-Men. In retaliation for her abuse and tenacious hunting of X-23 and the abduction of the New X-Man called Mercury, Emma Frost psychically stripped Kimura of her fondest memories of her beloved grandmother and planted an overwhelming psionic compulsion to hunt down her employers at The Facility. [NEW X-MEN #36]

Fourth story:
As members of the New Mutants, Sam and Roberto have fought Mojo and Spiral on several occasions. Their most notable encounters occurred in UNCANNY X-MEN ANNUAL #10 and NEW MUTANTS ANNUAL #2.

In the initial sequence, Mojo brings out set pieces from many well-known TV game shows. Among those referenced in the story are long-running shows like Wheel of Fortune, Family Feud, $100,00 Pyramid, Hollywood Squares and the Price is Right as well as the classic game show Press Your Luck, which is famous for its mantra of “Big bucks, no whammies!”

Sam and Bobby choose to challenge Mojo to classic board games such as Clue, Battleship and Connect Four.

While giving clues to a puzzle, Roberto mentions Selene, Magma, Psylocke and Husk as women he has made out with. Sunspot was coerced into joining the Hellfire Club by Selene in X-FORCE (1st series) #96-98… though it was not through seduction you never quite know when it comes to Selene. Roberto and Amara seemed particularly close when they worked together in the LA branch of the X-Corporation but nothing definitively romantic was implied. As for Betsy and Paige, Roberto has rarely appeared with either of them so there are no established instances of him “making out” with either of them. His comments here can be attributed largely to Roberto’s ego and comedic writing.

The “American Annihilators” is a robotic riff on “American Gladiators”.

Issue Summary written by: Binaryan


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