March 22nd, 2013, 9:51 am

How Many Angels Can Dance on the Head of Ultron

The Big Two comic publishers just can't seem to keep quiet about major twists in their books. It's been less than a month since the New York Post spoiled the surprise death of Robin in the pages of "Batman Inc" and now the New York Times are revealing a character from a completely different comic book company will make a surprising appearance in the crossover "Age of Ultron", heralding the return of one of my favorite writers, Neil Gaiman, to Marvel.

Way back in 1993, Gaiman was contracted to write an issue of "Spawn", the dark-and-gritty supernatural anti-hero created by Todd McFarlane for Image Comics. During this issue, Gaiman introduced several major characters to the Spawn mythos, including Angela, a scantily-clad warrior angel dedicated to tracking down the Hellspawn protagonist. Since Image was a major proponent of creator-owned comics, McFarlane at first claimed Gaiman held creator rights to the characters, but later said Gaiman's contributions were strictly work-for-hire, excluding him for any creator rights. A federal court disagreed in 2002, and Gaiman signed a confidential settlement with McFarlane. Both men hold 50/50 ownership of the character, but McFarlane killed the character off in the 100th issue of Spawn.

The character has been absent from comics ever since, until the New York Times revealed her impending return, in what has been revealed to be a "post-credit scene" to similar to the Marvel movies. The character will be appearing in "Guardians of the Galaxy", which Neil Gaiman will be co-writing with another fan-favorite writer, Brian Michael Bendis. The move should give some publicity to "Guardians", which has been relaunched ahead of a big-screen adaptation next year.

All and all, this is a really odd move. Pragmatically, it serves Marvel's need to expand its cosmic universe, which should play a big role in Phase 2 of the Marvel movies after the reveal of intergalactic baddie Thanos in the first "Avengers" post-credit scene. Continuity-wise, it's an odd duck either way you cut it. It almost reads like fan-fiction, with a supporting character from a completely separate franchise and completely different publisher appearing at the tale-end of huge Marvel event.

I'm also not really sure what role Angela will play at Marvel. The character is an actual angel from Heaven, and while Marvel has several supernatural characters (like "Spawn" progenitor Ghost Rider), they don't have too many angels. It's also strange the character is showing up in "Guardians of the Galaxy", a book about space aliens and talking raccoons with automatic weapons. The book already has one scantily-clad Amazon - Gamora - so adding Angela to the line-up should be interesting, if not slightly redundant.

While I'm unsure about the character's role, I am glad to see Neil Gaiman co-writing the book. Though Bendis has shown he has all the quirky voices of the team members down, Gaiman is perfect for raising Marvel's cosmic profile, having written an episode of "Dr. Who" last season (and another coming up in the current season), to say nothing of his work in comics like "Sandman" and "The Eternals". Just add Angela to a book written by Brian Michael Bendis and Neil Gaiman and you have the recipe for a fanboy success.

Despite this being a totally left-field move on Marvel's part, it's not necessarily a bad move, if just totally, completely and utterly unexpected. But in an industry where most news amounts to a character dying and then returning six months later, that's not a bad things. If this any indication of what's to come, Marvel clearly has a lot of surprises down the pipeline.

(That's it for this rant. Check out a new Blue Yonder next week!)

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