Appearing in "Adventure the First: Grievous Angel"
- Nick Fury (Secretly an LMD)
- Doctor Strange
- Tina Punnett (First appearance)
- Jack Holyoak (First appearance)
- Living Totem (Whistle Pig) (First appearance)
- Cold Winter (First appearance) (Only in flashback)
- Weed (First appearance)
- A Skrull (Claims to be one of the Skrull Cows)
- Wolf Punnett (First appearance)
- Flora Punnett (First appearance)
- Eando the Robot (First appearance)
- Officer Nighthorse (First appearance)
- Sweet Grass (First appearance) (Main story and flashback)
- Cam Larson's ghost (First appearance)
- Arick Schnellageister (First appearance)
- nameless female victim
- unnamed underling at S.H.I.E.L.D., as well as other agents in the background.
- Wolverine (On-screen)
- Iron Man (On-screen)
- Hulk (On-screen)
- Thing (On-screen)
Race and Species:
Synopsis for "Adventure the First: Grievous Angel"
A Skrull has taken over a space station and subdued the. Troubled in mind, the Skrull speaks via a secure connection to Nick Fury at S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters. The skrull has had some sort of psychotic break, saying he's been through so many faces, so many lies that he doesn't even know who he is anymore. After remarking on what a fruitcake the skrull was, he tells an underling to call their go-to guy...
Seconds later, Fury is explaining to Doc Samson that the skrull is threatening to drop the station's secret nuclear warheads on Earth. Samson, who sits in an office filled with various monitors which allow him to simultaneously keep tabs on Wolverine, the Thing, the Hulk, Iron Man, and a mundane support group, calmly tells Fury to patch the skrull through.
After calming him down a bit (and assuring him that no Kree are listening in), the skrull begins to open up about an upsetting dreams he's been having. No sooner does the skrull start talking than Tina Punnett interrupts, hacking into S.H.I.E.L.D.'s secure channel. (The skrull doesn't even notice Samson talking to someone else, and keeps going on about his dream.) Tina apologizes, saying she wouldn't normally interrupt her favorite godfather, except her parents had gone missing. Samson agrees to help, and wraps up the conversation just as the skrull inquires "what does it all mean, Leonard?" Samson assures him they can get to the root of his problem, and one hour and three minutes later, the skrull is being led away by S.H.I.E.L.D. agents just in time for Eando to tell Samson of Tina's arrival.
Tina shows Samson the last video e-mails her parents had sent her, and also played an MP3 file of her last phone call with Officer Nighthorse, a local cop investigating the disappearance. Flora and Wolf Punnett make strange references to angry and restless spirits, and Officer Nighthorse reluctantly admit that the strange supernatural rumors are the closest thing they have to clues. When asked to explain what this all meant Tina tells him of when Flora and Wolf travelled with Cam Larson's band.
Larson was a singer and rising star when he died at the age of 26. In accordance with his last wishes (and against the wishes of his family and federal law), his bandmates snuck his body into Joshua Tree National Park and cremated it. Tina's parents loved Cam to much, however, to let his spirit depart this plane, and bound his ghost to the desert. "Three decades later, they're still pestering the poor guy."
Samson declares that this case is now his top priority, but while he feels capable of dealing with the physical aspects of the investigation, he may need some help on the supernatural aspects. To that end, Samson and Tina pay a visit to Stephen Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum. To Samson's surprise, they are not greeted by Strange's faithful companion Wong, but by Jack Holyoak. Jack claims to be Strange's newest apprentice, Jack tells them that Strange went into a trace three days ago, but foretold of their arrival and that he would awaken to meet them. Holyoak leads them to Strange's still dormant body, but then decides to attempt to wake him. Summoning the Sword of Surtur, Holyoak attempts to call back Strange's astral form. He does so, but also manages to turn Strange into a small (cloak and tunic-wearing) frog. When Jack fails to change him back, Samson resorts to a more archetypical solution, and has Tina kiss the frog.
Back in his human form, Strange chastises Holyoak, then asks Samson if he would consider taking Jack to aid him in his case. Strange assures him that Holyoak is quite gifted, though his impetuousness sometimes overwhelms his common sense. Reluctantly, Doc agrees.
The trio later arrive at Joshua Tree National Park (Samson having called in his new favor from a S.H.I.E.L.D. helicopter to get them there). There they meet Officer Nighthorse, a local cop of Indian heritage. After a little poking around, Jack decides that he might be able to summon a nearby Psammead (sand elemental) who may have witnessed what happened. While Jack works his magic (accidentally summoning a set of large mushrooms and geyser), Nighthorse informs them that he doubt's they will find any physical evidence. The area, he explains, has been haunted for many years, even before Larson's cremation. Nighthorse goes on to tell a legend of the region (one that predates even his people): the legend of the living totem.
The legend tells of two young lovers, Whistle Pig and Sweet Grass, who were to be married as soon as Whistle Pig was able to provide for a family. Unfortunately, the tribe's shaman, Cold Winter, also desired Sweet Grass, and used a spell to force Whistle Pig's spirit out of his body and into a large, wooden totem pole. Unexpectedly, Whistle Pig's spirit animated the totem and slew Cold Winter. Driven insane by the terror of his own "death", the totem ran off and began several years of mad wandering. Eventually he arrived in what is now the park, where he was entombed by a band of vigilantes. There it remained for centuries, but now the rubble which supposedly covered its body had been displaced, and the totem is nowhere to be found.
As Nighthorse concludes his tale, Cam Larson's ghost appears, remarking that he thought he'd finally get some peace once he had the Punnett's hauled off. When Tina confronts him, he reveals that he was tired of the Punnett's pathetic sense of nostalga for the sixties, not to mention the fact that they prevented his spirit from moving on to the afterlife. When Samson inquires about the Living Totem, Cam reveals that he and the totem had been in communication for three decades. It took him ten just to teach him English, but after that he was the mad totem's best (and only) friend. When he tricked the Punnetts into thinking the pile of rubble covering his body was a hidden gateway to the Nexus of All Realities, they started digging, and eventually freed to the totem. The totem abducted them and hid them away until they could be persuaded to free him.
At that moment, the living totem arrives, and Cam orders him to attack. He quickly captures Tina, Jack, and Nighthorse. Samson is knoced out after a brief fight. When Doc awakes, the four have been reunited with the Punnetts, with the Totem and Cam watching from a short distance. Cam tells them he will release them if the Punnetts simply release his soul. Cam chastises the Punnetts for acting like spoiled children, and they ask for Cam's forgiveness. Flora burns the photo of Cam that had been used to anchor him to this plane, and Jack severed the "karmic threads" which kept him from transcendence.
Before Cam can leave this plane, Whistle Pig grows desperate at the thought of losing his only friend, and tries to absorb Cam's spirit into his wooden body. Samson tries to reason with him, telling him that there techniques, drugs, magic which could help him. The mention of magic only enrages the totem further.
Samson is able to determine that Whistle Pig's consciousness is distributed throughout his entire body. He believed that if he separated the pieces of the totem that he could treat each one individually, then reunite them into a single, sane whole. Samson splits the totem in two along a seam, then breaks the totem down through repetitive division. Cam's soul is able to move on, and the group buries the pieces as Samson separate them. Despite Whistle Pig's resistance to magical treatment, Doc feels he may stil need Holyoak to aid in his rehabilitation. Doc also agrees to let Tina stay with him for a while.
Somewhere in rural Maine, a young woman, seemingly hypnotized, is guided into a barn. The man guiding her remarks that he is envious of her: he recalls the first time he saw the master, and remarks that he wishes every time was the first. As a large, spiny, vaguely humanoid plant wraps his viny tendrils around her, the man guiding her remarks "of course, the ways in which each of us serves the Master differ greatly."
The Axis Mundi: In Wood, Neon and Flesh
An article by Professor Dorsey Huffnail (currently holder of the Josiah Carberry Chair with advanced degrees in Ethnobotany, Psychoceramics, Nuerolinguistics, Semiotics, Bio-engineering, Moletronics, and Musicology) on the Axis Mundi. According to Huffnail, the Axis Mundi is "the ethereal highway which links our earthly plain to both the higher and lower planes," with Yggdrasil, the World Tree being the most famous symbolic representation. Shamans derive much of their power from their ability to traverse the Axis Mundi, with good, benevolent shamans bringing back knowledge to help the tribe, and bad, selfish shamans using his connections only for personal gain. Ethnobotanist Terence McKenna believed that shamanistic trances put the shaman in touch with the underlying stratum of reality and its otherworldly inhabitants (which he calls "Hyperspace machine elves"), who dictate insights and revelations to the shaman. Another common symbolic form of the Axis Mundi is the totem pole, which can serve for mundane tasks (historical records, commemoratives to the dead, or to shame outcasts) as well as represent the Acis Mundi and the many guardians for each "celestial onramp". Another symbolic form is the common barber's pole, which moves simultaneously upwards and downwards. Anthropologist Jeremy Narby even claimed that the Axis Mundi is not an exterior construct, but is really contained within every individual. In their trances, the shamans descend to the molecular level within their own bodies to derive wisdom from their DNA, making every man, woman, and child his own or her own universe. "We have much to learn from these ancient practices."
- The man who appears to be Nick Fury is actually a Life Model Decoy. At the time of this story, Nick Fury went into hiding following the events of Secret War #5. For a time, S.H.I.E.L.D. used a LMD to hide this from the general public.
- From the description the Skrull gives, he claims -- or at least believes -- that he is one of the Skrull Cows, Skrulls that were forced to turn into cows years ago in Fantastic Four #2. However, Skrulls! #1 handbook states that this claim is unsubstantiated.
- Doc Samson mentions how he once treated Scott Summers with how to deal with grief recently. He is likely referring to the then recent death of Jean Grey circa New X-Men #150.
- When Holyoak mistakenly turns Strange into a frog with the Sword or Surtur, Samson asks "were you aware, Jack, that this is precisely how Loki achieved the same effect with Thor?" Loki did in fact use the of fallen Surtur's Twilight Sword to turn Thor into a mundane ("Midgard") frog in from Thor #364-366
- In Benjamin Ong Pang Kean's interview with Paul DiFilippo, the author of the 2006 Doc Samson series, DiFilippo suggests that he intended Whistle Pig to be the same Living Totem as first seen in the Rawhide Kid: "...And finally, the most oddball member, out of Marvel's dim, distant past: an ex-"villain" known as the Living Totem." However, All-New Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Update #2 makes no such connection and as such they should be considered two different characters.
- Joshua Tree National Park is, of course, a real national park in southern California.
- The credits incorrectly list Paul Di Filippo as "Paul Di Fillipo". Credits on the cover correctly list him as "Di Filippo".
- The robot Eando is probably a nod to Eando Binder, a psuedonym used by both of the brothers Earl Andrew Binder and Otto Binder. (The name is directly derived from "E and O Binder".) The brothers published some science fiction, including several stories featuring the robotic hero Adam Link. Otto is perhaps best known for his work on the (then Fawcett Comics') Captain Marvel title, which was of course later bought by DC.
- The character and background of Cam Larson (this story's "Grievous Angel"), is almost completely lifted from the life of singer-songwriter Gram Parsons. Parsons had a unique style that he called "Cosmic American Music", which followed in the country and folk-rock traditions and in many ways anticipated the later country-rock movement. Parsons was a member of the Byrds, the Flying Burrito Brothers, and leader of Gram Parsons and the Fallen Angels. Like the character of Cam Larson, he too died at the age of 26 while touring the Yucca Valley with the Fallen Angels. Recalling how Gram had recently commented that he wouldn't like to be buried -- but instead would like to be cremated in Joshua Tree National Park -- his friend and manager Phil Kaufman (with at least one other) stole his coffin and body from Los Angeles International Airport before it could be shipped back to New Orleans, LA for burial. They were later fined $700 for burning the coffin in the Park (the maximum penalty as theft of a body was not then a crime). Parson's final album, Grievous Angel, was posthumously released in 1974.
- Samson is shown driving a custom Humvee with a thunderbolt across the air intake and the word "SAMSON" across the grill.
- We also see Doc Samson's office building and residence, which would be indistinguishable from any other Manhatten high-rise if not for the large lightning bolt across the top.
- Note that, although Dorsey Huffnail is obviously a fictional character, he still gets a "special thanks" in the credits.
- Professor Dorsey Huffnail supposedly holds the Josiah Carberry Chair at Brown University. Josiah Carberry is a ficitional professor, at first created as a joke by Professor John Spaeth in a posted bulletin which declared: "On Thursday evening at 8:15 in Sayles Hall J. S. Carberry will give a lecture on Archaic Greek Architectural Revetments in Connection with Ionian Philology. For tickets and further information apply to Prof. John Spaeth." Carberry was supposedly a specialist in Psychoceramics, or "the study of cracked pots". The joke has been embraced and expanded over the years, particularly at Brown, where Carberry is supposed to teach (that is, if he didn't always "miss" all his own lectures).
- With regards, Professor Huffnail's credentials, Ethnobotany is the study of how difference cultures make use of the plants and herbs available to them. Pyschoceramics ("the study of cracked pots") was created as a joke along with Professor Carberry, but has sense been used to describe the "study" of crack pots and crack pot theories (including pseudo-science, junk science, and faux religion). Nuerolinguistics is the study of how the brain's mechanisms affect the comprehension, production, and abstraction of language. Semiotics is the study of signs ans how they are transmitted and understood. Bio-engineering is the field of applying engineering principles towards designing new forms of life, and towards creating artificial structures to augment, replace, or serve for biological structures. Moletronics (or molecular electronics) describes the construction and application of small- (molecular-) scale electronics, generally as a specific form of nanotechnology. Musicology is the study of music.
- Terence McKenna is a real philosopher and writer with an eclectic body of work, heavily influenced by shamanism and hallucinogenic drugs.
- Jeremy Narby is a real anthropologist. The "Axis Mundi" article is most likely referencing his book "The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge."
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