The Avengers and Defenders’ strangest adventure just got a little bit weirder in Tarot #4. Now the team – comprised of composites of both Avengers and Defenders – is in a pitched battle with a group of reality-warping cartoon characters called the Unbelievables. Front and center, the leader of the Unbelievables is a cartoon mouse who might have control of the very comic book medium itself – and can reshape the Marvel universes as he pleases. Does he seem a little… familiar?
The adventure began way back in World War II when Captain America and his allies battled Nazi golems. Captain America briefly turned into the Hulk, with Namor also resembling Doctor Strange at one point. In the present, the Defenders answered a distress call at Avengers Mansion. The villain Diablo was using Ichor, the same substance the created the golems in World War II, to create tarot cards of the Avengers and Defenders and take control of them. However, his plan fails and the tarot cards are lost in the multiverse during the scruffle. This leads to both teams becoming amalgamated into characters like Doc Surf (Doctor Strange and Silver Surfer) and Major Gamma (Hulk and Captain America) along with several other composites. The team is then forced to do battle with the Unbelievables, lead by an extremely powerful mouse.
The fight continues to escalate until literal comic book font seems to be turning against the heroes, as the words turn into giant stones that nearly crushes them. The heroes recover, only to be attacked by Black Panther fighting alongside Alpha Flight and several others. The team finds themselves in a Nazi-ruled New York, attacked by even more heroes lead by the Unbelievables. Both Major Gamma and Diablo point to the randomness of these encounters, and Doc Surf uses the Eye of Agamotto to find the tarot cards, who have no landed in the hands of two children. Tony Stark (now called Gadget) trades his holograms for the tarot cards, and once cards are destroyed, reality reverts to normal, with the two teams finally back to regular reality.
Ultimately, the cartoon mouse and his Unbelievable allies weren’t exactly responsible for the ensuing reality-altering shenanigans, as they were creations of the children’s own vivid imagination on the tarot cards. Still, it is particularly telling that the leader of the Unbelievables is a cartoon mouse and one that seems to be the most dreaded leader of the bunch. That said, the mouse looks more like Mighty Mouse than a certain beloved Disney mascot, but there’s still an implication that the composite heroes are butting up against some representation of Marvel’s corporate owner.
Still, Tarot by Alan Davis and Paul Renaud exists more as a homage to the superheroes’ out-of-the-world escapades, rather than any scathing satire. The entire story spans both the Golden Age as well as the Bronze Age, with the latter providing the designs and attitudes of the characters. The Unbelievables exist largely as a cartoon foil for the composite comic book characters to face, but it’s hard to ignore that its a mouse leading the charge against not one but two sets of Marvel superheroes.
Tarot #4 by Alan Davis and Paul Renaud is on sale now.
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