In November, Marvel is going to begin an anthology series called Marvel Universe Double Shot (similar to the Marvel Knights project of a similar name) that will offer frighteningly diverse takes on characters within the MU. The creative roster includes names like Christopher Priest, Greg Rucka, Jai Nitz, Rob Haynes, Kia Asimiya, Bill Morrison, Sean McKeever, Darwyn Cooke, Michael T. Gilbert, and newcomer Marlan Harris.

And it nearly included mine.

For those who don’t know (saving myself the potential and likely embarrassment of falling short once again), I pitched for my second Marvel anthology a couple months back. The editor tasked with assembling the project had been kind enough to read a handful of samples offered over a period of months, and tipped me off to the possibility that his MU Double Shot series was going to require brief, yet original takes on Marvel characters. He suggested writing a tale around a wildly popular Marvelite, thereby increasing my Q rating and the likelihood that the viewing public would be at all interested in what I had to say. It wasn’t long before I drifted out of the box again.

I’m reminded of that scene in The Empire Strikes Back, Skywalker on the muddy, desolate home of Master Yoda as the instructor prods him, “…control, control, you MUST learn CONTROL!!!” I should’ve written a FF story. An Ant-Man story. A Hulk story. ANYTHING but what inspiration threw into the word processor. Something forced me to pen this story for the dreamers, the legion of hopefuls confident that they’re meant for something more. That the pursuit of dreams is what we’re meant for, but that pursuing one’s calling with dangerous passion can do more harm than good. Because dreams are never as bright as they appear. They’re blurry in their focus, and when realized threaten to suffocate with cold reality. But, hell, if it were easy…everybody would be doing it.

Believing that it may prove slightly interesting, I’ve decided to present all eleven unpublished pages of a tale called The Reserve. Let me know what you think.


THE RESERVE, PG. 1 OF 11

PANEL 1: Establishing shot of a suburban home. Nothing excessively fancy or extravagant present, a normal house that normal people live in.

PANEL 2: Someone is watching a television in the living room. The screen is filled by the form of a panicked reporter holding a microphone and attempting to ignore the destruction he’s witnessing.

REPORTER: …WHERE JUST MOMENTS AGO THE ORGANIZATION KNOWN AS HYDRA LAUNCHED AN OFFENSIVE…
PANEL 3: A 6-year old boy, JASON TOWER, sharing the mixed race features and skin color of his white father and Hispanic mother, is standing in front of the tv, craning his head to the right and speaking to someone else hovering behind him. Meanwhile, the report continues…

REPORTER: …STRIKING TIMES SQUARE AND UNION STATION ALMOST SIMULTANEOUSLY…
JASON: SEE DADDY? SEE!!?

PANEL 4: Close on his father and main character JACK TOWER, white male in his late twenties with black hair and brown eyes, staring at the television like a deer caught in a blinding set of headlights, and sporting the stubble of a man that was just dragged out of bed.

REPORTER:… CRIPPLING THE CITY’S MORNING COMMUTE AND
ENDANGERING THOUSANDS OF LIVES…
PANEL 5: Back on the television, where the reporter is touching his ear, attempting to pick up something on the small microphone draped over it.

REPORTER: …WE’RE…WE’RE RECEIVING REPORTS THAT THERE
APPEARS TO BE NERVE GAS IN THE SUBWAY SYSTEM…HYDRA HAS RELEASED NERVE GAS IN…
PANEL 6: Jason turns toward his father and asks him a question, almost pleadingly.

JASON: IS HE GONNA CALL DADDY? IS HE?
PANEL 7: Jack, still transfixed by the live footage, is only able to mumble back.

TOWER: (whisper) I don’t know little man. I don’t know.
REPORTER: …WAIT…WAIT…WE’RE NOW RECEIVING WORD…

PANEL 8: The reporter on the screen is wearing a large grin, pleased at being the bearer of good news.

REPORTER: THE AVENGERS ARE ON-SITE!!! I REPEAT
THE AVENGERS ARE HERE…
PANEL 9: A slight grin comes to the face of Jack Tower. Today’s the day, he can feel it. He’s so confident in this knowledge that he nearly ignores his wife calling him from upstairs.

REPORTER: AND NOW BACK TO THE STUDIO FOR YOUR LOCAL WEATHER.
VOICE: JACK? JACK!!! JACK, YOU’RE GONNA BE LATE FOR WORK!!!


THE RESERVE, PG. 2 OF 11

PANEL 1: Jack Tower, wearing a suit with sport jacket resting securely in the back seat, is making his way to Stark Financial and listening to the radio in his family sedan. He’s also sporting a cool pair of Ray-bans.

RADIO: …CONTINUING WJCNs LIVE COVERAGE OF HYDRA’S LATEST ATTACK ON NEW YORK…
PANEL 2: Jack turns and stares intently at something on the seat next to him.

PANEL 3: Zoom in for a quick shot of the Avengers I.D. on the seat.

PANEL 4: He turns his attention back to the road, confident that it will be today.

RADIO: THE AVENGERS, ON THE SCENE FOR NEARLY AN HOUR, REMAIN HOPELESSLY OUTNUMBERED…
PANEL 5: He lowers the glasses and his eyes once again drift to the passenger seat.

PANEL 6: Zoom back in on the I.D. card. No sound.

PANEL 7: The card floats across the car to Tower’s outstretched fingers.

PANEL 8: He places it close to his ear. Maybe it’s broken?

PANEL 9: Maintain shot.

PANEL 10: The radio indicates the crisis has passed, triggering a disappointed reaction.

RADIO: IT APPEARS…YES…YES…RESERVE AVENGERS QUICKSILVER AND THE FALCON HAVE ARRIVED ON SCENE…
PANEL 11: Telekinetically shuts off the radio.

RADIO: THE TIDE IS ALREADY TURN-
PANEL 12: Shot of Tower driving in silence.


THE RESERVE, PG. 3 OF 11

PANEL 1: CU of Jack Tower, looking intense and somewhat annoyed, as if someone has just asked him a stupid ass question.

CAP: THREE WEEKS LATER.
TOWER: YES, I’M SURE.

PANEL 2: Keep tight on Tower, but pull back slightly. There’s dialogue coming from an off-panel source.

VOICE: I’M JUST SAYIN’…
TOWER: THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH IT.

PANEL 3: Tower has a slightly puzzled look on his face after the voice implies something highly unlikely.

VOICE: MAYBE…MAYBE THINGS JUST BEEN QUIET?
TOWER: QUIET?

PANEL 4: Pull out for a larger panoramic shot resting in the center of the page with Jack and the previously unseen figure now identified as CRAIG (slightly older, slightly more overweight, with a slightly more obvious bald spot than our protagonist). The two men are in Tower’s office, with Jack sitting behind a large oak desk on the left side of the panel. Strangely, instead of occupying the seat in front of Tower’s desk, Craig is suspended in mid-air a few feet behind it as if held fast by a set of invisible strings. He’s leaning forward in what looks to be an uncomfortable position, not quite horizontal and not quite vertical, but his friend tells him that using his telekinetic powers relaxes him and so he’s taking one for the team.

TOWER: I WAS ON MY WAY HERE WHEN HYDRA TRIED TO DROP THAT NERVE GAS ON US.
TOWER: ULTRON CHEMICALLY ALTERED THE PLANET’S ATMOSPHERE A FEW DAYS AFTER THAT.

TOWER: AND WHEN DID KANG DO THAT THING WITH THE WORMHOLE AND THE WHITE HOUSE?

CRAIG: LAST THURSDAY.

CRAIG: I THOUGHT THIS KINESIS STUFF RELAXED YOU. OR I SHOULD JUST FEEL SILLY?

PANEL 5: Bring the camera back on Tower as he runs a hand through his short hair.

TOWER: IT DOES…NO…FORGET IT. IT’S JUST…I JUST…KNOW I SHOULD BE DOING MORE. I SHOULD BE…

PANEL 6: Tower braces a chin on his pair of crossed arms, eyes pointed downward.

CRAIG: WHAT? SAVING THE WORLD? I DON’T GET YOU CAPES MAN.
YOU COULD DO ANYTHING. ANYTHING. WHY IN THE HELL DO YOU ALL WANT TO ‘SAVE THE WORLD’?
PANEL 7: Tower looks up.

TOWER: WHY NOT?
 


THE RESERVE, PG. 4 OF 11

PANEL 1: CU of Craig, disbelief and bewilderment on his face.

PANEL 2: Same shot of Craig looking as if his friend is speaking another language.

CRAIG: WHAT DO THESE GUYS PAY AGAIN?
PANEL 3: Still on Craig as he debates the matter further. Jack’s going to let him down following this panel.

TOWER: IT’S NOT ABOUT MONEY.
CRAIG: THEN WHAT? THE CHICKS? I KNOW YOU’RE MARRIED AND EVERYTHING, BUT PLEASE TELL ME IT’S ABOUT THE CHICKS.
I’VE SEEN THAT STUPID OUTFIT OF YOURS, IT’S GOTTA BE CHICKS,
PRETTY HOT ONES.

TOWER: IT’S NOT THE WOMEN. WATCH YOUR STEP.

PANEL 4: Panoramic shot as Craig takes the seat in front of Tower’s desk and they continue this exchange like normal people.

TOWER: I WASN’T PUT HERE TO MAKE SPREADSHEETS FOR STARK FINANCIAL. THEY SAID I PASSED THE CLEARANCES. I’M ON THE LIST. I DON’T KNOW WHAT’S TAKIN’ SO LONG.
PANEL 5: Tower stares down at his desk, disappointed.

TOWER: I JUST WANT A CHANCE MAN…JUST ONE SHOT.
PANEL 6: Craig says something that sparks Jack’s attention, forcing him to look up.

CRAIG: THEY’RE GONNA CALL JACK.
PANEL 7: Tower stares down at his desk again, mouthing the words but beginning to doubt them.

TOWER: I KNOW.
 


THE RESERVE, PG. 5 OF 11

PANEL 1: CU of a fork twirling through a plate of spaghetti.

CAP: SIX WEEKS LATER.
VOICE: …AND WE FOUND OUT HE WAS SLEEPING WITH HER!!!

PANEL 2: Pull out for a larger shot of a kitchen table with Jack Tower and wife SIMONE (a beautiful Hispanic woman in her late twenties) attempting to enjoy a nice dinner over a large bowl of spaghetti that sits between them in the middle of the table. Simone is on the left of the panel excitedly explaining her day to her husband, while he wears a highly disinterested look.

SIMONE: I ASKED HIM TO HIS FACE, “ARE YOU MESSIN’ AROUND WITH THAT TRAMP?” AND HE’S ALL, “NAW, SHE AIN’T MY TYPE.”
SIMONE: COME TO FIND OUT HE’S KEPT A CHANGE OF CLOTHES AT HER PLACE FOR THREE WEEKS. CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT CRAP?

SIMONE: JACK? JACK!! ARE YOU EVEN LISTENING TO ME?

PANEL 3: CU of Tower, appearing quite bored.

TOWER: HUH?
TOWER: OH…YEAH…MARK’S AN ASS. SWEET.

PANEL 4: CU of Simone who appears just a bit pissed.

SIMONE: I TOLD YOU WE DIDN’T HAVE TO DO THIS NOW.
PANEL 5: Tower leans back in his chair, emotionally exhausted and attempting to avoid eye contact with his angry wife.

TOWER: I KNOW, I KNOW.
TOWER: JASON’S AT IAN’S. THE FOOD AND STUFF…IT’S NICE,
IT REALLY IS, BUT…

PANEL 6: Simone angrily stands up from the table.

SIMONE: IT’S BEEN TWO MONTHS JACK. I KNOW HOW MUCH THIS MEANS TO YOU…
TOWER: NO…YOU DON’T.

PANEL 7: Simone has made her way to the sink and is rinsing off her plate.

SIMONE: HOW COULD I? WE’VE BARELY SPOKEN IN WEEKS. I’M STARTING TO THINK THIS LITTLE FANTASY OF YOURS IS MORE IMPORTANT TO YOU THAN YOUR OWN FAMILY. IS THAT IT JACK?
TOWER: WHAT THE HELL KIND OF QUESTION IS THAT?

PANEL 8: Back on Jack, whose level of irritation is definitely reaching its height.

SIMONE: SIMPLE ONE. AND APPARENTLY YOU CAN’T ANSWER IT.
PANEL 9: Jack has exited the scene with the balloon following his departure.

TOWER: I’LL BE IN THE BASEMENT.


THE RESERVE, PG. 6 OF 11

PANEL 1: A boxing glove violently impacting a punching bag.

TOWER: UNNGHH!!
PANEL 2: Pull out for a shot of Tower continuing the assault, shirtless with sweat pouring off him.

TOWER: UNNGHHH!!!
PANEL 3: Black and white panel that’s going to serve as a visual cue for a flashback. The flash of memory has Jack Tower, in costume, (the design of which is yours to play with, as long as there’s no cape and he retains some sort of mask to “protect his identity”) looking horribly exhausted. A hand is emerging from off-panel to help him to his feet. We don’t know it yet, but the hand belongs to Captain America.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: NICE WORK SON. I THINK EVEN IRON MAN WOULD HAVE TROUBLE RESCUING A 747 BY HIMSELF.
PANEL 4: Quick shot of the present as sweat continues to pour off Tower.

PANEL 5: Another flash of the past, this time with Cap’s face in full view.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: I WAS ACTUALLY COMING BY TO SEE YOU.
WE RAN THE NECESSARY BACKGROUND CHECKS AND EVALUATIONS.
PANEL 6: Zoom in on Cap’s hand as he offers the young hero an Avengers ID card (reserve status of course)

CAPTAIN AMERICA: WELCOME TO THE RESERVES.
PANEL 7: Firmly back in the present, Tower nearly completely spent and trying to find his breath again.

TOWER: HUH. HUH. HUH. HUH. HUH. HUH.
PANEL 8: A pair of boxing gloves smacks onto the basement floor.

PANEL 9: Tower is ascending the staircase that will take him back to the house’s main level, carelessly leaving the I.D. card in the darkness on a stool.


THE RESERVE, PG. 7 OF 11

PANEL 1: Simone is on the living room couch, wrapped in a blanket and reading a book with the aid of a pair of designer frames. Tower’s dialogue coming from off-panel.

TOWER: I’M SORRY, BABY.
PANEL 2: CU on Tower, his eyes taking on an eerie glow as a mischievous smile comes into view.

TOWER: LET ME MAKE IT UP TO YOU.
PANEL 3: He sensually embraces his wife, her t-shirt and glasses floating away.

PANEL 4: Panoramic shot, all black to create a bit of separation to indicate time lapse.

PANEL 5: The two of them lay beneath a blanket on the living room floor, holding hands and enjoying each other’s company.

SIMONE: I’M SORRY ABOUT BEFORE. I SHOULD’VE BEEN MORE…
TOWER: YOU WERE RIGHT. EITHER THEY DO OR THEY DON’T.
I CAN’T STOP LIVING UNTIL THEY DO.

SIMONE: STILL…IT WASN’T FAIR…I HAVE NO IDEA HOW MUCH…HEY…YOU HEAR THAT?

TOWER: WHAT? NO. JASON’S NOT BACK UNTIL TOMORROW…

SIMONE: NO, NO…SHH…LISTEN…YOU DON’T HEAR THAT?
SOUNDS LIKE IT’S COMING…

PANEL 6: Panoramic shot of Tower’s eyes, wide with shock.

TOWER: (whisper)…from the basement…
 


THE RESERVE, PG. 8 OF 11

PANEL 1: We’re going to transplant Tower from his living room floor and the inviting surroundings of his lovely wife to the battlefield of aggressive negotiations. We’re going to do this literally in the span of an eyeblink, duplicating the last panel from page 7 and repeating it here to use as a transition. The expression of wide-eyed disbelief is the same, but Tower’s mask is clearly present, and flames are bouncing off his retinas.

TOWER: Oh…oh my God.
PANEL 2: Larger shot, pull out and reveal the nightmarish surroundings, toppled buildings, burning rubble, and dead bodies.

PANEL 3: Focus on a small child’s hand emerging from a pile of rubble.

PANEL 4: Medium shot of Tower’s shocked face. He’s never seen anything like this before and never intended to.

PANEL 5: Pull in closer as tears threaten to emerge from beneath the hero’s mask.

PANEL 6: Tower bends over as he becomes sick to his stomach.

TOWER: BLEUGH!!!
 


THE RESERVE, PG. 9 OF 11

PANEL 1: Tower wipes his mouth and tries to regain his composure.

TOWER: HUH. HUH. UH. UH. UH.
PANEL 2: Back to the hand poking from the rubble.

VOICE: WHAT’S YOUR TWENTY?
PANEL 3: CU on horrified Tower.

VOICE: I REPEAT…WHAT’S YOUR TWENTY?
VOICE: ARE YOU ON-SITE?

PANEL 4: Extreme close-up of the child’s hand.

VOICE: RESPOND IF POSSIBLE.
PANEL 5: Tower, disgusted with both his surroundings and himself, begins to walk away from it all, disillusioned at the harsh reality he’d been waiting to confront with bated breath.

TOWER: I can’t. I didn’t know. I wasn’t…
TOWER: It isn’t supposed to be…

PANEL 6: He stops in his tracks.

VOICE: IRON MAN IS IN TROUBLE A FEW BLOCKS OVER.
 


THE RESERVE, PG. 10 OF 11

PANEL 1: CU on Tower again, a new determination riding over him.

VOICE: HE COULD USE YOUR HELP.
PANEL 2: Tower’s POV as he looks out onto the city ruins which appear to stretch out
in nearly every direction.

PANEL 3: Close on Tower’s tightly clenched fist.

PANEL 4: He inhales a deep breath, preparing to meet fate at last.

PANEL 5: Shot of Tower’s feet as they slowly leave the ground.

TOWER: I’M HERE.
 


THE RESERVE, pg. 11 of 11

PANEL 1: Gorgeous splash page that sees Jack Tower taking to the sky to fulfill his destiny, occurring at a time and place not of his choosing, but occurring nonetheless. I envision this preferably as an upshot, with the young hero vectoring in on a luminescent full moon that throws uncomfortably bright light in every direction. This shot is the true pay-off to this man’s dreams, and the image needs to have a certain dreamlike quality to it, almost as if this isn’t really happening. Surreal and spectacular in one breath.

TOWER: AVENGER REPORTING FOR DUTY, SIR.
CREDITS: “THE RESERVE”

BRANDON THOMAS-WRITER
(other credits to follow)


Back in seven…

Peace

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