(Panini Books)

LOOSELY spinning out of the events of the Fear Itself crossover, but largely self-contained in terms of excessive continuity references, Battle Scars is an everyman story of a US Ranger finding himself caught up in events beyond his normal comprehension.

Despite existing in a world where alien invaders are commonplace, Norse Gods walk the streets of New York, and mutants are a genetic off-shoot of humanity, the citizens of the Marvel Universe still live relatively normal and unexciting lives, going about their day-to-day activities with only the occasional interaction with anything approaching the unusual.

So it is that Ranger Marcus Johnson leads an exemplary military career after several tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, the only child of a schoolteacher who never knew his father, but whose sense of duty and pride in his country is exceptional.

Fresh from a violent skirmish against the Taliban caused by the events of Fear Itself, Johnson learns the devastating news that his mother has been killed by rioters.

But returning to the States for her funeral, he suddenly finds himself caught up in an attack from super-powered mercenaries, the machinations of the deadly Taskmaster, and international peacekeeping organisation SHIELD.

Johnson is forced to come to terms with the reality that his mother’s death was no random act of violence, but a predetermined hit by forces now intent on his capture. On the run with fellow Ranger “Cheese”, Johnson is caught up in a world he never really knew existed, but will soon have to embrace completely in order to survive…

The first few issues of Battle Scars superficially appear to be an action-espionage adventure of the sort seen in books like Captain America and Secret Warriors, but as Johnson peels back the layers of his past, so too does the reader discover that everything is not as it first seemed.

Without ruining the twists of the final third of the book, by the time you turn the last page the agenda behind this series is transparently evident, and let’s just say it owes a lot to Marvel’s franchise of Avengers movies.

With the explosive, high-octane excitement of a summer blockbuster, but also some strong characterisation and genuinely surprising revelations, Battle Scars lives up to its hype as a book which redefines the future of the Marvel Universe.