Friday, September 21, 2018

Return To Destiny (DC)
Adventure Comics #450 When: March-April 1977 Why: Denny O'Neil How: Mike Nasser & Terry Austin

The Story So Far...
Mars lives again and welcomes the leadership of J'onn J'onzz, but celebrations on Mars II are cut short when his dear friend Re's Eda is murdered by sniper fire!

The erstwhile Martian Manhunter must apply his trade as detective and superhero to catch the killer -- but Eda's final words implicate a gunman from his former home of Sol! Since the only beings who know of Mars II's existence are the Justice League -- The Manhunter makes a grim vow to return to Earth!

He steals a spaceship from the resistant Martian Army and blazes to the stars, but the Earth-bound fury is pursued by one of his own! Commander N'or Cott uses torpedoes to shoot down the unarmed ship, sending it crashing towards the city of Metropolis! This looks like a job for Supergirl!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Draw 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Martian Manhunter 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Supergirl 5 (Super-Human)
Stamina: Supergirl 5 (Marathoner)
Agility: Martian Manhunter 7 (Unlimited)
Fighting: Martian Manhunter 4 (Trained)
Energy: Draw 5 (Lasers)
Total: Martian Manhunter 36 (Cosmic)

Today's battle pits two great heroes in an unlikely dream match! It's The Girl of Steel testing her mettle against the mighty Manhunter from Mars!

Drenched by Earth's yellow sun: Supergirl shares all the solar-charged gifts made famous by her Kryptonian cousin! She's super-humanly strong, durable, fast, has enhanced senses, can fly, use X-ray and laser heat vision, blow massive quantities of air with high intensity -- as well as a few other tricks!

In some incarnations its been suggested Supergirl's powers can rival, or even exceed, those of Superman's, but the one thing she undoubtedly lacks is his experience! Experience being something Martian Manhunter has to spare!

J'onn J'onzz was a policeman on his native Mars long before he was accidentally brought to Earth! He possesses a range of powers similar to Supergirl's, with the addition of telepathy, advanced shape-shifting, and intangibility!

We saw the Black Lantern Martian Manhunter exploit those extra abilities to vicious effect against Green Lantern and Flash [Green Lantern #44], while muscle was the main mode of victory against the Appellaxian Stone God [Secret Origins #32], and Professor Ivo's robot army [Justice League of America #261].

He's generally strong enough to go toe-to-toe with Supergirl, and need only to do a little light mental rewiring to prey upon her inexperience. The drawback to all those incredible powers is a Martian's physical and mental weakness to fire!

Supergirl need only glare intently to light a spark with her Kryptonian heat vision! She did it against Mary Marvel in Final Crisis #6, and used it to melt lead around Reactron back in Daring New Adventures of Supergirl #9! The glow of the flame was enough to stop J'onn J'onzz in his tracks in Secret Origins #35 and DC: The New Frontier #2, but he showed some greater resilience when rushing into battle with the towering Brimstone [Legends #2].

Both hero's power sets have been inconsistent in demonstration, but for the most part they're very evenly matched! Supergirl has the obvious trump card with her intense heat vision, but experience and mental powers makes Martian Manhunter the more compelling case. Let's see if those factors come to play...

The Tape: Martian Manhunter Ranking: Martian Manhunter (#23)

What Went Down...

An explosion and hail of spaceship debris signals the unannounced return of the Martian Manhunter to Earth! He ejects from the vessel just in time to avoid its destruction, but is still stunned and disoriented by the blast!

Spying the dazzling sky show while she soars above the city -- Supergirl rushes to intercept the deadly debris! Mistaking it for an attack by aliens, she flings the door in the direction of the tiny silhouette that was the pilot!

Struggling to see straight - the Martian Manhunter is tagged by the unexpected hunk of metal!

Instinctively perceiving threat, he swoops to return firing, forcing Supergirl to take evasive action while destroying the projectile with another of her own!

The young heroine recognizes her error, but the Martian's violent response leaves her uncertain of his motives. Given his strength rivals hers, she hopes a pulled strike will bring him back to his senses and delivers a stiff left!

The attack has the opposite effect, only serving to further provoke the confused Martian hero! He lashes out with a devastating left hook of his own -- launching Supergirl sideways with the brunt of his impressive strength!

The young heroine is unshaken by the physical assault, but scrambles for the wisdom she presumes her cousin would have. Unsure, she steels herself and hopes to hold the Manhunter off until he regains his senses!

A flying torpedo dive gives pause for thought, while Supergirl's desperate cries for peace cut through the fog of the Martian's disorientation. He remembers!

No sooner than he recognizes Supergirl does the Martian Manhunter lock eyes with N'or Cott's spacecraft! Sensing danger, he warns Supergirl to watch out as two missiles fire in their direction and she prepares to save them both!

The Hammer...
It was a superhero fight in the classic style! A touch of brashness, with a hint of mistaken identity! Martian Manhunter was kept at a disadvantage thanks to his shuttle explosion, while Supergirl resisted going too far once she identified the JLA stalwart. The net result is an aerial slugfest destined to end in a tie!

If this were a face-off from the last couple of decades you'd probably find both characters intent on hitting much harder, with more efforts to demonstrate their unique abilities. The fact that today's fight isn't so bloodthirsty is actually quite refreshing! It's a little cheesy, but it's nice to think heroes can walk away from their scuffles without devolving into brutal blood feuds.

While we won't draw too many definitive conclusions from today's clash, it makes a case for the strength of both characters. Qualities that've been inconsistently depicted at various stages in their publication history.

It's always kind of amazing to think about Martian Manhunter's vast powers being so overlooked! The late Len Wein once joked about the propensity of a bygone era for reducing him to super-breath. The scourge of birthday cakes, he mocked. I'm glad 1977 was treating the character a little better!

In internal monologue, Supergirl surmises that the Martian's strength is nearly equal to hers. I've always preferred a modern scale that puts Martian Manhunter in the upper echelons of super-human strength, but the so-called "Swiss Army Knife of Superheroes" has often been minimized in that regard. I tend to think a mild manner and the simplicity of his fire weakness is the better balance.

My notorious bias against kid heroes means I usually think of Supergirl as a step behind her cousin, but when strength is derived from exposure to Earth's yellow sun, without a single iron pumped, it kinda stands to reason there's relative parity. Inexperience is the point of difference that makes Supergirl interesting.

As noted last month; I've been revisiting seventies issues of Adventure Comics to enjoy the heyday of another (sometimes) underrated hero: Aquaman!

The action-packed Adventure Comics #444 was the first to feature a full issue of Aquaman action, but the back-up stories quickly returned with issue #449. There, Martian Manhunter made his home on Mars II, before a murder plot sets him on a series of run-ins with heroes, beginning with Supergirl in #450.

I'm sure writer Denny O'Neil wouldn't consider this a narrative high point of his distinguished career, but you've gotta love these kinds of back-up stories! The easily overlooked and forgotten ones! With characters who matter, doing things just a little bit interesting. The less common the combination - the better!

Granted, these days Supergirl & Martian Manhunter go together like milk & cookies! It's one of the rare examples when film (or rather television) actually refines and exploits a character to their best elements! In Supergirl's case, one of the best improvements the show has made was the costume!

I can't say I have a lot of love for the seventies shorts/bloomers seen in today's featured fight, nor the small shield logo off to one side. Its leagues ahead of the micro skirt atrocities yet to come from the new millennium, but there's a lot to be said for keeping it simple and classic. Not just simple, as it is here.

Classic sure worked for J'onn J'onzz, who'll be back in a stylized version of the old look in a new DC Comics series announced by The Hollywood Reporter! It's a little weird visually, but shows promise as Martian Manhunter continues a comeback from the dark days of the New 52 reboot!

I'm sure we'll be talking more MM and Supergirl in the future! If you'd like to find more be sure to follow links throughout this post, or dive into the Secret Archive for featured fights indexed by publisher, series, and issue number.

You can support Secret Wars on Infinite Earths by using social media links at the bottom of each feature to share your favourite fights! You can also follow on Twitter and Facebook to get daily links to classic fights inspired by the topics of the day! A like, share, retweet, or comment is a great way to get involved!

Winner: Inconclusive (Draw)
#23 (--) Martian Manhunter
#108 (+5) Supergirl

Friday, September 14, 2018

Temptation! (Marvel)
Daredevil #255 When: June 1988
Why: Ann Nocenti How: John Romita Jr

The Story So Far...
Unable to prove the culpability of Kelco Industrials in the blinding of a young boy - lawyer Matt Murdock wrestles with guilt in his nightmares. Meanwhile, he's conducting an affair with the boy's nurse -- unaware that all of these elements are brought forth by The Kingpin of Crime!

Wilson Fisk is behind the chemical company, and plans to use high-powered lawyers to flaunt their guilt and crush Murdock's belief in true justice. Likewise, the kindly Mary with whom Matt shares a kiss is in actual fact The Kingpin's latest assassin killing his rivals!

Unaware that he's being targeted in both his lives, Murdock makes the change to Daredevil when he senses danger on the streets. A decision that will at last bring him face-to-face with the deadly Typhoid Mary!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Daredevil 3 (Athlete)
Intelligence: Daredevil 3 (Straight A)
Speed: Daredevil 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Daredevil 5 (Marathoner)
Agility: Daredevil 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting: Daredevil 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy: Typhoid Mary 4 (Arsenal)
Total: Daredevil 26 (Champion)

When it comes to The Kingpin's personal bodyguards: the gold standard has always been Bullseye and Elektra - but in 1988, he found himself an assassin that took the danger to a wild and unpredictable new level!

Typhoid Mary is a stone cold killer whose dissociative multiple-personality disorder manifests between three main identities. Each possesses her innate mutant abilities, but wields them to a distinct degree.

The timid personality of Mary Walker would never be so callous, but when Typhoid Mary is unleashed - she uses her psionic, telekinetic, and pyrokinetic powers tactically against her opponents! That means she can spontaneously start fires, move light objects, and even mentally manipulate some opponents!

Typhoid Mary has also developed her fighting skills to be a high quality martial artist, known to wield dual katana swords. She was part of the Shadow Initiative when we saw her combining sword, fire, and telekinesis to decapitate Bloodscream, in Avengers: The Initiative #24!

She's had memorable run-ins with Deadpool, Spider-man, Wolverine, and Ghost Rider, sometimes in the guise of her destructive Bloody Mary personality, but her greatest opponent will always be Daredevil!

The man without fear has a history of facing deadly assassins, but our record only contains two examples with mutant powers! He narrowly turned the tables on a Hand possessed Wolverine in Wolverine #24. No such luck when Deadpool used DD's own good nature to outwit him in Contest of Champions II #4.

A weakness for the ladies allows Typhoid Mary to get close to DD in his civilian identity, and with her psionic abilities there may be no opponent more equipped to get into his mind! He's a strong-willed individual, fighting on his home turf, but will superior hand-to-hand skills overcome fire and the mind? Let's find out!

The Tape: Daredevil Ranking: Daredevil (#13)

What Went Down...
Matt Murdock senses smoke and disturbance as he walks the streets of Hell's Kitchen. When his alter-ego of Daredevil returns in moments -- all seems eerily well. That is, until a flaming shirt precedes the violent crash of a church cross!

The hero effortlessly backflips clear of the falling crucifix, detecting danger with radar-like senses. They reach out to the rooftops, following a trail of laughter that leads to the source of the unexpected attack: Typhoid Mary!

Something familiar nags at the blind hero, but he cannot detect the altered rhythms of a Mary he knows in ordinary life. Just the streaking blur of a wild heart tearing the streets apart to lure its "Guardian Devil".

Typhoid drops from the rooftops, kicking up garbage that breaks her fall! The airborne wave of trash and refuse creates a fog of distraction. He doesn't sense Typhoid Mary until she's upon him - riding his shoulders to the ground!

He rolls with the tackle -- redirecting Mary to tumble through garbage across an empty lot. She lies amidst the smoldering trash, while DD continues trying to focus his radar senses. Her mental powers deny him a clear image!

She further attacks his mind, drawing convenient parallels between contract killing criminals, and a non-lethal brand of judicial justice. Temptations of violent solutions learned in daylight by her placid other self. Nagging familiarity.

She mocks his religion, and sends a wall of literal hot garbage with a flick of mutant telekinesis. A demonstration of power that annoys more than it hurts. An act of good faith to prove she could destroy Daredevil if she really wanted.

He pulls her out of the garbage and onto her feet, challenging rhetoric of Nietzsche and good & evil. She's unmoved by the contradiction of it all.

Face to face, their philosophies intertwine with concepts of justice and religion, while Mary's leg hooks around DD's. With fire at their feet she compares herself to the devil conversing with a priest. An opposite too exciting to resist! She pulls her heel back and betrays both their balance. They fall!

This time Daredevil lands hard on his back after the tumble. Mary's very presence burns and disorients. He's confused. She steals a kiss. He hates her.

Somehow Daredevil gets his legs up and drives his feet deep into Typhoid's gut!

The vicious kick launches Mary from his body. Sweat pours from beneath his red mask as Daredevil dwells on his disgust. He can't stand the heat and at last he's ready for a fight. If only there were anyone there to accommodate him.

By the time he's back on his feet Typhoid Mary is already gone!

The Hammer...

By the time Daredevil is back on his feet; Mary is already somewhere on the rooftops contemplating her prey. The fight may've been a dead rubber, but her split personality beat the man with dual identities (and a built-in lie detector).

She plans to "allow" her alter-ego of Mary Walker to continue falling in love with Murdock. Such vulnerability is sickening to Typhoid, but it all plays into her million dollar contract, and the Kingpin's advice to get him "through the heart". It's certainly a proven method for disrupting Daredevil's life - before and since!

We're kinda getting to my heart, too. Albeit, with much more positive results!

I've been hoping to get to back to more of Ann Nocenti's run on Daredevil for quite some time. It's a period I've come to regard with a great deal of fondness. I even called my shot a couple of years ago, specifically citing these early appearances of Typhoid Mary! She ranks with Lady Deathstrike as one of my favourite Marvel creations of the eighties. It's been a long time coming!

By now you probably know the story: Nocenti had the seemingly unenviable task of following Frank Miller's legendary association with Daredevil [in 1986].

Miller's last gasp came with Daredevil #233, concluding the short saga of a maniac super-solder named Nuke. There were a curious couple of issues drawn by Steve Ditko after that, possibly material already on file. Nocenti picks up threads from the Nuke plot to initiate her time as writer with Daredevil #236.

It's difficult to talk about Nocenti's work without comparing it to Miller, and I get the sense she kinda knew that. Her first issue features art by Barry Windsor-Smith, with a plain clothes Black Widow, and crew cut soldier-types, that feels a deliberately sympathetic transition from the Miller era.

Of course, it's easy to forget Miller peppered his issues with the colours of Captain America and the Heroes for Hire! He's probably best remembered for the costume-less deconstruction of Born Again, and the red fever of Elektra and The Hand, but those splashes of superheroics blend well with Nocenti's future.

By the end of her first year, she had Daredevil teaming with the likes of Black Panther and Wolverine! The spirit of Daredevil remained consistent with Miller, but she had a sense of cool that not only welcomed the colourful rabble of the outside Marvel Universe -- but aggressively embraced it!

Typhoid Mary feels inevitably cast in the mold of Elektra, but is also a bubblegum post-punk reflection of the world outside.

If Miller had drawn on cinematic seventies grit and noir fatalism to redefine Daredevil for the early eighties; Nocenti ripped the blinds off the window and showed that character the neon world around him.

The great John Romita Jr is probably owed a hefty debt for crafting a look that sings all the right notes. The big spikey hair, bulky neon pink top, Mad Max metal shoulder pads, and fishnets with swimsuit and boots are a masterpiece! It tells you everything you need to know about the threat and attitude of this wild character. She has only degraded with later re-designs.

As if all that wasn't eighties enough - she's also a pyrokinetic mutant wildchild in the vein of Carrie and dozens of other icons from the age. This was right around the time Jason Voorhees was coming up against a telekinetic troubled teen. It's thoroughly cliché, but in this package, going up against Daredevil - it works!

I've heard Mary is in the new series of Iron Fist on Netflix, but I'm not even going to pretend it will be anything but a waste of your time. These shows love to be boring and Typhoid Mary is a character who is anything but! You'd think a Pink Ladies leather jacket and some high heels would fit the budget, but this world of chumps just isn't ready for the real Typhoid Mary!

If you're ready for the real Typhoid Mary, you can always find refuge in the comics!

By using the Amazon links provided, you'll find your way to a collected edition that contains today's featured issue. If you do - you'll help support Secret Wars on Infinite Earths at no extra cost to your order's final total!

You can also follow on Twitter and Facebook for daily links to fights inspired by the topics of the day! A follow, like, retweet, or share is another nice way to show your support! Follow links in each post to discover more, or dive into the Secret Archive for a complete index of featured fights ordered by publisher, series, and issue number!

Winner: Inconclusive (Draw)
#13 (--) Daredevil
#141 (+149) Typhoid Mary

Friday, September 07, 2018

Night of the Dragon (Marvel)
Marvel Team-Up #63 When: November 1977
Why: Chris Claremont How: John Byrne

The Story So Far...
A mysterious malcontent has come to plague Iron Fist's existence -- attacking when he least expects it in a style reminiscent of his old teacher's!

The most recent ambush left Iron Fist with his lifeforce partially drained! The lethal technique is enough to push him to disappear into weeks of hard martial arts training -- readying himself for an opponent deadlier than any he's faced!

When a written challenge finally arrives on his luxurious doorstep - Danny Rand is forced to postpone a homestead photo-spread with Daily Bugle photographer Peter Parker. He takes a cab ride toward destiny, unaware that the unassuming camera man is in fact a former ally - the friendly neighborhood Spider-man!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Spider-man 5 (Super-Human)
Intelligence: Spider-man 5 (Professor)
Speed: Draw 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Steel Serpent 5 (Marathoner)
Agility: Spider-man 5 (Cat-Like)
Fighting: Iron Fist 6 (Warrior)
Energy: Iron Fist 3 (Explosives)
Total: Spider-man 29 (Metahuman)

It was supposed to be the ultimate martial arts showdown! Instead -- our hero walks toward the challenge with an interloper following in his shadow...

Steel Serpent is Davos - son of Lei Kung the Thunderer of the hidden city of K'un-Lun. Davos was destined to challenge the great dragon Shou-Lao until he lost the right in fair combat to an adopted outsider: Wendell Rand-Kai.

Davos faced the dragon anyway in an attempt to steal the gift of its power, but was defeated, and exiled from the mystic realm in disgrace. Wendell Rand left K'un-Lun shortly thereafter as well, never partaking in the rites of Shou-Lao.

Rand instead returned to America to forge a new life as a wealthy entrepreneur and family man. He attempted to return decades later with his family in tow, but was murdered during the mountain expedition, leaving his orphaned son Danny to be taken in by K'un-Lun's new ruler, Lord Yu-Ti, much as Wendell was.

Danny studied martial arts under Lei Kung's tutelage, successfully completing the challenge of Shou-Lao to claim the power of the living weapon: Iron Fist!

We've seen Danny rely on martial arts mastery to overcome several powerful foes, including: Sabretooth [Iron Fist #14, Power Man & Iron Fist #66], Unus The Untouchable [Power Man & Iron Fist #90], Man Mountain Marko [Power Man & Iron Fist #93], and even his possessed pal Luke Cage [New Avengers #2]!

Steel Serpent may share some of their physical dominance, but it's his fighting skill that makes him twice the threat of any other opponent! When he returned to K'un-Lun for a tournament, he demonstrated his aptitude for out-fighting a nimble opponent: Tiger's Beautiful Daughter [Immortal Iron Fist #11]!

Daredevil pushed Danny's skill with his own martial arts prowess, but nearly succumbed to the Iron Fist technique during a case of mistaken identity in Daredevil #87. In today's fight - it's Steel Serpent who has the element of surprise, leaving Iron Fist to assume he is in fact his mentor Lei Kung!

The wildcard then becomes Spider-man, who has pursued Iron Fist without the martial artist knowing it! Steel Serpent may have organized himself advantages in his campaign against Iron Fist, but Spider-man presumably evens them out!

We haven't seen Spidey face a truly skilled fighter yet, but he did fight Hand ninjas with Iron Fist some years later, in New Avengers #27. Of course, he's more of an instinctive fighter, and we saw how superior command of power hurt him in a confrontation with Mister Negative [Amazing Spider-man #621].

Iron Fist & Spider-man have to go into this one as team-up favourites, but now that we know the fighters involved, there's really only one thing left to do...

The Tape: Iron Fist & Spider-man Ranking: Spider-man (#2)

What Went Down...
Iron Fist stalks across the refuse scattered lawn of Inwood Park, determined to meet the mysterious challenge of his former master. He calls for The Thunderer, but is instead met with the grim visage of his master's son: Steel Serpent!

Davos implies his vengeance was bestowed upon Danny Rand the day he was born. Now his fate is to lose the iron fist power, undoing the slight of Wendell Rand and the August Personage of Jade - Lord Yü-Ti!

The two warriors bow before snapping into a fighting stance. The formality is quickly broken as Steel Serpent makes the first move - thrusting the ball of his foot into Iron Fist's exposed jaw!

Iron Fist lets his body ride the sledgehammer-like blow, but the devastating power behind the strike does not go unnoticed! He responds in kind, moving rapidly to chop Serpent's hand and headbutt his jaw with an "Atama" strike. The move is good, but not enough to rattle a fighter still so fresh!

Steel Serpent restores distance between he and his foe by blocking Iron Fist's second hand, and thrusting his chopped palm straight at the hero's face! The strike instills a sense of urgency in Iron Fist, whose body absorbs the recoil and channels it fluidly into through his legs and into a devastating back heel kick!

Iron Fist abandons banter to focus on pure martial arts, estimating his opponent to be one of the greatest fighters he's ever faced!

Steel Serpent drives his threatening home with a roundhouse kick buried deep into Iron Fist's mid-section with a slam! Iron Fist fires right back with a jumping roundhouse that explodes against Steel Serpent's head! An even match!

From the shadows of nearby trees - Spider-man arrives to observe the epic late night showdown! As a diving Iron Fist gets caught with a hard hooking punch, Spidey becomes desperate to help his one-time ally!

Just as Steel Serpent presses his advantage with belittling insult -- he senses Spider-man swinging from the trees! He catches the web-slinger's foot before it can connect -- and uses a vice-like grip to swing him like a baseball bat!

Spider-man is ill prepared for the twist of fate, contorting like a ragdoll as the arc of the swing brings him colliding with a similarly stunned Iron Fist!

The human hammer toss sends a limp Spider-man hurtling unforgivingly back towards the trees! The velocity wraps his twisting body around itself as smashes into the wooden trunk with absolutely no control!

The sickening scene inspires anger in a battered and bloody Iron Fist. He vows to return injuries in kind and end their duel, charging at his opponent with a fist of fury! Alas, the impulsive maneuver plays right into Steel Serpent's hands!

Davos dodges the strike and uses their close proximity to lock his arms under Iron Fist's in an inverted full nelson! His rage and hatred fuel the true attack -- an assault on Danny Rand's very life-force!

Spider-man is blinded by the light as Steel Serpent uses an ancient technique to drain the very chi from Iron Fist! Its glare lasts mere moments, but it is the third time Davos has used the attack -- and this time he means it!

Spider-man cries out in horror for his friend as Davos raises a fist to the heavens with the power of the immortal Iron Fist flowing through him!

The villain clutches a limp and powerless Iron Fist by the throat, preparing a killing blow to eliminate the threat once and for all. Fortunately for Danny Rand, he is a man with many friends, and fate would not end his life so cruelly!

Misty Knight arrives on the scene just in time to distract Steel Serpent with her speeding car. He is unimpressed with the armed investigator, but is soon persuaded by a demonstration of her unique hi-tech weaponry!

The intervention buys a reprieve for Danny Rand's life, but it cannot undo the undeniable conclusion: Steel Serpent has won!

The Hammer...
The assist from Misty Knight bought Iron Fist a life-saving reprieve, but Spider-man's unsolicited intervention had already doomed him to brutal defeat at the hands of Steel Serpent!

Regular readers may've noticed I've had a serious case of Spider-mania this year, but in the last couple of weeks, I've also found myself on a routine martial arts bender. I couldn't think of a better way to bridge the gap than today's featured fight!

The ultimate showdown between Steel Serpent and Iron Fist was developed like a WrestleMania main event that lost its venue. It was nurtured in sub-plot over several months of issues. When Danny Rand faced a debuting Sabretooth in Iron Fist #14, he was still reeling from an unexpected street fight with shadowy Steel Serpent! The series would only last one more issue before cancellation...

By late 1977, Chris Claremont and John Byrne were already appearing together as creative team on Marvel Team-Up. The sometimes hit or miss series was having a pretty good year under Claremont, largely due to a steady run of top grade villains, and guest heroes. You may remember Marvel Team-Up #58 from the archives, where Spidey and Ghost Rider took on The Trapster.

There was only one missed month between the cover dates for Iron Fist #15 and Marvel Team-Up #63. With the parties involved, it must've been relatively easy to consolidate the Iron Fist conclusion into MTU, but it does read a bit like Spidey is crowbarred in. Less like Byrne had already drawn the pages, and more like somebody was grappling with keeping as much of the envisioned conclusion as possible, even with the theme of the Spidey Team-Up book.

I wonder how much the web-slinger's well-meaning mishap was inspired by publishing circumstance. Iron Fist had seen some big name guests in its final few issues, but I find it hard to believe Spider-man was part of the original plan.

I've been thinking about martial arts genre fiction, particularly Street Fighter, in terms of opera. Superheroes by their very nature lend an operatic element, but it's a little bit more straight forward than the ponderous ensembles of SF.

Spidey invariably compromises the fated, one-on-one challenge. The location seems as likely to facilitate Spider-man and Misty Knight as it does give a 70s grit. Fortunately, there's still a clear intent to give the big fight its due.

Fist and Serpent are completely uninterrupted for three and a half explosive pages -- and it feels like more! Even when Spidey's arrival turns the tide in Davos' favour, the focus is all about the martial artists. I appreciate that!

There is, of course, a rematch in the following issue. You didn't really think they'd leave Iron Fist stripped of his powers, did you...? Well, maybe... The second season of Iron Fist hit Netflix today, and it's fair to say they've had a tough time making the most of their colourful comics inspirations!

Fortunately, classic Iron Fist comics are still available in a variety of collected editions!

When shopping you'll want to make sure Marvel Team-Up #63-64 are included! Some versions cut-off before then, or in the case of Masterworks, don't even get that far!

By using embedded Amazon links, you help support the site at no extra cost to you! Any purchase will do, but a couple of Iron Fist options are provided here for your convenience!

You can also find more Iron Fist and martial arts mayhem by diving into the Secret Archive! There you'll find every featured fight indexed by publisher, series, and issue number! For more targeted discover you should check out some of the links littered throughout this, and many other posts.

You can also get daily links to fights inspired by the topics of the day by following Secret Wars on Infinite Earths on Twitter and Facebook! A like, share, and retweet is another ancient technique used by masters who support the site!

Winner: Steel Serpent
#101 (+131) Steel Serpent (Davos)
#2 (--) Spider-man
#18 (--) Iron Fist
#541 (new) Misty Knight

Friday, August 31, 2018

Out For Blood (Marvel)
Amazing Spider-man #621 When: April 2010
Why: Dan Slott How: Michael Lark

The Story So Far...
Rising crime boss Mister Negative has caused Spider-man & Peter Parker a lot of grief, but mind-control is nothing compared to his latest threat: Devil's Breath!

The designer toxin can be programmed to be lethal to an exclusive DNA set, and since Mister Negative already blackmailed Spidey into surrendering a vial of his blood -- the entire Parker bloodline is in danger!

Desperate to negate Mister Negative's threat to himself and Aunt May; Spider-man has enlisted the aide of his sometimes romantic interest and vigilante-burglar: The Black Cat! Her expertise and bad luck powers are perfectly suited for stealing the Devil's Breath, but when her plan involves creating a distraction Spidey loses the element of surprise deep within the demon's inner sanctum!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Spider-man 5 (Super-Human)
Intelligence: Spider-man 5 (Professor)
Speed: Spider-man 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Spider-man 5 (Marathoner)
Agility: Spider-man 5 (Cat-Like)
Fighting: Draw 3 (Street Wise)
Energy: Mr. Negative 4 (Arsenal)
Total: Spider-man 29 (Metahuman)

Spider-man has seen his fair share of masterminds, kingpins, and evil geniuses -- but in today's featured fight he faces a crime boss unlike any other!

Martin Li is an assumed alias of the villainous alter-ego now known as Mister Negative! Negative stole the identity from a Fujian man who died in a human trafficking shipment wrecked en route from China. Part of the slaver's crew; Li began a new life in New York City - where he was ultimately kidnapped and experimented on by members of The Maggia crime organization.

Li received doses of the same experimental drugs that created Cloak & Dagger, creating a schism of light and darkforce within him! While the personality of Martin Li appears to be a kind and reasonable philanthropist -- his alter-ego of Mister Negative is a callous, super-powered menace!

Semi-occult in nature: Mister Negative's appearance becomes similar to that of a film negative when his dark persona takes over. His strength can reach super-human levels, while his speed, agility, senses, and reflexes are also significantly enhanced. He's a step behind Spidey on most levels, but has a few extra tricks!

Negative can command people in his thrall, able to invert an individual's personality to make the altruistic proportionately villainous. He also commands a loyal army of masked henchmen known as Inner Demons. Typically dressed in black suits and silver dragon masks - Inner Demons can regenerate from fatal injuries, and wield negatively charged weapons, such as swords and nunchaku.

Mister Negative can also charge weaponry for his own use, or expel limited bolts of electrical "negative charge". Energy projection is one of the few areas where Negative can statistically surpass Spider-man, even though he's not far off the pace in most other physical realms!

There aren't a lot of direct comparisons for Mister Negative, but we've certainly seen Spider-man take down a super-strong, well dressed mobster in Tombstone before [see: Spectacular Spider-man #142]. He also got the better of the other dimensional energies that empower The Spot [Amazing Spider-man #589].

Mister Negative has the potential to combine Tombstone's might with Spot's speed & agility, but that negative energy charge is his real edge! Electrical energy is hit & miss against Spidey. Classic nemesis Electro can be dangerously destructive [Marvel Knights: Spider-man #3], or a seasonal schmuck [Marvel Holiday Special '92].

The Tape: Spider-man Ranking: Spider-man (#2)

What Went Down...

Freed from restraint by their apparent immortality: Spider-man unleashes his fullest proportionate strength of a spider against the Inner Demons! Several lie unconscious from the heavy blows, while more line up - until a familiar voice calls an end to the brawl: Mister Negative!

The photo-negative visage of the villain almost glows in the darkness of his inner sanctum. Surrounded by more of his armed Inner Demons, he confronts Spider-man with total confidence, even as the web-slinger unravels his abilities!

Demonstrating a full grasp of the gamut of skills Martin Li's 'negative charge' can create; Spidey closes in to deliver a blow with his own brand of spider-strength. Alas, his estimates of Mister Negative's super-human strength have failed to take into account the "upper limits" of his fullest charge!

Negative effortlessly catches Spider-man's fist with a darkened palm...

... and with a mere flick of his wrist sends Spider-man hurtling through the air!

The all mighty blow is powerful enough to launch Spider-man out of the Chinatown sanctum -- and through an adjacent building! The far exterior depositing the battered hero with the trash of an adjoining alley!

The Hammer...

Short, sharp, definitive! Just when Spidey thinks he's got the upper hand: Mister Negative reveals another level to his dark powers!

This marks a strong debut for Mister Negative on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths! Created in the late 2000s by Dan Slott and Phil Jiminez: he's still a relatively new addition to Spidey's famed lethal foes, but was entrenched as a premier threat of the last decade!

Powers-wise, he can seem a little bit of a piecemeal hodgepodge, but for the most part - I'm a fan! Flanked by his suited Inner Demons, Negative has a flavor of modern Asian crime cinema, with strong Marvel Comics reference!

I still have misgivings about the era that brought Mister Negative into the fold. He was a product of the 2008 Brand New Day re-launch that was typified by its role in haphazardly excising quantities of Spider-man's iconic history. Most predominantly, but not exclusively, was Peter Parker's marriage to Mary-Jane, removed at the long discussed behest of Editor in Chief: Joe Quesada.

Early on, you might've been forgiven for wondering if Mister Negative was a demonic consequence of Peter Parker's choice to make a deal with Mephisto - but not so. Like a majority of the best moments since BND - Mister Negative has little to nothing to do with history that was deleted, or rejiggered. In fact, he's steeped in the kind of nostalgia that made history tampering feel contradictory!

His origin references the same Maggia experiments that gave us Cloak & Dagger in the early eighties -- 1982, to be specific. Indeed, the character feels right at home with the crime-ridden decade -- particularly the dark urban-noir of Spectacular Spider-man, where the aforementioned duo first appeared, and a cavalcade of darkly lit crooks, crime bosses, and super-villains came to the fore.

Artist Michael Lark, inker Stefano Gaudiano, and colorist Matt Hollingsworth collaborate for a finished image that feels suitably moody and tactile.

The shadows may be jet black, but the night is moonlit blue. It creates an atmosphere somehow equivalent to those fondly remembered night time romps in eighties issues of Spectacular Spider-man. It's all just very enjoyable!

Amazing Spider-man #621 is actually part of The Gauntlet: a nostalgic tour that revisits some of Spidey's most classic villains, but not necessarily as you know them. It was a run that stirred up feelings of disdain for the unnecessary reboot, but pushed through them by sheer force of being fantastic Spider-man comics!

I've been hoping to get to The Gauntlet sooner, preferably with some of the classic villains, whose issues were real favourites. I love the way The Gauntlet's issues are soaked in the classics, but blend well with a sense of something new. Mister Negative provides a very obvious new element to Amazing #621, but again I go back to that eighties Spectacular flavor, and the guest appearance of a character I think of as synonymous with those years - Black Cat!

She was entangled with another creation that comes to mind as right up Mister Negative's alley. The Spot was attempting to harness Cloak's connection to a dimension of darkness, but tapped another realm to become a living portal, circa Spectacular #100. Their similar origins were nicely exploited in Dark Reign: Mister Negative, where The Spot served as a mole in The Hood's gang of villains. Quite a nice way to stitch a new character into the fabric of the old.

The Spot was originally working on behalf of Black Cat's old employer - and another crime boss of the series - the Kingpin! As it so happens - Mister Negative will be at odds with Kingpin when he receives a major boost in exposure next week via the release of Spider-man for PlayStation 4!

The highly anticipated video game return for Spidey is direct inspiration for today's entry, with Mister Negative set to appear alongside versions of Electro, Vulture, Rhino, Scorpion, and Shocker! You can expect Black Cat to factor into the action as well -- although, given her recent rise through the criminal ranks in comics -- who knows whose side she'll be on?!

I'm not such a big fan of the redesigned, off-the-shelf villains, but I am loving being back in the world of Spider-man! You can be there too by checking out today's featured fight in collected edition!

By shopping via the Amazon links provided, you help support Secret Wars on Infinite Earths at no extra cost to you!

You can find even more inspirations by diving into the Secret Archive to revisit classic fights indexed by publisher, series, and issue number! Be sure to follow links throughout these entries to discover unexpected hits and misses!

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Winner: Mister Negative
#314 (new) Mister Negative
#2 (--) Spider-man

Friday, August 24, 2018

Deadpool Sandwich (Marvel)
Deadpool: Sins of the Past #3 When: October 1994 Why: Mark Waid How: Ian Churchill & Ken Lashley

The Story So Far...
PREVIOUSLY ON DEADPOOL... Black Tom Cassidy has been afflicted with a viral wooden growth that threatens to consume his body. His brother Sean uses Interpol connections to bring Weapon X geneticist Dr. Emrys Killebrew to examine the prisoner.

Black Tom's best buddy Juggernaut is worried for his pal, so he stages a daring dual breakout and kidnapping of Dr. Killebrew. He then learns there may be only one hope for curing the infection -- the healing factor of Deadpool!

Deadpool did his best to defeat the unstoppable Juggernaut, but when knives fail, he opts for a vat of molten metal -- big mistake! Now Juggernaut is mad as hell and covered in flaming hot magma!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Juggernaut 6 (Uh oh!)
Intelligence: Deadpool 3 (Alert, Not Alarmed)
Speed: Deadpool 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Juggernaut 7 (Unstoppable, duh)
Agility: Deadpool 4 (Does Whatever A Pool Can)
Fighting: Deadpool 4 (Underrated)
Energy: Siryn 4 (Celine Dion at Eurovision)
Total: Deadpool 26 (Stud)

The first time the Merc' with a Mouth starred in theatres, we took in the sights and sounds of Deadpool: Sins of the Past #2! Now that he's officially back on Blu-ray -- what better time to follow-up with a sequel of our own?

When last we saw him: Juggernaut was toweling himself off after a nice warm shower in molten steel! The result of dousing a magically unstoppable behemoth in liquid metal? Hot stuff coming through!

Juggernaut's hot & bothered and charging toward a second date with Deadpool and Siryn -- but this time: they have a chaperone!

Interpol's best man Danny Peyer has tracked down wanted Wade Wilson for his laundry list of international crimes. DP's hoping Peyer will play cavalry, but against Juggernaut, his men are severely mismatched!

We've seen it all before. Juggernaut slapped Colossus silly in Uncanny X-Men #183, kayoed Captain Britain in Excalibur #3, clobbered Captain Marvel Jr in the crossover of Unlimited Access #3, and walked away completely unscathed from a building dropping on him in Amazing Spider-man #230!

Of course, later in that same issue, Spider-man managed to keep Juggernaut down for a ten count by burying him in a few thousand gallons of wet cement! Spidey scored another win over a decade later by teaming with Wonder Woman for another DC/Marvel crossover in Unlimited Access #1!

We know Deadpool can be pretty crafty himself! Speed, agility, and ruthlessness helped him face the Hulk and live to tell the tale [in Deadpool #4]! Old fashioned survival skills bested Ajax's cyborg strength and cleaning power in Deadpool #19! Good gear and tactics had Cable on the ropes in New Mutants #98! And the greatest power of all was categorically proven to be dance when DP beat Taskmaster way back in Deadpool #2!

Alas; Siryn's sonic scream won't lend itself to a funky disco beat, and the best Danny Peyer can hope to be is David Bowie to Deadpool's gyrating Mick Jagger. The decks are decidedly unstacked with nary an Abba sample, nor rhythm, at hand. Will Deadpool be able to sock it to Juggernaut like the jive turkey he is?

That's what we're here to find out! You can't give it up! Round 2! FIGHT!

The Tape: Deadpool Ranking: Deadpool (#20)

What Went Down...

If running from a flaming Juggernaut sounded bad enough -- Deadpool and his favourite gal, Siryn, find themselves caught between a rock and squad of heavily armed Interpol agents! Lucky for them: Juggernaut beats Interpol!

Deadpool leaps clear of the incoming Juggernaut, dragging Siryn out of harm's way, as well. Peyer has to make his own way -- diving clear in the nick of time, while his Interpol friends open fire. Their ammunition barely leaves a scratch!

Peyer orders a tactical retreat, recognizing Deadpool's set-up. Before he leaves he warns Deadpool their beef isn't over. The threat puts a sightline on Deadpool, prompting Juggernaut to use his mass to bring the roof down!

Deadpool makes a graceful super-hero landing and starts throwing everything he's got in the direction of the ten-foot mountain of muscle and fire. Gunfire, shuriken, and katana blades all bounce and break off Juggernaut's magic hide!

Juggernaut reveals his ultimate goal is not to get revenge for past slights, but to collect Deadpool so his best pal Black Tom Cassidy can be cured of a nasty wood infection! As the old saying goes, mutant healing factor today

DP drops a choice reference to Wolverine, but that only gets the concerned Juggernaut in a dither. (He's just so anxious about his friend's condition!)

A massive, smoldering, unstoppable fist swings in Deadpool's general direction -- but he narrowly ducks it, and scrambles to escape through Juggernaut's legs!

Siryn watches frozen in terror as Deadpool calls for some much needed backing vocals! Juggernaut tells her to stay out of it, catching the crawling Deadpool by his ankle only to drag him into his clutches.

Massive fingers engulf Deadpool's neck as Juggernaut exercises his aggressions with a blatant choke. The sight of such obvious peril is enough to shake Siryn from her terror and unleash a bone-rattling scream!

The sonic blast blows the windows of the warehouse they've been fighting in and shakes even the Juggernaut to his core! It's enough to free Deadpool from his powerful grip as Siryn comes to the rescue - gliding him to safety with the knife manufacturer's entire building collapsing on top of Juggernaut!

The Hammer...
Once again we find ourselves in need of a definition for victory!

When it comes to a fighter as unstoppable as Juggernaut: defeat is rarely a permanent condition -- but who ever said it has to be?

Many have tried dropping a building on Juggernaut, but Siryn did it particularly well - and went one better - also rattling him to the core with a sonic scream! Juggernaut goes unseen for the rest of the issue, which is enough to convince me Siryn won the battle - even if the war wages on...

Indeed, Juggernaut does return in the fourth and final issue of the Sins of the Past mini-series. He concludes business with Deadpool, having started their feud a year earlier in Deadpool: The Circle Chase. Which was presumably inspiration for Juggernaut's live-action return in Deadpool 2 -- now on Blu-ray!

If you're just joining us: today's feature fight brings an end to the inconclusive battle begun back in Deadpool: Sins of the Past #2! No doubt we'll return again some time in the future to check out Round 3, and the earlier encounter.

Deadpool doesn't walk away completely empty handed from today's featured fight! Though his efforts failed to register as contributing to victory -- this does mark his first recorded assist on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths, and therefore an important milestone of personal development. Way to go, Wade!

The now-classic Deadpool on-going series launched a few years later in '97 and would continue to pick up the tab on Deadpool's developing crush on Siryn, and path to becoming a hero. Even Dr. Killebrew [mentioned in the first section] comes back for more wacky fun -- at least until he's iced by Ajax. SPOILERS!

There's obvious cult appeal to these early Deadpool mini-series, which really do inform the path for Deadpool in subsequent years - more than I might've noticed at the time. That said, things really go to another level when Joe Kelly starts embellishing the comedy -- and Ed McGuinness defines a big and bold look for the series. Both really contributed iconic detailing to the basic model!

Speaking of big and bold, I've gotta give it to Ian Churchill (and Ken Lashley) - he draws a mean Juggernaut! I actually quite like some of the scenes where  the structure of his musculature and costume armor is more square. It's a slightly different take to the classic model, but I like it! When Juggernaut starts getting too rounded, it just ain't right!

If you wanna see more from these characters be sure to dive into the Secret Archive to find every battle indexed by publisher, series, and issue number. You can also get a full serve by following links throughout this post!

Get the full experience and support the site by purchasing a collected edition with today's feature fight in it - or the Deadpool 2 movie! By shopping with the Amazon links provided, you'll help sponsor the site at no extra cost to you!

Follow Secret Wars on Infinite Earths on Twitter and Facebook to get daily links to battles inspired by the topics of the day! A like, share, or retweet is a nice way to let me know you're thinking of me. Which is important in any relationship. Shucks.

Winner: Siryn (w/ Deadpool)
#133 (+258) Siryn
#46 (--) Juggernaut
#20 (--) Deadpool [+1 assist]
#539 (new) Danny Peyer [+1 assist]