Friday, December 16, 2016

The Gathering (Marvel)
Contest of Champions II #1 When: September 1999 Why: Chris Claremont How: Oscar Jiminez

The Story So Far...
A race of aliens known as The Coterie have abducted Earth's greatest heroes for the purpose of hosting a Contest of Champions!

The seemingly benevolent species hopes only to honor and pay tribute to the renowned fighting heroes by basking in their prowess through organized competition. Behind their pleasant demeanor lies a more sinister intent, evident in their use of airborne nano-technology to influence the minds and aggression of the heroes.

Iron Man's armor protected him from infestation, allowing him to stay clear headed in the opening round. Alas; his hosts have identified the absence of their mind altering machines, escalating a plan to manipulate the contest and eliminate the problematic Avenger. Now it's an 8-on-1 mismatch as X-Force challenge Iron Man in Round 2!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Iron Man 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Iron Man 5 (Professor)
Speed: Cannonball 5 (Olympian)
Stamina: Iron Man 6 (Generator)
Agility: Domino 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting: Domino 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy: Iron Man 5 (Lasers)

Here we are back for another round of Contest of Champions II!

When last we left the action, Iron Man was victorious in his first match, defeating ninja telepath: Psylocke! In that fight he had to overcome a single X-Woman, but in his next match he finds himself against an entire team!

X-Force are: Cannonball, Moonstar, Sunspot, Meltdown, Proudstar, Siryn, Jesse Bedlam & Domino.

If you're wondering why an entire team is submitted into a fighting tournament as a single entry, the simple answer is: The organizers are secretly bad guys. They've become aware that Iron Man is unaffected by their mind-influencing nanite technology, and are just looking for a way to take him out.

To the credit of the bookers, they've chosen a young team that could plausibly fail. Iron Man's diverse arsenal puts him in good stead against most opponents, and adequately addresses most of the specialist skills of the young mutants.

Proudstar, perhaps better known as Warpath, possesses high level super-human strength that isn't quite at Iron Man's level, but could pose a serious problem if combined with team attacks. Team leader Cannonball is a perfect example: an aerialist whose high speed plasma field achieves invincibility - but whose mastery of the sky may not aim as true as the nimble Iron Man!

Sunspot also possesses super-human strength, as well as the ability to project intense heat blasts, but may not have sufficient solar exposure to maintain his powers on the space station. Sonic vocalist Siryn is also impaired, carrying an injury to her larynx inflicted by the villainous New Hellions.

Moonstar's telepathically reliant constructs are another threat in the vein of some of Psylocke's attacks, but we did just see how Iron Man was able to identity and resolve that type of assault. Meltdown (aka; Boomer) and Domino aren't normally at a level that would trouble Iron Man's armor, either. As a team, however, their abilities could add sufficient stress.

Intriguingly, we don't have a lot of useful data for Iron Man fighting a foe with superior numbers. His affiliation with The Avengers has usually meant the team advantage is working in his favour. Our only prominent case on record is Iron Man #159, where the alchemy of Diablo forced him to fight his own armors!

That said, there are plenty of examples to demonstrate the high level Iron Man always fights at! He's beaten Hulk [Iron Man #2], outwitted The Mandarin [Iron Man #312], endured Sub-Mariner [Invincible Iron Man #12], and stopped the Juggernaut [Thunderbolts #150]! All in a day's work!

It's worth noting just a couple of years prior to this story, Cannonball had a famous, defining victory against Gladiator (during a stint with the X-Men). There's an even bigger x-factor than that working in X-Force's favour, though, that will play out in the following fight. Let's see how it effects things...

The Tape: Iron Man Ranking: Iron Man (#3)

What Went Down...
By virtue of the speed of their attacks, or respect for their opponent; Iron Man finds himself defending against the members of X-Force individually. The first to strike is the team's co-leader and fast-moving human rocket: Cannonball!

On board files help Iron Man understand his young mutant enemies, using intel to counter their unique attacks. Cannonball may be invulnerable while he flies like a human missile, but Iron Man's suit has him beat for maneuverability! He avoids the attack, leaving Cannonball to hurtle past him on a wide arc.

Danielle Moonstar makes the next move, reaching for the bow through which she can channel psychic arrows. A disorienting sonic blast neutralizes her before she can even think, leaving her too dizzy to fight.

Solar powered Sunspot tries his luck, blasting the armored Avenger with a focused beam of energy. Rather than run, Iron Man turns to absorb the blast - using it to recharge his armor's power cells!

Meltdown's plasma timebombs take the Iron Man test next, but are easily shut down with a few creative bursts from the shellhead's pulse cannons. A tactic that disrupts the kinetic matrix of the timebombs before they detonate!

Ordinarily team powerhouse Proudstar might not concern Iron Man too much, but with the constant threat of nano-tech infestation surrounding him, he can't afford the slightest breach of his armor! He blocks a left cross with his forearm gauntlet and goes airborne to put distance between himself and the strongman!

As he jets in the direction of Siryn, Iron Man's armor alerts him to recent tracheal and larynx trauma that has drastically reduced the mutant's naturally produced sonic scream. Empathy distracts the man inside the armor -- a costly mistake in the arena of combat!

The mutant called Jesse Bedlam possesses the natural gift of disrupting any electrical or mechanical system. Iron Man doesn't even see it coming as the perfect attack seizes his armor in an electrical storm!

Skilled martial artist Domino takes the liberty of striking the finishing blow, leaping through the air with a flying kick she's confident will ring his chimes, armored or not. A KO victory that sets the young mutants celebrating!

The Hammer...
Nobody said the Contest of Champions was going to be fair - and it sure as heck ain't! With numbers on their side, and a much needed precision strike: X-Force eliminate Iron Man from the tournament!

One again I'm reminded of the debate that raged within the letter pages of Wizard Magazine: Could Iron Man single-handedly take down the X-Men?

Wizard editor Doug Goldstein certainly seemed to think so. He was a major proponent for the (apparently) controversial opinion, warring with indignant X-fans in the early years of the comics magazine.

Keep in mind, this is the early nineties, when X-fandom was at its most rabidly fervent! Schooled fans may've known to have a healthy respect for Iron Man and The Avengers, but the popular vote was overwhelmingly in favor of anything with an X! A pretty ballsy stance for a fanzine editor, even if it was all in good fun, and readers were less inclined to run from an opposing opinion.

I really got up to speed with this particular feud thanks to G. Kendall's 2015 articles on Comic Book Resources. "The Guide To The Guide To Comics" was a slightly self-conscious nostalgia trip through the magazine's enthusiastic decade of influence. A fun read that should compliment most retro superhero reading!

Writing about Wizard #27 (November, 1993), Kendall referenced an addendum to Goldstein's original stance. He clarified the X-Men could beat Iron Man as a team, but their members would mostly lose one-on-one. His noted exceptions were telepaths Professor X, Phoenix, and Psylocke, and maybe Kitty Pryde.

For the most part, that's pretty reasonable, and I don't think there'd be too much argument from fans today. I can't help but wonder if Chris Claremont had the debate in mind when it came to writing Contest of Champions II in 1999.

We've been tackling the mini-series slightly out of sequence on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths, but if you paid attention to earlier sections in this post, you know the first fight saw Iron Man defeating Psylocke. That fight confirmed Goldstein's theory of psychic weakness, but also showed how Iron Man may be able to counter a telepathic attack, at least from a lesser threat such as Psylocke.

The final fight of issue #1 set out to eliminate Iron Man from the tournament, but rather than use one of the more powerful X-telepaths, (Phoenix does appear later), or even another A-list hero -- Claremont opted for a secondary X-team!

I'm not aware of anything linking Contest of Champions II to the Wizard debate, but it certainly addresses the matter, one way or another!

This obviously isn't the final word on Iron Man's match-up against mutants. Marvel built an entire event around a similar concept as recently as 2012: Avengers vs X-Men! We may yet get to that saga, or others, some time in the future. For now, take the examples supplied and let the debate rage on. You can even post your opinions in the comments section below!

All eight X-Force heroes may've shared glory within the tournament itself, but we here on The Comic Book Fight Club answer to a different standard of measure. Jesse Bedlam and Domino specifically executed the win, while the rest of the team can only be credited with an assist. See how that effects their individual standings in the updated site rankings below!

While you're down there, why not hit the G+1 button? It's a great way to help keep the site! You can also share all articles by hitting the applicable social media icons. Looking for something in particular? Follow links throughout posts to discover more, or dive in by publisher, series, and issue in the Archive Index!

Winners: Bedlam & Domino
#3 (--) Iron Man
#298 (new) Bedlam
#299 (new) Domino
#134 (+5) Boom Boom (Meltdown) [+1 assist]
#154 (+53) Sunspot [+1 assist]
#313 (+21) Cannonball [+1 assist]
#379 (+20) Siryn [+1 assist]
#507 (new) Moonstar [+1 assist]
#522 (+195) Warpath (Proudstar) [+1 assist]

Monday, December 12, 2016

Real Name: Ben Reilly
First Appearance: Amazing Spider-man #149 (October, 1975)
Fight Club Ranking: #82

Featured Fights:
- vs SCARECROW & SCARECROW: Marvel versus DC #2 (Mar 1996)
- vs SUPERBOY: Marvel versus DC #3 (Apr 1996)

As you may or may not know, Spider-man has been seeing dead people of late. More specifically: Marvel's Clone Conspiracy has brought about the return of the villainous Jackal persona - an identity most associated with mad scientist Miles Warren.

Not unlike the original, this Jackal's been using cloning to effectively resurrect the dead -- provided they meet requirements that will earn them the medication needed to maintain their living state. CBR reports last week's Clone Conspiracy #3 revealed the secret identity lurking behind the revamped mask -- none other than clone supremo and Hero of the WeekBen Reilly!

With misdirection and conspiracy so inherent to the plot, I'm not sure I'm totally willing to take the reveal at face value. It seems to make a good lick of sense, though. Both within the terms of the story itself, and as confirmation of what struck me as one of the most obvious guesses for the "Dead No More" pre-release teasers. Whether or not that's a good thing remains to be seen.

I should probably confess to having enjoyed aspects of the much maligned, original mid-nineties "Clone Saga". At inception, it seemed like an interesting way to revisit the earlier 1975 clone battle, and spin a bigger plot out of its famous conclusion.

The science and ethics of cloning was a pretty "in" topic at the time, and the uniquely genuine belief that "our" Peter Parker may have been the clone all along was a pretty exciting, paranoid concept! The eventual creation of the Scarlet Spider was the epitome of nineties ripped sweatshirt naff, but it had a certain streamlined appeal, exploring Spidey from a fresh angle.

Of course, even at the time, it was easy to understand the haters.

Ditching enduring icons and their history is always pretty bogus. In the schoolyard of the 1990s - knowledge was power, and superhero backstory a cool currency that could come in handy at any moment. DC Comics struggled for playground market share, hampered by the often misunderstood fault lines caused by Crisis on Infinite Earths. Even as fans rushed to collect the first appearance of edgy new heroes -- nobody was diving into Marvel Comics because it didn't have a classic canon!

It's hard not to look back on The Clone Saga and see the grim legacy of Death of Superman. Those who predicted doom were ultimately right. Instead of being unique experiments in high concept ideas, stories like The Cloen Saga are viewed as publisher precedent. Where once Spidey would turn into a giant spider for a few issues -- we now endure deviant concepts for a few years. Characters die and return in seasonal events. The time afforded to classic heroes is shorter and shorter.

There are elements of The Clone Conspiracy I like. As a mask and bodysuited wannabe Green Goblin, The Jackal always left something to be desired. Entwining The Jackal name with relevant imagery of Ancient Egyptian death gods is a welcome improvement. Marrying his clone science to issues of mortality - a nice way of building on the idea. Even the notion of reshaping Ben Reilly as an antagonistic counterpart has its appeal! I'm just not sure it's sustainable.

As a means of undoing the last few frustrating years of death and mayhem - it's an unattractive prospect. A cycle of invalidation implying time wasted. I don't want to see Doctor Octopus dead, but the lesson learned is to not take the mortality of characters so lightly. As a reference to, and proliferation of, the diminishing returns of post-Death of Superman stunts, The Clone Conspiracy would be unwelcome. It's an old, tired, joyless way of doing superheroes. Something we get far too much of these days, from far too many mediums. Comics should be better. To hell with other versions.

That we once again have a Spider-man swinging through the Marvel skyline is nice. I'm not overly opposed to his current status as wealthy industrialist, even if I think getting to the inevitable reset sooner than later is preferred. It's good to know Spidey's there, though. Let's just hope it stays that way, without falling back into the trap of diminishing the concept through rampant reproduction!

      [Home]      Hero of the Week 12/05: Captain Marvel >>

Friday, December 09, 2016

Last Stand (DC)
Justice League of America #261 When: April 1987 Why: J.M. DeMatteis How: Luke McDonnell

The Story So Far...
One defeat too many has left the Justice League of America in tattered ruins. While the evil machinations of Darkseid plot to make outlaws of heroes, their enemies attack unabated by the whims of fickle law.

Professor Ivo and his mechanical menaces have plagued the Justice League for longer than they care to remember, but the divided heroes have never been more vulnerable, nor the villain ever more bloodthirsty!

Already Ivo's android assassins have seen to the deaths of Vibe and Steel, and made chilling attempts on the lifes of Gypsy, and the Martian Manhunter. With the rest of the team gone or resigned, Vixen stands alone to seek vengeance for her fallen allies! Her keen animal senses and savagery will ensure she stalks out her prey, but whose death will result when she finds Professor Ivo's lair?

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

I would've been really disappointed to finish 2016 without returning to this now classic encounter! It represents an interesting transitional period in Justice League history, where the infamous Detroit team was to finally make way for a glitzy group, newly assembled in the pages of post-Crisis event: Legends.

Legends #2 was the last time we saw this version of the JLA, suffering a brutal defeat at the hands of Apokolips demon-seed: Brimstone!

In that city shattering battle, Martian Manhunter was caught off guard by the firey beast. Rushing in without thought to his own vulnerability (flame), he was overwhelmed by debris that also buried Vixen, and the rest of the League: Elongated Man, Gypsy, Vibe, Steel, with allies Firestorm and Cosmic Boy.

In the wake of their humiliating defeat, the League veered towards disbanding as President Reagan issued an order to outlaw superheroes. Martian Manhunter favored accepting the decree, Elongated Man departed amidst in-fighting, and everybody but Vixen sort of went their own way. Good news for Professor Ivo, whose evil androids were able to pickoff Vibe and Steel - both killed!

Fearing death; Anthony Ivo has obsessively sought to attain immortality. His pursuit brought him into conflict with the JLA, whose powers he once hoped to steal, believing they could unlock infinite life. He and his androids are making their Secret Wars on Infinite Earths debut, but the instrument of his earliest attacks on the League has appeared before: Amazo!

The power stealing Amazo has been known to act independently, and the increasingly mentally unstable Professor Ivo has become victim to the whim of his other robotic creations -- including his own doppelganger. The duplicate Ivo is responsible for the murders, but Vixen doesn't know - or care - about that.

As one of the last standing members of Justice League Detroit, Vixen has given in to her primal rages -- seeking vengeance for her comrades alone! Her ability to channel the innate skills of animals makes her a pretty tough customer, but alone against an army of killer androids, she might be in trouble!

Good thing former detective Martian Manhunter has also picked up the trailer to Professor Ivo's secret underground lair! He'll be making the save, and helping tip the scales in favour of the heroes. His Martian weakness to fire isn't ideal, but his phenomenal strength and molecular malleability means he can make light work of Ivo's tin soldiers, as long as they don't combust.

We've seen the trouble fire can cause Martians in DC: The New Frontier #2, and Final Crisis: Requiem #1! We've also seen plenty of Martian toughness, as well. He took down Appellaxian Stone God in Secret Origins #32, helped fight Doomsday in the guise of Bloodwynd [Superman #74], and caused Green Lantern & Flash a whole lot of trouble as a Black Lantern [Green Lantern #44]!

We haven't seen as much of Vixen thus far, but she has gone toe-to-toe with Wonder Woman [JLA: Classified #3] and Volcano Man [Justice League of America #15]. So it doesn't look too bad for the heroes! Let's see how it went...

The Tape: Martian Manhunter Ranking: Martian Manhunter (#32)

What Went Down...
Stalking through filthy city sewers, Vixen searches solemnly for her prey. Deep within the stone laden labyrinth - a familiar scent, drawing her deeper into the twisting underworld. Soon - a light emanating from a small grate. She pushes it in and descends into a small room, where Professor Ivo waits with a banquet.

Vixen makes her lethal intent clear while Ivo offers questionable pleasantries in exchange. Seemingly resigned to his fate, he asks for Vixen's company as last request of a condemned man. She hurls her cup of poisoned tea in his scaly disfigured face and reaches for his throat. An attempt at kindness, he calls it...

Suddenly the room fills with a dozen shirtless men - each an exact duplicate of the last! Vixen's keen sense of smell detects the distinct absence of humanity among them. Androids: programmed to kill, just like the ones who killed her Justice League friends!

Vixen goes to ground as the automatons surround her. She springs upward suddenly, delivering an all mighty uppercut! A knee to the stomach! A leaping face jam! A vicious decapitation! She is at one with her animal instincts.

She swings her fists wildly, separating two more of the android's heads!

Professor Ivo watches the battle coldly, expressing surprise. He didn't expect to see Vixen winning! These androids weren't programmed specifically like the ones that killed Vibe and Steel. Ivo corrects the deficiency, searching out Vixen's computer file to broadcast the necessary tactical attributes to his army.

The androids overwhelm Vixen, rushing in a pack. An android strikes with a backhanded fist. Another with a clubbing blow. They all lean in, throwing fists like a pack of wild dogs. Fear takes Vixen as she contemplates her own mortality. Significantly outnumbered, she anticipates her own coming death.

Then, the door to Ivo's lair suddenly explodes with an angry call of his name! The Martian Manhunter has also tracked the villain in search of justice! Refusing to accept another teammates demise - he marches through the android horde, furiously toppling and crushing the robotic men!

Professor Ivo fears and respects the "real" Leaguer who's beaten him so many times before "to a pulp". Searching for a means to defend himself, he recalls the Martian weakness to fire. Wielding a super-charged lighter, he bathes the distracted Manhunter in strength sapping flame!

Meanwhile, surviving androids observe that Vixen has no apparent life signs. Their programming is astute enough to warrant a second networked scan, but it fails to protect them from Vixen springing back to life! With a vaulting thrust of her legs she sends the two robotic men hurtling across the underground room!

The action distracts Ivo enough to give Martian Manhunter the break he needs to strike the villain! The Professor begs for mercy, inciting anger in the soulful Martian. He vows to teach him about pain and fear, but cannot bring himself to harm such a feeble opponent. An affliction Vixen does not share!

The grieving hero lunges at Ivo, wraps her hands around his throat, and snaps his neck -- revealing severed wiring and microchips. Another android!

Discarding the sophisticated facsimile, Vixen marches across the chequered floor towards a door that hides the true Professor Ivo! Not the conniving master of machines, but rather a feeble prisoner of his own creations.

Gripped with fear and insanity, the raving Professor is as afraid and ashamed of the actions of his own androids, as he is of the death he believes Vixen intends to inflict. Recognizing his torment and anguish, the heroes grapple with their own emotional needs, unable to direct a hate they cannot discard. They face the pointless deaths of their allies together. The final victory of the Justice League.

The Hammer...
It's a somber, quiet end for the Detroit era of the Justice League of America, but at least it comes with Vixen and Martian Manhunter victorious! As fitting a conclusion as possible to an obvious house-cleaning for the impending and iconic "International" re-launch.

This is another one of the issues I would've been very disappointed not to find time for. We spent a lot of the past year revisiting this period of DC Comics, in particular the concurrent mini-series Legends. I talked about this particular issue during the Vixen Hero of the Week - and here it is!

Justice League of America #261 purports to be "Chapter 21" of the Legends saga, but to even call it tangentially relevant to the main story would be very generous! If you were only reading the six issue Legends series, your final impression of the Detroit League would've come from their crushing defeat by Brimstone in Legends #2. Vibe and Steel are still alive, but you'd be forgiven for thinking they'd died buried beneath the rubble of Brimstone's rampage. 

For a series that will ultimately conclude with the assembly of the new Justice League -- (more star-studded than the last) -- it gets the job done. The focus of Legends is very much on the post-Crisis lay of the land, and the new mix of icons and acquisitions who'll be front and centre in DC's new era. There's very little time for romancing the outgoing B-league team, which makes the gratuitous "Chapter 21" tie-in branding very well meaning, if a little misplaced.

Martian Manhunter is the only Detroit hero who makes his way to a new featured role in Legends. He's a shape-shifting stand-in for President Reagan, who earns the government's trust for mistakenly vilified superheroes. He will continue to lend quiet dignity and soul to the new Justice League, offering the only real through line for enduring fans.

It might've been nice if Vixen could've tagged along, but I wouldn't want to downplay the justifiable unpopularity of the Detroit characters at that time. Fortunately, Vixen's newfound precarious existence, and the hard edge gained in this final JLA story, made her well suited to joining the other team that spun out of Legends: The Suicide Squad!

Her admission to The Squad strikes me as a pretty canny use of the character. It has a nice sense of symmetry: a diverging fork in the road for the final two Leaguers left standing at the end of Volume 1. It also allowed for further exploration and definition of a broken character. When the two teams meet and fight in Suicide Squad #13, there's a great moment of Martian Manhunter and Vixen quietly sharing a tender embrace -- much as they did at the end of today's feature fight. A sentimentality that's appreciated in both examples.

Of course, even JLA #261 was hastened to sell the 'New era of greatness for The Justice League' coming the following month! That iconic Kevin Maguire cover sure does a good job of pitching it, as well. It's tough for Gypsy and Vibe to make much of an impression when you've got Batman, Captain Marvel, Doctor Fate, Black Canary and Green Lantern scowling at you!

Thirty years later, I'm still pretty sold! By some bizarre twist of fate, the culture is in a place where the Detroit League has actually found a loyal audience on television! I'd like to say that's a good thing, but it tends to say more about how mediocre superhero TV is. With a less than impressive movie version on its way, you're reminded how it feels to long for the JLA done right!

There is definitely worthwhile material to be found in this period of the Justice League -- today's feature issue being one of the fine examples. That said, it could never be considered any kind of adequate standard for what the concept should be. The League doesn't always need to be the "Big Seven", but the best versions will always be hung on a cast of senior most iconic heroes, working toward an informed higher goal, and a greater good for humanity.

It's hard to know with any faith what really matters to DC Comics in 2017, but I'll sign-off with a warm thought. Just as Martian Manhunter and Vixen were able to share a moment built on the importance of their shared history, we can do the same. Knowing that these characters were part of a pretty great issue!

If you'd like to share more moments from Justice League of America, or any of the characters mentioned in this article, be sure to follow links provided for your convenience! You can sharpen your focus by targeting past features by publisher, series and issue in the Secret Archives Index!

If you like what you see, be sure to hit the G+1 button located just South of this article's text. Be sure to tell your friends all about the wonderful world of Secret Wars on Infinite Earths while you're at it. Every bit helps keep the wars infinite!

Winners: Vixen and Martian Manhunter
#22 (+10) Martian Manhunter
#115 (+231) Vixen [+5 kills]
#812 (new) Professor Ivo

Monday, December 05, 2016

Real Name: Carol Danvers
First Appearance: Marvel Super-Heroes #13 (March, 1968)
Fight Club Ranking: #76

Featured Fights:
- vs SECRET AVENGERS: Civil War #3 (Sep 2006)
- vs SECRET AVENGERS: New Avengers #36 (Jan 2008)
- vs THE HOOD & DORMAMMU: New Avengers #54 (Aug 2009)
- vs LUKE CAGE: New Avengers #2 (Sep 2010)

If I'm perfectly honest, Captain Marvel (aka; Ms. Marvel, aka; Warbird) isn't a character who's ever done much for me. As a superhero, she makes a lot of sense. I like the lineage from the dead Captain Marvel. The idea of an Avenger on active military service gives her something a lot of Marvel's free-wheeling vigilante heroes don't have. Unfortunately, those same hooks that give her an interesting identity, also tend to make her a better utility character for a story - not a lead. Far from Marvel's answer to Wonder Woman, most of the brushes I've had with Ms. Marvel have been pretty boring.

Something that does a whole lot for me, however, and might just give Ms. Marvel a boost on the path to becoming a legitimate Marvel Entertainment icon, is the announcement of Marvel versus Capcom: Infinite!

The debut trailer shown at PlayStation Experience made rumor reality - believers of sceptics. The fourth core installment in the gaming crossover franchise started the fight with Ryu & Mega Man on the Capcom side, Iron Man and Carol Danvers representing Marvel. An extended trailer also unveils Lilith (Darkstalkers) and Captain America.

Ms. Marvel is the most surprising of the six characters revealed so far, but given reports the game will focus mostly on Marvel's film and entertainment properties, it's easy to understand the choice. Brie Larson is already lined up to star in a Captain Marvel movie slated for a tentative 2019 release.

Admittedly, the film focus isn't the most exciting way to start expectations for a fourth game. Seeing comic book characters come to life has always been one of the great appeals of these games. Capcom's renderings of four colour costumes were superb in the 2D era. Recreations of movie designs - a little too mundane to match the manic, energetic, epilepsy inducing splendor of gameplay.

It's a little early to be jumping to conclusions about the game's minutiae/ The real alarm is the fate of characters currently operating outside the Marvel Entertainment license.

Spider-man should be safe, both as Marvel's most major mascot, and through the agreement with Sony that allowed Tom Holland to crossover into the Avengers films as the web-slinger. It'll be surprising if Miles Morales doesn't factor in somehow, as well. MvC3 characters like Wolverine, Deadpool, Dr. Doom, Magneto, Phoenix, Storm, X-23, Sentinel, Super-Skrull and Galactus are all in danger of hitting the scrapheap (in descending order), though. That also means no country for discarded past heroes like Cyclops and Cable, or eternally overlooked heroes like the Fantastic Four!

This extends the challenge of keeping things fresh, given Marvel vs Capcom 3 already introduced sought after heroes like Iron Fist, Dr. Strange, Hawkeye, Ghost Rider, Nova, MODOK and Taskmaster!

I'd like to see some of those returning, with a variety of characters available to try to fill the void of the departing stalwarts. There are an abundance of unused martial artists still at Marvel's disposal: Black Panther, Daredevil, Shang-Chi, Black Widow, Winter Soldier, Blade, Elektra, Bullseye and even Kingpin all interesting compliments to Iron Fist. With all that Defenders love, Luke Cage should finally make the cut, an adequate replacement for the likes of She-Hulk.

We'll probably get more Guardians of the Galaxy joining Rocket: Groot, Star-Lord, Gamora, Nebula and Drax all obvious choices. If they actually dare to cut Wolverine, I could see Drax playing a style similar to his. A comic inspired Ronan would make up for the disappointing movie version. Thanos seems like a no brainer -- although it looks like a Capcom infused version of Ultron might be the big bad, rather than the mad Titan.

If Ultron's the bad guy, Vision could be a natural addition in comic or movie fashion. Thinking along those lines there are winged heroes like Falcon or the upcoming Vulture, who could be fun. Ant-Man is a novelty fitting Capcom's expert gameplay. Quicksilver might be fun for speed. Scarlet Witch might pick up the slack for departing X-Men like Phoenix and Storm. Shocker would make me happy, as well -- especially a comic accurate version, rather than the movie.

Indeed, the Marvel side of the equation will be the most intriguing. As a notorious Street Fighter fan, I'll be hoping Capcom pulls some of the favourites who didn't make Street Fighter V (ie; Sagat). I wouldn't mind seeing some Muscle Bombers in there, as well.

There are a lot of other heroes I'd like to see, but there's plenty more time for speculation. In the mean time, bask in the glory of the extended trailer [embedded above], and await more Ms. Marvel!

Friday, December 02, 2016

To Fight The Unbeatable Foe! (Marvel)
Amazing Spider-man #230 When: July 1982
Why: Roger Stern How: John Romita Jr

The Story So Far...
When Madame Web had a vision of her own impending death -- Spider-man was the only hope in surviving the terrifying ordeal!

It was all a plot was hatched by Black Tom Cassidy and Juggernaut, who hoped the seer's powers of premonition could help them stay one step ahead of the uncanny X-Men!

Much to his chagrin, the scheme sees the web-slinger in the path of the unstoppable Juggernaut! Removing Madame Web from her chair threatened her life, and led the Juggernaut to abandon his mission. Spidey wasn't about to let the villain simply walk away, though!

Their first brawl across the city ended in stalemate, but now the wall-crawler has picked up the chase, leading him to a final showdown with the unbeatable foe! With the docks in sight, Juggernaut is meters from escape -- will he evade the amazing Spider-man? The classic confrontation concludes here!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Juggernaut 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Spider-man 5 (Professor)
Speed: Spider-man 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Juggernaut 7 (Invincible)
Agility: Spider-man 5 (Cat-Like)
Fighting: Draw 3 (Street Wise)
Energy: Spider-man 2 (Projectiles)

Time to pick up the tab on an unresolved epic! We first tackled this classic battle back in January - surprised to find not one continuous brawl, but rather a terrific two-parter!

The collapse of a building ended their first skirmish in a stalemate, but Spider-man is back on the hunt for the unbeatable foe!

The villain in question is of course: Juggernaut. By reputation, he's known to be unstoppable -- but the profile we've built up over the last twelve months tells a very different story! In fact, in Unlimited Access #1 we saw Spidey himself team with Wonder Woman to best a crossover tag team of Juggernaut & Mantis!

That wasn't the only definitive defeat we documented in 2016. Juggernaut was also stopped by two more team-ups: Hulk & Doctor Strange [Marvel Adventures #14], and Iron Man, Thor & Luke Cage [Thunderbolts #150]. Evidence that ol' Juggernaut may not be quite as unstoppable as you'd be led to believe.

Does that spell victory for the wall crawler? Well, not just yet...

Juggernaut has improved his Fight Club ranking from #330 in January, to his current ranking of #43! You don't make those kinds of gains on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths unless you've earned some wins - and we've seen some big ones!

Juggy smacked around Captain Britain on Cap's home turf [Excalibur #3], gave Captain Marvel Jr a serious clobbering [Unlimited Access #3], and fatally felled Doctor Strange and Magneto in a couple of classic parallel universe battles! He also had a run-in with Spidey's shadowy equivalent Deadpool, which ended in an inconclusive tie with Juggernaut literally on fire, and ready to crush the merc' with a mouth [Deadpool: Sins of the Past #2]!

When last we left today's opponents, Spidey was pulling himself from the wreckage of a fallen building. Juggernaut was nowhere to be seen -- effortlessly escaping the rubble to continue his unstoppable march. A clear indicator of the disparity in damage the pair suffered!

So many of the signs point toward Juggernaut being too powerful for the web slinger to stop, but hope springs eternal. Spider-man has found ways to earn wins against some powerful opposition: Rhino, Venom, CarnageScorpionGrey Gargoyle, Man-Ape. In Marvel Treasury Edition #25, we even saw how his speed and agility could allow him to face down the Hulk - and survive!

History: Spider-man (1-0-1)
The Tape: Spider-man Ranking: Spider-man (#2)

What Went Down...
In hot pursuit of his prey, Spider-man finally catches up with the Juggernaut as he makes a steady line for the docks. The convergence of destinies comes with the sudden revelation that Spidey's fresh out of web-fluid!

The web-slinger tumbles out of the air but makes a graceful landing on top of a gasoline truck! The driver's none too pleased, but is persuaded to leave the hero be when spider-strength does some creative rearranging of a hostile crowbar.

Intent on stopping the villain before he leaves Manhattan island - Spidey jumps behind the wheel of the tanker and plots a course for Juggernaut!

Spider-man gets his foe's attention by honking the horn and wedges the accelerator to the floor! An empty construction site will be the stage for the ultimate battle between unstoppable force and immovable object!

Unafraid, Juggernaut faces the speeding truck with steely determination. Man and machine collide head-on -- igniting into a massive gasoline explosion!

Spider-man watches the blaze from the safety of a shield of girders, still subject to the intense heat. He dares presume the fireball incinerated Juggernaut instantly, but soon comes a dark shadow from within the flame in dispute.

Engulfed in flames - Juggernaut walks out of the fire completely unfazed! A well positioned fire hydrant topples before the heat and lumbering mass of the unstoppable Juggernaut - spewing a mighty torrent of water onto the site.

Juggernaut is literally steaming as he sets his sights on Spider-man and marks him for death! A massive clubbing fist attempts to make the threat reality. It's all Spider-man can do to leap clear of the blow, leaving those steel construction girders to take more damage!

Finding an offense to be the best defense - Spidey vaults over his hulking foe and clings to his still steaming back. His plan is to remove Juggernaut's helmet, but it just so happens it's been laser welded it shut.

Revisiting old tactics, Juggernaut lumbers in the direction of a constructed brick wall. Not wanting to be slammed through it - Spidey covers the eye holes on the immovable helmet. The tactic sends Juggernaut into a literal blind rage!

Giant hands rip at Spider-man's back, but they can't gain purchase enough to pull him off! Spidey's costume tears, but the wall-crawler doubles down on his obscuring hold. He wraps his limbs around Juggernaut's massive body and does his best to absorb the blows!

Juggernaut has no idea he's wandered into the middle of a recently poured foundation! As the sinking feeling becomes clear and the wet cement reaches Juggernaut's chest -- Spider-man summons the strength to leap clear!

Furiously the Juggernaut swats at the sea of cement, but in liquid form the substance shifts around his every blow! Poured forty feet thick at proximity to the river, the gradually hardening foundation sucks him down like quicksand!

Shouting bashfully all the way, Juggernaut slowly disappears beneath the bog. Against all odds - Spider-man found the means to stop the Juggernaut!

The Hammer...
So there it is! After a false start in our earlier spotlight, we come to an exciting conclusion: Spider-man victorious against Juggernaut!

Some may quibble semantics over what it means to win a fight. The rules of pin fall, submission, or count out immediately spring to mind in response. In this instance, Spidey tactically subdued his opponent: a win by any other name!

Of course, it is only a temporary defeat for Juggernaut.
Whether the concrete hardens, or remains soft, he will eventually find his way out of the quagmire. In fact, we know this quite specifically, because we've seen Juggy taking out his frustrations after the fact, when he fought Colossus in Uncanny X-Men #183!

A sense of consequence is one of the things I like most about Juggernaut's appearances in the eighties. Amazing Spider-man #230 is part of a sequence of events that leads Juggernaut into the barroom brawl with Colossus, a rematch against Spider-man & The X-Men both, a team-up against Nimrod, a trip to Muir Island, more fighting with the X-Men, incarceration in Britain, and a fight with Captain Britain (and Excalibur) we featured earlier this year.

None of it is too dense, or obliquely dependent on reading all the issues. There's just a nice consistency to Juggernaut's appearances throughout the decade. Read in succession, it's almost like discovering a separate series away from the pages of Uncanny X-Men and the like. Rewarding for fans - but not necessary to appreciate the issues as they're presented.

Delving into stories and milestones like these has been one of the joys of returning to Secret Wars on Infinite Earths this year. As has picking up the tab on a well known brawler like Juggernaut!

A perennial powerhouse of the Marvel Universe: Juggernaut has always been a popularly sought after character on the site. The classic and curious battles we've featured over the last twelve months have helped elevate him from a site ranking of #761 - to the Top 50! A much more fitting data sample.

There are still many more battles to observe, and I hope we'll be able to get to them all. I recently discovered the joys of late nineties issues of Spider-man, where John Romita Jr revisited this classic rivalry, among others. I think we also have some unfinished business with the Hulk!

In the mean time, take advantage of links included throughout this post for your convenience to discover more from your favourite characters, creators, or series. Check out the Issue Index to dive deeper into all previous entries into the Secret Wars on Infinite Earths!

If you'd like to read this issue for yourself - check out the collected edition via Amazon link provided [right].

If you like what you see on this, or any other entry, be sure to scroll the bottom and hit that G+1 button, or just share the link with your friends! Every little bit helps keep the fight infinite!

Winner: Spider-man
#2 (--) Spider-man
#43 (--) Juggernaut