Friday, June 22, 2018

Down Among The Dead Men: Part 3 of 4 (Marvel)
Marvel Knights: Spider-man #3 When: August 2004 Why: Mark Millar How: Terry Dodson & Rachel Dodson

The Story So Far...
The dual identities of Peter Parker and Spider-man have collided in the worst possible way! The nightmare began with his Uncle Ben's tombstone defaced. Peter soon received a call confirming the worst - that a malicious element has learned his secret identity!

With Aunt May missing, Spider-man begins a frantic chase to find the culprit and rescue his family! Unable to find assistance from his fellow heroes, he finds an unlikely lead from the returning mob boss: The Owl! He points Spidey in the direction of his old enemies Electro and Vulture!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Spider-man 5 (Super-Human)
Intelligence: Spider-man 5 (Professor)
Speed: Spider-man 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Draw 5 (Marathoner)
Agility: Spider-man 5 (Cat-Like)
Fighting: Draw 3 (Street Wise)
Energy: Electro 6 (Mass Destruction)
Total: Spider-man 29 (Metahuman)

Time for a recharge and what better way to do it than by pitting Spider-man against one of his most electrifying lethal foes?

Electro was once the struggling electrician Max Dillon -- until a freak accident transformed him into a human capacitor! Now he can drain, store, and generate electrical energy to be utilized through a variety of malicious methods!

His most common attacks are simple arcs or bolts of electricity. His charge can reach significantly high voltage, more than capable of electrocuting a normal human being. He can also create fields of charge to manipulate metals, ignite explosive materials, and even levitate and glide.

Despite being a stalwart classic of the Marvel Universe, we haven't seen a lot of Electro on The Comic Book Fight Club! He nearly spoiled Christmas in the 1992 Holiday Special, but Spidey was able to kayo him with a giant star ornament! He was also back causing trouble in Marvel Knights: Spider-man #11 as part of the Sinister Twelve. He was seen maliciously zapping Black Cat, before he was swiftly neutralized by Mister Fantastic and Invisible Woman!

Electro's criminal career is replete with defeats, largely due to his tendency to rely on firepower, rather than tactics. Periodically he receives a helping hand to super-charge his powers, or apply a superior strategy, which can yield results.

The criminal fraternity may just be one of Electro's greatest strengths, and in today's fight, he's out on the town with his old pal Vulture! We missed out on seeing more from him around this time last year, but we'll see if his assistance makes any difference to Electro's chances today!

History is rarely on Electro or Vulture's side, but you don't stick at the super-villain game this long without having a little success. Will this be the one that puts Spidey down for the count? Let's go ahead and find out!

History: Spider-man (2-0-0)
The Tape: Electro & Vulture Ranking: Spider-man (#2)

What Went Down...
Electro opens the door to find the spider's trap waiting to ensnare him! He asks his heroic nemesis to grant two minutes grace for his female acquaintance to clear the area, but Spidey's hip to the phony concern!

With the proportionate speed and agility of an arachnid - Spidey leaps clear of Electro's bolts and delivers a swift right-hand to his unmasked foe!

The blow sends them spilling into the hallway, where Adrian Toomes makes a break for a nearby window with a briefcase in hand! Despite a lack of flightsuit, the trench coated Vulture smashes through the window for an aerial escape -- but Spidey is able to snare the case with a jet of web!

Electro reacts to the loss of funds with a massive blast of electricity that sends Spider-man hurtling from the exploding building in a plume of smoke!

A levitating Toomes delivers the bad news: Their twenty million dollars is gone - scattered to the winds! Suited up for action, Electro instructs Vulture to go get his wings and join him in dismantling Spider-man for costing them their fortune.

Some slick acrobatics and conductive stationary cars help Spidey avoid wild bolts of charge from Electro! He bounces back, leaping onto an idle taxi to deliver a slobber-displacing left hook!

The punch is a momentary distraction. Electro rolls with it and fires back with raw power! Electricity pulses through Spider-man's contorting body! He cries out in agony - throwing his leg at Electro's chest with desperate intent!

The aggressive strike surprises Electro with pain. The spark of his electric energy launches Spidey vertically into the rain-filled sky! A momentary reprieve as Electro's charge fills the street and starts metal shrapnel levitating!

Spidey leaps and contorts to navigate the hail of electrically-charged metal flung into the street! He rips the door off a nearby car to use as a shield, and orders Electro to leave bystanders out of it. Enraged by his losses - Electro lashes out by igniting the car's fuel! It explodes right in front of Spidey!

Fire fills the street and cars rise into the air like toys! Ionized metal an electric suggestion from Doctor Octopus. Electro walks through the fire and brings the evening traffic slamming down on top of a still stunned Spider-man!

Amidst the carnage of twisted metal and exploding gas tanks - Electro gets cocky enough to call Vulture. While he does, a notably battle-damaged Spidey webs across the street and launches himself at his old enemy!

Electro doesn't see it coming as Spider-man rush tackles him from behind! They go smashing into a nearby building, where Spidey just focuses on continuing to hit him! Wild and vicious lefts until a massive finishing uppercut!

Blood trickles from Electro's nose, but the energized villain still crackles with energy. He prepares to flash fry his wild swinging nemesis - until he notices the sign on the wall: Gas & Propane. This time the explosion comes unintentionally!

Both a tattered mess lying in open air. Electro appears the worse for wear, lying amidst the rubble, when Spidey hunches over him to search for answers!

The wall-crawler squats over the exhausted villain and clutches at his suit, but it's no good. Electro and Vulture had nothing to do with May Parker's kidnapping. The Owl played him. The realization leaves Spidey open to one last jolt of electricity! The pooling rain around them the perfect conductor!

Spidey's broken and battered body is blasted from the open rooftop of the gas building. His mind wanders, reviewing the predicament as his limp body hurtles toward the street below. He knows he needs to sling a web - but nothing comes.

The fallen hero smashes into a police car arriving on the scene. The windshield cracks before his body bounces off into a puddle. An ambulance is called, but the threat to Peter Parker is far from over...

The Hammer...
A shocking result! The visual victory appeared to belong to Electro, but under deeper scrutiny, both hero and villain shared a significant amount of damage! Spider-man may've taken a plunge from a building, but they're both on a trip to the emergency room by issue's end -- or at least, that's the plan...

In the next issue: it becomes apparent The Owl's men have collected Electro to punish him for stealing the twenty million dollars. It's a fate he shares with Vulture, who was seen briefly during today's featured fight as his absconding accomplice. That's a story for another day, though...

I was inspired to return to Marvel Knights: Spider-man by last week's Sony demo at E3. Spider-man for the PlayStation 4 seems to be pursuing a confused aesthetic similar to Homecoming, which maintains the utter implausibility of super-powered villains, but little of the joy of iconic fantastical costuming.

Even I can acknowledge yellow & green aren't exactly the go-to colors of electricity. Not that it matters. Hollywood never really got to grips with the whole super-hero deal any way. It was either gaudy dayglow, or drab pleather. Somewhere between these extremes of yesteryear and today lies the happy medium. Pleasing fantasy, and good taste. Occasionally we get both, but these days Marvel Entertainment is selling the classics as short as anyone else.

Electro's costume has always been one of the more challenging designs in three dimensional reality. It's iconic on the page, but the mask and lightning shaped protrusions aren't readily accepted outside of a Mexican pro wrestling ring.

It wasn't entirely surprisingly to see Electro's design addressed when Mark Millar collaborated with Terry and Rachel Dodson. The twelve issue run was ripe for comparison to what Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee did in Hush a year earlier. They'd had creative license with the iconic characters featured. So did team MK Spidey.

Writers of Millar's ilk enjoyed laying the boots in to second-tier villains from time to time. Somewhere in this very issue there's a gratuitous reference to "that loser" Paste Pot Pete. They all had their preferred whipping boys, but it was mostly in good fun. This was a time when the pleather misery of The Ultimates still seemed like a good idea. Fortunately, Marvel Knights: Spider-man was still classic Spidey at heart - even if it had some edge.

Rather than drastically modify Electro's unique look, the circumstances by which it exists were reevaluated. The end result: A slightly more tactile costume, with a mask that clings to his head because of movement, environment, and static electricity. A pleasantly natural in-fiction inspiration for embellishing a classic design. It's still basically the look you know and love, with the subtlety of not having jagged bits sticking off his face in every scene. Not that I really minded.

Spidey still voices the opinion of those who'd diss Electro's fashion sense, but he gets as good as he gives. We should all probably accept the bad guy's costumes as readily as we do the classic red & blue of Spider-man. And we do accept it, whether it has a sporting goods origin story, or not. That's what happens when aesthetic conceits have been established for some eighty years.

Terry Dodson does a great job of bringing the classic into the contemporary, with or without  the rubber souled boots, and costume seams that came into vogue at the time. His work is inky and rubbery and full of volume and energy.

Rachel Dodson's inks no doubt deserve a heaping of credit. Sometimes the black & whites look better than final pages! I like confident blacks and [Terry]'s pencils soak that ink up beautifully.

["Avalon's"] Ian Hannin handled colours on this issue, and deserves a parade for keeping them sumptuous and bold!

His representation of lighting and colour interactions is quite superb, lending a strong impression of reality to the iconic costumes live-action is so reluctant to recreate. Images bathed in blues and reds bring exploding cars and electricity bolts to life better than any big screen blockbuster! The entire art team does a great job of bringing an ominous evening rain to life.

Time and again I'm reminded that good old fashioned Spidey nourishes the soul.

This issue plays rough in ways that won't be comfortable for every fan of the classics, but it keeps a whole lot more than it throws away. Some of what it adds is kinda nice, too. We'll have to make time to talk about what they did with Vulture, but that'll have to wait for another time.

A mean spirit isn't such a bad thing for a villain. Electro feels like a bona fide threat throughout this issue's fight, even if it ends in stalemate. It's useful to re-charge villains from time to time. It keeps their value.  The big action of explosions and floating cars is the good bit of what we saw at E3.

If you're looking for more Marvel Knights Spider-man to nourish your soul, you can check out featured fights from issues #1 and #11! There's a whole lot more to discover by following character tags below, links in this post, or by diving into the Issue Index Archive for all previous featured fights!

Support the Secret Wars on Infinite Earths by sharing your favourite links with friends, or by discovering daily battles to like & share on Twitter and Facebook!

Go one step further by picking yourself up a collected edition containing today's featured fight! By using the convenient purchase link provided, Amazon will contribute to the war effort at no cost to you!

Winner: Draw
#2 (--) Spider-man
#856 (+18) Electro
#540 (+1) Vulture [+1 assist]

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The unstoppable Juggernaut is one of the big surprises coming out of the global release of Deadpool 2 - now in theatres! In last week's edition of Cover to Cover we looked at the wide array of heroes and villains appearing in the sequel film. This week we're doubling down on one of the X-Men's most powerful foes!

When you're as heavy as Juggernaut, you leave a noticeable path. By clicking the covers below, you'll be able to track a selection of Juggernaut's most famous fights and curious crossovers! He goes toe-to-toe with Deadpool, Colossus, Spider-man, Nimrod, Magneto, Doctor Strange, Luke Cage, and even DC's Superman, Wonder Woman, and the Teen Titans!

Monday, May 21, 2018

Real Name: Dr. Niles Caulder
First Appearance: My Greatest Adventure #80 (June, 1963)
Fight Club Ranking: #DNR

Featured Fights:
- Yet To Be Featured on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths.

Holy Animal-Mineral-Vegetable Man! Doom Patrol is officially next in line to join the ever-expanding television universe of DC Entertainment! Variety reports the thirteen-episode season will spin out of the DC Universe streaming service's upcoming Titans series, to debut in 2019.

You're probably going to hear a lot of the usual talk calling Doom Patrol knock-offs of the Fantastic Four or X-Men variety. Lord knows there are similarities! Stern, wheelchair bound genius (The Chief, Niles Caulder) marshals team of misfits to mentor after they're gifted with weird, body-altering abilities. A stretchy person (Elasti-Girl), a man who no longer feels human (Robotman), a guy who... sorta disappears (Negative Man/Woman)...

The comparisons are there to be made, but truth be told, Doom Patrol are a whole lot weirder than any of their supposed counterparts! Which is what I hope the series will be able to bring to life!

If you've been following casting updates, you may already know the show will spin out of Titans, which isn't the most encouraging starting point. Titans is pitching strong with an aesthetic more comic book than your average TV show, but spawning the Doom Patrol out of a mission from Cyborg sounds a little like the waterboy pitching plays to the senior team! Of course, Beast Boy made his debut in the pages of Doom Patrol, so there's at least a natural link.

Doom Patrol had a suitably quirky renaissance over the last couple of years when Gerard Way's curated line of Young Animal comics brought the book back in a mold inspired by Grant Morrison. Here's hoping the show can at least gravitate toward some of that template. If they're able to bring the weirder aspects of the comics to life, this one could overtake Supergirl as the show to watch!

I'm not counting on a homerun, but the DC Universe streaming service may yet be pitching closer to the die hard comics fan than most of their multimedia. I'm sure when something more substantial emerges we'll be back to talk about it in future editions of Hero of the Week!

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Friday, May 18, 2018

"... Death Be A Lady Tonight!" (Marvel)
Domino #2 When: February 1997
Why: Ben Raab How: David Perrin

The Story So Far...
Domino is a mutant mercenary with the power to make most outcomes fall in her favour, but on a security assignment to protect a man who predicts the future based on past influence, she just fell madly in love.

Years later, Domino returns to the scene of their romance to once again rescue Dr. Milo Thurman from the dark forces seeking to exploit him.

Cybernetic industrialist Donald Pierce seeks the keys to Thurman's brilliant mind, hoping to digitize his brain to control the process. It's a scheme that costs the Doctor his life, and leaves Domino's hanging in the balance as she's forced to contend with the cyborg defenses of Lady Deathstrike!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Lady Deathstrike 4 (Enhanced)
Intelligence: Domino 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Draw 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Lady Deathstrike 4 (Olympian)
Agility: Domino 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting: Draw 5 (Martial Arts)
Energy: Domino 4 (Arsenal)
Total: Domino 25 (Champion)

In New Mutants #98, the shape-shifting mercenary Copycat used skills acquired by imitating another to debut with a win against Deadpool! So just who is this crafty mutant mercenary? It's about time we got acquainted with the real deal!

Lady Deathstrike is her opponent -- a well known threat! Yuriko Oyama was the daughter of Lord Dark Wind: a Japanese industrialist involved in the criminal underworld. She killed her disgraced father and inherited his empire, leading the family's private army to an accidental conflict with Wolverine [Alpha Flight #34].

Defeated by the X-Man and his Alpha Flight ally, Vindicator; Deathstrike used her family fortune to transform herself into a living weapon capable of matching the metal-clawed mutant. As an unfeeling cyborg, Deathstrike pursued her debt of dishonor, suffering an even more brutal defeat in Uncanny X-Men #205.

Her vendetta with the highly-ranked Wolverine has left Lady Deathstrike winless on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths -- but don't be fooled! Her cyborg body is always ready to be rebuilt and upgraded! Her massive talons can cut through steel, and her strength, speed, and reflexes have been dramatically enhanced!

Domino will clearly have her work cut out for her! Fortunately, she has the mutant ability to tip the odds in her favour! Neena Thurman is extensively trained in hand-to-hand combat, firearms, and the art of war, but her greatest asset may be the ability to subconsciously influence the outcome of events!

The details of her "luck power" are up for debate, but on a basic level she can psionically affect her surroundings to incur beneficial results. These could be inflicting seemingly improbable bad luck on opponents, such as weapons failures or physical malfunction. She can also subconsciously make her own good luck on impulse by processing events and information at a subconscious level.

That knack for timing may've helped Copycat take down Deadpool. It may've also been a factor when Domino delivered the finishing blow to Iron Man when X-Force battled the armored Avenger in Contest of Champions II #1!

Lady Deathstrike should be able to endure Domino's usual weapons arsenal, and her claws always make close-quarters combat a risk. Cybernetic failsafes will be key to keeping her in the fight and pressing her advantage. Otherwise, they're susceptible to Domino's expert marksmanship, and ability to affect malfunction.

It's carve or be carved in this amoral mercenary match-up! Let's go!

What Went Down...

There's no time to think as Lady Deathstrike launches herself into the air! It's all Domino can do to drop to her back and a throw up a defensive fire!

The gunfire does the trick, igniting a sparking critical hit to Lady Deathstrike's shoulder. The damage gives Domino clearance to kick her enemy away. The cyborg is impressed, but undeterred. Self-repairing systems mean the wounds instantly begin to fix themselves. A healing factor for a machine!

Suddenly - a long arm, studded with metal, extends in the direction of Domino's throat! Robotic enhancements render Deathstrike's grip as strong as a vise!

As she contemplates the time it will take to deprive Domino's mutant brain of oxygen - it already conjures a contingency! Domino brandishes two thermite explosives and promises to take the cyborg with her, if necessary!

Insulted by the desperation gambit, Deathstrike swats the bombs away with her free hands. In a remarkable twist of fate - the explosive cartridges ricochet off the ceiling and floor, clattering their way to be triggered at Deathstrike's feet!

Both women aim to take advantage of Lady Deathstrike's claim to an indestructible body. The cyborg presumes it will allow her to survive the explosion that claims Domino's human flesh. Instead - it provides a shield!

As luck would have it, Domino positions herself perfectly to be blown clear by the blast! She remains relatively unscathed, while Lady Deathstrike disappears in a cloud of smoke and fire bellowing from a hole in the floor!

The Hammer...
Quite the lucky break for Domino! That is the benefit of mutant powers that ensure the pieces usually fall in your favour!

As you may suspect: Lady Deathstrike is down - but not out!

The explosion did some cosmetic damage to Deathstrike's cyborg body, but she's still lurking in the lower depths of the facility. Before the issue ends, she does her best impression of The Terminator - clawing her way back for Round 2! We'll do the same some time in the future to get the full story on the battle between Domino and Deathstrike.

We're still making up for starting the Lady Deathstrike file with the lackluster film version seen in X-Men 2. Kelly Hu's performance served its purpose, but was a far cry from the joys of the comic book character. Here's hoping German actress Zazie Beetz can overcome visual miscasting to make a memorable mark in this month's box office blockbuster - Deadpool 2.

The sequel delivers Domino as part of a merry band of mercenaries recruited by Deadpool to be his own personal super-team franchise: X-Force.

If you were here last week for our spotlight on the famous first mention of Domino in New Mutants #98 -- you know her history is with Deadpool 2's antagonist: Cable. You may also be aware that Cable is responsible for turning the New Mutants into X-Force, not Deadpool, who was hired to be hurt them.

If these differences between movie and comic book canon sound confusing, don't expect Domino's early appearances to provide much more clarity! As established in that same previous entry; Domino technically doesn't show up in the comics for another year, until X-Force #8 in 1992.

It sounds like typical early nineties convolution from the X-office - and to some extent it is - but I also kinda forgive it for being something else. New Mutants only had a few issues before delving into a world of paramilitary mutant activity in X-Force. Introducing a character who isn't who they seem to be fits right in with that Gi Joe-esque intrigue that set the concept apart from standard X-Men.

Other comics have pulled off the character-in-disguise motif, but often those are more about the character we already know. I'm thinking of Grant Morrison's (ultimately undone) Magneto as Xorn twist, or even Martian Manhunter's weird early nineties run as Bloodwynd [see; Superman #74]. In both instances, most of us just want to forget the whole thing, and move on with the beloved icon.

I'm going to do my best not to mention John Black in a move that could only expose my knowledge of daytime soap operas. Nobody needs that.

My point is, the Copycat/Domino fake-out, and Tolliver entanglement, kinda propelled the X-Force era forward. There's no denying Domino has become a lasting player as a result of those early stories, fulfilling a nice flavor niche in the Marvel Universe, and its mutant corner. It only took five years to star in her very own three-issue mini-series! Not bad!

Early X-Force also gave us Deadpool, too! Yay! It didn't give us Deadpool 2, though. You'll have to go to theatres for that, or wait for home release... Or just dive into the Secret Archive to check out all our previous featured fights indexed by publisher, series, and issue number! You can also find plenty more wonders by hitting links throughout posts, or check out this week's DP2 Cover to Cover!

Follow Secret Wars on Infinite Earths on Twitter and Facebook to get daily links to fights inspired by the topics of the day! A like, share, retweet, or comment is a fantastic way to join the fight and show your support!

Winner: Domino
#99 (+203) Domino
#893 (-4) Lady Deathstrike

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

How can the same thing happen to the same guy? Box office, baby! Box office! Deadpool is coming back to theatres, but this time he's bringing even more friends! Deadpool 2 will pit the merc' with a mouth against the time travelling mutant Cable! What better way to prepare for gratuitous violence than with a selection of classic comic book battles featuring the characters from the movie?

This edition of Cover To Cover is stacked to the gills with featured fights starring: Deadpool, Cable, Domino, Colossus, Bedlam, X-Men, X-Force, and Juggernaut! Just hit the covers below to dive straight into the action! You'll also find plenty of other heroes and villains not featured in the movies! Bonus!