Sunday, April 09, 2017

In the latest Hero of the Week we've been discussing the trials of introducing new creations into an established comic book universe. There's certainly no one way to ensure success! DC Comics spent the Silver Age and beyond proving there's life after first generation heroes, but Marvel's latest efforts to replace popular icons of the last fifty-some years have proven to be an exercise in self-defeat!

This edition of Cover to Cover is dedicated to some of the newer characters we've featured along the way. These creations were all introduced in the year 2000 or beyond! Were they successes, or failures? By clicking the covers below, you'll be able to reach your own conclusions!

These battles feature millennial heroes: Jessica Jones, The Sentry, Blue Beetle, The Hood, Larfleeze, Ghost Rider, Jack Staff, Fantomex, Brick, Extremis, Amadeus Cho, Elsa Bloodstone, The Gorgon, Arkillo, Genocide, Girder, Double Down, Fatman & Little Boy, Mas & Menos, Tiger's Beautiful Daughter, The Circus of Strange, and Super Young Team!

Friday, April 07, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy #25 When: June 2010 Why: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning How: Brad Walker

The Story So Far...

Back-to-back incursions of Annihilus and his Negative Zone Annihilation Wave, as well as Ultron's Phalanx, has left the fabric of space severely damaged and unstable!

With reality itself hanging precariously in the balance: the hero Star-Lord has taken it upon himself to form a new group of heroes known as The Guardians of the Galaxy! Together, they fight to protect the universe, and monitor the threat of dangerous anomalies!

This time the threat has come from one of their own! Succumbing to his evil half, Adam Warlock has become the dreaded Magus! The Guardians pursue him to the planet Sacrosanct, where his sinister scheme has employed The Universal Church of Truth -- but things are not all as they seem!

An illusion of Magus' defeat has masked his escape, tricking The Guardians into believing some of their most loved members have fallen. Worse still, The Church has been guarding a reanimation cocoon meant to return one of the universe's deadliest threats! With Sacrosanct in ruin, The Guardians arrive to discover a foe they hoped never to face: The Titan Thanos lives again!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Thanos 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Thanos 5 (Professor)
Speed: Gamora 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Thanos 7 (Unstoppable)
Agility: Groot 6 (Rubber)
Fighting: Drax 7 (Living Weapon)
Energy: Thanos 6 (Mass Destruction)
Total: Thanos 34 (Super)

Here on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths we use our own scientifically developed numerical scale to measure the typical powers & abilities of heroes and villains.
Each statistic on The Tape is assigned a moniker to help personify a broad reference for that level (ie; Intelligence 5 - Professor). For the most part, this system has served us well, but occasionally catchall references let us down...

Thanos may fall into our "Super Class" category, but history shows he is a threat on a cosmic scale! So grand are his dark designs against life that his plans are as likely to endanger worlds as they are the entirety of reality itself!

"The Mad Titan" is named for his birthplace on the moon of Saturn, where a colony of super-powered Eternals was known to settle. Deviant mutation gifted Thanos incredible powers at birth, but also a predisposition towards obsession with death. He amassed further power through strenuous augmentation to feed his desires for death and conquest. Eventually, he turned this power against his own people -- obliterating even his own mother with callous disregard!

So total is Thanos' devotion to death that when he met its personification he fell madly in love. Subsequent efforts to court Death as his mistress have led Thanos to genocidal extremes. His most famous exploit: forging The Infinity Gauntlet in order to reshape the universe -- including decimating half of all life!

We've only seen Thanos a few times on The Comic Book Fight Club, but each appearance has placed him in ominous company!

He sought to manipulate the newly bestowed powers of Kyle Rayner in Green Lantern/Silver Surfer, making a patsy out of Terrax in the process. When the Marvel and DC Universes collided in DC versus Marvel #4, he stood beside Darkseid against an all-star assembly of Avengers and The Justice League! When the two universes were briefly merged: Thanoseid created a nightmare vision of evil that vexed Thorion -- the godly fusion of Thor and Orion!

Despite this awesome level of cosmic might, Thanos is not quite inherently immortal. His Titanian origins grant him considerable durability and nigh eternal life, but it was only during a period when Death denied him entry into her dominion that he was truly unkillable. Indeed, for today's battle he has had to be resurrected from death inflicted by one of his opponents!

The Guardians of the Galaxy are: Star-Lord, Mantis, Moondragon, Gamora, Drax, Groot, Rocket Raccoon, Jack Flag and Bug, with Major Victory.

This rag tag group of heroes was brought together by Star-Lord in order to protect against the effects of fissures in space caused by Annihilation, and subsequent cosmic events.

Appropriately enough, it was in Annihilation #4 that Drax The Destroyer succeeded in fulfilling his life's goal to extinguish the life of Thanos! This makes Drax an obvious punch-hitter for The Guardians, whose only other physical power house is the Planet X "Flora Colossus" known as Groot.

Groot's regenerative and adaptive abilities make him a versatile contributor to the team's combat formations. Moondragon packs a hefty punch thanks to her high-level psionic capabilities, too. Thanos is highly resistant to mental attack, but her telekinetic powers offer strong physical opposition.

Barring environmental factors, the rest of the team can really only hope to provide support against a threat as dangerous as Thanos!

The Tape: Guardians of the Galaxy Ranking: Drax (#172)

What Went Down...
On the planet Sacrosanct: The Guardians of the Galaxy discover a world in ruin.

Rocket Raccoon's scanners can find no signs of the planet's once bustling population. Moondragon's telepathic mind probe has no better luck. The absence of life was the only clue they needed. The presence of an old adversary catches in Drax The Destroyer's throat like "ashes on the back of my throat".

An explosion draws the heroes towards danger -- and an unexpected reunion with old friends: Mantis, Gamora, Cosmo, and Major Victory! The pleasure is short lived. Rampaging right behind them is the source of the chaos: Thanos!

Fresh from a reanimation cocoon: The Mad Titan explodes through fire and ruin, blasting deadly beams of energy from his eyes and hands! The heroes can only run as the naked, snarling behemoth shatters the earth beneath their feet!

Mantis fills Star-Lord and Jack Flag in on previous attempts to contain the feral, recently returned Thanos. His resurrection seems to have been a reluctant one, which cost the lives of not only The Universal Church of Truth who reanimated him -- but also the hero Phyla-Vell.

Madness begets madness. In her grief, Moondragon turns to face the monster who killed her lover and has threatened so much of her life. Thanos greets her with mindless rage and more raw energy projections. She erects a telekinetic shield to defend herself, but his power is alarming in its scale!

Moondragon seeks mental reinforcement from Mantis or Cosmo, but is instead defended from giant clubbing fists by the shield of Captain America! Not by the soldier of distant past, but by a displaced future hero known as Major Victory!

A seemingly stunned Thanos pauses for just a moment as his massive hands begin to smolder. It seems hope is lost for the heroes, but Star-Lord, Rocket, Drax, Groot are there with guns blazing to give their friends time to retreat!

The hi-tech weapons succeed in stopping Thanos for a moment. When the dust settles: his feral rage returns -- expressed in a massive wave of cosmic energy!

The Guardians narrowly avoid certain death by ducking just beneath the power blast! Not all of them intend to shrink away from the deadly Titan, though! With little warning: Groot towers above the battlefield, swinging a piece of a destroyed building like a might club!

The structure smacks into Thanos, but fails to knock him down! The Titan fires back with a shot to Groot's humanoid trunk, but the Flora Colossus endures to bring his massive wooden fist slamming down into Thanos' naked back!

Any other foe would be down for the count, but from his hunched position The Mad Titan locks both hands together to deliver an all mighty, cosmically charged uppercut that knocks Groot off his feet!

While Rocket tends to Groot, who's down for the count; Gamora theorizes that Thanos has actually reclaimed true invincibility! Before The Guardians arrived, her Godslayer sword was broken against his skin! Drax disregards the story.

The Destroyer launches a frontal assault against his arch-nemesis! He absorbs untold energies fired at his back, averting Thanos' gaze with a right hand that closes one of his energy spewing eyes!

With options fast dwindling, Star-Lord assesses the situation with Mantis, and reaches a dire conclusion. While Jack Flag and Bug run distraction to try to save their falling comrades -- Peter Quill strolls casually into the path of danger!

Star-Lord's cavalier attitude makes more sense when he produces the cracked, but still gleaming hope of a Cosmic Cube!

Its light breaks through Thanos' mindless rage, drawing the purple beast toward its familiar power. It was given to Peter Quill by Kang The Conquere. A trump card in the battle against the threat of Magus. It was broken and almost spent, but it still has one last charge for defeating Thanos!

The Cosmic Cube unleashes its final power in an awesome burst of blinding light! When it ceases: The Mad Titan lies smoking in the dirt - alive, but defeated! In a barely conscious state, he finally mutters his first ominous words: "You... Forced Me... To live again... For that... E-Everything... D-Dies..."

The Hammer...
From the clutches of defeat escapes Star-Lord thanks to the awesome might of the Cosmic Cube!

Though none of the other Guardians of the Galaxy could ensure victory themselves, they all played a valid part. For that, they each receive an assist stat. Find out what that means for their positions on the Fight Club Rankings at the bottom of this post!

We have a lot of significant debuting characters in today's featured fight! The Guardians came to peak significance during our dark years, emerging in their current form from the cosmic revival initiated by 2006's Annihilation. There were a few years of overlap, but we just never got around to them. Until now!

This second volume of the series launched in 2008. It redefined Guardians of the Galaxy for a whole new generation, whilst building towards the worldwide licensing phenomenon brought about by their first theatrical outing in 2014!

The majority of these characters existed for many years before assembling as part of the new team. Some were major characters as recently as the nineties, but others had to be plucked from relative obscurity. Star-Lord and Rocket Raccoon might be fan-favourites today, but it wasn't that long ago that few even knew who they were, let alone wanted to hear more about them!

From today's perspective, it's strange to think the cosmic wings of the Marvel Universe had ever fallen out of favour. Yet, even a former headlining hero like Silver Surfer was struggling for sustained relevance in Marvel's publishing line-up of the 2000s!

Peter David's work sustained an unlikely Captain Marvel run with Genis-Vel in the title role for two years. Thanos was a steady presence in a variety of series as well, including solo stories, and Marvel's The End. Though acclaimed and/or beloved, these were exceptions drifting to the margins as Marvel Knights pushed an urban renaissance through series like Daredevil, and the company started bifurcating into the stripped down, movie inspired Ultimate line.

The first character to really get a sniff at a revival was Drax The Destroyer in 2005. A four issue mini-series introduced his transformation from the green & purple Hulk wannabe of Jim Starlin Infinity events -- to a red-tattooed Vin Diesel knock-off, seemingly inspired by Pitch Black.

When it came time to launch the all-out Marvel cosmic revival shortly after Drax; the publisher used the same mini-series format to lend heft to their binding Annihilation event. Tie-in titles starred well known cosmic characters of long time notoriety: Nova, Super-Skrull, Ronan The Accuser, and Silver Surfer.

The likes of Peter Quill, Gamora, and even Drax and Thanos, were reserved for the core six issue Annihilation series. They weren't exactly afterthoughts, but their brief appearances were littered amidst the chaos, sharing limited pages with the tie-in stars, other characters, and big villain Annihilus. Certainly a far cry from the starring line-ups of 2017!

The apparent death of Thanos in Annihilation #4 was a shocking moment. It removed one of Marvel's biggest cosmic players, drawing a line in the sand between the new Annihilation era of Marvel cosmic -- and the colourful excesses of The Infinity Gauntlet, and its subsequent sagas.

The Mad Titan had mellowed over the years, fashioned into a less malicious cosmic philosopher. His return in 2010 began a revivification of the classic villain, now one of Marvel's top bad guys thanks a 2012 post-credits teaser in the film Avengers. With a few seconds of purple sneer, Thanos was elevated to top tier status, forecasting an arrival that won't hit cinemas until May, 2018!

May 5th, 2017 will see the theatrical release of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. We're getting ready for the cosmic adventure a month early, dedicating all featured fights in April to the heroes and villains of space!

We've started the action with an epic of cosmic proportions! If you'd like to read the battle and preceding issues for yourself, use the Amazon purchase link provided to get the collected edition! Doing so helps support the site at no extra cost to you!

If you want to read about more exciting cosmic battles, be sure to follow links throughout this post (or below), or dive into the Secret Archive to reference hundreds of past features by publisher, series & issue! You can also follow on Facebook and Twitter to like & share daily links inspired by the fight of the day! A galaxy of comic book combat to suit all your needs!

Winner: Star-Lord (w/ Guardians of the Galaxy)
#306 (new) Star-Lord
#352 (-44) Thanos
#140 (+32) Drax [+1 assist]
#518 (new) Groot [+1 assist]
#519 (new) Major Victory (Vance Astro) [+1 assist]
#520 (new) Rocket Raccoon [+1 assist]
#521 (new) Bug [+1 assist]
#522 (new) Mantis [+1 assist]
#523 (new) Gamora [+1 assist]
#539 (+131) Moondragon [+1 assist]
#540 (+46) Jack Flag [+1 assist]

Monday, April 03, 2017

Real Name: Riri Williams
First Appearance: Invincible Iron Man #7 (May, 2016)
Fight Club Ranking: #DNR

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

Controversy has gripped Marvel Comics this week amidst claims "diversity" is killing comic book sales. Marvel VP of Sales, David Gabriel, made the reference during an interview with ICv2, where isolated quotes dinged female super-heroines in particular, to the sizzle of headlines everywhere.

In truth, the references were more broadly damning, yet simultaneously far less salacious when fully unpacked. In full, the most popularly sourced quote sweeps a general survey of the market, without actually damning specific content: "What we heard was that people didn't want any more diversity. They didn't want female characters out there. That's what we heard, whether we believe that or not. I don't know that that's really true, but that's what we saw in sales."

Clearly conscious of the impending firestorm, Gabriel elaborated: "We saw the sales of any character that was diverse, any character that was new, our female characters, anything that was not a core Marvel character, people were turning their nose up against. That was difficult for us because we had a lot of fresh, new, exciting ideas that we were trying to get out and nothing new really worked."

Long time comics readers won't be surprised.

We stopped short of predicting this outcome last July, while discussing the Victor Von Doom half of Marvel's two-prong Iron Man brand relaunch. There, in a nutshell, exists one of Marvel's biggest obstacles to being taken seriously when it comes to "diversity". The "New Coke" of comic books, selling ill fated formula with a name that already means something else to consumers.

Last year, we didn't yet have a superhero identity for today's Hero of the Week, much less the circumstances of how she would come to be one of two replacements for the Iron Man that fans know and love. The presumption that this MIT whiz kid would actually go by the moniker "Iron Man" went unchallenged, even if an eventual name change was inevitable. Ironheart put a much needed name to the new face, but couldn't rescue Marvel from their growing, self-imposed identity crisis.

Riri Williams was sold as an iconic image before she was an actual comic book character. TIME boldly proclaimed in one headline, "Marvel's New Iron Man Is a Black Woman". A thundering contradiction directed at American social conscience and deeply cynical commerce.

Indeed, gender and racial politics has been in Marvel (and DC)'s press release arsenal for around a decade now. Many of their past headlines have addressed characters and concepts forgotten, or relegated, after just a short period of investment. Death and resurrection: the other well known tools for supplying news outlets with ready-made content, and eye-grabbing headlines. (Or is that eye-rolling?)

In 2006, BBC News told the world that Spider-man's secret identity of Peter Parker was about to be exposed in Civil War. A year later, ABC News covered the impending assassination of Captain America. Not about to be outdone by the competition: DC made sure BBC and ABC got hot under the collar over the announcement of their starring lesbian hero: Batwoman.

It's tough to deny the benefit this mainstream coverage had on interest, sales, and foot traffic to comic book stores a decade ago. The benefits can still be seen in Marvel's various returns to Civil War, both in the loosely adapted big screen version (Captain America: Civil War) and 2016 sequel comic, as well as a litany of references in comics, merchandise, and multimedia.

Of course, comics readers know Peter Parker's secret identity was quickly tucked back in. Captain America never actually died: bumming around in time, before returning in Reborn (only to flirt with faux death a few more times). Batwoman eventually took a starring role in Detective Comics, but was shunted back into obscurity when Batman's version of the deadman's time warp was over.

It's the nature of the medium's continuing serial to temporarily alter the state of heroes before returning them to a version of the well-known icon. It's a staple of the genre, and there's nothing wrong with it. Unless, of course, you've been peddling a "change the status quo forever" byline for ten long years, extending the length of these temporary stays a few years in order to sustain their reality, simultaneously distancing yourself from your core readership, while also eroding the trust of new markets. It's a strategy of short-term excess comparable to the collector boom chromium covers of the 1990s, which inevitably thrive at the long-term expense of your once trusted tent poles.

These tent-poles have been under attack for a long time now through a careful cultivation of irrelevance. Every hero exists in multiple iterations, every team filled with crossover membership. In 2017, the mantra of comics seems to be nothing really matters enough to take solid form. It's little wonder a wave of replacement heroes, including Riri Williams, have been negatively impacted as a result. Readers have good reason to feel jaded.

These stunts, and the courting of headlines, might be justified by the supposed competition of other popular mediums: video games, streaming, etc. That forgets that those mediums still can't equal the one unique sales pitch that the comics publisher has been working so hard to avoid: history.

None of this criticism should ever be perceived as directed towards so-called "diversity".

It's a crying shame that Marvel's indelicate approach could ever inadvertently cast "diversity" as the villain. One would argue the negative in David Gabriel's quotes are the harm Marvel has done by taking a defeatist approach to creating new characters. Theirs is a predicament caused by a great many small mistakes, of which the sweeping substitution of iconic mainstays is just the latest. The backstory, or on-the-page coloring of new characters, simply isn't the problem.

The nature of the super-hero is to do good for all. Malice towards those of different skin tone, gender, or minority is antithetical to this medium many of us love. The ethos of the hero is to defend the vulnerable, and protect the innocent. In this respect, they are universal examples, no matter how they may differ from you, or I. My personal beliefs aren't really part of this article, but in my own heart, I hope perceiving equality in other human beings isn't aspirational. It doesn't bare second thought.

Indeed, I'm not all together turned off by Marvel's new characters. If you were here last year, you know I found a particular fondness for Robbie Reyes - the All-New Ghost Rider. When I first started reading about the coming of Riri Williams, there were indeed aspects that piqued by interest even if the first impression wasn't strong as Ghost Rder's.

When it became clear the naturally gifted MIT student would develop her own suit of hi-tech armor before graduating to the red and gold of Tony Stark - an image began to form. I saw something less typical. Bigger in design, more raw in palette. Something more akin to the mech suits of Japanese series like Patlabor or AD Police. I pictured armor that was grey, or maybe off-green. Large, squared sections to house the mechanics of the human body.

It was a vivid image informed by what little we knew of the new character, and various cartoon and comic book reference points. Imagine my surprise when artwork finally started emerging showing the character in exactly that kind of design [pictured above]!

I really can't stress how similar what I had imagined - and what eventuated - actually are! Not in an effort to self-aggrandize, but to highlight that there is something about this character that evokes a truth that is unique in the Marvel Universe. A character who would inevitably reference Tony Stark and Iron Man, but never really needed the pressure of becoming him.

I can't help but notice that War Machine was unsubtly killed off right around the time Riri Williams was gearing up to debut. Not something I would've endorsed, but perhaps a safer choice if the character was going to assume an existing identity in Iron Man's world. It would be a tad cliché, but perhaps some sort of relation to James Rhodes could've been established to more organically provide an entry point for the character. These aren't guarantees for success, but present better odds.

I'm of the opinion that Riri Williams will probably endure. The character out of the armor is a great visual, and an interesting injection of perspective into the Marvel Universe. I don't know if she'll remain in the red and gold. We know Tony Stark is coming back some time in the not too distant future. I tend to think eventually somebody will get wise and we'll finally get the Ironheart that stands strongly on her own. Perhaps now that she's been Iron Man, she'll reject that path in order to find one of her own. Preferably with some version of that MIT armor, because it looks really cool!

Why didn't we just get that from the very start? There may be more to the story than we know.
Hollywood's influence has had a strange effect on comic books since establishing their dominion with the move from New York to Burbank. Robert Downey Jr has always given the impression of being a precariously placed player in the Marvel movie empire. Who knows if the same kind of mandate that decimated the Fantastic Four could've been responsible for kicking out the tent-pole heroes?

What's clear is that Marvel Comics have always been stronger when a reader can pick up the latest adventures of their mainstay heroes. To add new characters around these pillars is a good thing, and it makes a lot of sense to try to reflect new cultural touchstones, and find audiences that haven't been well served. There are many ways this can be done, and if there's a positive from Gabriel's comments, perhaps it's that Marvel will get a chance to try some less bullish methods. These comics have been around a long time, and really should start acting like it.

      [Home]      Hero of the Week 03/27: Maj. Kusanagi >>

Friday, March 31, 2017

The Titanic Tournament (Rivals Standing Their Ground!) (Viz/Shueisha)
Dragon Ball Vol. 15 When: May 2004
Why: Akira Toriyama How: Akira Toriyama

The Story So Far...
The time has come for the next Strongest Under the Heavens world martial arts tournament -- the 23rd Tenkaichi Budokai!

The greatest fighters in the world have converged on the event to test their might against a promising field of powerful opponents. Last year's runner-up Son Goku will be one of the surefire favourites to go all the way at this year's tournament, but first he must answer the challenge of a surly Quarter Final mystery opponent!

Entered as Name-Withheld-Upon-Request: the mysterious woman has a clear grudge against Goku -- but he doesn't even know who she is! Her identity holds a secret that will change the course of Goku's life! He'll have to fight to get answers, even though he has no true desire to bring harm to his opponent!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Son Goku 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Draw 2 (Average)
Speed: Son Goku 6 (Mach Speed)
Stamina: Son Goku 6 (Generator)
Agility: Draw 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting: Son Goku 7 (Living Weapon)
Energy: Son Goku 6 (Mass Destruction)
Total: Son Goku 36 (Cosmic)

We return to the 23rd Tenkaichi Budokai for the next tournament match!

A mysterious challenger announced as Name-Withheld-Upon-Request has entered the event to collect on an outstanding debt! If you haven't figured it out already: she's Chi-Chi - The Ox Princess!

When Chi-Chi was a little girl she lived in a castle on Pleasant Mountain with her father Gyūmaō (Ox-King). When the fire that protected their castle grew out of control, Chi-Chi was sent on a quest to retrieve a powerful fan from Master Muten Roshi. On her journey she made the acquaintance of a little boy with a tail, and magical cloud he could ride. Chi-Chi fell in love with the boy and planned to marry him, but he was taken away by the looming threat of The Red Ribbon Army.

The boy in question was Son Goku: An unusually powerful, high-spirited young boy, whose incredible strength, durability, and lust for a challenge could be attributed to his unknown Saiya-jin (Saiyan) heritage!

Goku had been sent to Earth from the planet Vegeta as an infant. His destiny was to lay waste to the world when the Earth's full moon would trigger his natural transformation into a giant ape! The planet would then be ripe for collection and sale by the evil Lord Frieza.

Instead, Goku was found by a kind old man named Son Gohan, who did his best to raise the boy well. Goku was a raucous, ill tempered baby, but a simple bump on the head changed his life (and temperament) for good! Good nature and a positive attitude would follow Goku into adulthood as he developed into an uncanny martial artist -- and one of Earth's greatest heroes!

One day, Son Goku will fulfill the legend of the golden-haired Super Saiya-jin! He'll go on to unlock multiple tiers of the transformation that will grant him energy powerful enough to shatter worlds! When he reaches this peak, Goku will become one of the greatest fighters in the known universe!

At the time of the 23rd Tenkaichi Budokai, Goku is only on the cusp of coming into his full powers. His strength, speed, and durability are drastically greater than normal, as is his mastery of ki attacks, including the Kamehameha energy wave. However, he hasn't yet learnt the boku-jutsu technique (flying), or other high-level attacks he'll come to be associated with in later iterations.

Chi-Chi may not be vying for the title of Strongest Under the Heavens, but she shouldn't be taken lightly, either! Her father granted a basic education in the fighting arts, and if properly motivated she can be quite the spitfire! Aggression is one of her greatest strengths, and with Goku oblivious to her belief that they were to be wed -- this is a match the young hero could in fact lose!

The Tape: Son Goku Ranking: Draw (Not Ranked)

What Went Down...
As the two combatants face-off for their Quarter Final match, Goku wonders why his mysterious opponent always seems so mad. She angrily compels him to ask his own heart. They confirm she has the right man - and the fight begins!

A fast thrusting kick catches Goku by surprise!

Still in disbelief; Goku quizzes the furious fighter on their past acquaintance whilst dodging a flurry of deadly hand strikes! There's no doubt in the determined young lady's response -- packaged with a rapid rising knee!

Goku just barely dodges the knee with a backward leap. As he makes his landing on the tiles -- his opponent is already dashing into her next attack!

It turns out it's Goku's lapse in memory that is the very source of the woman's scorn! She's been waiting years for his return - but the adventuring hero forgot all about her! She unleashes her frustration in a 5-hit fist & knee combo!

Goku scrambles to catch his opponent's strikes - simultaneously searching for a memory of the promise he supposedly made to her!

He tries to buy himself some time, leaping backward into the sky, but his mysteriously motivated opponent won't back down! She jumps skyward right after him with a pointed flying kick!

Watching from the crowd, Muten Roshi begins to sense something similar to his own style in the unknown woman's attack. He and Goku's friends are all bowled over when she reveals a stunning revelation: Goku said he'd ask for her hand!

Still an innocent at heart, Goku doesn't understand the turn of phrase. Fellow competitors Kuririn and Yamcha communicate from the sidelines, filling him in on the life-long vow of taking a woman's hand in marriage. He can't quite grasp why he'd ask somebody he doesn't know to live with him forever, but she promises to reveal her identity if he manages to defeat her. A guarantee in the mind of the great fighter, even though she has no intention to lose!

Enthused by the promise of a conclusion, Goku does his best to warn his fair opponent of his coming attack. He then gathers his ki and compels it forward!

Goku's awesome aura slams into his opponent like an invisible wall!

Though without contact - the energy attack is still powerful enough to send the woman hurtling uncontrollably through the air! She flies across the battlefield, leaving the perimeter of the arena to slam into its surrounding bespoke wall!

The stunned announcer declares Goku winner as the good natured hero shows concern over the unintended force of his winning attack.

The Hammer...
We might make debate of whether or not a tournament ring-out meets the terms of our definition for victory. Fortunately for the sake of clarity, it hardly matters in this instance. In misjudging his own strength: Goku struck a definitive winning blow!

As noted in The Tale of The Tape [above]: "Name-Withheld-Upon-Request" was none other than Ox Princess Chi-Chi.

She's all grown up and one tough cookie! With the terms of her challenge met: Chi-Chi reveals her identity, and Goku just sort of accepts that he did promise to marry her (with the help of a couple of class DB panels as memories). Of course, as a young boy, Goku thought he was actually promising to come back for some sort of exotic meal.

In classic Goku style, he takes his mistake in stride and stays true to his word. With that, the Quarter Final victory in the 23rd Tenkaichi Budokai is the scene of their engagement to be wed! If you know your Dragon Ball Z: you know they'll go on to live a long and mostly happy life together.

In the next few years Son Gohan will be born to the couple, and father & son will learn more about their origins as Saiya-jin alien warriors as they fight to protect the Earth. Chi-Chi will be a doting mother obsessed with her son's education. Goku will be his usual flighty self, getting the kid into all kinds of trouble as he follows in his father's footsteps as a great martial artist!

With any luck we'll eventually get to those DBZ years, but for now we focus our attentions on their prelude at the Strongest Under the Heavens tournament!

Goku's win means he advances to the Semi Final where old rival Tenshinhan will await thanks to his prior victory! Their match will be of particular interest given Tenshinhan won the 22nd Tenkaichi Budokai by defeating Goku in the final!

There are still two more Quarter Final matches to complete before we get to that exciting rematch! I can't tell you when that will be, but with Dragon Ball FighterZ in development to reinvent the series in side-to-side fighting games -- and Dragon Ball Super creating all new adventures within the original DBZ timeline -- I'm sure we'll have plenty of reasons to return to Dragon Ball!

Today's feature fight is brought to you thanks to the release of Iron Fist on Netflix! Our massive month of martial arts mayhem in March officially ends here! As always, if you want to get more action like this you should check out the links provided, and follow along via Facebook & Twitter.

You can also dive in to the Secret Archive to find hundreds of previous battles in order of publisher, series, and issue! You can support the site by sharing your favourite fights with friends, or by using the Amazon purchase link next to this text to pick yourself up a copy of Dragon Ball Vol. 15! Amazon will pay it forward at no additional cost to you!

Dragon Ball Vol. 15 was originally published by Shueisha in December, 1988. This edition collects chapters 169 through 180, originally serialized in Weekly Shōnen Jump. The Viz reprint was published May, 2004 with English localization by Gerard Jones and Mari Morimoto.

Winner: Son Goku
#305 (new) Son Goku
#828 (new) Chi-Chi

Monday, March 27, 2017

Real Name: Maj. Motoko Kusanagi
First Appearance: Young Magazine (April, 1989)
Fight Club Ranking: #DNR

Featured Fights:
- Yet to be featured on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths.

It probably shouldn't come as a surprise that a site called Secret Wars on Infinite Earths hasn't had a lot of time to talk about Japanese manga and anime. Street Fighter's always had a relatively natural presence on "The Comic Book Fight Club", but with Marvel and DC owning the lion's share of our time, these other obsessions are the exception to the rule.

Earlier this year I broke ground in Hero of the Week talking about Dragon Ball and Chinese Hero. For one reason or another, it seems like 2017 is destined to be the year for opening doors to other interests. One of my all-time favourite things in the world: Ghost in the Shell!

By now you've probably heard about a little Hollywood shindig with the same name. Opening in US theatres this week (March 31st); the live-action movie has been extensively discussed for its controversial casting of American and European actors.

Not everyone has bought into criticism of Scarlett Johansson playing a Japanese creation. Director of the landmark 1995 animated feature, Mamoru Oshii, expressed dismissive bemusement to IGN, describing Johansson as "the best possible casting for this movie" in lead role, and our Hero of the Week: Major Motoko Kusanagi.

Like a lot of Western fans, I owe a lot of my love for Ghost in the Shell to Oshii's movie, and greatly respect his opinion. I can see interesting arguments in favour of Johansson based specifically on Oshii's unique adaptation of the manga, originally by series creator Masamune Shirow.

Oshii's version of the action-packed, raunchy comic took a more meditative approach to a cyberpunk future of high-tech human/machine integration. His film contemplates the significance of identity, and the soul (ghost), in a world where the human body can readily be supplanted by manufactured replacement (the shell). This threat of mass production, and exploitation through operation of technology, challenges the reality of "self" in ways that reflect universal tenets of class systems, and arguably predicted many of our modern predicaments, such as the intrusion of "social media".

Concepts of identity inform much of the film, including changes in character design, where Major Kusanagi's appearance emphasizes the wide-eyed, vacant gaze of an artificial human body.

The emotional absence of Oshii's Kusanagi strikes me as something that plays very much to the stoic performances of Scarlett Johansson. It's difficult to envision many humans who so naturally embody this quality of vacancy, let alone bankable stars. For a film that should aspire to slightly esoteric subject matter - a bankable star is a logical choice. That aesthetics are a concern of this adaptation at all arguably puts it ahead of most Hollywood adaptations, as well, but I'd leave my praise there.

While Scarlett Johansson has been a high-profile target for critics who feel the production should've sought a Japanese alternative for the ambiguously constructed heroine; it's the rest of the film that's been more obviously disappointing. If Johansson is an approximation in service of an idea, the rest of the cast appears to be ill fitted set dressing. Pretenders of  unconvincing artifice.

The film clearly borrows heavily from Oshii's 1995 animated film, working hard to re-create iconic scenes like the famous "Making of a Cyborg" opening title. There are liberal references to the television anime Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex patched in, as well. These aren't inherently incompatible references, but every indication suggests an in-ironic exercise in soulless facsimile.

Like a photocopy, there's obvious degradation in the fidelity of the image. Though the upcoming live-action Ghost in the Shell promises a visual flair unique in today's feature film landscape -- it pales in comparison to the source material it adapts. It's difficult to gauge how much of the new movie is created by digital animation, but it's surprising that its palette relies so heavily on obscuring dark. The images are cast in the shadow of Mamoru Oshii's masterpiece, and context is unlikely to help them.

Trailers suggest a film with preoccupations found common in Hollywood cinema. Arbitrary robot conspiracies and plot details that don't seem congruent with the film their pictures are taken from. For all intents and purposes this appears to be Ghost in the Shell in name only. Like so many other poor live-action adaptations, the concepts that drive the machinery seem to have been removed, or not well understood. How thoroughly the futurist map has been ripped up is hard to say, but it seems impossible that this film can please existing fans of either Oshii's film, or the other iterations.

The movie will almost certainly tank in the United States thanks to the furor of its casting, regardless of whether or not its actually a mistake. Presumptions of Japanese origin are too strong, and vestigial ambitions of the source too rare to grant the film the pass of success Doctor Strange received.

I would've loved to be anticipating something new from the Ghost in the Shell franchise, to say nothing of another stone in the reconstruction of cyberpunk cinema that will continue later this year with the sequel to Blade Runner. I only hope its failure doesn't do too much damage, and inspires men like Mamoru Oshii to create something worthy of the property, which already veered away from highs with its most recent adaptations: Arise.

I hoped we might be able to balance things out with a more positive look at the Ghost in the Shell manga, but it looks like that isn't to be. March is martial arts mayhem month on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths! In a curious twist of fate, we will finish with another manga I'm quite fond of - be here in four days to see what went down!