Friday, February 16, 2018

The Way It Began..! (Marvel)
Fantastic Four #53 When: August 1966
Why: Stan Lee How: Jack Kirby

The Story So Far...
Wakanda celebrates the invited arrival of the Fantastic Four, but as they do, a sinister presence from the African nation's past plots against their young ruler!

Massive rampaging jungle beasts attack the unsuspecting kingdom! Animal simulations created from pure sound energy! They are weapons of revenge created by the master of sound: Ulysses Klaw!

Klaw attack Wakanda ten years earlier, killing King T'Chaka in an attempt to claim the country's deposit of rare vibranium metal! Young Prince T'Challa thwarted the attack, and must once again go on the hunt to stop the brutal arch-nemesis whose hand he once destroyed! While the Fantastic Four battle Klaw's sonic monsters -- Black Panther confronts his father's killer!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Klaw 4 (Enhanced)
Intelligence: Black Panther 5 (Professor)
Speed: Black Panther 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Klaw 5 (Marathoner)
Agility: Black Panther 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting: Black Panther 4 (Trained)
Energy: Klaw 5 (Lasers)
Total: Draw 26 (Meta-human)

Every great hero has a villainous shadow to haunt them time and time again. Black Panther has faced many ferocious foes, but none ranks quite as highly as today's featured felon -- his brutal arch-nemesis!

Ulysses Klaw (later renamed Klaue) is the self-proclaimed Master of Sound! He was a Dutch physicist who first ventured into Wakanda to claim the world's largest deposit of a rare, valuable mineral called Vibranium.

The early encounter brought Klaw into conflict with Black Panther's father, King T'Chaka, who he murdered in cold blood! Klaw and his machine gunning men spread much death and destruction through Wakanda, but the young Prince turned Klaw's own sound blaster against him! The encounter cost Klaw his right hand and sparked a blood feud that continues into Prince T'Challa's maturity!

Klaw outfitted his damaged hand with a weapon capable of firing deadly blasts of controlled sonic force! His vibranium powered machines can even create animated objects of pure "solid sound" -- a state he himself will be converted to after the initial showdown featured in today's grudge match!

Most will (hopefully) recognize Klaw as the bizarre pink & red villain known for also rattling the likes of: The Thing, Fantastic Four, Captain America, The Avengers, The Thunderbolts, Daredevil, Carnage, and others.

Fantastic Four #53 marks Klaw's first appearance, an early incarnation to be sure. In the issue prior, we were also introduced to Black Panther, who had the entire Fantastic Four on the ropes, specifically upsetting Thing during the battle!

Without the intimate knowledge of each other's arsenals that they'd have much later, it's tough to say who has the advantage. Klaw's sound-based arsenal will one day be neutralized through the unique properties of vibranium, and other sound-based strategies. In a man-on-man struggle, the advantage seems to belong to the Black Panther. Let's see if that's actually true!

The Tape: Draw Ranking: Black Panther (#72)

What Went Down...

Knowing the jungles of his kingdom well, Black Panther leaps through the trees for the one location capable of hiding Klaw's hideous machines. Coming upon the massive cave, he effortlessly disposes of two guards and stalks toward his true target. Klaw recognizes the voice of the Prince as if he'd heard it yesterday!

Klaw turns to face his nemesis, threatening with the metal Force Glove that now replaces his broken right hand! The Panther keeps his distance, confidently stalking like his namesake as Klaw gloats about the sound converter's power!

Rather than test Black Panther's phenomenal reflexes, Klaw returns to his main machine to generate a massive sound creature: a simulation of a panther!

Instead of ironic vengeance, Klaw is shocked to witness T'Challa's speed and strength as he grapples with the sound beast! It is every bit as ferocious as the real thing -- but the legend of the Black Panther is no exaggeration!

Recognizing the true skill and might of his opponent, Klaw knows he cannot toy with the Panther. With the flick of a lever the giant jungle cat disappears!

For a more direct attack Ulysses Klaw again turns to the lethal power of his hand-worn Force Glove! He claims Wakanda's vibranium as his ultimate prize, even if it costs the lives of every tribesman who survives the Prince!

The vile invader seems to be on the verge of victory - but he has failed to learn one of the Black Panther's greatest weapons: his mind!

A brilliant scientist in his own right: T'Challa has found the switch that will send the massive sound converting machine into a fatal overload! It begins to blow itself apart! The delicate circuits burst with uncontrolled energy!

With total destruction imminent: The Black Panther makes a hasty exit -- fleeing the catastrophic explosions that bring Klaw's secret cave down upon him!

Outside, rampaging constructs that terrorized Wakanda begin to dissipate. The Black Panther joins the Fantastic Four in victory, while inside the collapsed cave, the man called Klaw finds himself still alive, and ready to take a desperate risk!

The Hammer...
Ulysses Klaw may have lived to fight another day, but there's absolutely no doubt about the victor. Black Panther defeated Klaw's sound beast, thwarted his plan, and saved his kingdom! All in a day's work for the Panther prince!

Unbelievably, even with 888 characters ranked in the Secret Wars on Infinite Earths record -- we've never gotten to Klaw!

The shifting roster of the Frightful Four meant we got real close a couple of times, but it's only now, fighting against his arch-nemesis, that we open an account for the Master of Sound!

Admittedly, part of the delay is by virtue of holding off on the exploits of Black Panther, to best dedicate the month of February to Marvel Studios' latest starring hero! It's one of the most exciting Marvel movie releases since Iron Man, but as always, we look to the comics for even greater source material!

Baron Zemo was ultimately responsible for the death of T'Chaka on screen, but as discussed in The Tape section, the bad blood that makes Klaw arch-nemesis of the Black Panther runs deep. He murdered T'Challa's father and laid brutal siege to the kingdom of Wakanda. A crime he would revisit many times again.

The villainous origin story was revised in more explicit detail in 2005 by writer Reginald Hudlin. His take explicitly cast Klaw as a Dutch invader, recalling raw truths of real-life colonial history in Africa.

The story launched with a new #1 as Volume 4 of the Black Panther series, which may be one of the reasons you didn't read, if you were a comics fan of the mid-2000s. The relaunch officially divorced the series from Christopher Priest's cult millennium revival, and awkwardly positioned it as an undeclared - and indistinct - retcon of the classic origin stories.

The opening story arc, Who Is The Black Panther?, fashions Klaw as a new character in company with old favourites, like Batroc and Rhino. it effectively retells the backstory introduced in Fantastic Four #53, fleshing it out as a modern action-adventure of murder, espionage, and revenge. Taken on its own terms, it's an all-time great Black Panther story, and well worth checking out!

We should really wait until we get to the Reginald Hudlin story to talk more about it, but with February running out, I had to touch on it. It's one of my favourites and an admirable attempt to revamp what was done by Kirby and Lee in 1966. Which itself set a high bar for introducing a new hero into the growing Marvel Universe, and pairing him with a strong new villain, as well!

Typically timid, Hollywood has made a few more modifications to the Klaw character. One of the most noticeable will be the spelling of his name, now the slightly less literal "Klaue".

As always, it's easy to reject the perceived risk to credibility.

I'm not aware of what Stan Lee or Jack Kirby's inspirations would've been, but we know there would've been two contemporaries in 1960s New York City with the surname Klaw!

Just a few months after Ulysses Klaw was created for Marvel Comics, Irving Klaw passed away. Born Isadore Klaw, he was a New York purveyor of raunchy pin-ups, famous for propagating the image of Bettie Page. He was operating since the 1930s, and probably would've been a name known to publishing circles.

In the theatre world, there was Marcus Klaw. A producer and theatre owner of German Jewish descent, he died in 1936. You couldn't necessarily call him a contemporary of Lee & Kirby, but his Klaw Theatre was active on Broadway until being demolish in the mid-fifties. Another prominent example of the Klaw name available to the creators of the comic book villain.

So, yes, to modern American ears "Klaw" may ring false for its transliterate homonym (Claw). However, it is a real surname, and not at all unreasonable under greater scrutiny. Which is why we'll happily continue to refer to it!

You can refer to Klaw, too, when you follow character links littered throughout this post, or below in the tags section! There are thousands of featured fights to find, and many hundreds of characters involved!

You can also dive into the Secret Archive to find battles index by publisher, series, and issue number! Sharing your favourite links is a great way to support the Secret Wars on Infinite Earths! You can also get daily links to battles inspired by the topics of the day by liking and following on Facebook & Twitter!

Want to read the issue featured today for yourself? Jump onto Amazon using the purchase links provided [right] to check out collected editions! Using the link to buy means Amazon will kickback a little something to support the site at no extra charge!

Winner: Black Panther
#47 (+25) Black Panther
#844 (new) Klaw (Ulysses Klaw)

Friday, February 02, 2018

The Black Panther! (Marvel)
Fantastic Four #52 When: July 1966
Why: Stan Lee How: Jack Kirby

The Story So Far...
When the royal leader of an African nation gifts the Fantastic Four a hi-tech flying vehicle, they're invited to participate in a great Wakandan hunt. Little do they realize - it's the Fantastic Four who will be the prey!

Upon arrival they discover a nation built with the wonders of super-science and riches beyond belief! This is the remarkable kingdom of The Black Panther!

Black Panther hopes to test his fighting prowess and advanced technology against the cosmically powered might of the Fantastic Four. A gambit that begins by separating the group, leaving Thing to unwittingly stumbled into a trap that will leave him vulnerable to unarmed combat!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Thing 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Black Panther 5 (Professor)
Speed: Black Panther 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Thing 5 (Marathoner)
Agility: Black Panther 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting: Black Panther 4 (Trained)
Energy: Black Panther 2 (Projectiles)
Total: Black Panther 26 (Metahuman)

What is this? The year of beatin' up on Aunt Petunia's favourite nephew?! We're back talking another classic case of hero-on-hero action, with the ultimate measure of power being the ever lovin' blue-eyed Thing!

This could be a slightly controversial entry, given its status as a fight-within-a-fight against the Fantastic Four. More on that in the Hammer section at the end. For now, we merely concern ourselves with a battle of speed, agility and wits against unstoppable brute strength!

Black Panther is T'Challa: Son of King T'Chaka, and rightful heir to the Wakandan throne! Black Panther lives up to the virtues of the isolated African nations rule by honing his body, senses, and mind through rigorous training.

T'Challa possesses phenomenal speed, agility, strength, and hand-to-hand technique, harnessed with an engineering mind that rivals that of Mister Fantastic! This genius not only furnishes Wakanda with technology beyond that of most modern nations, but also T'Challa himself, who hides many useful tricks within the thin lining of his Black Panther uniform!

The advanced technology of The Panther's suit was on display when he battle Doctor Doom in Black Panther #19! Perhaps more impressively, we saw his physical feats when he fought Captain America to a standstill in Tales of Suspense #98, and the Super-Skrull in Fantastic Four (Vol.2) #6!

His unassisted opposition to the Super-Skrull is the most effective example of how his fighting technique can stall even an opponent as powerful as Thing! Black Panther's stand was made brief by Super-Skrull's cosmic powers, of which Thing possesses none. As The Tape shows -- Thing is all about power!

The Panther has the fighting acumen to turn strength against an opponent, but he may not have to. This fight is the Black Panther's first appearance, and it's taking place in his home arena! At this stage of the fight, he's already used his hi-tech surroundings to entrap Human Torch and Invisible Woman.

Thing is a long way from home and quite possibly out of his depth!

The Tape: Black Panther Ranking: Thing (#10)

What Went Down...
Having been repelled from the rest of his teammates; The Thing recovers by what he believes to be a refreshing pool of water. In truth, he has stumbled into one of the Black Panther's well laid traps -- dousing himself in dangerous amounts of clear, strength-sapping devitalizing fluid!

The Panther Prince seizes his opportunity -- leaping from the shadows cast by labyrinthine machinery to the unsuspecting Thing's back!

The Thing goes to ground, but lifts himself to tackle the head-on Panther. With his strength sapped, he proves far less effective than expected! Black Panther stands his ground and fires off a right hook that sends Thing staggering!

Black Panther grants Thing the opportunity to pull himself to his feet, if only for the satisfaction of knocking him back down. So weakened is the rock-skinned hero, he requires the aid of a nearby post of machinery just to stand steady.

Once back to a vertical base: Thing unleashes a mighty right hand that would rattle the toughest of opponents -- if he still possessed his incredible strength!

Once more the heroes lock-up! The Panther pays homage to Thing's undeniable courage, but cannot compliment his lack of fighting skill.

Riled up by the verbal jab; Thing puts his back into it -- charging like a raging rhino! Black Panther has no choice but to side-step the barreling brute, inadvertently sending him on a path towards a high-voltage refrigeration unit!

Panther tries to warn his opponent of the impending doom - but it's too late!

The Thing smashes into the machine, releasing a deadly deep freeze! It's only by good fortune that he survives the frost as the effects of the devitalizing fluid begin to wear off! He will be frozen solid -- but he will survive!

The Hammer...
Is that a cry of controversy I hear? Objection from the seasoned fans?

Fantastic Four #52 is, of course, famous for the first appearance of Black Panther. It's also relatively well known for The Panther's plan to challenge and defeat the entire Fantastic Four.

It's a test of tactics, tech, and technique, with a healthy helping of teamwork.

Much of the action-packed issue is dedicated to a continuous war game between the Fantastic Four and their Wakandan host. However, under careful scrutiny, and much deliberation, The Comic Book Fight Club determines that the skirmish with Thing functions as an entire fight within the framework of the larger battle.

That means at a later date we will return to review The Panther's battle with the entire Fantastic Four, providing reference to this isolated encounter. It will simply function as a tangent within the larger context of The Panther vs the FF. Similar distinction may be afforded to his brief battle with Invisible Girl, as well.

Why does any of this matter? Hey! Take a look around, buddy. Fight results are kind of the name of the game around here. Sometimes the judge's call has to be invoked to keep the Fight Club Rankings clear. There's something else, too...

Superheroes aren't a whole lot different from any conventional combat sport. When you've got a hot new prospect like Black Panther, you want to get him over by showing what he can do. Like pro wrestling, comics are in control of the outcome and the particulars of the match. So there are a lot of tools to use.

As the headlining act, the Fantastic Four are usually going to come out with the win in the end. Fifty-one issues of victory means they have equity to take a few hits from a new character. So Black Panther may not succeed in beating the team as a whole, but by creating isolated fights within the battle, there's ample opportunity to show he's the real deal.

As The Tape clearly showed: Black Panther isn't in the same strength bracket as Thing, but that kinda protects both fighters.

Supping from a random pool in an indoor environment doesn't say much for Thing's thought process, but the devitalizing fluid means his defeat comes with an asterisk -- he wasn't at the top of his game! So Black Panther gets a big notch on his belt, but Thing gets to walk away with the benefit of the doubt.

Black Panther is undoubtedly one cool character, so it made sense to give him this big debut. It clearly paid off, because he'd have many more adventures in the Marvel Universe, as a title character, and part of memorable ensembles like the FF, and the Avengers!

You can't make it on your own as a hero if you don't have some worthy super-villains to beat up. When you mention Black Panther there's one big bad guy that immediately springs to mind. He debuted in the next issue of FF, and we'll aim to take a closer look at his unique brand of villainy real soon!

We probably won't be doing month-long themes in this year's Secret Wars on Infinite Earths, but anticipation for the theatrical arrival of Marvel's Black Panther has been a long time coming! We've been saving up for it so February could get the black carpet treatment!

Need more Black Panther in your life? Follow links and tags (below) to discover more from your favourite topics - or dive in to the Secret Index to check out past battles filed by publisher, series, and issue!

Use the Amazon link provided [embedded right] to read this story for yourself in collected edition. Doing so helps support the site at no extra cost! You can also show your support by following on Facebook and Twitter for daily fight links inspired by the hot topics! Every like, share & retweet helps!

Winner: Black Panther
#72 (+55) Black Panther
#10 (--) Thing

Friday, January 26, 2018

Endgame... Plus Two (DC)
Secret Society of Super-Villains #5 When: January-February 1977 Why: Bob Rozakis How: Rich Buckler & Vince Colletta

The Story So Far...
A battle between The Secret Society of Super-Villains and their evil New God masters has left the city battleground coated with rubble. Buried beneath the mess is Captain Comet -- returned hero of the 1950s whose confusion brought him in league with The Society!

Emerging from the urban wreckage, Captain Comet discovers another space hero trapped underneath -- The Green Lantern! No longer mistaking him for a foe, Captain Comet accompanies Hal Jordan to the Justice League Satellite HQ.

There, Superman and the JLA verify the incredible story of Captain Comet's uncanny return! The old hero isn't the only one to have left the ranks of Manhunter's Secret Society of Super-Villains, though!

A satellite alarm signals the disgruntled attack of Sinestro on The Society's Sinister Citadel in San Francisco! With GL on monitor duty; Hawkman recruits Captain Comet to stop Sinestro's earthquake revenge!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Captain Comet 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Captain Comet 6 (Genius)
Speed: Captain Comet 5 (Super-Speed)
Stamina: Sinestro 6 (Generator)
Agility: Sinestro 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting: Hawkman 6 (Warrior)
Energy: Sinestro 7 (Cosmic Power)
Total: Captain Comet 34 (Super)

A clash of classic DC icons in less than iconic combination! It's always a pleasure to see an oddball match-up like this, but we also welcome a new player to the Secret Wars on Infinite Earths rankings that provides a real wildcard!

Hawkman's ties to the Justice League (and planet Thanagar) mean he's no stranger to beings from outer space. Even so, when it comes to the tyranny of Sinestro -- usually that's the jurisdiction of his arch-nemesis: Green Lantern!

Familiarity is a factor, but Sinestro's yellow power ring has much the same limitless potential as a Green Lantern's. He can project and create yellow hard-light constructs based on infinite imagination. That makes him a dangerous foe for even the best evenly matched member of the Green Lantern Corps!

Decades later we'd see Sinestro at his deadliest when he got the better of Green Lantern and Green Arrow in Green Lantern: Rebirth #4. More worryingly for Hawkman, he also put down winged-hero Black Condor during The Society's brutal ambush of The Freedom Fighters [in Infinite Crisis #1]!

The long-range and breadth of Sinestro's abilities are a big problem. In theory, Hawkman's one yellow bird cage away from being quickly outmatched! Not that the cosmic might of a Qwardian yellow ring is going to stop him fighting!

Hawkman's famous combative tenacity could be a key to an upset victory. We saw him quickly stop Matter Master in Hawkman #23, using aggression and weaponry to put a stop to a comparable threat. We've also seen him fight valiantly against several strong opponents. He kept Doctor Fate frustrated in All-Star Squadron #4, and went down swinging against Superman in Justice League of America #200! He even took tough guy Solomon Grundy down with a little bit of help from friends [in Hawkman #33]!

Captain Comet is a newfound friend in this battle, having recently defected from The Secret Society of Super-Villains after being tricked into their ranks. He's a lost hero from the 1950s who spent the last couple of decades having adventures in outer space!

With powers awakened by a passing comet; Adam Blake naturally possesses a genius mind capable of telepathic intuition, telekinetic mental projection, mind reading, defensive shielding, and psionic blasts! He also commands impressive physical attributes of super-human strength and durability! Not quite as powerful as Superman, but arguably more versatile in his strange powers!

Captain Comet and Sinestro should be relatively evenly matched.

The Captain can circumvent energy constructs with his telekinetic powers, and use his uncanny intuition to work around what's coming. His powers take a certain amount of focus and strain, though. Sinestro could still pose a threat with the benefit of instant-access to his abilities. That's where the loose man of Hawkman really becomes a benefit!

It's a fight that could go either way, but my money's on the heroes! The stats seem to agree. Let's quit the speculation and see what happened...

The Tape: Hawkman & Captain Comet Ranking: Hawkman (#31)

What Went Down...
The Justice League Satellite teleporter sends Hawkman and Captain Comet to the city skies of Earth in a mere instant! There, they materialize behind an unsuspecting Sinestro in time to stop his destructive rampage!

Hawkman orders Sinestro to halt his attempts to topple a building that is in actual fact The Sinister Citadel -- home to The Secret Society of Super-Villains!

Though surprised by the sudden arrival of the two heroes, Sinestro scoffs at their order to cease and desist! He uses his yellow power ring to form a massive energy fist around Hawkman's trademark fixed mace -- then with an effortless gesture uses it to knock Hawkman out of the sky!

The blow damaged Hawkman's anti-gravity belt, leaving him helpless to prevent his plummet towards Earth. Fortunately, Captain Comet turns his attentions toward rescuing his new ally -- even as Sinestro escapes into outer space!

The hero from another age succeeds in catching Hawkman by the wings, bringing him to a safe landing on the street below. There, he notices the Sinister Citadel on the verge of toppling over! Once again - he springs into action!

It takes Captain Comet's fullest concentration to push against the entire weight of the lurching skyscraper! Though requiring incredible effort, he succeeds in restoring the citadel to an even keel!

The Captain regroups with Hawkman and offers to give him a lift so the seasoned Justice Leaguer can stay in the fight with Sinestro. Comet guides him by the arm into the sky, forming a bubble of air on the way to allow them survival in the vacuum of space!

The pair catch up with Sinestro somewhere between Earth and Mars and call for his surrender. The chase ends when Sinestro turns to fly directly at his enemies!

The attempted collision is cut-off by Captain Comet, who locks up with Sinestro in a wrist and knuckle lock! The villain gloats that while he may control his hands, the energy constructs of his yellow ring cannot be stopped!

Sinestro manifests a vise around Comet's skull and slowly begins squeezing!

The seasoned space-hero remains stoic, focusing his concentration on mentally keeping the vise from closing! His efforts prove fruitful!

A sudden swing of both fists sends Sinestro snapping violently into his own weapon! A kayo victory!

The Hammer...
Y'know, I thought I was looking forward to a fun match-up for Hawkman, but our fine feathered friend didn't make much of an impact on this one. The victory clearly belongs to Captain Comet!

I've been jamming to Flash Gordon over the holiday break, so the retro sci-fi of Captain Comet actually sits perfectly well with me.

Comet doesn't really strike me as having the gritty panache I associate with Gordon, and the comic strips by Alex Raymond, but the comparison is fun when you think about Flash's relationship with Hawkman's pulp forebears.

Comet got a visual update for his return to DC Comics in the seventies, but you can still clearly see fifties sci-fi all over him. In fact, it's rather nice that the period was allowed to remain a defining piece of the character's backstory.

Usually I seek clean, recent artwork to represent characters in those little mugshots I make, but every now and then there's a character so wrapped up in an era I like to go retro. The Captain Comet portrait above is drawn by Carmine Infantino, seen on the cover of Strange Adventures #9 -- his first appearance!

If I were calling the shots, I'd probably revert the character's design back to that original uniform! As '50s spacemen go, it isn't necessarily a stand-out, but in 2017 that's a look that Captain Comet can completely own!

It's rather astounding to think the character continued well into recent decades. He's remained a part of DC's space fabric in books like L.E.G.I.O.N., Mystery in Space, and The Rann-Thanagar War. You may even remember Captain Comet from his role in Kingdom Come as the warden of Superman's gulag! I'm told he's even floating around (in some fashion) in the DC Universe of The New 52!

Recent years not withstanding; I kinda see Captain Comet as a blueprint for the best way to handle a guy like Captain Marvel. Both are heroes who has a place among the modern pantheon, but work better not as generic equivalents of similar characters, but as torchbearers for the out-of-vogue styles of the eras that defined them. The once standard: now unique within a modern context!

I've had a lot of fun talking Captain Comet's return to the "modern" DCU. If you got a kick out of it too, you might like to check out The Secret Society of Super-Villains yourself! By using the Amazon link provided [right], you support the site with your collected edition purchase at no extra cost!

Take your own journey through the years by visiting links throughout this post, or tagged below. Or simply dive into the Secret Archive to check out previous featured fights indexed by publisher, series, and issue number!

Follow on Facebook and Twitter to get daily links to fights inspired by the topics of the day! A like, share and retweet is another great way to help the wars remain infinite!

Winner: Captain Comet (w/ Hawkman)
#308 (new) Captain Comet
#31 (--) Hawkman [+1 assist]
#118 (-15) Sinestro

Friday, January 12, 2018

Hitting The Fan (DC)
Suicide Squad #6 When: October 1987
Why: John Ostrander How: Luke McDonnell

The Story So Far...
When the Soviet Union proposes a trade with the United States for a controversial novelist's freedom; The Suicide Squad are called upon in secret to extract the prisoner right from under their noses!

It was a politically charged mission to Moscow none of them wanted to take, but the ingenious plan of new recruit Oswald Cobblepot, (aka; The Penguin), makes the trip behind enemy lines seem possible! There's just one catch: Nobody thought to ask Zoya Trigorin if she wanted to be rescued!

A hostile prisoner throws the mission into disarray -- much to the delight of Enchantress! With the Soviet Army closing in fast, Colonel Rick Flag has no choice but to order Deadshot to bring the wild witch down when she goes rogue!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Deadshot 3 (Athlete)
Intelligence: Enchantress 5 (Professor)
Speed: Deadshot 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Enchantress 4 (Athlete)
Agility: Draw 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting: Deadshot 4 (Trained)
Energy: Enchantress 6 (Cosmic Power)
Total: Enchantress 24 (Champion)

Floyd Lawton is Deadshot by name, Deadshot by reputation -- but can a bullet from the assassin's gun really pierce the magic veil of the Enchantress? That's what we're here to find out in a battle of Suicide Squad teammates!

We have, of course, seen another Squaddy take down Enchantress in a previous instance: Bronze Tiger was on-hand to make sure she played nice when the team went up against Brimstone in their inaugural mission [Legends #3].

Deadshot's aim was true, successfully taking Brimstone down with the use of a specialized laser weapon. The next mission was also a success for Deadshot, who defeated Manticore in a deadly close-quarters battle [Suicide Squad #2].

There's no denying Deadshot is a master marksman, but not quite every shot is a bull's eye! His very presence with the Suicide Squad is a result of being captured by The Flash, who was too fast for Deadshot's draw [in Legends #1].

No hero has gotten under Lawton's skin quite as thoroughly as Batman! Their multiple run-ins include Deadshot's very first outing, when he posed as a masked vigilante to oust The Bat. He nearly pulled it off, but as in most of their clashes, it ended in Deadshot's defeat. His eventual comeback in Detective Comics #474 is one such example.

Enchantress doesn't have the hand-to-hand fighting prowess of Batman, nor his unique insights. She does, however, possess a broad spectrum of magic powers as a witch that should be able to deal with most guns and munitions.

Without specialist weaponry, Deadshot seems pretty out of his depth against Enchantress. His greatest strength lies in long-range sniping to get the drop on an unprepared Enchantress. That's how Bronze Tiger closed similar odds.

Enchantress was supposed to impersonate novelist Zoya Trigorin while the Squad extracted her from Russia, but with the mission thrown into chaos, she's completely off the leash. That bodes well for Deadshot, who can capitalize on her distraction. Will it work? Let's find out...

The Tape: Enchantress Ranking: Deadshot (#114)

What Went Down...

An explosion rings out from the Novogorod Psychiatric Hospital. The mission has gone bad. Real bad! The Suicide Squad regroups in the snow covered woods just outside, while The Enchantress delights at the opportunity for chaos!

With Russian troops rapidly closing-in; Colonel Rick Flag is forced to make an urgent decision about the witch flying overhead. With time running out, he turns to Deadshot with a non-lethal order to shoot.

Deadshot feigns concern that he may not be able to bring Enchantress down without accidentally killing her. Flag puts a gun to his head and warns him not to miss!

Unaware of the conspiring gunmen below; Enchantress is completely unprepared when she hears the sudden explosion of Deadshot's rifle!

The searing sting of the bullet follows in an instant. Struck in the head, The Enchantress plummets from the sky to the thick floor of snow below.

Flag orders Nightshade and Nemesis to collect the body. A dark smile creeps over Deadshot's face as he assures the Colonel his shot was made to order -- on target and non-lethal.

Enchantress is groggy when Nemesis lifts her from the snow by the shoulders. He demands to know her name, but she instinctively refuses! If spoken, it will return the wicked witch to the darkness -- restoring innocent June Moone.

So Nemesis tells her she's June Moone: a spy who will be shot on sight! The barely conscious witch denies this, too. With time running out he leans over her face and asks who she really is. At last she says it: "Enchantress!"

The Hammer...
This one may challenge your definition for a "fight", but the fact is: some conflicts end not with the throwing of fists, but with the firing of a single bullet! Such is the stock & trade of Deadshot!

As we build a bigger profile for Deadshot, it'll be interesting to see what his strike-rate as a marksman is really like. The reputation of killers in comics doesn't always match-up to results. Scroll down to the bottom of this post to see what today's win does for his overall fight rank!

Today we're here to track the movements of Enchantress, whose early tenure with the Suicide Squad provided one of the great sub-plots of the first couple of years. It loosely inspired elements of the 2016 movie, but as with most things in that adaptation, the source material was not well represented.

The premise is simple: The Suicide Squad are a band of convicted villains operating as a black-ops team to work-off their sentences. They're guided by trusted agents like Rick Flag and Bronze Tiger, but the criminal nature of most of the team means there's always an underlying tension of mistrust.

Enchantress is arguably the most openly hostile of the group, but she's tethered to the pleasant alter-ego of June Moone, who volunteered her services.

Moone initially has enough sway to keep the wicked witch in check, but every time Enchantress is summoned, her dark powers grow. The threat that she'll turn on the team is always there, but the trade-off is that her magic is one of the Squad's most powerful weapons, and sometimes can be directed.

Inevitably, this dangerous game means various members of The Squad are forced to take Enchantress down once her work is done.

We saw this in their inaugural mission, when Enchantress saved the team from being scorched by the flaming aftermath of Brimstone -- only to immediately turn on them! Bronze Tiger became the first teammate to shut her down.

Comics being what they are; there are different flavours to the various times Enchantress is thwarted. The next time we visit the theme it will probably seem vaguely comical, but each indignity is only building toward the inevitable.

The reader knows Enchantress' power and hostility is growing, and the tension that mounts is one of the great threads weaved into the tapestry of John Ostrander's early Suicide Squad!  It could've greatly enhanced the film had they taken it in the same direction, rather than abruptly making her the arch-villain of the first film. One of many mistakes.

If you're looking for more Suicide Squad, or follow-up entries, be sure to check out the Secret Archive. You'll easily find featured fights indexed by publisher, series, and issue! If you just want to read these issues in their entirety for yourself, you can support the site by using the Amazon link provided!

You can also follow Secret Wars on Infinite Earths on Facebook and Twitter to get daily links to fights inspired by the topics of the day! A like, share, or retweet is a much appreciated way to show support!

Additional Note: Assist stats will be recorded for Rick Flag for ordering the hit, as well as Nemesis & Nightshade, who helped ensure Enchantress switched back to June Moone. These details were important to securing Deadshot's triggerman victory.

Winner: Deadshot
#66 (+48) Deadshot
#846 (-314) Enchantress
#383 (--) Rick Flag [+1 assist]
#420 (+75) Nemesis (Tom Tresser) [+1 assist]
#527 (new) Nightshade (Eve Eden) [+1 assist]

Friday, January 05, 2018

Betrayal! (Marvel)
Captain Marvel #26 When: May 1973
Why: Mike Friedrich & Jim Starlin How: Jim Starlin

The Story So Far...
Rick Jones' girlfriend betrayed his love when she fingered him for a murder rap he didn't commit! When Captain Marvel goes looking for answers, he discovers poor Lou-Ann Savannah is a reluctant pawn in a cosmic conspiracy!

The Mad Titan Thanos plans intergalactic conquest starting with the planet Earth, and his scheme is being carried out by Skrull minions: Skragg and Kl'rt!

With the truth exposed: Captain Marvel is on the warpath -- but he's still reeling from the mind-games inflicted in a previous fight with the Skrulls! Super-Skrull has lured The Thing into a trap that paralyzes his vocal chords -- meaning the hero cannot object when Captain Marvel mistakes him for his shape-changing enemies!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Thing 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Captain Marvel 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Captain Marvel 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Captain Marvel 6 (Generator)
Agility: Captain Marvel 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting: Draw 3 (Street Wise)
Energy: Captain Marvel 5 (Lasers)
Total: Captain Marvel 31 (Super)

Today's featured fight marks the first serious entry for the legendary Captain Marvel! Not to be confused with the original Captain Marvel of Fawcett [and DC] Comics fame! This one's a cosmic Kree warrior published by Marvel Comics!

We've actually seen the man called Mar-Vell on one prior occasion. An intriguing quirk of the Marvel Zombies universe is its retro timeline, which meant Captain Marvel lived long enough to become walking dead! We saw his zombie take serious damage from Silver Surfer back in Marvel Zombies (Vol. 1) #3!

In our universe: Captain Mar-Vell was a decorated hero of the Imperial Kree Space Fleet drawn into the grand plans of the Supreme Intelligence. He sent Mar-Vell to Earth as a spy, but his altruistic nature led him to use his unique powers to become a hero on Earth! He was eventually bound to Rick Jones, forcing one to dwell in the Negative Zone while the other existed in our reality.

Mar-Vell gained multiple power boosts in his time, developing super-human strength, speed, intelligence, reflexes, photon energy blasts, and cosmic awareness. He was also an accomplished combatant prior to gaining his powers.

Thing's no stranger to duking it out with cosmically aware opponents! As a member of the Fantastic Four he's faced the majority of cosmic threats, even battling the likes of Silver Surfer, Champion of the Universe, and Ronan!

In past features we've seen Thing take on villains from the Kree's rival empire: Paibok The Power Skrull [Fantastic Four #358], and Kl'rt the Super-Skrull [Fantastic Four (Vol. 2) #7]. The former was a typical triumph for the physically powerful hero, but the latter saw him outmatched by raw cosmic might!

Thing should outclass Mar-Vell in the strength department most days of the week, but The Captain has superior speed, reflexes, and the ability to fly. He's also a far more skilled technical combatant.

It's rarely a good idea to bet against the ever lovin' blue-eyed Thing, but the versatility of Captain Marvel's abilities mean he's a real wildcard! Our Tape and Rankings can't agree. Let's find out how the fight went down!

The Tape: Captain Marvel Ranking: Thing (#10)

What Went Down...
Spotting The Thing skulking in the dark, Rick Jones remembers the recent deceptions of the villainous Skrulls and assumes the worst! He smacks the incredible Nega-Bands together to tag in the cosmic Captain Marvel!

The Kree soldier wastes no time launching an attack on the man he believes to be an unsuspecting foe! His left hook is fantastic enough to send even the mighty Thing flying uncontrollably through the air!

At first Thing thinks he's been attack by a Skrull in disguise, as well, but Marvel's belligerent berating puts the pieces together. As Thing recovers from the devastating punch, he realizes they've been set up!

With his vocal chords neutralized earlier by the insidious Skrulls, Thing has no choice but to let his rocky fists do his talking! He throws an all mighty right hand at the charging Captain - and then slams his head into a wall!

Rather than slow the Kree soldier down - it strengthens his resolve! Refusing to give up until he claims victory, Mar-Vell grapples with his hulking opponent and launches him through a nearby interior wall!

The impressive toss sends the pair deeper into the Skrull base, exposing a more hi-tech interior than the decrepit apartment they entered. Captain Marvel flies straight in like a missile targeting his powerful enemy!

Thing catches the airborne Captain with a devastating left hook to the chin that redirects the threat at a nearby steel wall!

Cap hits shoulder first, and before he can collect his footing: Thing uses his incredible strength to rip the steel floor up like it was mere carpeting! A gambit that successfully throws Captain Marvel into a carnage of interior structure!

Thing believes he has finally claimed victory, but Captain Marvel explodes from the wood and metal! Still mistaking his opponent for a deceptive Skrull, he snatches an exposed power cable and thrusts the live wire at Thing's chest!

Thousands of volts of electricity course untamed through Thing's body! He's down for the count, and with all that's been experienced leading up to this duel of mistaken identities -- Captain Marvel is ready to kill!

The Kree warrior forages for a jagged prong of metallic wreckage as Thing tries desperately to stir to his knees. Mar-Vell looms over his fallen opponent and raises the spike above his head to drive it down with a killing blow!

Yet! Only the floor feels the point of the improvised weapon!

Despite the terrible crimes the Skrulls have committed, Captain Marvel does not have it within his soul to murder a helpless man in cold-blood!

A good thing, too -- because Benjamin J Grimm is no villain! Fortunately, the jolt of electricity has counteracted the paralysis of his vocal chords! Recovering from the attack, he speaks for the first time - forging an alliance of heroes!

The Hammer...
Whoa! What the heck just happened?! Did Captain Marvel really just steamroll the Fantastic Four's resident muscle at half past clobberin' time?! It was such an intense slobber knocker -- I was hardly even paying attention to the result!

No prizes for guessing who's been reading Captain Marvel over Christmas! A deep dive back to the life of one of Marvel's forgotten heroes was exactly what the doctor ordered!

Nothing I say or do will capture the white-knuckle frenzy of seventies Captain Marvel! I've been hearing the phrase "gonzo" thrown around a lot to describe fast and loose comics coming out today -- but you don't know the meaning until you've treated yourself to this patch of potent publishing!

The 1970s and I don't always get along, and sometimes even Marvel comics from the decade can read a little dour. No such trouble in Captain Marvel, though! Every action is thrust with maximum intensity! Every judgment made to snap! One minute Rick Jones is betrayed by a lover -- the next moment Captain Marvel's yelling bloody murder as the walls collapse around him!

I tend to think of Jim Starlin writing cosmic opera in the nineties, but here he is two decades earlier as a proficient penciller, too!

The artwork reminds me of John Romita's account of working on Spider-man, and the editorial influence of Jack Kirby and exaggerated, non-stop action. Peter Parker doesn't fold his clothes neatly and take practical action to find a flagpole outside his window. He leaps out and explodes into web-swinging action! That ethos is very much here in just about every wide-eyed panel of Captain Marvel!

I suspect Starlin's large panels and melodramatic figures are key to injecting the wild energy spilling off every page. There's an enthusiastic, reckless vibe I would naively equate with a college  sensibility. Starlin was in his mid-twenties at the time, so that might not be such a bad reading.

I also wonder if the infamous circumstances of Captain Marvel's creation helps explain the reckless, erratic energy of the book. It may read like a Kirby-tinged cosmic rollercoaster, but it's a lot looser than anything The King put out!

Fawcett Comics stopped publishing the regular adventures of their original Captain Marvel in 1953. His reign as comics icon was partly ended by a successful suit from National Comics (later DC) for infringing on the basic copyright of their archetypal originator: Superman. This lapse in publication meant the "Captain Marvel" trademark expired -- and Marvel Comics pounced!

If Marvel was to maintain the trademark, they would have to continue to produce relevant publications. Even when Captain Marvel wasn't selling particularly well, the obligation to maintain the series remained.

Guaranteed publication and a flagging audience is a perfect storm for wild and unusual ideas! The editorial chains come loose, giving creative folks free reign to find an audience without fear of reprisal! That seemed to contribute to the revamp of Mar-Vell's design from retro spaceman to modern superhero. I imagine it was the impetus for letting a young Starlin loose, as well.

Whatever the reasons -- I'm enjoying the heck out of it! I love the cavalcade of guest heroes and villains who went through the series during this period, and I'm sure we'll be back some time in the future to talk more about them!

If you like what you've seen and want to read more about the life and times of Captain Marvel, be sure to check out the Amazon links provided. Doing so will put collected editions in your hot little hands - and help support the site at no extra charge!

If you're looking for more battles from the cosmic corners of the Marvel Universe, be sure to check out links to characters and featured fights found throughout this post. You can also dive into the Secret Archive to check out past featured fights index by publisher, series and issue!

Subscribe to Secret Wars on Infinite Earths on Facebook and Twitter to get daily links to classic fights inspired by the topics of the day! A like, retweet or share is another great way to support the site, and dazzle your comics loving friends!

Winner: Captain Marvel
#160 (+279) Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell)
#10 (--) Thing