Friday, March 03, 2017

Snowfire (Marvel)
Iron Fist #14 When: August 1977
Why: Chris Claremont How: John Byrne

The Story So Far...
A message from Colleen Wing sends Danny Rand trekking across the border to Canada in a dash to help his friend!

She's been employed as a bodyguard while Rand-Meachum lawyer Jeryn Hogarth investigates a plot to rip the company off. Good thing, too! Hogarth's getting dangerously close to the answers he seeks -- and someone isn't happy about it!

A thirty-minute helicopter ride over Banff takes Colleen and Danny to their destination: a remote chalet where the mercenary Sabretooth awaits their arrival! They escape the killer and his henchmen, but are forced to endure the cold of a night on the Rockies before they can make their return to save Hogarth! Death awaits as Iron Fist faces Sabretooth mano-a-mano!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Sabretooth 4 (Enhanced)
Intelligence: Sabretooth 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Draw 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Sabretooth 5 (Marathoner)
Agility: Iron Fist 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting: Sabretooth 7 (Living Weapon)
Energy: Iron Fist 3 (Explosives)
Total: Draw 28 (Metahuman)

Everybody knows Sabretooth is one of Wolverine's deadliest enemies! A little less well known: that he started out mixing it up with a completely different hero! We're in for another classic Marvel milestone in today's feature fight!

There's a good chance you know the basics about the mutant called Victor Creed. He possesses an accelerated mutant healing factor, claw-like finger nails, phenomenal strength, heightened senses, and generally impressive physical constitution. He also has an uncanny acumen for violence and animal savagery.

Creed's true history is muddled. That's thanks in part to time spent with the Weapon X project - notorious for implanting false memories. It's believed he exhibited mutant traits at a very young age. He killed his brother, remaining chained in the family basement where his father would rip the canine teeth from his mouth. A repeated ritual thanks to his uncanny healing abilities.

This generally lousy childhood started Sabretooth on a blood stained path to a life of pain and misery. Some time after leaving Weapon X, he began applying his lethal skills to life as a mercenary. It was a job in the Canadian rockies that first brought him into conflict with his frequent foe: Iron Fist!

Danny Rand had his own troubling childhood experiences, but emerged a very different man! Born to a wealthy entrepreneur; Danny was the heir apparent to a fortune -- and a secret martial arts legacy!

His father Wendell was once adopted by Lord Tuan of the mystical city of K'un-Lun! During a pilgrimage back, Wendell's business partner sent him plummeting to his death. His wife Heather soon died protecting their son from starving wolves. Alone in the mountains, the boy was discovered and taken in by the denizens of K'un-Lun. There, he began training under Lei Kung the Thunderer.

Rand's rigorous martial arts training turned him into an immortal weapon! At the appropriate age, he was put through the rites of the Iron Fist, defeating the  great dragon Shou-Lou to be imbued with incredible mystic power!

We've seen Iron Fist use his super-charged punch to: Send tough guy Unus the Untouchable flying through the air [Power Man & Iron Fist #90], rip through a few Hand ninja [New Avengers #27], and kayo a giant Agamotto possessed Luke Cage [New Avengers #2]! We've also seen his martial arts take care of Sabretooth before - in Power Man & Iron Fist #66!

Sabretooth's hand-to-hand game definitely lacks the finesse of Iron Fist's kung-fu, but that doesn't mean he's outmatched. We may've seen him lose fights in Wolverine #50 and the X-Men movie, but he could generally be characterized as a more calculating combatant than the sometimes reckless Wolverine!

He doesn't have the healing factor Wolverine does to rely too heavily on it. Instead, Sabretooth favors his considerable strength and ferociousness to overwhelm opponents when he can. That was the plan when he stalked Jubilee through the X-Mansion [Adventures of X-Men #7] and went after Wonder Girl while fighting the Teen Titans [Unlimited Access #3]. This also demonstrates his tendency toward preying upon weaker attachments, which means Iron Fist's wounded travelling partner Colleen Wing could become a tactical target.

When all is said and done, it's more than likely to be a battle of skill and strength, fist and claw. Whoever finds the means to strike first with their special move will likely be the winner. Let's see how they managed...

History: Iron Fist (1-0-0) Ranking: Iron Fist (#32)

What Went Down...
With costumed minions preparing a massive chopper for extraction, Sabretooth toys with his target inside his chalet. The mission is almost over, but his hyper-keen senses detect something amiss with the body-suited soldier who should be Garrett. Gunshots outside confirm Sabretooth's suspicions.

The merc' sees Colleen Wing burst from their alpine compound, leading an escape of prisoners work for his target! A sudden slash of Sabretooth's claws exposes the chest of the suspect soldier -- exposing a winged dragon brand!

Recognizing his opponent for a super-hero, Sabretooth asks for a name. Iron Fist complies, introducing himself with a thrusting palm strike!

Sabretooth absorbs the blow and is on his feet in seconds! Iron Fist notes the villain's staggering speed as Sabretooth demonstrates his strength. He swats aside solid furniture like it was nothing!

The mercenary dashes forward and Iron Fist barely reacts in time to stay out of reach! Injuries from recent battles have taken their toll. Fortunately for him, action on the helipad outside has unforeseen results! The women working for target Hogarth destroy the massive hulk -- causing an explosion that shatters the windows of the chalet some fifty meters away!

Iron Fist dives across the room to shield Hogarth from falling shards of skylight, while Sabretooth makes a break for the rear exit!

There's nothing but glacier beyond the chalet, but the hero rushes to make pursuit any way. His hubris is his undoing as he leaves the cover of the interior for the glaring white of snow and sunrise! Iron Fist is snow blind!

Talons slash across Iron Fist's back as he struggles to get to grips with the white void now engulfing him! The escape was all a ploy -- Sabretooth's plan to use the familiar environment to trick his foe. A tactic that worked!

Another swing of those deadly claws take a swatch of fabric from Iron Fist's abdomen. He can block out the pain, but without knowing where Sabretooth is there's no way to make superior technique his advantage against the speedy power house! He swings wildly, missing his mocking target by a mile!

Over confident Sabretooth taunts Iron Fist to try again. The pause gives him time to charge the living weapon that is his right fist -- but harnessing his chi for a single knock-out blow is risky. Still exhausted from past battles and a night on the mountain, he can't afford to gamble that much energy!

Iron Fist snaps out of his thoughts as Sabretooth moves in for another attack. A wild swinging blow clips the hero's hip! He's woozy and needs to act!

Remembering the training he received as a boy under Lei Kung, Danny reaches out with his other senses. He hears heavy feet cross snow and at the speed of thought he acts -- thrusting his leg into Sabretooth's unsuspecting body!

The blow forces Sabretooth lurching forward. Iron Fist keeps close, using their contact to send the villain flipping to the ground with a hip toss!

The sudden turn in the fight gets Sabretooth mad and that makes it all the easier to hear, smell and feel him coming! A charging attack becomes an effortless side step and throw for the master martial artist!

Sabretooth's own momentum sends him flipping onto his head and neck! He staggers to his feet with threats of evisceration - providing Iron Fist the audio guide he needs to pinpoint his target for an all mighty knock-out blow!

The right-cross chin checks Sabretooth into next week! For all his ferocity and strength, the mutant mercenary is out cold on the snowy mountain!

The Hammer...
Still blind: Iron Fist reacts to the sound of someone approaching behind him. He has no idea he's swinging wildly at Colleen Wing! She ducks the attack and finds out the reason for it. Hey, no sweat! The snow blindness is temporary! All's well that ends well! Mostly...

Iron Fist #14 may be memorable as the first appearance of Sabretooth, but the series only had one more issue before it faced permanent cancellation. An on-going sub-plot involving Steel Serpent would have to be picked up in Marvel Team-Up, before the flagging Power Man series was rechristened Power Man & Iron Fist with issue #50.

Power Man & Iron Fist gave us many great years of one of comics' greatest buddy teams, but its a bittersweet example of the harsh trials of publishing. Iron Fist actually ended after a pretty strong handful of issues that boasted The Wrecking Crew, Captain America, Boomerang, and the X-Men in guest roles!

It would've been interesting to see where the series might've progressed with this level of promotional integration into other Marvel properties. I'm particularly jazzed by Boomerang and Sabretooth appearances. Yes, I do have a particular taste for a certain brand of second string villain. It also sets a tone for Iron Fist as a developing character that just strikes me as interesting. I suppose that's what we saw brought out more when he teamed permanently with Power Man.

Sabretooth, of course, goes through significant development after starting out here. A year or two ago, Erik Larsen was soliciting suggestions for examples of villains who started with one arch foe, and made a lasting transition to another.

Sabretooth comes immediately to mind as one of the best examples of a villain exchange. He would be irrevocably become associated with Wolverine and the X-Men, but not before Sabretooth's rivalry with Iron Fist escalated into the tag team arena! If you were paying attention to The Tape section, you'll have already found the link to Power Man & Iron Fist #66 -- Sabretooth's next grudge match with the Fist, alongside new partner Constrictor!

That partnership would last a few more appearances, before Sabretooth began meandering his way toward the Mutant Massacre, and an enduring arch-rivalry with Wolverine. It won't surprise regular readers to hear me romance those early chronological appearances, spread across multiple series.

The ultimate elevation of Sabretooth is arguably a testament to the beneficial staying power of co-creator Chris Claremont. Admittedly, we've been romancing his considered approach to comics a lot over the last couple of years. Characters like Juggernaut and The Reavers have also benefitted from developmental through lines created by Claremont.

If you were here last month, you would've been enjoying four classic contests from the canon of Wolverine with heavy influence from Claremont! Which made today's spotlight the perfect way to advance to a March of martial arts mayhem!

With Logan in global theatrical release today; we're moving on to the immortal weapon in honor of his live-action debut on Netflix! The new series Iron Fist goes live March 17th, introducing the final piece of the Netflix Defenders puzzle!

In the coming weeks we'll be looking at a few more memorable moments from Iron Fist's past and present! If you can't wait until then - be sure to follow any of the various links provided throughout this post. Or dive in to the Immortal Issue Index to find past featured fights organized by publisher, series and issue!

You can get daily links to classic battles inspired by the topics of the day by liking and sharing The Comic Book Fight Club on Facebook and Twitter! If you want to read the featured issue for yourself, use the Amazon link conveniently supplied to help support the site at no additional cost!

Winner: Iron Fist
#21 (+11) Iron Fist
#867 (-4) Sabretooth

Monday, February 27, 2017

Real Name: James "Logan" Howlett
First Appearance: Incredible Hulk #181 (November, 1974)
Fight Club Ranking: #4

Featured Fights:
- vs DONALD PIERCE & HARRY LELAND: X-Men #132 (Apr 1980)
- vs HELLFIRE CLUB: X-Men #133 (May 1980)
- vs DEATHSTROKE: Uncanny X-Men & New Teen Titans #1 (1982)
- vs NIMROD: Uncanny X-Men #194 (Jun 1985)
- vs LADY DEATHSTRIKE: Alpha Flight #34 (May 1986)
- vs LADY DEATHSTRIKE & REAVERS: Uncanny X-Men #205 (May 1986)
- vs DRACULA: What If...? #24 (Apr 1991)
- vs THE PROFESSOR: Marvel Comics Presents #83 (Aug 1991)
- vs CAPTAIN AMERICA: Captain America #405 (Aug 1992)
- vs MAGNETO: X-Men #25 (Oct 1993)
- vs LOBO: Marvel versus DC #3 (Apr 1996)
- vs ONSLAUGHT: Onslaught: X-Men #1 (Aug 1996)
- vs SABRETOOTH: X-Men (Jul 2000)
- vs DEATHSTRIKE: X-Men 2 (May 2003)
- vs XORN: New X-Men #150 (Feb 2004)
- vs THE HAND: Wolverine #20 (Dec 2004)
- vs DAREDEVIL: Wolverine #24 (Mar 2005)
- vs INVADERS: New Invaders #6 (Mar 2005)
- vs X-MEN: Wolverine #25 (Apr 2005)
- vs WINTER SOLDIER: Wolverine #39 (Apr 2006)
- vs BLADE: Blade #5 (Mar 2007)
- vs SABRETOOTH: Wolverine #50 (Mar 2007)
- vs THE HAND: New Avengers #27 (Apr 2007)
- vs ARCHANGEL: X-Force #5 (Sep 2008)
- vs THE HOOD & DORMAMMU: New Avengers #54 (Aug 2009)
- vs LUKE CAGE & AGAMOTTO: New Avengers #2 (Sep 2010)

It's somewhat inevitable that Wolverine would factor heavily into a comics blog dedicated to the art of superhero fighting. What is Wolverine if not an unstoppable killing machine? Well, funny you should ask. That seems to be an overriding facet of the hero's cinematic finale in Logan -- in wide theatrical release next week, March 3rd!

"Logan" will forego the testosterone soaked, guttural growl of Wolverine's greatest hits to tell a tale of the ageless mutant at the end of his world. Trailers paint a bleak picture of quiet desert, a world in decay, and a hero reduced to an aging drifter. It pulls its basic cues from Mark Millar's 2008 apocalyptic opus Old Man Logan, replacing blind Hawkeye with senile Professor X, and the madcap conquests of Red Skull et al with the looming mortality of Wolverine.

A pensive tone promises deep introspection on the character's fictional failings, but the biggest questions it raises may be of the cinematic legacy of Hugh Jackman. The Australia dynamo, who first took up the role 17 years ago in X-Men, says it's the last time he'll unsheathe the claws. As always, he affably sells it as their best effort to make a movie worthy of the character -- openly acknowledging they haven't quite hit the mark. Many expect this to be the best yet, but as trailers expose it as a more conventional film than first thought, I find myself reflecting more heavily on what might have been.

One of the questionable disappointments of Jackman's departure is the fact that we'll never get to him in the costume. 2013's The Wolverine seemed the time to do it. That movie took Wolverine into a world of deep tradition and ritual that would've allowed the flared mask the luxury of some samurai-styled significance. There actually is a deleted scene involving the mask, excised from the end of the movie. Tease, though it does, I would argue there were far more egregious omissions from the story of Wolverine's time in Japan.

The most frustrating moment was the fight with Shingen Yashida, where matters of the sword are solved with adamantium claws. The Wolverine of the comics strived to be worthy of a samurai code, choosing the sword as a matter of honor and discipline. In the movie, he remains an animal, taking far too little from his time in Japan. Though widely touted as the best outing for the character at the time, it was ultimately another under achiever, lacking the substance it promised, and the spectacle it justified. Villains Silver Samurai and Viper were especially misused, leading to another disappointing Third Act fight in a superhero movie, sorely lacking in gravitas and meaning.

It's difficult to tell if Logan will deliver on its ponderous proclivity. Donald Pierce is ultimately an odd choice for an arch-villain, and by its very nature, it sets out to be something other than the definitive experience with the Wolverine character.

If The Wolverine falls short of its potential as a definitive solo adventure, it may be left to X-Men 2 to be the best cinematic outing for the character. Bryan Singer never brought himself to approximate the joy of the comic book aesthetic, but with the siege of the X-Mansion, he unleashed a more ferocious Wolverine familiar to readers. The image of Jackman leaping from the mansion second floor, arms and claws extended, was classic Wolverine. Plot lines involving his mysterious past with Weapon X - another beat that kept him closer to the character on the page.

The bubbling molten metal and machines boring into his body. The naked man running into Canada's snowy wilderness, bloody claws extended. Expressions of confusion, anguish, rage. Short flashbacks told us everything we really needed to know about Wolverine's origin, yet the temptation of something like Barry Windsor-Smith's Weapon X was incredibly strong!

The fever dream of Wolverine's memories were one of the biggest hooks of X2, and some of the most memorable scenes of the first film. Acid visions of Jackman strapped down and sinking into a coffin-sized vat were undeniably compelling, but nothing killed the appeal of that story more than X-Men Origins: Wolverine. The first solo outing supplanted what should've been a lay-up for FOX, but turned into the hole every installment since has been trying to crawl out of! A brief, helmeted cameo in the otherwise uninspiring X-Men: Apocalypse proved for one fleeting moment than a 90 second Vine could be more enjoyable than a multi-million dollar blockbuster.

From a personal perspective, the brown costume of the eighties is the thing I would've most liked to see make it to the big screen. I still kinda hope it might bust out in the third act of Logan for his final stand, but that seems against the James Mangold sensibility, underscored by the meaning he was unwilling to give it in The Wolverine.

The biggest regret of the films will always be that they never delivered on the Weapon X movie they promised from the start. Jackman floating in an Empire style tube of water wearing that big crazy helmet. Eyes obscured by the full visor of an absurdly big piece of hardware! Giant rooms full of computers and scientists, explosions and terror as the test subject escapes. The inhuman personification of Wolverine's suffering: The Professor -- despicable until his final comeuppance.

This concludes our month long spotlight on Wolverine! The mutant hero sits poised on the verge of making the leap to the Top 3 in the Fight Club ranks! He jumped Hulk to take #4 earlier te month, and another win would've toppled Iron Man as well! With the shellhead hovering on the horizon in Spider-man: Homecoming, an injection of relevance could be on his way! We'll be looking at another iron willed hero in March. There's a special Wolverine connection in our next featured fight - so stay tuned for that!

      [Home]      Hero of the Week 02/20: Cheetah >>

Friday, February 24, 2017

Wounded Wolf (Marvel)
Uncanny X-Men #205 When: May 1986
Why: Chris Claremont How: Barry Windsor-Smith

The Story So Far...
When Yuriko Oyama killed her father, she inherited more than the ample estate of his industrial fortune. The legacy of Lord Dark Wind passed to her as well, and although she hated her father, she was honor bound to defend the family name. This is how a burdened daughter became Lady Deathstrike!

Travelling to America to collect on her father's debts, she inadvertently discovered the mutant Wolverine. Her father's process had been used to fuse unbreakable adamantium metal to his mutant bones, but this was not done honorably. The unique method was stolen by Weapon X by Oyama!

So Lady Deathstrike fought the Wolverine, intent on cutting the ill gotten metal from his body. Even with an army and highly advanced katana, she could not defeat the skilled X-Man. So she went away to remake herself an augmented warrior like him. Now Deathstrike is deadlier than ever before - and her revenge will be a dish best served in the New York winter!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Lady Deathstrike 4 (Enhanced)
Intelligence: Wolverine 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Lady Deathstrike 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Wolverine 6 (Generator)
Agility: Lady Deathstrike 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting: Wolverine 6 (Warrior)
Energy: Reavers 4 (Arsenal)

At last we weave the strands of a tangled history! Wolverine has defeated each of today's opponents before, but the legacy of his brutal victories is their unlikely union -- and the extremes they'll undertake to have their revenge!

Lady Deathstrike used to be Yuriko Oyama: daughter of a fanatical Japanese industrialist who discovered a method for bonding adamantium to human bone. She hated her father, Lord Dark Wind, but after killing him, accepted the burden of his tainted honor, and personal army.

Honor should have led Deathstrike to a bloodfeud with her father's assassin Bullseye. Instead, attempts to track the stolen metal of his bones led to the mutant Wolverine. In Alpha Flight #34, Deathstrike recognized the X-Man's skeleton as a product of stolen knowledge. She attempted to reclaim Weapon X's handiwork, and her father's honor, by cutting it from Wolverine's living body! Heather Hudson helped ensure Deathstrike and her samurai army left unsatisfied, but the defeat only intensified Oyama's obsession.

Her father's hi-tech katana and samurai clan had failed, so Lady Deathstrike submitted herself to Spiral and The Body Shop. There, she was stripped of her humanity to be rebuilt with cyber-organic enhancements. Her fingers became long bladed talons as she was remade into a living weapon!

To go with her new metallic body, Deathstrike was connected with a new army of mercenaries who themselves are cyborgs. The Reavers are: Murray Reese, Wade Cole & Angelo Macon.

The trio were almost killed as Hellfire Club Guardsmen fighting Wolverine in X-Men #133. Their life threatening injuries made them perfect recipients for cybernetic enhancement supplied by Donald Pierce. They remained closely affiliated with The Inner Circle for a time, before joining other Reavers in Australia, under the command of Pierce and Lady Deathstrike.

History favors Wolverine in combat against these four foes, but this is the first time he's faced Lady Deathstrike as a cyborg! Will her transformation into a killing machine finally bring her revenge? Let's see what happened...

History: Wolverine (2-0-0)
The Tape: Wolverine Ranking: Wolverine (#4)

What Went Down...
Winter in Manhattan's Lower East Side becomes a blanket of snow as the street succumbs to a sudden blizzard. Lost in the downpour and gusting winds, a baby sitter could be forgiven for mistaking the zip of ammunition for the stinging cold.

The city is no place for a lost little girl - but Katie Power is no ordinary child! She staggers through the snow searching for her sitter, Miss Randolph, but comes upon another familiar face instead: "Mr. Logan" -- The Wolverine!

Already suffering wounds from an earlier beginning to the attack; Wolverine is reduced to a bleeding, shirtless savage. Words fail when concerned police arrive on the scene. He can only clutch the child and growl, unable to warn them of the danger stalking through the snow. He runs.

Frightened and confused by her adult friend's state, Katie uses the powers of Energizer to stop them in their tracks! Her energy ball blasts Wolverine onto his back, and  frees her from his grip. She takes the time to recharge her powers and figure out her next move. Afraid to lose him, she hoists Wolverine over her tiny shoulders, and searches for a phone to contact Power Pack or the X-Men.

A taxicab with an accommodating driver offers relief for the child's burden. A story about her uncle and some thugs falls short when a hail of high-powered gunfire rips through the cab!

The Reavers mean to bring death upon them all, but Wolverine has the wherewithal to hurl the driver and child clear before the car explodes! He keeps running, scooping the terrified little girl in his arms as fire engulfs the street!

Gunshots chase them as Wolverine vaults over a wooden fence. They fall wildly into a sunken, snow covered work yard. Katie feels blood at her nose and lashes out with angry words. She takes them back and is rewarded with Logan's first coherent speech of the siege. He recognizes the girl better than he does himself. She cannot understand his Japanese dialect, but his brain is almost healed.

The super-powered girl switches from uniform to warm clothes, offering Logan her choir robe. Broken English signals his returning faculties. They huddle together, but a shining light warns of the arrival of The Reavers!

The heroes run for cover. Wolverine orders his temporary ward to trust that he's healed enough to handle the fight. He dissuades her from a lethal path and orders her exit. Then he uses the terrain to his advantage and lies in wait.

Wade Cole closes in on Wolverine's proximity - unaware his target is lurking right beneath him! Obscured by the cover of slats, Wolverine thrusts his clawed arm into the unsuspecting torso of the cyborg above!

Lady Deathstrike orders the last mercenary standing to find Katie Power and take her hostage. Murray Reese has been at it long enough to know it's never that easy. Wolverine is on him in an instant, so he whips around an unloads his hi-tech weapon at point blank. Against the healing mutant - it's no good.

If radio silence didn't tell Lady Deathstrike of Reese's fate, Wolverine emerges to confirm it. In her soul, she knew it would end this way. A crossing of inhuman swords in one final bloody showdown. It begins.

The newly made cyborg slashes her claws across Wolverine's face! He questions the honor of continuing her father's legacy. She will accept no alternative.

They swing and stretch limbs like dancers. A lunge pushes Deathstrike's bundled claws across the outer edge of Wolverine's exposed torso. A swing of her other hand swats back across his waiting face. He jerks forward once again as claws bury in his gut. She takes full advantage - driving the other set into his back!

She boldly proclaims the end of Wolverine's life -- but he rejects it! He knocks her away, summoning the energy of his own choice to live or die!

This time adamantium claws cut through Deathstrike's gut. They slash at her chest and slice at thighs. Cutting and hacking at a complex network of wires and microchips, Wolverine unmakes what was recently made.

The warrior's fa├žade broken and tattered, Lady Deathstrike's soul is laid bare -- and even Wolverine is shocked by what he sees!

Adamantium bones, claws and a mutant healing factor were all thrust upon the man called Wolverine, but the inhuman monster before him was a creation of choice. In her obsession, Yuriko Oyama has truly succeeded Lord Dark Wind.

Defeated, Deathstrike asks her nemesis to complete her failure with death. Though tortured by her role in reducing him back to a savage state he thought he'd left behind -- Wolverine refuses. Neither man nor animal could justify such a kill. She begs for mercy. He tells her to earn it. The fight is over.

The Hammer...
I like to think Secret Wars on Infinite Earths has something to offer as an information resource, but the fact of the matter is, you're only getting a window into the complete reading experience. I'll always encourage an interested reader to pursue and seek out the complete story themselves.

That may never be more true than with Uncanny X-Men #205 -- an issue that mere panels & text cannot do justice!

The images featured in today's entry may hint at the basic blows in isolation, but it's the complete composition of page layouts by Barry Windsor-Smith that make this issue a bona fide X-Men Classic!

With the turn of every page comes the temptation to squint. Such is the effective way in which snow whips across the page in every panel!

Winter is only part of the story. It's not the cold that draws me in when I read this issue. It's the danger! The hazy silhouettes stalking on the periphery. The light flare of their gun barrels. The darkly determined forms marching through a veil of snow.

There's actually no real mystery to who these shadowy hunters are. We're given a full glimpse of Lady Deathstrike and her minions in the opening pages. It's the emergence of a freshly built cyborg. The human villain of Alpha Flight #34, driven by obsession to remake herself in Spiral's Body Shop.

Deathstrike seeks assurances that the procedure can be reversed, but Spiral knows it's a lie. This will become the definitive vision for Lady Deathstrike moving forward. A woman who discarded her humanity in order to become one of Wolverine's deadliest enemies.

The other cyborg mercenaries were well known to readers at the time, but it's the first time they teamed with Deathstrike. Collectively they'll come to be known as Reavers. That's a name you might recognize if you're seeing Logan in theatres - in wide release March 3rd.

Sadly, Lady Deathstrike doesn't seem to be among the cadre of cyborg villains (led by Donald Pierce) in the highly anticipated cinematic finale. A dash of arch-nemesis that might've been welcomed in the dusty ode to Old Man Logan.

We've already lamented the disappointment of Bryan Singer's vision for the character in X-Men 2. If your only frame of reference for the character is the pristine beauty of Kelly Hu as silent henchwoman - you're missing out.

In many ways, the film version was the antithesis of the villain: stripped of her passion, conflict, and the choice of self-inflicted bodyhorror it led her to. Lady Deathstrike is ultimately a very Japanese high-concept, channeled through an American aesthetic. More Tetsuo than Iron Man, but also more Christmas lights & plastic chips than the slick, cyberpunk futurism of manga's best in the '80s.

It strikes me that it's a little bit punk that the fight is already under way when it begins. If you were wondering where Angelo Macon was in the recap, he's already a casualty when we catch up to the action. That's also why Wolvie's in such rough shape when we first bump into him.

Our entry point -- Energizer (Katie Power) -- is one of the members of Power Pack: a rainbow swirl of super-powered tykes right out of the most bubblegum '80s Saturday mornings! Don't worry, though. Wolverine made her promise to cover her ears and eyes while he gutted the nasty cyborgs! (That's a little bit punk and a little bit manga!)

That's just about all we have time for this week, but it's worth noting that we're folding in the off-page action into a continuum. If you scroll to the bottom of the page you'll find rankings updates for Macon and the assist for Energizer.

I have to imagine we'll find our way back to Power Pack some time in the future. I certainly hope we'll be back to talk more Lady Deathstrike. In the mean time, if you want to discover more from those characters, or many other topics, be sure to follow links littered throughout this post!

You can also dive into the full Secret Archive to browse ever featured fight by publisher, series and issue number! If you're looking for a little spontaneity, be sure to follow on Facebook or Twitter to get daily links inspired by the day's topics! An easy-breezy like and share will help support the site!

If you want to go the extra mile, or are just looking to get a first-hand look at the issue featured today, take advantage of the Amazon purchase link provided [right]! Doing so helps keep the Wars Infinite at no extra charge! Mmm! That's good schpiel!

Winner: Wolverine (w/ Energizer)
#4 (--) Wolverine
#515 (new) Energizer [+1 assist]
#834 (-510) Murray Reese
#835 (-513) Wade Cole
#836 (-513) Angelo Macon
#859 (-23) Lady Deathstrike

Monday, February 20, 2017

Real Name: Barbara Ann Minerva
First Appearance: Wonder Woman #7 (August, 1987)
Fight Club Ranking: #372

Featured Fights:
- vs CATWOMAN: Catwoman: When In Rome #4 (Mar 2005)
- vs FREEDOM FIGHTERS: Infinite Crisis #1 (Dec 2005)
- vs JUSTICE LEAGUE: Justice League of America #15 (Jan 2008)
- vs CATWOMAN: Catwoman #78 (Jun 2008)
- vs WONDER WOMAN: Wonder Woman #29 (Apr 2009)

The freight train of Injustice 2 is well and truly picking up speed on the track of an April release. The mystery of the playable game roster is quickly becoming solved with a slew of trailer reveals, most recently the Valentine's Day showcase of four femme fatales: Here Come The Girls!

Catwoman and Poison Ivy have finally stepped into view, alongside previous HOTW Black Canary, but the one I found myself most jazzed to see was: Cheetah!

The classic Wonder Woman villain isn't necessarily one of the most anticipated characters, but she comes as a harbinger for a lot of things I'm pleased to see. First and foremost: I'm pleased to see NetherRealm Studios resisting some of their lesser design impulses, offering up a faithful and tastefully understated incarnation of the character. The temptation to layer armor plates over the speedy villainess has been resisted -- at least until players choose their way through the Gear System.

The original Injustice had a solid DC Comics roster, but the game itself was pretty short on comic book reference. It's nice to see the sequel roster digging deeper into the pantheon for a more eclectic mix of playable characters. The fact that we already have the likes of Atrocitus and Supergirl, with Swamp Thing also revealed this week, paints a promising picture for a fun blend of characters.

It was fun to see Cheetah and Catwoman in the same gameplay footage. There'll be obvious appeal to throwing down with arch-nemesis Wonder Woman, but if you've seen Cheetah's more recent battles with Catwoman [see the list of links above] -- you know how that can be fun! I'd also get a kick out of testing Cheetah's quickness against The Flash, thinking of other more recent skirmishes.

I still can't call myself a total convert for Injustice, but they're building a case for what could be a very fun addition to the DC video game canon! That's enough to make Cheetah Hero of the Week!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Honor (Marvel)
Alpha Flight #34 When: May 1986
Why: Bill Mantlo How: Sal Buscema & Gerry Talaoc

The Story So Far...
Things have never gone smoothly when Heather Hudson and the man called Logan have got together. It all goes back to their first encounter - when the Wolverine roamed the Canadian wilderness naked and savage.

Back then, Logan had just escaped the Weapon X Project that laced his bones with unbreakable metal -- and when Heather saw the pain his mutant claws caused while attacking -- she and her husband James chose to help him. Their kindness helped nurse him back to humanity, forging a complex, lifelong friendship.

With her husband now dead, Heather has inherited his mantle as the battle-suited super-heroine Vindicator: leader of Alpha Flight! Hoping her old friend can teach her a thing or two about being a leader, she flies to New York.The pair are quick to reminisce about old times, but the thing about the past is that sometimes it can come back to bite you! Weapon X may have been a long time ago, but its legacy is about to draw a deadly new threat their way!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Lady Deathstrike 4 (Enhanced)
Intelligence: Wolverine 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Lady Deathstrike 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Wolverine 6 (Generator)
Agility: Lady Deathstrike 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting: Wolverine 6 (Warrior)
Energy: Vindicator 5 (Lasers)

Unfinished business! It's what motivates todays feature fight within the context of the story -- and in our spotlight of it! Long ago we touched on a movie version of our feature villain. Now its finally time to examine the real deal!

Lady Deathstrike was once Yuriko Oyama: daughter to World War II kamikaze pilot-turned wealthy industrialist Kenji Oyama, aka; Lord Dark Wind.

For a time, Yuriko hated her father for his fanatical, shame-fuelled quest to restore honor to post-war Japan. His obsession had led him to ritualistically scar the faces of his three offspring, and ultimately cost the lives of Yuriko's two brothers - killed during a failed political assassination attempt.

When Lord Dark Wind discovered a process for bonding adamantium metal to the bones of soldiers, he used the technique to enhance renowned assassin Bullseye. To thwart her father's scheme, Yuriko betrayed her father by aiding Daredevil. When Lord Dark Wind threatened Daredevil's life in dishonorable combat, Yuriko was finally spurred to kill her father with a sword to the back. An act that also led her lover to commit suicide over the death of his master.

Surviving her family; Yuriko accepted the burden of her father's legacy. Her first task was to seek out Bullseye for failing to pay for his augmentation. When she sought to track his unique adamantium skeleton, Yuriko instead discovered Wolverine - mutant whose skeleton was laced with adamantium by Weapon X.

Believing Wolverine to be the recipient of her father's ill gotten procedure, she is honor bound to reclaim the metal at all cost! Thus, Yuriko begins a blood feud that would forever change her life - assuming the mantle of Lady Deathstrike!

Contrary to that movie version mentioned earlier [see; X-Men 2], Deathstrike is not a mutant. Her famed metal talons are a result of a cyborg implant process -- symbol of her dedication to fighting Wolverine. Today's feature fight finds Lady Deathstrike before her dramatic transformation.

She still commands an unbreakable electro-magnetically tempered sword, and an army of highly trained swordsmen. This means Deathstrike can match Wolverine's augmented metal claws - and his innate skills as a fighter! Good thing he has back-up!

Heather Hudson is the power-suited Canadian hero called Vindicator. Her battle suit grants increased strength, flight, concussive blasts, forcefield, and an array of nuanced abilities that make her a formidable ally!

The only data for Vindicator we have comes from an alternate reality where she succumbed to the Wendigo curse [Exiles #31]. Rest assured: she should help even the playing field against Deathstrike's samurai horde. Not that Wolverine hasn't faced his fair share of overwhelming odds!

In the past we've seen Wolverine slice up The Hellfire Club [X-Men #133], dice with the Shi'ar Imperial Guard [New X-Men #124], rip through The Hand [Wolverine #20, New Avengers #27], torture the Fantastic Four [Wolverine #22], and vex the X-Men [Wolverine #25]! He's even matched the martial skill of Daredevil [Wolverine #24], survived the sword of Blade [Blade #5], and cut the Silver Samurai down to size [Wolverine #37]! Good indications this fight is well in hand. That's our cue to stop speculating and see how it goes!

Wolverine (1-0-0)
The Tape:
Wolverine Ranking: Wolverine (#4)

What Went Down...

In a Westchester County wood, an army of samurai assassins stand poised with swords drawn. They await the order of their fearless leader: Lady Deathstrike!

The Japanese warrior has come to New York to accuse Wolverine of obtaining his adamantium skeleton through ill gotten means. It's pure chance that he's flanked by Heather Hudson: the woman who discovered him naked and savage not long after escaping the Weapon X metal-bonding process!

A crash course in Deathstrike's personal history leads Hudson to realize the horrible truth -- the accusations are true! Not that it matters. Wolverine won't give up his bones without a fight - and Vindicator won't let anyone hurt him!

Electro-magnetic force-bursts beam from The Vindicator suit's gauntlets to the bodies of Oyama samurai! Deathstrike orders her horde kill the Canadian heroine on the way to their target. Her father's swordsmen leap to comply!

With a single wild swing - Wolverine disarms an attacking samurai and slashes his claws across his middle. The backhand could've easily disemboweled the samurai, but Wolverine is exercising restraint. Retracting his claws at the last moment enough to spare the soldier's life.

Vindicator takes her combat cues from the honorable X-Man, who suggests they take to the trees, rather than engage in a front assault. She flies skyward, while the clawed mutant blends in with the forest. A short-lived obscurity thanks to wristbands that detect his adamantium bones.

A samurai closes in on a tree, preparing to attack the mutant behind it -- but Wolverine is lost in the limbs above! He drops -- slashing at the back of his hunter's helmet and neck! A knock-out blow -- but still the shuriken fly!

With no one emerging from the forest, Vindicator realizes she's been led astray by her protective friend. She glides back across the canopy, firing blasts as the scattered swordsmen below. Their armor provides little defense.

Two more samurai happen upon Wolverine elsewhere in the wood. He swings his claws, shattering a projectile weapon with ease. Moving in to closer quarters, his adamantium claws make light work of their swords, too!

Lady Deathstrike bares witness to the impressive feat, but warns her opponent he'll find her sword is made of stronger metal. They cross blades -- an all mighty "ktlang" ringing out as sword collides with claw!

Deadly throwing stars and chain darts collide with Vindicator's hi-tech suit force-shield. She has little to fear from their antiquated weapons -- returning fire with her protected body acting as an airborne battering ram!

Across the wood, Lady Deathstrike demonstrates the strength of her sword -- an electro-magnetically tempered blade invented by her father. It collides with Wolverine's adamantium consequence free -- and effortlessly slices through tree bark in a single cut!

Wolverine contemplates the samurai code of an honorable kill versus the X-Men code of non-lethal violence. He wishes his mutant friends were there to help him. As he does, another ally comes into view in the skies above: Puck - behind the wheel of the Alpha Flight Omniship!

Searching for the electro-magnetic signature of Vindicator's suit, Puck zeroes in instead on Lady Deathstrike's sword! Spotting the clearing made by the weapon, he pilots the Omniship on collision course -- recognizing his former teammate Wolverine too late to avoid hitting him!

Deathstrike demonstrates the cutting power of her sword, dragging it through the underside of the aircraft! Puck ejects to safety, leaving it to careen into a crash landing -- the sound of which alerts Vindicator.

Lady Deathstrike looms over a toppled Wolverine, preparing to cut the bones from his living body. So focused - she doesn't notice the red and white human-missile coming for her!

The high velocity impact sends Lady Deathstrike flying across the battlefield into a nearby oak. Her armor absorbed the brunt of both blows, allowing her to immediately rise to challenge the battlesuit tech of Vindicator!

Wolverine and Puck recover in time to watch in horror the deadly swordswoman swing her electro-magnetized blade at Vindicator's body!

Fortunately, the electro-magnetic force-shield holds against Lord Dark Wind's electro-tempered blade! It shatters on impact -- along with Lady Deathstrike's plans to claim Wolverine's adamantium -- for now...

The Hammer...
Victory belongs to Vindicator and Wolverine who share the hard fought win! Vindicator had the honor of defeating the villainess, but Wolverine had his share of beating her samurai army, as well.

As a matter of housekeeping, I'm throwing an assist on Puck. Not for helping his Alpha Flight buddies, but for mistakenly helping Lady Deathstrike by driving an aircraft into the back of Wolverine's skull! In his defense: "It was dark." Yeah... Thanks heaps, bub.

It's been fun to cross the border to register an issue of Canada's premier super-team book, but as I made clear in The Tape [above] -- what I'm really excited about is finally delivering on Lady Deathstrike!

When it comes to arch-nemeses: Wolverine's bad guys are inevitably lining up behind Sabretooth. It's a tough ask to compete with the perfect match of mutant powered savagery, and inter-twined backstory. It's been personal for a very long time between those two, fuelling compelling tooth and nail battles rooted in character-centric hatreds.

There are a small handful of villains vying for second place in Wolverine's list of enemies. Matters of exclusivity and longevity will vary. I'd stop short of boldly declaring Lady Deathstrike #2, but you could reasonably make arguments for it.

Magneto may've actually stripped the metal from Wolverine's bones, but their rivalry was never as personal as it was with Lady Deathstrike. For her, that adamantium represents a deep psychic wound. A living reminder of a slight against her family's honor and legacy. An insult that cuts through her blood.

Admittedly, many of the things that make Lady Deathstrike a personal favourite are absent from this early appearance. You'll note from the mugshot used that there's an iconic transformation yet to be made in Alpha Flight #34. This issue merely stablishes the groundwork for the feud, but not the fight itself. Deathstrike would put down the sword shortly after this defeat -- becoming the sword herself through an extreme process. The transformation happens in an '86 issue of Uncanny X-Men that we'll look closer at some time soon.

Once Deathstrike has the claws and metal, she's every bit the physical threat of Sabretooth. Like Victor Creed, she also tugs at Wolverine's troubled history -- both his reluctant submission to the Weapon X program, and his ties to Japan.

These two factors are an intertwining conflict of the soul. Adamantium bones were something that was inflicted upon Wolverine, yet his time spent in Japan informs an understanding of the value system that Lady Deathstrike pursues. From a certain perspective, Deathstrike is acting as protagonist fighting to right a perceived wrong. In this respect, she's almost the inverse of Sabretooth.

Of course, the joy of Lady Deathstrike's obsessed blood feud with Wolverine falls away a little when you remember it came about completely by accident.

It's a little bit of a stretch to believe Yuriko would take up her father's cause after the resolution Daredevil story. If nothing else, there's at least a nice layer of pathos to becoming the thing she hates, and being beholden to Lord Dark Wind, even after his death. If only she ever remembered to go after the guy who actually stole adamantium from her family: Bullseye!

Granted, nobody wants to see Bullseye taken off the board. It's just a little silly that Deathstrike accidentally found Wolverine -- and completely forgot about the guy who deliberately dishonored her family in much the same way.

I'm not sure the Deathstrike/Bullseye rivalry has ever been fully explored in the years since. In 2015, Brian Cronin singled out the topic for his column on CBR, noting that they were teamed together with The Thunderbolts during Civil War!

In the absence of good references, we can assume there may have been unseen restitution and/or professional agreements between the two. It's still a wrinkle that could be very satisfying to see addressed if the opportunity arose, though. A crossfire for Daredevil to get caught between, should the opportunity for a few fun, easy to read issues ever arise.

That about brings us to the end of our entry. Before we go, I really must draw your attention to the cover of Alpha Flight #34. It's a pretty fantastic, early example of Mike Mignola before the heavy blacks and slumped poses have become trademark. You can see his strength for dramatic, epic staging, though. The pile of armored samurai look great - and the heroes look great on top of them! I still love that brown Wolverine costume!

We'll probably be talking a bit about the costume in Hero of the Week when we get the chance. February on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths has been all about Wolverine in honor of the theatrical release of Logan - March 3rd!

If you'd like to find more feature fights like this, follow-ups, or involving the same characters - be sure to follow links throughout the post, or search by series in the Issue Index Archive! Seen something you like? Be sure to tell a friend, like & share via Facebook and Twitter, and or leave a comment!

Winners: Vindicator & Wolverine
#4 (--) Wolverine
#91 (+145) Vindicator (Heather Hudson)
#514 (new) Puck [+1 assist]
#836 (-279) Lady Deathstrike