Wednesday, May 23, 2018

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

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

Monday, May 21, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday, May 18, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Went Down...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

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

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

Monday, May 14, 2018

Real Name: Beta Ray Bill
First Appearance: Thor #337 (November, 1983)
Fight Club Ranking: #136

Featured Fights:
- vs THOR: Thor #337 (Nov 1983)
- vs SILVER SURFER: Beta Ray Bill: Godhunter #2 (Sep 2009)

We may've put The Infinity Gauntlet behind us, but we're still feeling the fallout from this year's biggest theatrical superhero release: Avengers: Infinity War!

The movie is exciting record-breaking audiences with its epic ensemble against the designed entropy of Thanos, but for your seasoned comic book reader, some of the most exciting elements are nestled in detailed tangents with far reaching implications.

Last week we talked about the Red Skull's cameo appearance, and in today's Hero of the Week, we're projecting forward to explore the latest signs of Beta Ray Bill's existence in the Marvel Cinematic Universe! Thar be mild spoilers ahead, so proceed with caution!

Those who saw Thor: Ragnarok last year know the hammer Mjolnir was destroyed, necessitating the creation of a new hammer in Infinity War called Stormbreaker. Comics readers know that as the name of the gleaming hammer wielded by Beta Ray Bill!

There was much discussion about BRB around the time of Thor: Ragnarok. Some fans spotted his likeness on The Grandmaster's tower of former champions. Marvel overlord Kevin Feige let slip that there were intentions for a cameo, but as he told Crave Online, "There was a Beta Ray Bill, but it was so quick that you would have the same complaints that you have now. He was in it a little bit more and it just didn’t do justice. And the feeling is, if you can’t do it justice, do it later."

As much as it would've been nice to see more characters in The Grandmaster's combat arena, it's an encouraging sign that Marvel honchos are keeping the beloved B-hero in reserve! His origins are strong enough to power a fourth Thor film, even if it means sharing the screen with featured villains.

If you don't already know, the story is pretty simple: Beta Ray Bill is a genetically-enhanced warrior charged with protecting the people of the planet Korbin. The orange-toned aliens lived a relatively peaceful existence, building an empire of passive colonization. It all went sour when Surtur's fire demons began attacking, forcing them to flee their ruined galactic empire on a fleet of arc ships guarded by Beta Ray Bill! They were detected by SHIELD while fleeing fire demons, leading Nick Fury to recruit Thor to investigate. The result was the now famous battle of Thor #337!

Turns out Beta Ray Bill is a pretty good guy! At a time when such a feat was nigh unheard of; Bill was able to lift the hammer of Thor -- and use it to strike at its owner!

It was all a classic case of mistaken identity, but Bill wanted to keep his newfound godly powers to help defend his people. There was a contest, Bill once again showed himself to be worthy, so Odin decreed he deserved a hammer all his own! Thus, the mallet Stormbreaker was created, and one of the great supporting characters expanded upon the pantheon of brave Norse gods!

Replacement heroes have always been a bit of a drag, but as the first real Thor equivalent, "Beta Ray Thor" has always stood above the rest. Everything about him is just a little off-kilter, and his adventures in space with friends and foes like Silver Surfer, Ego The Living Planet, and Tyrant are a real hoot! He's a hero all his own, but he's got some real cool friends!

A movie-version will inevitably need some tweaking, but the basics are all set. Chris Hemsworth's Thor was cast into space after the fall of Asgard, and has every reason to bump into the space-faring Korbinite. They could flip the script entirely, so it's BRB who disturbs the sleeping Asgardians, or just send Thor on his merry inter-galactic way, with the basic premise of Thor #337 in tact. If the future for characters like Thor is appearances in other franchises, it always struck me that Bill was a natural for the Guardians of the Galaxy, too. Perhaps after Infinity War, Thor will continue to tagalong with them.

The trajectory of the Marvel movie universe seems to be thoroughly cosmic! Captain Marvel has the potential to be the next big hit ala; Black Panther, with the promise of Kree and Skrulls offering more thrills. Nova makes a lot of sense, and we talked a whole lot about the appeal of Firelord in recent feature fights, as well! Even the X-Men films are space-bound in the upcoming Dark Phoenix, with who knows what implications if Disney's acquisition of FOX properties goes ahead!

Marvel have made it known they have a big picture beyond Avengers. Who knows what that means! The Kree/Skrull War? Operation Galactic Storm? Secret Wars? Annihilation? Bring on the weird and wonderful universe of cosmic heroes! Let Thanos be but a beginning!