Friday, April 28, 2006

"Juggernaut's back in town!"
Uncanny X-Men #194 When: June 1985
Why: Chris Claremont How: John Romita Jr.

The story so far...
Recovery from battle with the Hellions is cut short.
When news reports make their way to the X-Mansion, hailing the return of the Juggernaut; Colossus, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Shadowcat, Rogue and Phoenix must ready themselves for battle.

Little do they realise, the Juggernaut will not be their greatest enemy this day. Anti-mutant forces from the future have sent their agent of death into the timestream, and he is also about to reemerge.

Tale of the tape...
Quite a formidable collection of X-Men are the subject of our update this week. Not just members of the day, but also an unlikely individual who would join the team some twenty years later - the Juggernaut.

Strength: 6 (Invincible)
Stamina: 7 (Unstoppable)

On paper it's tough to find anyone who can topple the Juggernaut.
He is the irresistible force and the immovable object, all rolled in to one giant, rust coloured package. This guy has given the very best a run for their money; the Hulk, the X-Men, Thor and even the New Warriors.

Nimrod, of course, is no slouch.
As the ultimate Sentinel from the future his skills are specially designed to combat all potential mutant threat. This includes incredible strength, regenerative abilities, and various other special skills.

Strength: 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: 4 (Tactician)
Stamina: 7 (Unstoppable)
Energy Powers: 5 (Lasers)

One on one it might be a close fight. If Juggernaut and Nimrod were to face off in a fight to the finish, it might even never have a decisive conclusion.
Of course, when you factor in the combined talents of Wolverine, Colossus, Rogue, Nightcrawler, Rachel Summers and Kitty Pryde, suddenly you start to tip the scales.

On paper; even a machine as indomitable as the Nimrod cannot possibly match up to the might of those X-Men combined. I could not in good conscience suggest otherwise.

What went down...
The X-Men split up into teams of two to monitor the actions of Cain Marko, aka. the Juggernaut.
Kitty Pryde and Rachel Summers monitor his civilian actions inside the First United National Bank of New York, wherein rather mundane transactions occur.

Outside on a rooftop nearby, Nightcrawler, accompanied by Rogue, gives the order to leave Juggernaut be if his motivations are pure. An order motivated by fear, but supported by Wolverine, who coaches his partner, Colossus, on the virtues of avoiding violence whereever possible (Hah! My, how times change!).

The urban hum of mundanity would not last long, broken by a "ZAM!" that would signify the arrival of Nimrod: Sentinel of the Future!
The Sentinel recognises potential public threat in allowing criminals; Juggernaut, Shadowcat and Phoenix to remain at large. Each are adjudged "enemies of humanity." The penalty for which, apparently, is death.

Juggernaut takes the brunt of Nimrod's blast and bursts out of his civilian clothing, while Rachel Summers uses her telekinetic abilities to shield both Kitty Pryde and herself from the attack.
As Juggernaut dons his conveniently foldable helmet, Pryde phases Summers into the bank vault below ground. There, she leaves Phoenix to grapple with the panicking citizens, whose frantic thoughts invade her psychic mind.

Nimrod continues to fire energy blasts at the lumbering Juggernaut. Strategically the Sentinel sends Juggernaut hurtling out of the bank, out into a nearby construction yard, where he seeks to pacify the magically powered villain without probable civilian casualty.

Juggernaut survives impact, disintigration beams, and 1.37 kilotons of steel I-beams, before the X-Men arrive.

The dielmma facing the X-Men is one most perplexing. Do they aid in the arrest of one of their oldest foes, or do they challenge the mechanical mutant hunter from the future? Their answer is swift.
Nightcrawler teleports himself and Colossus closer to the situation, where Nimrod is able to extrapolate their destination and incapacitate them with more energy blasts.

Wolverine leaps into action, calling upon the aid of Rogue for a fastball special!
Unfortunately Nimrod's personal force field is one of the few substances known that can repel the assault of razor sharp adamantium claws. Wolverine is flung back - knocked out cold by the impact.

Nimrod refocuses his attentions on the Juggernaut by knocking his protective helmet away, leaving only the psychic shielding of his skullcap. The calculating Sentinel stuns the Juggernaut with a tight-beam, ultra-high frequency sonic blast. The pain is said to render Juggernaut unable to think, much less act.

Act, Kitty Pryde does, trying to revive her fallen comrades.
She's able to phase her way through a plasma bolt, before reaching into the Sentinel to discover whether it contains mere man, or mechanics that she can disrupt.
Though her answer is the latter, she finds herself unable to make an impact. Nimrod's energy field deflects the phasing mutant, and impacts her with a nerveshock that renders her body impotent.
The intervention of the flying Rogue saves Kitty Pryde from further reprisal.

Rachel Summers; unable to communicate telepathically due to Nimrod's psionic inhibitor field, uses her head for a physical offense. She places telekinetic shields over the unconscious X-Men and attempts to dump the pile of I-beams, previously used against Juggernaut, on Nimrod.

While the Sentinel is forced to battle his way free of the steel, Rogue thinks fast, emlpoying her ability to absorb the powers of others to combine the might of the unconscious X-Men.
Sucking up the powers of Colossus and Nightcrawler, the Southern belle's skin turns to steel, while her hair and face shade to a familiar blue.

She teleports behind the Sentinel as it emerges from the rubble, bringing down a thunderous blow with one of the I-beams.
The attack continues as she grapples with Nimrod's arm and uses Nightcrawler's talent in an offensive fashion, teleporting the arm away from the machine's center.

With the machine vulnerable, and her own strength combining with Colossus' to keep her on her feet, Rogue seizes the opportunity to strike. Plunging her fist into the heart of the beast, she shatters Nimrod into pieces.

Nimrod pulls his compotents together, but he is too damaged to fight-on. Nimrod disappears in a flash of light to function to fight another day.

The bruised and battered Juggernaut staggers to his feet. Though ungrateful, both he and Rogue silently agree to allow the other to leave.

The hammer...
All hail Rogue, and her punk-rock eighties hair style!

I didn't personally invest in the X-Men until the 1990 Annual, which featured a story that crossed over with the Fantastic Four. It's safe to say I was more than a little late to the mutant parade, and in times current, I'm again somewhat anti-mutant.
This decade around, however, I would put my absence down to distain for the mismanagment of the product, rather than ignorance.

That said, during the nineteen ninties I was able to familiarize myself with these unique and interesting characters. As a fan of the cartoon series, and comics in general, I was aware of Nimrod, and got a kick out of this simple little story.
I don't know how obscure it is in the scheme of things, but it struck me as a fun inclusion for Secret Wars on Infinite Earths.

Obviously it features the unmistakable flavour of X-Men legend, Chris Claremont, but it also carries the charms of an underdeveloped John Romita Jr.
As a man who has since made his mark on X-Men, Iron Man, Punisher and Spider-man with such a unique style, it's fun to see this filtered version of the man. Particularly where some images hint at the squarer beats, and liney details that would become his trademark.

It's also fun to reflect on the twenty-year gap between this issue, that sees the X-Men and Juggernaut teaming up, and the ultimate association the characters would have. For those unaware, Juggernaut is currently a member of the Excalibur team, but formerly made the switch from villain to hero under the watchful eye of the much maligned, Chuck Austen.

The Fight: 3.5 The Issue: 3
Additional stats:
Rogue - Critical strike (Nimrod)
Juggernaut - Assist
Rachel Summers - Assist
Wolverine - Assist
Nightcrawler - Assist
Colossus - Assist
Shadowcat - Assist

NEXT FIGHT: After the monthly punch-up, stay tuned for Marvel vs DC action as Spider-man takes on Superboy in a battle of the clones!

Monday, April 24, 2006

"The Showdown of the Century!"
Marvel versus DC #3 When: April 1996
Writer: Ron Marz Artist: Dan Jurgens

The story so far...
Life in the DC and Marvel universes has always been tough, but when cosmic events conspire to endanger both, the heroes of both Earths face a secret crisis that could destroy them all.

Before time two cosmic entities existed, sexless brothers representing the two sides of all that is, was, and will ever be.

Turmoil between the two brought about an end to things as they once were, but in the aftermath their energies were dissipated into space, becoming part of the multi-verse. As a result of the actions of various beings of different realities, instabilities emerged. After eons of recollecting their fragmented thoughts, the two brothers turned, and remembered their existence.

Now they pit their warriors against one and other.

Tale of the tape...
By rights I think you have an immediate mismatch on two levels.

In stature; Wonder Woman stands at the pinnacle of the superhero ladder. As part of DC comics' trinity, Wonder Woman has reigned for sixty years as perhaps the most identifiable female characters in comic books.
On a canonical level, Wonder Woman's strength matches that of even the mighty Superman. Her Amazonian warrior instinct has also been played up in recent years, showing her to have a far greater destructive potential.

Strength: 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: 4 (Tactician)
Speed: 3 (Trained Athlete)
Stamina: 5 (Marathon Runner)
Agility: 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting Ability: 6 (Warrior)
Energy Powers: 1 (None)

Storm, though not as long lasting a character, hit her height in the nineties in an era of Jim Lee and the X-Men cartoon. As a leader she established herself as a strong female lead, whose powers to control the weather made her both useful in a tactical capacity, as well as offensive.

Unlike Wonder Woman, who was born an Amazonian, Storm's mutant gifts led her African fellows to believe her a Goddess under false pretences. Pretty clever premise for a fight, huh?

Strength: 2 (Normal Human)
Intelligence: 4 (Tactician)
Speed: 2 (Normal Human)
Stamina: 3 (Strong Willed)
Agility: 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting Ability: 4 (Trained Fighter)
Energy Powers: 5 (Lasers)

With Storm marrying Black Panther, one could imagine a scenario here where the two heroes could resolve a confrontation through diplomatic means. What is it they always say? If the world were run by women...
Let's be honest, if the world were run by women, there would only be peace because everyone was too confused about what the problem was supposed to be.

Alright, seriously... this is an interesting match up.
Both characters have high potential for destructive force, with Wonder Woman probably being the more obvious of the two. Her style involves direct (neck breaking) action, employing her incredible Amazon strength to disarm and harm.

Storm, generally more proficient when working with a team, is still quite a capable solo competitor. Her most notable offensive would be her ability to control lightning bolts in seemingly impossible situations.
This would without a doubt be her only chance against the Justice League beauty, and it's a very real one.

Coming down to the wire, I think the nature of the characters leans the outcome toward Wonder Woman. Her aggressive tact polarizes the more typically cerebral Storm, who could very easily be subdued before willingly attacking.

What went down...
As a result of the previous fight between Captain Marvel and Thor; Wonder Woman becomes the first DC character to possess the mighty hammer, Mjolnir.

Confronting her weather-riding foe, Wonder Woman deems it inappropriate to wield the weapon of Thor, considering it gave her such a substantial advantage. In the interest of fairness, she tosses the weapon aside, facing Storm as intended, with her own strengths rather than those of the Norse God.

The airborne combat begins, as Storm flaunts her powers. Wonder Woman declares her strength to more than a match for mere bad weather.
WW grapples with Storm's ankle, no doubt jarring her, but Storm is able to gather her barings as the two approach a rollercoaster.

Wonder Woman refuses to give up, but as Storm mercilessly attacks her with lightning bolt after lightning bolt, Wonder Woman has little choice but to submit to the awesome power of the heavens.

Storm asks forgiveness, and cradles the body of her fallen sister.

The hammer...
Well, if you had any doubts in the impartial nature of 'the tape' here's another cross next to my name. Storm, of course, picking up a decisive victory.

I think one would honestly have to attribute the victory to the time period. Today Storm has slipped into relative obscurity in titles like X-Treme X-Men, and her upcoming marriage to be followed up in the pages of Black Panther.

Conversely; with a feature film on the way to be directed by fan-favourite, Joss Whedon; things are certainly looking promising for Wonder Woman.
The character also features in the well received Justice League Unlimited cartoon, which likely surpasses the forgotten X-Men romp that likely served Storm so many votes.

Like other battles previously discussed, this is an insightful time capsule in the world of comics of the time. The nineties were dominated by many things, and it was here that the indomitable X-machine really got rolling. It is frankly surprising that the mini-series did not feature more X-Men characters; using only Wolverine and Storm in fight match-ups.

If you're just joining us, you'll no doubt be aware of technical problems that have the site on delay. I apologise for that, as your continued viewership is gratifying and greatly appreciated. I hope to have the blog back up and running soon.

The Fight: 2 The Issue: 4

NEXT FIGHT: The next stage of evolution faces off against the future itself.

Friday, April 21, 2006

"All they do is watch us kill: Part 1"
Batman #648 When: February 2006
Why: Judd Winick How: Doug Mahnke

The story so far...
When the survivors of the Crisis on Infinite Earths trapped themselves in their own non-space, they could not have imagined the vast influence they would still have.

As Superboy of Earth-Prime pounded furiously at the walls of his protective prison; unbridled rage shifted reality to a place where Jason Todd should never have died.

Thus, the prodigal son, retaining the injuries sustained at the hands of the Joker, desperately freed himself from his grave, and staggered back into the world.
With the intervention of Ra's and Talia Al Ghul, Jason Todd was eventually able to recover his memories, and rediscover a Gotham that had moved on without him, and a Batman who had not avenged him.

Tale of the tape...
It should be no secret that this will Winick/Mahnke period will forever be remembered as one of my favourite Batman runs ever. Mahnke's pencils have been beautifully complimented by superb inkers and colourists [like Tom Nguyen and Alex Sinclair], and they in turn have beautifully presented Judd Winick's on-going Gotham.

I'm sure some credit also has to go to the editorial staff, who probably had some influence in this direction for the Dark Knight. As fantastic as it would be, I find it hard to believe Judd Winick would arrive at a style like this, let alone be allowed to. This really has been the most real Gotham I've read in a long time.

If you've been tuning in to Secret Wars on Infinite Earths for the past few months, you'll have already seen Red Hood in action, reclutantly teaming up with Batman aginst the Society.

Intelligence: 4 (Tactician)
Speed: 3 (Trained Athlete)
Stamina: 4 (Athlete)
Agility: 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting Ability: 5 (Martial Artist)

Red Hood's abilities are fairly straight forward, derived from the Batman's own training, and therefore relatively similar. What his intelligence as a tactician does not aptly display is his newfound cut throat approach.
This is a Batman style vigilante who will gladly kill if the time is right, and Black Mask would quite logically be on his list as the current crimelord of Gotham.

Red Hood really has a wide array of options to defeat Black Mask.
He's already been shown to be apt with explosives, and even used a rocket launcher to blow up Black Mask's office from an adjacent building. The guy has ruthless aggression, and still doesn't like crime.

If Jason Todd has a weakness, it's that, for the time being, he seems to be satisfied with controlling crime, as well as extinguishing it.

Intelligence: 4 (Tactician)
Fighting Ability: 3 (Street Wise)
Energy Powers: 2 (Projectile Weapons)

Black Mask is no monkey's uncle, but he's as human as the Red Hood, but without the training and fantastic skills.

In fact, he's arguably a far less potent threat than any of the other Gotham rogues. Essentially he's just a thug with a disfigurement, who managed to take advantage of a situation [see; War Games], and rise to the point where he could employ a greater force.

His only chances against Red Hood are his gritty street ethics, his army of criminals, and the enemies Red Hood has made per capita. The potential for intervention by other gangs, or super criminals is certainly high. Particularly after Red Hood killed the Society strong-man, Captain Nazi.

On paper? This is Red Hood's fight. However, with so many external variables percolating in the bowels of Gotham City, this fight is a lot more open than it should be.

What went down...
Quite surprisingly, Black Mask enters a meeting with his top generals, only to ice each one of them with a machine gun. Part of the business, I'm sure, but trying to cut a deal with your vigilante opponent, probably isn't.

Having killed his men, Black Mask realises it's become apparent that Red Hood's word may be less than binding, so he decides to finally do what no hired croney has been able to - take out the Red Hood.

He furiously smashes a chair over the Hood's helmet, and whips a pistol out, but the skilled Todd is able to leap into a kick to the face at close quarters.

Black Mask fires off a shot, but Red Hood is able to lock his arm up, ensuring his aim is pointed away from his body. Red Hood disarms his opponent and slaps him across the face with the pistol in one fluid motion.
Red Hood returns the favour, and the two exchange blows until the superior fighter gains the advantage, and tosses Black Mask to the street through the bar's front windoiw.

With the conviction of a madman, Mask dives back through the window, and hurls himself at the vigilante. His furious attack comes with a lecture of street strength. The Black Mask points to himself and asks the armored Red Hood what he feels when he punches him. Skin and flesh. Flesh he's not afraid to lose.

Red Hood fights back, using a knife to press his point, but Black Mask gets hold of a poolcue and smashes it across the armored mid-section of the Red Hood, taking the wind out of him long enough to stab the broken half into his back.

Feeling the pain, Red Hood slaps a small explosive on Black Mask's back that bursts into flames. The crimeboss whips his coat off, and calls him a little girl for his tactics.
Hood doesn't care if it means winning. He slices at the back of Black Mask's neck, but the spilling of blood only makes Mask crazier.

The two grapple with the knife between them, and Black Mask teaches the young man a lesson about life and survival in Gotham.

They wrestle over the knife, but as the Batman finally arrives on the scene, it's too late. Black Mask has the knife, and he's going to use it.

It cuts deep.

Through body armor.
Through flesh.

The hammer...
Honestly, I'd have to say never in Oprah and Tina Turner's wildest dreams did I ever expect to see Black Mask attain victory in a fist fight. Especially not with a crazed, trained up lunatic like Jason Todd - which leads me to a disappointing revelation.

In the following issue [Batman #649] we have the disappointing fortune of learning that the man that lay bleeding next to the pool table was not Jason Todd. He was a lackey imposter, with a helmet that allowed Jason Todd to transmit through a speaker.

Opening tale of the tape, I mentioned how fantastic a run this has been.
That single moment has to be about the only blemish on an otherwise all-star effort by Mahnke and Winick. A fakeout of that proportion is very hard to swallow in any context, let alone a story that's been so superb because of it's grounded, street level honesty.

That said, the developments in the following issue do not spoil this one.
We've been talking about a lot of fights, and with DC versus Marvel's entries a consistent complaint of mine has been the lack of storytelling within the fights.
This was a good example of an issue largely dedicate to fisticuffs, but used it to tell a compelling tale.

The Fight: 6 The Issue: 5.5

Additional stats: Black Mask - Kill (Thug, Red Hood imposter)

NEXT: African goddess Storm vesus Amazonian princess Wonder Woman

Monday, April 17, 2006

"The Showdown of the Century!"
Marvel versus DC #3 When: April 1996
Writer: Ron Marz Artist: Dan Jurgens

The story so far...
Life in the DC and Marvel universes has always been tough, but when cosmic events conspire to endanger both, the heroes of both Earths face a secret crisis that could destroy them all.

Before time two cosmic entities existed, sexless brothers representing the two sides of all that is, was, and will ever be.

Turmoil between the two brought about an end to things as they once were, but in the aftermath their energies were dissipated into space, becoming part of the multi-verse.As a result of the actions of various beings of different realities, instabilities emerged. After eons of recollecting their fragmented thoughts, the two brothers turned, and remembered their existence.

Now they pit their warriors against one and other.

Tale of the tape...
Prepare yourselves people as we enter the contested zone.
What do I mean by that? FOR THOSE WHO CAME IN LATE -- DC versus Marvel was a four issue mini-series that brought together some of the biggest properties in comics for a dragout cosmic slobberknocker. Of course, you already know that, having read the story so far.

Of the eleven fights, the final five were opened up to the zoo-going public for vote. Ballots were available through comics, collectible cards and an online e-mail vote. As a result; popularity driven results have led fans with ten years hindsight to contest the legitimacy of many of these voted outcomes.
As controversial as a result like Aquaman beating Namor might be, right or wrong, these are the [un]disputed doozys.

Of the final five, this fight is probably the most lopsided in terms of character stature. Regardless of powers and strengths levels, Wolverine is undoubtedly the better recognised character, and the character held in much higher regard in terms of status.

Though supported by a solid cult fanbase; Lobo, even at this particular junction, was probably not anywhere near the fan favourite that Wolverine is. He certainly wasn't a franchise force unto himself.

Strength: 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: 2 (Normal Human)
Speed: 2 (Normal Human)
Stamina: 7 (Unstoppable)
Agility: 2 (Normal Human)
Fighting Ability: 6 (Warrior)
Energy Powers: 2 (Projectile Weapons)

Introduced as a sole-surviving alien opponent to Superman; Lobo immediately gets the assumed status that goes with that.
It may be true that many uber villains are scaled down after their initial appearances [see; Doomsday], but these characters almost always remain on paper legitimate threats. Diluted as they may become as they're handed down from hero to hero, until eventually they're slapped around by a powerless Guy Gardner - they forever remain cosmic level heroes (or villains).

Strength: 3 (Trained Athlete)
Intelligence: 4 (Tactician)
Speed: 3 (Trained Athlete)
Stamina: 6 (Generator)
Agility: 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting Ability: 6 (Warrior)
Energy Powers: 1 (None)

Wolverine is not a cosmic hero.
In fact, despite his mammoth achievents on the superhero plane, he actually quite comfortable sits in the street-level category shared by many characters with limited powers. Characters reliant more upon training: like Daredevil, Elektra, Moon Knight, Iron Fist and others.

Key to Wolverine's selling point as the ultimate underdog is the healing factor. This once rather tame, long term advantage, has since fluctuated to exponential lengths. The character has survived everything from pointblank gunshots, to trips to the center of the sun.

As with other fights, thematic similarities are the inspiration for this pairing. Their healing resilience and blue-collar, cigar chomping, bar brawl fighting styles was deemed enough to pair them together - but how do they weigh up?

As I said, this is definitely one of the more contested fights among fans. The imbalance in the tiers in which these characters neatly fit has been at the heart of it. Can a street level mutant beat a cosmic mug who is the sole-survivor of a race that killed itself? The short answer is - no.

Lobo, to the best of my knowledge, is a character that's been created with maximum resilience. Coupled with strength that far outweighs Wolverine's own - Lobo should have the fight in the bag.

Wolverine's adamantium claws would be his supreme advantage, and to a sympathetic writer, Lobo's resistence and ability to cope with wounds may be adjusted accordingly, but as far as I can see, Lobo should probably win.

What went down...
A battle between two Earths? Not so!
This fight took place a long time ago, in a pub far, far away.

We enter the fray with pleasantries already exchanged, following Wolverine's boots along the bar as he leaps in attack with suspiciously smooth bone claws extended.

Lobo and Wolverine deliver a little wooden, character exposition, just to make sure we all know, that they all know each other.

Just as Wolverine is finishing up proving he's a beer swilling tough guy who demands the best of his "brew", Lobo sinks that hook on a chain of his deep into the X-Man's chest.

"AAGH!" quickly gives way to further bravado as Wolverine, unphased, tears the metal spike from his chest and begins a lecture on the principles of the mutant menace in Marvel America, and what his healing factor means to the socio-political Westchester.

Then Wolverine goes on the warpath, while an alien cheers him on.
Lobo assures Wolverine he'll be picking his teeth clean with his claws, which, by now should be broken in much the way they were when he faced Cyber, but I digress...

The two disappear behind the bar, each spouting their own colloquial threats.

What exactly they got up to behind that bar, we may never know, but one thing's for certain: Wolverine emerged from the shadows first, and needed a smoke.

The hammer...
Another brief encounter that under achieves, despite characters particularly well suited to a fighting theme. Cliched dialogue and uninspired direction typifying the storytelling of the time.

As far as results go, for me, it's entirely acceptable.
I would have to confess to having never had any investment in the Lobo character, and while the impartial party in me says he is definitely number one on paper, his defeat is still thoroughly acceptable.

As suggested already, the popularity of Wolverine is what ensured this victory. I would have to imagine even under regular written conditions, DC comics would have to willingly submit to the promotional powerhouse of Wolverine.
Personally, I'd probably say I don't have a problem with that, either. Though I can sympathise with opinions, I think the legitimate greater travesty of voting is yet to come.

Be here for that next Monday, folks!

The Fight: 2 The Issue: 4
NEXT WEEK: The Black Mask finally confronts the Red Hood!

Friday, April 14, 2006

"Power Prey!"
Amazing Spider-man #329 When: February 1990
Why: David Michelinie How: Erik Larsen

The story so far...
Displeased with the failure of his plan to shuffle villains in the Acts of Vengeance storyline, the Norse god of mischief, Loki, leaves the Earth a little something to remember him by.

For believing him dead; Loki magically alters a trio of newly designed Sentinels to merge them into one masterpiece of magic and machine - the Tri-Sentinel!

Lucky for Manhattan, Spider-man has been imbued with the mysterious uni-power thanks to the aptly named Enigma Force. Gaining the cosmic awareness that had been denied to him, Spider-man instantly learns of his foe, and leaps into action to avert nuclear disaster!

Tale of the tape...
You read right, true believers! The Enigma Force chose your friendly neighbourhood Spider-man as it's vehicle of universal justice!

Attempts to get a job writing solicitations aside - I just had to throw in a Captain Universe Spidey appearance when I was looking for his first official entry into Secret Wars on Infinite Earths record.
No doubt I would scoff the concept today, but like many other readers I hold a special place in my heart for this bizarre marriage of every-man and cosmic uber-entity.

Removing mystic meddling from the equation, I think I can fairly conclusively paint a picture where Spidey gets creamed by the three Sentinels until Wolverine and Cyclops show up to save him.
Past results may suggest otherwise, but I would have a difficult time imagining Spider-man applying his particular brand of strengths against the mechanical menace of these mutant hunting machinations.

Strength: 6 (Invincible)
Speed: 5 (Super Speed)
Stamina: 6 (Generator)
Energy Powers: 5 (Lasers)

Where Sentinels are concerned, generally the more pedestrian heroes find their edge in explosive weapons, cutting implements or super strength levels. While Spidey certainly rates highly in many respects, his particular brand of proportionate strength and agility doesn't lend itself to those vulnerabilities.

With the cosmic uni-power the fight evens up substantially.
Not only does he gain the added maneuverability that comes with flight, his spider-strength is also given a considerable boost, along with the ability to fire impressive cosmic energy blasts.

Against ordinary Sentinels, Cosmic Spider-man would no doubt be able to carve through their servos and circuitry with relative ease. However, this is no ordinary Sentinel!

Strength: 5 (Super Strength)
Intelligence: 4 (Tactician)
Stamina: 6 (Generator)
Energy Powers: 5 (Lasers)

Not only were these Sentinels merged by Loki's mystic spite, they were also specially designed for the purpose of tracking Spider-man, who had already begun manifesting the powers of Captain Universe.

Each of the prototype Sentinels, potentially part of the governments secret Nimrod project, was designed with unique abilities. Combined, the Tri-Sentinel is a six barreled living weapon, with lasers, shields, and all kinds of other stingy steel stuff!

If the Sentinel were able to overhwelm his target, and capitalie on Spider-man's relative inexperience with the Uni-Power, it might just have a chance of gaining victory.
However, I think it's a good bet on any day to bet on a cosmic spider. A) Because on paper his powers far outweigh many an opponent. B) Because the very nature of the Uni-Power is to overcome adversity. C) Spidey rarely changes costume without a victory.

What went down...
Cosmic Spidey swoops down from the sky to find the Tri-Sentinel looming over a shoreline Nuclear powerplant. The three headed Sentinel sees him coming and takes defensive action, firing off six seperate hand blasts in unison.
Spidey manages to weave between the blasts, and return fire with his own cosmic beam, but the Sentinel deflects it with an energy shield.

Going a more traditional route, Spider-man decides to try an old trick with a new spin, spinning a mass of webbing around the Sentinel before using his new power to transform it into steel. Alas, even the steel bonds of cosmic webbing were no match for the strength of the Tri-Sentinel.

The Tri-Sentinel strikes back, wildly throwing a flurry of six-fist punches which inadvertently crack one of the adjacent containment towers at the plant.
Spidey does his best to repair the damages, while dealing with the Sentinel's grapple coil attack.
Spider-man is ripped from the tower, but his cosmic power allows him to survive a blast of concussive gas, and snap free of the coils.

Spidey goes on the offensive once more, using his cosmic webbing to filter water from the ocean below and redirect it in a wave at the Tri-Sentinel. The evil machine is well equipped to deal with such a threat, using defensese to freeze the wave and smash it to tiny jagged shards.

Realising the folly of containment, Spider-man attempts a more direct tactic; going for the mechanics of the beast. Tear at the circuits and tubing beneath the hull, though he did, the Tri-Sentinel was unaffected and able to remove the "impending annoyance."

Sebastian Shaw, the man who commissioned the design of the Sentinels, watches on in horror as the Tri-Sentinel reveals a new directive programmed by Loki -- nuclear devestation.

With seconds to spear Shaw reveals his own hidden directive in the machine's logic programming. A command that forces the Sentinel to recognise it's own upgrades as mutant deviations from it's distant predecessors, the Sentinel Mark I models.

Though the Tri-Sentinel did not turn on itself as the individual machines would have - it pauses. Pausing long enough to allow the cosmic Spider-man to pool his enigmatic resources and focus them into a final attack.

When the crackling energy settles disaster is averted, and the Tri-Sentinel is reduced to so much as dust. Exhausted, Spider-man learns that he too was reduced, back to that of a man with the responsibility of proportionate size and strengths of a spider. Nothing more. Nothing less.

The hammer...
Yay! Cosmic Spider-man saves the day, of course.

As I understand it, this was Erik Larsen's first official issue as on-going artist on Amazing Spider-man. This gives an added significance to the issue, because for me, Erike Larsen is probably the Spider-man artist I hold most personally as a favourite.

I think it would be fair to say that if you asked me to think of my definitive Spidey artist I'd filter through the likes of John Romita, Sal Buscema and Mark Bagley - but Larsen is the one that I probably identify most fondly. Not because he was the first artist I read, or even because I'm a dedicated Larsen fan. There was just something special about those issues, and Larsen's rendition of the character.

Visually Spider-man has reverted back to his roots.
These days the eyes are quite small, the webbing is relatively low key, and the movements are probably generally on a more controlled scale. Certainly a far cry from the popular work of Todd McFarlane which introduced the 'spaghetti webbing', and the spine-bending poses that made us question whether Spidey could in fact kiss his own butt. [I think he could.]

What I think is so memorable about Larsen's Spider-man, for me, is that it took those established extremes from McFarlane's work - but tweaked them.
To me, Larsen's characters were asthetically a little cleaner while their proportions and expressions were just a little more grounded in reality.

Overall Larsen had a lot in common with his predecessor, but the minutia of those details made all the difference then, and now.
Certainly the issues don't contain the paced and relatively intelligent storytelling of many of todays writers, but what the stories lack in sophistication, they make up for with big superhero action, and exciting characters!

The Fight: 4 The Issue: 5.5

NEXT: Wolverine versus Lobo!

Monday, April 10, 2006

"The Showdown of the Century!"
Marvel versus DC #3 When: April 1996
Writer: Ron Marz Artist: Claudio Castellini

The story so far...
Life in the DC and Marvel universes has always been tough, but when cosmic events conspire to endanger both, the heroes of both Earths face a secret crisis that could destroy them all.

Before time two cosmic entities existed, sexless brothers representing the two sides of all that is, was, and will ever be.

Turmoil between the two brought about an end to things as they once were, but in the aftermath their energies were dissipated into space, becoming part of the multi-verse.
As a result of the actions of various beings of different realities, instabilities emerged. After eons of recollecting their fragmented thoughts, the two brothers turned, and remembered their existence.

Now they pit their warriors against one and other.

Tale of the tape...
I've mentioned previously how interesting the time capsule effect of this crossover is. You really get a hightened sense of change over the last decade; seeing different artistic styles, and emphasis on story telling techniques.

Catwoman really highlights one of the most substantial changes in a character. While the purple bodysuit will be remembered fondly by many; for many others it's a distant forgotten memory overshadowed by the revamped works of Ed Brubaker, Darwyn Cooke and Cameron Stewart.

Her change in style was only part of the equation. Catwoman has blossomed into a far more interesting character too. Her struggle between good and evil became less vanilla, and a wider cast of characters and relationships were developed, along with Selina herself.
The success of her characters can be highlighted by the revamped version of Black Mask, who made his first sadistic appearances in opposition to the new look Catwoman. Black Mask, of course, went on to become crime boss of Gotham post-War Games.

Of course, Black Mask also highlights the more pedestrian nature of Catwoman's struggles. Compared to the matters of life and death Elektra has dealt with over her illustrious career as an assassin; Catwoman's just a chick stealing candy from babies.

Strength: 2 (Normal Human)
Intelligence: 2 (Normal Human)
Speed: 3 (Trained Athlete)
Stamina: 4 (Athlete)
Agility: 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting Ability: 4 (Trained Fighter)
Energy Powers: 1 (None)

Catwoman's strengths are generally her speed and agility, which are often seen just a step ahead of the bulky, brooding Batman. While dancing a line between right and wrong, Catwoman's also been known to both fight and flee. More recent takes on the character have upgraded her fighting skill from street smarts, to a degree of training. Like a handfull of others, Catwoman's gotten tips from Ted Grant, Wildcat.

Strength: 2 (Normal Human)
Intelligence: 4 (Tactician)
Speed: 3 (Trained Athlete)
Stamina: 4 (Athlete)
Agility: 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting Ability: 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy Powers: 2 (Projectile Weapons)

With Wildcat in the equation you could get into a very interesting discussion of boxing versus martial arts, but we've already agreed not to go there. Ultimately, regardless of styles, Elektra is at the very top end of a five, arguably rating a fighting ability of six.

As fantastic as Catwoman is, I think Elektra's training instantly ranks her chances of victory at almost one hundred percent. Catwoman simply doesn't have the tools to outlast an assassin of that calibre. I'm sure she'd put up one helluva cat fight, though.

What went down...
The advantage apparently goes to Catwoman, having a Gotham homeground advantage as we join the fight already underway. Catwoman tears through the gut of Elektra's costume with her clawed glove, earning "first blood."

Catwoman questions her relevence as a champion for her universe, but motivation is quickly rendered irrelevent as she fights for her life. The assassin Elektra makes a move, tossing her sai blades, narrowly avoiding a hit on her purple suited foe.

Catwoman leaps along the scaffolding arena to a higher plane where she lashes onto Elektra's wrist with her whip. The move backfires, Elektra using superior strength to yank the burglar over the edge.

With her opponent dangling in her hand, by a thread; Elektra grants mercy.

She slices the whip with her blade, sending Catwoman plummeting into an industrial waste bin below, where she would land bruised, but alive.

The hammer...
I'd like to say this was a lengthier battle than it was, but sadly this was another two page knock-out. Elektra was always going to win this battle, so at least in that respect this match up doesn't disappoint. However, like many other fights from the mini-series already featured, it really just fails to utilize the format for anything more than a bland versus event.

With a greater emphasis on story telling this is definitely a fight that could've, at the very least, been more revealing of the characters. As it stands, like many of the other fights, it was relatively generic. Interchangable characters, iconography [re; sais/whip] and dialogue really make it a bland fight - no matter how many close ups of Catwoman's meta-humanly impressive arse are shown.

Apologies for lateness once more. Been ill, but hope to avoid further delays in future instalments.

The Fight: 2.5 The Issue: 4

NEXT: Spider-man versus the Tri-Sentinel!

Friday, April 07, 2006

"Everybody Limbo!"
Justice League Unlimited #14 When: December 2005
Why: Adam Beechen How: Carlo Barberi

The story so far...
Whenever an animated world finds itself in peril and the threat is too great for one hero, the collective forces of the Justice League are there to step in and save them!

When Wonder Woman starts checking herself out in the mirror, the League have cause for concern, but all is not as it seems! The Amazon warrior is possessed by the wandering spirit called - Deadman!

Deadman is in search of the League's help to combat the upstart menace of the demons three, but this isn't a job for Green Lantern or Flash. This special case calls for the collection of magically experienced heroes affectionately referred to as - the Trenchcoat Brigade!

Tale of the tape...
Generally the books derived from the animated series don't interest me. They tend to abstain from extended comic-related continuity, and are generally aimed at a younger audience, thus featuring simpler storylines. That said; this particular issue's solicitation piqued my interest, so I thought I'd at least give it a go.

Following the format of the Justice League Unlimited animated series, the issue features a rotating cast of DC JLU superheroes. Solicitations promised a Wonder Woman who was possessed by Deadman, and looking for help. While this is the opening premise, this only serves to collect an eclectic group of magicians and occultists.

While a casual fan of the TV series might be disappointed by the grouping of second and third tier characters, a more general DC comics fan probably gets a kick out of at least one of the 'trenchcoat brigade' characters.
Regardless of fandom, they are certainly a potent posse of supernatural superheroes: the Demon Etrigan, Zauriel, Doctor Fate, Zatanna, Deadman, Doctor Occult and the Phantom Stranger. Characters like Zatanna, Dr. Fate and Phantom Stranger have legitimate claims to being among the most powerful characters in their universe.

The antagonists of this story, 'the demons three', are alternatively quite weak. Disregarding the nature of the situation, you would have to consider this teaming to be little more than sheer overkill. This is probably attributed to the showcase nature of the series, but partially justified by the fact these three lesser demons are attempting a coup against both Heaven and Hell.

By any assessment, I think it's safe to say the Justice Leaguers are a shoe-in to win this, regardless of what problematic spin is put on the story. Where Deathstroke may have had argument to disarm a collection of top superheroes, the Demons three have very little going for them.

What went down...
As Deadman leads the group through mystic means toward their clogged destination, Etrigan's rhyming calls his allegiance into question for the already testy Zauriel. Demon retaliates to the angel's accusations with a belch of flames, but Zatanna is able to difuse the situation as the team reach Limbo.

The trapped denizens of Limbo cry out for help from the coloured costumes ones, as they scour the jaded courtyard for the demonic culprits.

Dr. Fate discovers the bricked up portals to Heaven and Hell, and declares to magic to be more complicated than expected. The backward speaking Zatanna scoffs Fate's claims of difficulty, but before she can utter her mystic backward command, pink infernal hands clasp around her face - the hands of Ghast!

Deadman warns the rest of the team to beware his companions, Abnegazar and Rath, but it's too late. Phantom Stranger and Dr. Occult are surprised from behind by Rath, who frys them with hellacious, crackling energy blasts.

Dr. Fate remains strong, calling Abnegazar out to face his fate!
Unfortunately for Dr. Fate and Nabu, the binding spells that make the Demons three masters of Limbo, also grant them superior power in their domain. Fate is felled by powerful eye beams from the pink demon.

Deadman does his best to fist fight one of the demons, but sadly his powers are relatively useless against the more versatile Rath. He reaches his hand through Deadman, and then incapacitates him with a powerful burst of energy.

Zauriel realises their apparent overconfidence in approaching the weaker demons, and calls for Etrigans help as the last men standing. Demon blurts flames at the angel, revealing himself as a double agent for the possessors of Limbo.
"I see brains were not given/To all but just some... How do you think/they knew we would come?"

The heroes are mystically bound, while Zatanna remains muzzled by the demons. They reveal their intentions to rip her incredible powers out of her, to claim them as their own. Using the souls of those trapped in Limbo, and the heroes themselves, the demons believe power strong enough to rebel against both Heaven and Hell will be theirs.

The Demon offers himself up as a wise choice for ripping Zatanna's power from her throat, brandishing clawed fingers.
Zauriel cries Etrigan's name in curse, as the Demon pulls his arm back to finish the job.

To the surprise of all, Etrigan instead rakes the fingers keeping Zatanna's mouth closed, revealing a second layer to his deception! Demon directs Zatanna to use her power to free their captive colleagues, setting the team up for a prepared strike against the foes.

The demons boast superior power in their realm, but Doctor Occult is glad to point out that although they outweigh any of them individually, the combined might of all their magicks is more than enough for them.

The powers of order, the afterlife, pure magic, mystery, heaven, the underworld, and the mystic symbol of the seven are too much for the upstarts. As their remains are replaced by smoke, the doorways to Heaven and Hell are again open to be travelled.
With that, the unlikely hero of the day, Etrigan, departs down the tunnel to the Underworld, but not before teaching Zauriel a lesson in his deceptive nature.

"Darkness shall rule/and make no mistake/but today's not that day/that power to take. Understand this/and you'll understand me. There are more things in heaven and Earth/than are dreamt of in your philosophy..."

The hammer...
Apologies to those who stopped by Friday looking for this week's update. I once again fell a little behind, being quite busy and a little unwell.

With their quite literally combined efforts, we can crown the Trenchcoat brigade entire, as victors in this particular battle.
Despite having a rather PC take on the story, and avoiding flat-out terms like Hell; this is still a surprisingly grim tale. Not to say darkness is the measure of a good story, but themes dealing with the afterlife damned to be trapped - in a comic that can't say Hell - is a pretty gutsy move, if you ask me.

As I mentioned, it was the solicitation for this issue that caught my eye.
I have to say I was a little disappointed that it focused on Deadman possessing Wonder Woman, neglecting to mention that the Justice League regulars would not be featured.

I find it difficult to be any more critical than that, as this is really just a book that is what it is. It hides very little beyond the surface, serving as a vehicle for an interesting group of Justice League heroes, often not featured prominently.
That said, it still served up a pretty fun read which I hope reflects the overall approach to the [formerly known as] Johnny DC line.

The Fight: 2 The Issue: 3.5

NEXT: The burglar, Catwoman versus the assassin, Elektra!

Monday, April 03, 2006

"The Showdown of the Century!"
Marvel versus DC #3 When: April 1996
Writer: Ron Marz Artist: Claudio Castellini

The story so far...
Life in the DC and Marvel universes has always been tough, but when cosmic events conspire to endanger both, the heroes of both Earths face a secret crisis that could destroy them all.

Before time two cosmic entities existed, sexless brothers representing the two sides of all that is, was, and will ever be.

Turmoil between the two brought about an end to things as they once were, but in the aftermath their energies were dissipated into space, becoming part of the multi-verse.
Cosmic instabilities, as a result of the actions of various beings of different realities, created instabilities. After eons of recollecting their fragmented thoughts, the two brothers turned, and remembered their existence.

Now they pit their warriors against one and other.

Tale of the tape...
The overall focus of Secret Wars on Infinite Earths has been directed toward the technically sound fighters, and some of their superhero cohorts - but off the heels of the Champion's victory, we move into cosmic territory.

"What's the big deal about cosmic characters?", I hear you ask.
Generally speaking, these guys are probably better recognised for their fights than the guys who actually know the ins and outs of fighting styles. A character like Iron Fist or Richard Dragon might be one of the greatest fighters known to man - but they can't hope to make as big an impact as a Superman or a Gladiator.

By extension of that, cosmic characters serve up the rare opportunity for multiple sevens across the Haseloff scale. In short? These guys move planets with their battles, and they're some of my favourite characters for it!

When it comes to cosmic; few characters do it as well as the Silver Surfer.
The Silver Surfer is the Ferrari of the cosmic superhero world. He's instantly recognisable, he features a sleek and graceful design, and he's red hot with power.

Strength: 7 (Omnipotent)
Intelligence: 5 (Professor)
Speed: 7 (Light Speed)
Stamina: 6 (Generator)
Agility: 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting Ability: 6 (Warrior)
Energy Powers: 7 (Solar Power)

Not only does Silver Surfer possess all the necessary staples of a cosmic hero, like super strength, flight, and survival mechanisms for the gulfs of space - he's also got a whole range of abilities oft untapped.
The power cosmic, bestowed upon Norrin Radd by Galactus even allows him abilities regarding the arrangement of matter, and the manipulation of molecular structures. This guy could probably turn water to wine.

Mind you, a guy like the Green Lantern could probably create wine from nothing with a vivid imagination, and the will to make it happen. A certain Oan artifact worn on the finger might help a little, too.

Strength: 2 (Normal Human)
Intelligence: 3 (Straight A's)
Speed: 2 (Normal Human)
Stamina: 6 (Generator)
Agility: 2 (Normal Human)
Fighting Ability: 3 (Street Wise)
Energy Powers: 7 (Solar Power)

Despite only assuming the Green Lantern mantle two years ago in real-time, the Green Lantern better known as Kyle Rayner gathered plenty of experience behind him. In fact, though only two years after his first appearance, DC versus Marvel is even able to reference a previous meeting between the two characters.

Initial misunderstandings resolved, the two characters were able to collect their combined powers to thwart the evil plans of a crazed Hal Jordan (possessed by the Parallax force; re Green Lantern: Rebirth), and Thanos, Titan with a deathwish.

Modest stats do not reflect the capabilities granted to Kyle Rayner by what is often referred to as the most powerful device in the [DC] universe. Despite being a relatively average human in good physical condition, Rayner is able to construct various armors and weapons to exponentially enhance his fighting potential.

Of course, despite this, I think it's still fairly safe to say the more experienced, balanced, and powerful of the two is - Silver Surfer.

The expansive nature of each characters' gifts of cosmic energy make it difficult to accurately estimate, but the displayed application of this energy, and the relating sources tend to suggest Silver Surfer is the more powerful of the two.

Of course, the blue Guardians of Oa are generally regarded as placied keepers of the peace; while Galactus is an active force in the Marvel universe. The nature of each source therefore makes it difficult to accurately credit a more potent origin for the energies.

What went down...
Like some of the other fights, this one's a brief two pages long.
If it weren't for the Green Lanter/Silver Surfer mini-series that preceded the event, it might even be cause for a new acronymous movement!

Never the less; using his power ring to fashion a craft equipped with massive weapons, the Green Lantern fires off Oan energy blasts at the nimble Surfer.
Each character, recalling their previous encounter, regret their forced situation, recognising their potential as a combined solution, rather than two pitted pawns.

The Silver Surfer easily avoids Rayner's energy blasts, and plows right through him at high speeds atop his mighty cosmic board.

GL's ring grants him the ability to steady himself amidst deep space, and form a defensive lantern shaped shield, as the Silver Surfer swings around for another pass with blasts of power cosmic!

The Green Lantern fashions himself a glowing green suit of armor, and a giant flying creature, as he charges into battle his foe, like a medieval knight atop a charging steed.

When the explosive cosmic energies dissipate, a smoking but unphased Silver Surfer stands baring an unconscious Kyle Rayner on his board. Regretfully victorious.

The hammer...
With the era in mind, it's probably best fights like these were left to two pages, but it would've been fantastic if a linear story could've been constructed in a way to better showcase two powerhouse characters like these. The Silver Surfer's victory could've certainly been all the sweeter if a more dramatic tension could've been built.

Also, while it was nice that both characters were able to take a perspective many of us behind the fourth wall would be imagining; it's a shame there wasn't space to explore these two cosmically charged beings trying to rebel against those that would pit them against each other.
Images mirroring Silver Surfer's betrayal of Galactus come to mind, potentially giving a dramatic resonance to the piece.

In the coming months, I wouldn't be surprised if the Green Lanter/Silver Surfer one-shot turns up. Right from the very inception of this site, that's been a book that's been sitting on the high prospect pile.

Of course, ten years later each character is being reinvigorated through spin-offs from their respective events. Silver Surfer: Annihilation is just around the corner, marking the character's return to a starring role for the first time since his last failed on-going series.
On the flipside, Kyle Rayner will return to his supercharged Ion persona spinning out of the Infinite Crisis fallout from the Rann/Thanagar war. Definitely one to watch out for!

The Fight: 3 The Issue: 4

The Justice League versus Demons Three!

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Well, there you have it folks! The most jam packed month of Secret Wars on Infinite Earths you will ever see!

Don't forget! Yesterday's She-Hulk versus Champion is still fresh! Don't forget to scroll down!

Not only have we had an extra update every week, and our first fifth week fight, but Secret Earths is also finding it's footing with a clearer purpose to it's weekly updates.
Hopefully regular readers have found more meat in their weekly beat 'em up diet, not just with recaps and summaries of the wild and wonderful feuds in comics, but also events and opinions extending from those issues.

Secret Earths is all about the fun of superhero comic books. We endeavour to entertain not just with weekly feature reviews, but also by inviting new readers to explore some of the history, and learn about some interesting characters in an inviting, fight feulled atmosphere.

If anyone reading would like to see more of any of the characters already featured, or maybe some of their favourites, they should feel invited to drop a comment, and let us know!

For those who came in late...
Entries have been increased to twice monthly to accomodate for the tenth anniversary of the crossover megaevent - DC versus Marvel/Marvel vs DC!
Fridays continue our usual eclectic selections, while every Monday for the next two months you still have plenty of Marvel versus DC action to look forward to.

In the spirit of the Commonwealth Games currently running in Australia, perhaps it would be fitting to observe a win tally.

DC: 3 wins MARVEL: 1 win

If you're unfamiliar with the event, the challenge goes out to try to pick the winners of each and every fight.

As part of the effort to generate a superior format, coming updates will take a page from fight organizing, and try to arrange the month in an opener, mid-card, and finish with a big ol' main event. Not that any fights featured won't be a-grade.

This month, we've got an impressive list to look forward, including the next wave of DC versus Marvel bouts. Like our new system, DC vs Marvel is progressing in a similar carded fashion, saving the best for last. Here's the program for April:

Marvel versus DC Mondays
With the fate of each universe resting on both sets of heroes, there's no holding back. We're heading toward the business end, and with DC having the two win lead, these are the fights to watch.

Green Lantern (DC) versus Silver Surfer (Marvel) (April 3rd)
Elektra (Marvel) versus Catwoman (DC) (April 10th)
Wolverine (Marvel) versus Lobo (DC) (April 17th)
Wonder Woman (DC) versus Storm (Marvel) (April 24th)

Friday Fight Nights
The usual Friday night updates continue with an even selection from the big two, both Marvel and DC, continuing the rivalry featured in our Monday specials.

- Animated magic action from the DC universe kicks off, as the collective efforts of the Justice League specialists face off against three rogue demons. (April 7th) - A battle of composite powers as an unlikely cosmic hero does battle with magically charged machine! (April 14th)
- An out of control vigilante makes a deal that leads to the culmination of his feud with a city crime boss. A battle that may end in blood! (April 21st)
- The X-Men team up with one of their most unlikely allies, to do battle with one of their greatest enemies through time. (April 28th)

Stay tuned for all of those, and more in the coming month. Some of the fights may well surprise!

The Top Five...
And now what we're all really here for. This may be a gateway to comics and characters, but let's be honest, it's also all about seeing who kicks whose butt, and who comes out on top come month's end.

An ammendment to the ranking system has seen a slight shift for a couple of characters, but overall this is a top five well earned.

#1 Batman (-) (#1)
Despite not being featured this month, Batman maintains his dominance as the man to beat in the top five. In coming months Batman is guaranteed an appearance as part of DC versus Marvel, and unless other interests prevail, he will return after the event.
Perhaps the most deciding factor in Batman's reign will be selection, and whether or not that maintains his undefeated streak.

Working against the Batman's dominance is the new card approach to each month's fights. Dividing the card to rank mainevents means Batman may be held back by his own success, in the name of diversity.

- Batman versus Superman
- Batman versus Superman
- Batman & Red Hood versus The Society

#2 Daredevil (-) (#2)
Daredevil also goes unshifted, despite picking up an extra win this month. As Batman's greatest challenger thus far, Daredevil suffers from not being involved in the featured event; Marvel versus DC.

Though no doubt a stalwart of the website, greater diversity may eventually win over, forcing DD out of contention. Many of those featured in Marvel versus DC are likely to continue to enjoy greater exposure, with higher success. Never the less, thus far DD and Bats are equally undefeated, even though this month DD pretty much got a gimme via niche interest.

- Daredevil versus Scope
- Daredevil & Elektra versus Bullseye
- Daredevil versus Turk

#3 Green Arrow (+1) (#4)
You'll notice despite not being featured, Green Arrow has actually moved up the ranks. The late ammendment to the rankings system saw Captain America suffer, moving from the top five down to seventh.

Unlike Green Arrow, the Captain probably has a fairly probable chance to move back up the list with the upcoming Civil War crossover thrusting him right back into the spotlight. Even if not actively fighting, the event will no doubt renew enthusiasm for the character.

- Justice League (inc. Green Arrow) versus Deathstroke
- Batman (w/ Green Arrow) versus Superman
- Green Arrow versus The Brick

#4 Zatanna (+1) (#5)
As with Green Arrow; Zatanna also benefits from the adjusted rankings, moving up despite not being featured.
As a character less relevent to my own collection and interests, it's unlikely that Zatanna will logically sustain a position in the top five. However, as already suggested in this week's list, greater diversity of characters featured means the spread remains quite flat.

So, with new characters being introduced regularly, it's entirely possible some of these top five will manage to drag their tenure out.
This month ushered in the fiftieth character to be added to the rankings, in Aquaman, who is currently ranked fourteen.

- Justice League (inc. Zatanna) versus Deathstroke
- Zatanna versus Zor

#5 Hawkman (new) (#23)
When selecting each month's fights I try to not extrapolate results, because the top five is definitely a lot of fun each month. Especially when someone like Hawkman sneaks up out of nowhere to scrape out the bottom on a bullet.

Obviously Hawkman is a favourite character, but despite his notable prowess as a fighter, I don't see the character lasting in the top five.
Despite setting a milestone by reaching forty-nine issues as a Hawkman on-going title, this just isn't a character exposed well enough. My collection, recognizably short on DC, is particularly lacking in Hawkman.

- Justice League (inc. Hawkman) versus Deathstroke
- Hawkman versus St. Roch

The Hammer...
Bam! That it is! Another month wrapped up in colourful paper, tied with a neat bow, and carded from me to you. It's just that easy!

This month there's plenty more to excitement to come with month two of Marvel versus DC Mondays. As Marvel and DC slide into their next major crossover events, Civil War and 52 respectively, we continue on unfettered giving you all the dice you need on continuity relevent to nothing in particular.
That said, if you're reading those events and want to see more of another character, be sure to drop a comment, and we'll see what we can do.

If you're a genuine true believer, you're no doubt laying down money on the results on this here website, or maybe even having monthly drinking parties. So, as we close out this month's punch-up, here are some names to watch for the top five!

#15 Iron Man (Marvel) Having just completed X-Men Legends: Rise of Apocalypse, I have to admit my love for the character are renewed. With a win this month, and a starring role in Civil War, Iron Man could take the five by storm.
#19 Wolverine (Marvel) As a fan favourite featured this month in DC versus Marvel, Wolverine has a chance to improve his stock. At this early stage, it doesn't take much to climb the ranks. He's the deus ex we love to hate, but on a website like this, he'll always prosper.
#33 Hulk (Marvel) That ever lovin' Hulk hasn't been featured on Secret Earths yet, and with a major battle coming up in DC versus Marvel, he's a chance to make a stamp. Plus, as Civil War kicks off, Planet Hulk will no doubt play a role.
#58 Sub-Mariner (Marvel) As a personal favourite, yet to get a win, it would be a travesty to not see the Sub-Mariner proclaim his spot. Personally, I think I may have made a harsh judgment in December, but with many claiming The Illuminati to be the first Namor done well in a long time, he may be on the up and up.
#59 Superman (DC) One is the loneliest number of all for Superman, as DC's only hope listed here. In one of the big three DC versus Marvel matches, he's a super chance to move faster than a speeding bullet, from last, to top five. Assuming, of course, Batman doesn't give him a whipping, again.

NEXT: Cosmic catastrophe! The Green Lantern versus Silver Surfer!

March hit count: 828 (+386)