Friday, May 26, 2006

"X-Men United" (Twentieth Century Fox/Marvel Entertainment)
X-Men 2 When: 2003
Why: Bryan Singer, Zak Penn, David Hayter, Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris How: Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Sir Ian McKellan, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Anna Paquin, Rebecca Romijn, Brian Cox, Alan Cumming, Bruce Davidson, Aaron Stanford, Shawn Ashmore, Kelly Hu, Cotter Smith

The story so far...
Having spent life as a loner, a school for gifted youngsters seems like the last place the man called Wolverine would come to settle.

Never the less, caught between two warring factions of mutants, Wolverine finds refuge with the militant X-Men, and joins them in their battle against evil mutants, and the prejudicial forces of humanity.

As human-mutant tensions mount, a staged attack on the United States President prompts presidential authorization to unleash William Stryker and his forces on the X-Men.

Stryker, though a zealous anti-mutant bigot, holds the keys to Wolverine's past with the Weapon X project. Thus, it is with great reluctance that he draws his claws against him.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Deathstrike 4 (Steroid Popper)
Intelligence: Wolverine 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Deathstrike 3 (Trained Athlete)
Stamina: Wolverine 6 (Generator)
Agility: Deathstrike 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting Ability: Wolverine 6 (Warrior)
Energy Powers: Draw 1 (None)

As has been the standard at Secret Earths, the statistics listed above are an average assessment of a character's abilities based on as close to a definitive version as possible. Usually this means info is drawn from the comic book incarnation of these characters, but as we have a very special circumstance here, we should perhaps look at the price of adaptation.

Changes to the Wolverine character are minimal, but Deathstrike slides significantly down the scale.

In the X2 film Lady Deathstrike is without any kind of cybernetic enhancements, yet, she does possess organic, retractable nails on each of her fingers, which have all been laced with unbreakable adamantium.
She also retains the healing factor that has appeared in certain incarnations of the character, but ramped up to a level parallel with Wolverine's healing abilities.

Thus, in many ways the character becomes more grounded in the context of the X-Men mythos, but no less formidable. In fact, this Deathstrike retains the impressive fighting abilities, but displays them in a far more refined fashion than the comic book Deathstrike, who bares a clumsy resemblence to the slashing stylings of other comic book fighters.

All of that said - Wolverine is the best there is at what he does.
Perhaps not as quick or agile as Deathstrike, Wolverine brings with him a certain ferocity and brutality that always manages to get the job done. The only frequent question with Wolverine is whether or not it will take more than one go.

This incarnation, at least as far as we know, has no personal connection or history with Wolverine. This serves to nullify one of Deathstrike's great advantages, and so, one would have to lean toward Wolverine as the victor here.

Still, like so many of these fantastic feuds, these are two closely matched warriors with common abilities.

What went down...
In the place of his rebirth, the Wolverine scours the underground labs and corridors for clues and glimpses of his past. Here he walks into a lab laden with slashed concrete, with a vat of bubbling metal, and a table that's all too familiar.

Wolverine's maker, William Stryker enters, and shows Wolverine that he isn't the unique specimen he may have otherwise thought he was.

Deathstrike, under the influence of Stryker's mind-controlling substance, charges in and prevents any pirsuit of Stryker with a stiff backhand to the face.
Popping his claws, Wolverine discovers just how similar the mutant before him is, as she brandishes her own long, adamantium laced claws.

Deathstrike launches herself into a spinning attack - claws extended - slashing Wolverine's face and gut mercilessly. Wolverine retaliates with a brutish stab, but Deathstrike ducks, weaves, and strikes. Deathstrike's superior speed, and stinging shots are more than enough to best most men, but the Wolverine's healing factor keeps him in the fight.

Deathstrike continues the assault, stabbing the gut and abdomen, before whipping Wolverine across the room to crash into one of the concrete support pillars. Wolverine recovers, and launches into a berzerker attack, ultimately running the controlled Deathstrike through with his razor claws.

In a brilliant piece of cinema, Deathstrike's defeated gasp turns to a glee filled smirk as she wraps one taloned hand around Wolverine's arms, and then another, only to launch herself from her position of impalement.
The stunned Wolverine is capable of little more than rolling with the punches [or kicks] to the head.

The fight continues with further lethal blows nailed, before Wolverine finds himself stabbed and flipped into the air, landing on a metal lowering platform above the watery tub that was the scene of his metallic injection.

Blood drips to the water below, as Deathstrike continues to pierce organs and innards that would instantly murder any ordinary man.

Desperately seeking space, Wolveirne throws his claws out and severs the chains that connect the platform to the ceiling. With Deahstrike clinging below, the platform crashes to a stop atop the tub below, and gives Wolverine a moment to heal and breathe.

The relief does not last long, as Deathstrike emerges from the pool below with claws at the ready.
Desperately the Wolverine rolls, and reaches for aid, as Deathstrike continues to puncture and pierce the troubled hero like a pin cushion.

Wracked with pain, Wolverine is able to reach for one of the injection devices above, and drives it deep into Deathstrike, before flipping the switch.

As Deathstrike jolts to a stop, the haze incurred by Stryker's chemical dissipates.
For the briefest of moments Deathstrike appears a sympathetic character, before she clunks to the bottom of the pool below. Filled with adamatium, and mournful sorrow for her own life.

The hammer...
Okay, maybe I embellished a little on the ending there, regardless, Wolverine emerges from this film victorious.

[Though quite delayed, this entry was to acknowledge and tribute the release of the third instalment of the X-franchise - X-Men: The Last Stand. - Mike]

There probably isn't much that hasn't already been said about the first two X-Men films.
Though preceded by the sleeper hit, Blade, the first X-Men film arguably propelled superhero films into the mainstream spotlight -- not as cheesy concession films -- but as real deal stories with big screen characters. Of course, most of us comic readers already knew the untapped potential between the pages, but we won't hold that against anyone.

X-Men 2, which introduced Alan Cumming as Nightcrawler, took the world established in the first film and expanded upon similar themes to encompass the human element of bigotry and hatred.
While William Stryker was a character superbly handled by Brian Cox, and the story made good use of adapting material from Chris Claremont's graphic novel [God loves, Man kills.]; I do tend to find the film a little shallow.

One particularly simple cinema philosphy says of a sequel, 'the audience simply wants to see what they saw last time, only different, and more of it.'
Seeing Magneto [McKellen] and his crusade against humans justified was certainly a thrilling prospect, but instead this film, in many ways, feels more like everything the first wished it could have been had it not been required to pander through introductions.

The monotoned seriousness of these pictures did incredibly well to deliver the source material with the maturity and diction it deserved; however, it unfortunately leaves the finished product somewhat hollow.
Quiet character moments, such as religious waxings between Nightcrawler and Storm [Halle Berry], serve more as actor-indulgent distractions, than as layers of diversity. Thus, instead, a second viewing reviews a meandering one-note plot.

Of course, that over simiplified statement does not represent everything on screen. While a little painful to watch in succession, both films truly honor the spirit of the grand concept of the X-Men, and accurately deliver incarnations of some of it's most popular characters.

Superb action, fantastic effects, and as far as story diversity goes - Hugh Jackman certainly earns his Wolverine spin-off film.
The unlikely understudy from Oz perpetuates the franchise legend of Wolverine, and does it with energy and a rugged charm. This once unknown stage actor mixes it up with the best of them - quite literally. This character not only competes against the mutant powers of Magneto and Mystique, but also shares a screen with the likes of; Patrick Stewart, Sir Ian McKellen, Brian Cox, Anna Paquin and Alan Cumming.

As for the fate of Deathstrike?
Fact finders may be interested to refer to X-Men: The Official Game, which features story bridging between X2: X-Men United and X3: The Last Stand.

In the game, it is revealed Deathstrike was able to survive her adamantium 'overdose' and she returns as an agent of HYDRA previously trained by Silver Samurai.

The Fight: 4.5 The Movie: 5

NEXT: June is Hulk month, with four rounds of puny human smashing Monday madness! More about everything to come in the punch-up!

Monday, May 22, 2006

DC versus MARVEL
DC versus Marvel #1/#4, Marvel versus DC #2/#3 When: March/April 1996
Why: Ron Marz/Peter David How: Dan Jurgens/Claudio Castellini

The recap...
- Captain Marvel versus Thor
- Aquaman versus Sub-Mariner
- Flash versus Quicksilver
- Robin versus Jubilee
- Green Lantern versus Silver Surfer
- Catwoman versus Elektra
- Lobo versus Wolverine
- Wonder Woman versus Storm
- Superboy versus Spider-man
- Superman versus Hulk
- Batman versus Captain America

For the past three months Secret Earths has featured the events of the mini-series that broke all the boundaries, and brought DC and Marvel face to face, ten years ago.

Pitted against one another by two cosmic entities; champions from the Marvel and DC universes did battle to save their universe from extinction.
In the end Batman and Captain America would be catalysts for saving both universes, as the young new cosmic hero, Access, merged realities to create the 'Amalgam' universe.

Though this merged universe could not last, in the end, the triumphs and tribulations of the lives lived by Captain America and Batman were enough to save their worlds. In the last moments the two cosmic 'brothers' that waged war with their pawns were satisfied, and spoke for the first time to say, "You've done well!"

Despite officially winning it six-to-five, Marvel and DC, represented by these two cosmic entities, make a rare gesture of sincerity and congratulate each other on a job well done. Which is all good and well, but what about the 'unofficial' fights peppered and alluded to throughout the series?

Superman versus Juggernaut (DC versus Marvel #1)
What originally begins as yet another tussle between the X-Men and Juggernaut, takes a curious twist. As the mighty Juggernaut prepares to deliver a crushing blow to a floored Wolverine, he finds himself among the earliest targets of this cosmic crossover event.
The follow through of the previous punch collides with the side of a building - the Daily Planet - which doesn't make a great first impression.

A streaking blue collides with the helmet of the Juggernaut, and actually manages to floor the unstoppable force! Though this encounter was brief, this is deemed conclusive of a result.
Winner: Superman

Batman & Robin versus Bullseye (DC versus Marvel #1)
What a delicious turn of events. While the Joker was crazy enough not to engage a disaplaced Spider-man - Bullseye is unstable enough to snatch the nearest kid in a cave, and start demanding answers.
Unfortunately for him, one of those answers is "Batman."

With a knife to Robin's throat, Bullseye holds Batman in a stand-off, batarang drawn. The man who doesn't miss teases Batman, cutting at the mask of Robin and speculating his chances of a miss.

The boy wonder, hardly helpless, elbows the fiend in the neck, giving Batman an opening to toss his batarang. However, even stunned, Bullseye is able to snatch the weapon out of the air, and whip it right back at the target.

Much to Bullseye's dismay, however, Batman is able to duck and weave the return attack, and swiftly plant a stiff left on the chin of the Marvel villain.
"You hit... even harder than... than... Daredevil..."
Winner: Batman (w/ Robin)

Wolverine versus Killer Croc (Marvel versus DC #2)
Bursting from the sewers, Killer Croc and Wolverine go at it tooth and nail - literally!
With several on lookers (including Clark Kent and Ben Reilly), the two feral fighters do battle and exchange quips. The two battle their way into the streets, careering into a toy store, as Wolverine takes an apparent offensive.

While no definitive blow is struck on the page, Wolverine is free to accompany Gambit in stealing the Batmobile. Though apparent that Killer Croc is defeated, it is possible he escaped.
Winner: Inconclusive (draw)

Bane versus Captain America (Marvel versus DC #2)
The battle of the serum enhanced super soldiers!
As Cap's shield hurls out of reach, Bane mocks his opponent as he prepares to deliver a back breaking finishing move that will leave the Captain crippled and helpless.

As Bane mocks the Captain's strategy, his full frontal assault turns out to be an error of judgment. Cap's shield, ever a faithful weapon, comes boomerang around right into the back of Bane's skull. Ouch. Schooled by the master!
"Now... No more back talk from you."
Winner: Captain America

Peter Parker versus Scarecrow & Scarecrow (Marvel versus DC #2)
Walking the streets alone can be dangerous, but that goes double when you're Lois Lane - professional damsel in distress!
In a meeting of gimmicks, both the Marvel and DC Scarecrows come up with the genius plan of kidnapping Superman's gal for whatever genius reason that goes unsaid.

Luckily Planet photographer Peter Parker is nearby, and able to unload some mean martial arts skills on the two fear enducing putzes.
Winner: Peter "Ben Reilly" Parker

Hulk & Superman versus Metallo (Marvel versus DC #3)
Beamed to Metropolis, Hulk finds himself dealing with a metallic hulking maniac called Metallo. Using a nearby giant Superman statue, Hulk smashes the 'metal geek' around a bit, until Superman finally shows up.

Confronting each other for their official bout, the two do away with Metallo switfly with a double punch, before being teleported to clearer grounds.
Winners: Superman & Hulk

Dark Claw & Super-Soldier versus Hyena (DC versus Marvel #4)
Dark Claw lurks across the rooftops, pursuing his arch-nemesis the Hyena.
Dark Claw attempts to put an end to the pursuit, hurtling a bomb at his foe, but Hyena is able to rip a chimney from a roof and swat it away toward innocents below.

The intervention of Super-Soldier sees a happy ending for the folks below.
As Hyena thinks he's finally made his get-away, the two heroes loom on the rooftop waiting for him.

Hyena backflips away, and makes his way to the streets below where Access, a character with newly acquired powers, finds himself the target of a hostage situation.

Of course, as Hyena leaps at his potential ticket out, Access creates a portal to someplace unknown, and lets Hyena send himself away.
Access attends to more important business, like seperating the Amalgam universe into the Marvel and DC universe via bits hidden in Captain America and Batman.
Winner: Access (w/ Dark Claw & Super-Soldier)

Hulk & Superman versus Moleman & the Moloids (DC versus Marvel #4)
In the batcave, Hulk emerges to tackle the swarming Moloid masses led by the Moleman. Using a well shined giant penny, Hulk flattens an armada of Moloids, and then tussles it up with the little freaks himself.
The cavalry arrives in the form of Superman, who deflects a blast from the Moloids' "greatest weapon" - a very Kirby laser canon.

Moleman and his Moloids are forced into retreat.
Winners: Superman & Hulk

Superboy versus Kingpin (DC versus Marvel #4)
As Wilson Fisk abuses his powers as owner of the Daily Planet, Spider-man swings in to heckle his long-standing foe.
Having already laid Perry White on his ass, Kingpin doesn't even see the brazen attack from Superboy coming. Some tight pants, a bulky jacket and a little 'tactile telekenisis' later, and Kingpin's getting dumped through a table.
Winner: Superboy

Elektra & Catwoman versus Abomination (DC versus Marvel #4)
Though the battle is sufficiently depicted (and considerably one-sided), in the end the sky turning to blood proves too much of a distraction.
Winner: Inconclusive (draw)

Flash & Quicksilver versus Venom (DC versus Marvel #4)
As the Marvel villains continue to get a good run in the wrap up of this mini-series, Flash and Quicksilver, though much better matched, find themselves sufficiently distracted during their fight.
Winner: Inconclusive (draw)

JLA/Avengers versus Darkseid & Thanos (DC versus Marvel #4)
A collection of heroes from both universes charge in to do battle with the wagering titans, Darkseid and Thanos.
Darkseid takes delight in finding "fire" in the mighty Thor, who deflects deadly eye beams from the ruler of Apokolips. The Silver Surfer and Storm swoop in for attacks on Darkseid, but they prove ineffective, as Darkseid topples Thor with a second eyebeam attack.

Meanwhile Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel fare better with Thanos, drawing first blood.

As the two fights converge, a thumped Wonder Woman hands Thor the mighty Mjolnir, much to his surprise.

As the sky turns to blood, these heroes too are distracted.
Winner: Draw

The hammer...
So, in the end, with these additional fights, who is the true winner?
Well, by Secret Earths standards it was a draw. While the official fights drew a 6-5 finish, additional fights ended in an 8-all draw, with a bunch o' ties and inconclusive results. Bravo to fair conclusions.

All in all this probably wasn't the greatest crossover event. As alluded to by some of these extra fights, there was a lot of fertile ground that went untouched.
That said, it's been a lot of fun taking a look at each battle the past few months, and filling the site with entries based on comics that were just made for a site like this.

Unfortunately, criticms of this mini-series come to mind far quicker than praise.
Perhaps some of the most bitter results are the chances missed. Some of the fights alluded to, but not given enough screen time to make this extras special included: Steel versus Absorbing man, Green Lantern versus Green Goblin, Daredevil versus the Riddler, Batman versus Venom, Captain Marvel versus Dr. Doom, Punisher versus Deathstroke, Etrigan versus Ghost Rider, Thing.Human Torch versus Firestorm/Martian Manhunter, Superman versus Annihilus, Spider-man versus Man-Bat and Nightwing versus Gambit.

If even a fraction of that list could have been given a look in, this series might have even scraped through with obscurity cred. Unfortunately, these just highlight a lot of missed chances, sitting next to a lot of half-done fights listed in this entry, and even in previous 'official' entries.
I would also particularly highlight the absence of big names like the Fantastic Four and the Martian Manhunter, lucky to get even a one-page mention.

Overall, I suppose a lot of this has to be put down to the era.
The writing is not at all intelligent, providing a fairly standard cosmic romp with a lot of quick, vingettes for each fight. The drama and the story of each conflict is completely absent here, and that's a shame.

Visually the book is also lacking. Castellini and Jurgens appear as somewhat unusual choices for a project so huge in the context of comics history.
For a one-time situation, it's disappointing that more range and variety couldn't have been offered up.

Personally I'd love to see another effort, with contemporary talents and characters spreading the event across several mini-series and one-shots. Guys like Brian Bendis and Ed Brubaker with Michael Lark on Daredevil/Batman.
Characters like the JSA, the JLA and the Avengers all interacting. There really are endless possibilities.

Never the less, it was a very fun series, and great to see what we did.

Next month, as voted by poll, Monday madness will feature fights starring the Hulk! Hope you enjoyed revisiting Marvel versus DC, I know I did (even if it is 2am!)!

NEXT: Another special event! Celebrating the release of X3, Wolverine takes on a bitter foe in a whole other medium! Stay tuned!

Friday, May 19, 2006

RYU versus SAGAT
(UDON Comics)
Street Fighter II #2 When: December 2005
Why: Ken Siu-Chong How: Alvin Lee

The story so far...
Having already tasted defeat at the hands of the murderous Akuma; Ryu sets out to better prepare himself for avenging his master, Gouken.

Seeking balance and means to protect himself from being engulfed by the same dark hadou that seduced Akuma, Ryu follows his nemesis Sagat to India.

There he finds the yoga master Dhalsim, who has taken Sagat as his student. Ryu is intrigued by Dhalsim's passive teachings of strength of mind, and ponders how such uncharacteristic techniques could be employed by Sagat.

Just a he asks his question, the answer emerges from behind the curtain.
Ryu stands face to face with his nemesis: the Muay Thai champion - Sagat.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Sagat 4 (Steroid Popper)
Intelligence: Sagat 2 (Normal Human)
Speed: Ryu 3 (Trained Athlete)
Stamina: Ryu 4 (Athlete)
Agility: Ryu 2 (Normal Human)
Fighting Ability: Ryu 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy Powers: Ryu 3 (Expolsives)

Like so many times before, these stats do not accurately capture just how tight a match up this is. Like so many classic feuds, this is potentially a see-sawing situation, with both characters being incredibly well matched.
These stats are, however, probably somewhat indicative of Ryu's legendary victory over Sagat.

Perhaps the most notable gap between the two is strength.
Though there's a legitimate argument that strength in a human fight is only so effective, when possessed by a fighter as skilled as Sagat, it regains it's credibility as a supreme advantage.

Sagat's strength is inherently connected to his incredible size, which also extends to give him an advantage of reach. This makes his Muay Thai kicks all the more formidable, not to discount his mighty punches.

Ryu's superior speed is a potential counter for some of Sagat's advantages of size and strength. Particularly in the case of tiger energy attacks, where Sagat is perhaps slightly slower and less naturally gifted with harnessing his chi.
The hadou techniques employed by Ryu are also a distinct advantage, quite apparently more powerful than Sagat, particularly before his extended training.

It was Ryu's sho-ryu-ken attack that scarred Sagat's chest.

Rounded down, Sagat is an incredibly formidable opponent by any measure.
That said, Ryu's skill and development characteristic to many Japanese martial arts heroes places him ahead of the pack. His earnest, good nature always ensures a potential comeback in the face of adversity, also.

What went down...
Energies crackle as the two mighty world warriors clash.
Sagat's newly grounded focus makes his tiger fists surprisingly effective in an energy clash against hadou chi.

Ryu hurtles through the wall of Dhalsim's temple, rolling with the blow to ready himself for the stalking Sagat.

Sagat throws a verbal assault, questioning Ryu's motives for seeking him out before the next Street Fighter tournament. It was there he had intended to reveal to Ryu his true power, under the situation of a rematch.

Struggling to block a diving foot, Ryu throws a kick and reveals that he sought Sagat out because he respected his prowess as a fighter, and needed his help in order to tame the dark energies threatening his soul.

Ryu leaps a tiger blast, countering with a tornado kick, which Sagat blocks.
He continues to compliment Sagat, whilst ducking a roundhouse kick, but the Muay Thai king is only insulted by Ryu's implication that he provided little more than a sparring opportunity.

Sagat shows just what kind of sparring partner he can be, delivering a thunderous knee to the jaw of the rattled Ryu.
Ryu notes the greater focus and controlled strength in the once brazen fighter. He delivers a fist, but the "effortless" strokes of the Muay Thai king continued to be too much for the Japanese shotokan fighter.

Ryu was able to block an elbow, and dodge a roundhouse, but Sagat's fluid motions connected into another devestating knee, this time to the stomach.

As Ryu begins to desperately question his ability to avenge his murdered master, Dhalsim solemnly declares that Sagat's victory is guaranteed.
"Ryu... You are fighting with despair and rage in your fists. You have already lost."

As Ryu looks to land a distracted punch, Sagat finds an unlikely opening and seizes it.
With energies crackling, Sagat unleashes the science of the eight limbs on Ryu in a devestating Tiger Raid combination. The finishing attack is so powerful, it sends Ryu into an adjacent wall.

With his opponent hunched against the wall, Sagat moves in, but does not finish him. Instead, to Ryu's surprise, he strikes the wall beside him, and walks away.

Sagat tells Ryu that he will be granted the same opportunity to train under Dhalsim before they meet again, and when they do, it will be at the rightful place - the upcoming Street Fighter tournament.
He tells Ryu that if it is the darkness in his soul that he must master, then Dhalsim's sage training is the answer.

Sagat then bows before Dhalsim, thanking and acknowledging all the truths he spoke. And then, he leaves Ryu to train.

The hammer...
Well, who would've thought back at the beginning that it would be Sagat who not only walks away victorious, but also takes the moral high ground.

In various mediums the character has been interpreted many different ways, and I have to admit, initially I wasn't entirely sure how I felt about this righteous Sagat. Ultimately, I think he's probably handled quite superbly, and faithfully to the source material of the video games.

Although not necessarily very poignant or trendy, I'd have to call this one of the best books coming out right now. Having grown up loving Street Fighter and it's characters, I'm probably not the most impartial source to ask, but I honestly think this just has to be one of the most exciting books going around.
In fact, it joins Blue Beetle and Nextwave in a month of picks that were chosen just because they made me so enthusiastic.

UDON's long awaited venture into publishing brings with it it's own special advantages and disadvantages.

Being an artist driven venture highlights perhaps both the good and the bad.
One of my first criticisms would be the multitude of variant covers coming from the group. This remnant of the collector's boom of the nineties has begun to make itself a prevelant fact of our industry once more, but unlike some other fans, I'm not one to change my mind on the matter because of trends.

While not one to support variant covers, I won't let a second or third cover stand in the way of availability. I was only able to pick up the "2B" cover of this particular issue, and I have to give full credit to UDON and Skottie Young for a pretty superb piece of art. In fact, that is true of the entire production.

Utilizing space and resources well, UDON offers up a truly cinematic experience with it's CG laced, Capcom inspired art. Any fan of the Street Fighter series will be thoroughly impressed by the art direction Alvin Lee follows.
This style truly grounds every punch, kick, and yoga flame in the Street Fighter universe, and as a diehard fan, I love every minute of it.

The adaptation process deserves further praise on the writing side, also.
While not the most subtle or refined piece of writing, the overall character arcs and traits are asthetically pleasing. Drawing from a canon that is far less specific than a Tekken or Mortal Kombat, UDON and Ken Siu-Chong do well to steer close enough to the canon of the video games, while still telling an original and linear story.
Fans of the video games won't be spoiling the next page for their friends, but this touch ensure an extra fanboy buzz where projects like the Street Fighter II V animé series, or the previously reviewed Tokuma effort, don't have the joy of familiar characterization.

Of course, as I said, being so art driven, this might not be for the ilk particularly attracted to the thick, dialogue driven contemporary books that sell so well.
This certainly isn't the book for the insecure comic reader. Sometimes a little obvious, but always entertaining, I would strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in over the top martial arts, and/or pretty fight books.

No doubt you'll be seeing more Street Fighter reviews (and praise) from me in the future. I love it!

The Fight: 5 The Issue: 6

NEXT: We wrap up the three-month DC versus Marvel madness, and examine just who really won the war. It's a Secret Wars on Infinite Earths spectacular! Be here!

Monday, May 15, 2006

"The Showdown of the Century!" (DC/Marvel Comics)
Marvel versus DC #3 When: April 1996
Why: Ron Marz How: 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...
Strength: Captain America 3 (Trained Athlete)
Intelligence: Batman 5 (Professor)
Speed: Batman 3 (Trained Athlete)
Stamina: Captain America 5 (Marathon Runner)
Agility: Batman 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting Ability: Captain America 6 (Warrior)
Energy Powers: Batman 2 (Projectile Weapons)

For those of you who've been following Secret Earths for a while now, you'll be familiar with the general stats of both of these guys. You'll know that they were predetermined long ago in month one, December 2005.
So, it's with great fanboy glee that I present these uninfluence stats that show the tug-of-war between these two characters, and their fighting potentials.

While many of these categories place the two on the same numerical rating, I've quite honestly weighed in which has the slight advantage.

Batman takes the speculative win three categories to four, and while I agree that Batman should be the victor here, it certainly isn't a clean cut decision. In fact, returning to the on-going theme of these Marvel vs DC fights, we see a fight still regularly contested amongst fans.

This is perhaps the most controversial of all the fights.
Batman, the deus ex he is, has a strong argument for victory. In context of a vote, he's a company icon, and carries with him the overwhelming popularity of a franchise character. Editorially it would be a cold day in hell before the character lost.

That said, Captain America is a character sometimes, in my opinion, underrated.
Often merely categorised as a man in peak physical condition, the super-soldier serum goes unrecognised as a boosting power. Captain America's strength and stamina should be recognised as superhuman.
While he does not possess even the strength of a Spider-man, he is a character with physical strength that still outweighs the chemically unaided power of Bruce Wayne.

In terms of hand-to-hand fighting, Captain America lacks a degree of finesse that Batman possesses as a result of his various martial arts styles. That said, the Captain probably has a superior knack for a skilless slug fest.Psychologically each character adds to their fighting abilities with symbollic assaults. The Batman has crafted for himself a persona criminals across the globe fear, while Captain America has the awe inspiring stature of a living legend.

Strategically each character has a very different credential.
Ultimately, it's probably the Batman's broader palette that gives him the upper hand. Rather than drawing from any particular military method of strategic thinking, most of Batman's prowess stems from deductive logic, and obsessive training to make his decision processes second nature.

The breadth of technology at Batman's disposal also gives him an additional edge, no matter how skilled the Captain may be with his shield.

What went down...
Sloshing through the muck of a Manhattan sewer, Captain America keeps his eyes peeled for a wile foe. Batman's dark exterior allows him to blend into the shadows, and spring a surprise attack, leaping down at the Captain from a raised vantage point.

Captain America recovers to use his shield to shvoe Batman out of his face, but Bats grabs hold of a pipe and swings back at him.
Cap dodges a punch, and strikes back with a thock that sends the Dark Knight flying.

The two characters, presumably having fought for quite some time, take a pause to gather themselves. The two debate their situation, deep within the labyrinth of Manhattan sewers.

Batman laments his distain for the situation, noting the billions of lives at stake in each universe. Though empathetic, the Captain can see no way to combat the will of the cosmic beings that pit them against one and other. Cosmic beings that will destroy both worlds if there is not an outcome.

Harking back to their origins, the two agree to pledge themselves to their universes to the very end, but then fate plays it's hand.
As the two toss their weapons in final battle, the pipe they stand before erupts with water as the system flushes out.

Cap's shield misses it's target, but the smaller batarang connects with Captain America's skull.
As the two are engulfed in filthy waters, Captain America is unable to protect himself, feeling the dizzying effects of a blow to the head.

Searching frantically for the colourful hero, Batman submerges beneath the water, finding the helpless warrior sinking. He scoops him, and returns to the surface.

The two champions emerge from the sewers via a manhole.
As the storm rages in the New York sky, the two stand back to back in an alley where a very special box sits before two special people.

Captain America may have lost the battle, but the war was not yet over...

The hammer...
As was declared by the sentinel of liberty himself, the Batman emerges from the sewers victorious. Thus, the incredible undefeated streak continues.

Though quite conclusive, I think it becomes clear why this is such a heavily debated subject among fandom. While the outcome was probably accurate, the depicted violence was less than satisfactory.

This fight, in many ways, compacts far less into it than the likes of Hulk/Superman; which adopted more of a montage presentation.
This fight, instead, takes the fairly easy way out by merely alluding to a lengthier battle than seen. This compounds the fact that what we do see is quite subaverage.

Again, like many other failings this series exhibits, this fight's brief nature could probably be pinned on conventions of the time. The purpose and story in many of the fights featured is distinctly lacking.
Of course, also like many of the other fights, this really had the potential to occupy and overtake an entire issue, and in some ways, I wish it had.

The excitement between these two characters meeting is very different to the pure comparison a fight like Sub-Mariner/Aquaman presents.
Here we have two characters elevated in stature in their respective universes, to the point of being spiritual leaders. Who also have the hand-to-hand chops to back up anything they have to say.

As the final fight, this really had the potential to be an epic, headlining duel of fates. This fight could've extended throughout the city, varying from close quarters technical sparring, to the unique experience of superhero urban warfare.
In fact, one can't help but wonder if the fight in the book, as the ending of something more, wasn't quite perfect. If the cramped, gloomy setting was the scene of Batman's ultimate victory in a city-spanning battle, this might have justified what we see.

Unfortunately, because there is no elaborated lead up, the fight suffers dramatically.
With characters like Batman and Captain America, I'd probably be harsher on the quality of writing in this portion, than others. It's just so disappointing that something more could not have come of it.

Perhaps, due to the nature of where the story goes next, a draw would have better served the series. Leaving the rematch to the future, where a true supreme fighter could be named.

The Fight: 2.5 The Issue: 4

NEXT: For a blog dedicated to comic book fights, what could be more appropriate than a a feud so bitter it's crossed video games, movies, and now comics? You don't want to miss this one!

Friday, May 12, 2006

(Marvel Comics)
Nextwave #2 When: April 2006
Why: Warren Ellis How: Stuart Immonen

The story so far...
It's like Shakespeare, but with lots more punching.
It's like Goethe, but with lots more crunching.
Like Titanic, but the boat's still floating.
No it's not! The mother-f***ing boat is exploding!


Dirk Anger is one crazy mamajama. He leads H.A.T.E. sitting around in his pretty pink pajamas.
H.A.T.E. was formed by the Beyond Corporation. Purposely to bring about catastrophic devestation!


Do you want a haircut? The Beyond Corporation's gonna help you out.
Do you need a toothbrush? The Beyond Corporation's got an extra one.
Do you have a step-son? The Beyond Corporation's gonna run him off.

Do you see a monster? Or a pirate? Electric Emu? A giant sky rat? A midget Hitler?! Or Pontius Pilate? Don't call your mum or your doctor, just pick up the phone and call... NEXTWAVE!

Whoa-oh-oh, NEXTWAVE!

Give us a Nextwave rollcall!
Monica! Is gonna microwave your ****!
Tabby! Is gonna steal all your stuff!
Aaron! Is going to organize your sock drawer.
Elsa! Is gonna speak with an accent!

NEXTWAVE! Whoa-whoa-oh-oh-oh, NEXTWAVE!
Wooooo-oo-oo-oo, NEXTWAVE!
Oooh, somebody please call up NEXTWAVE!
For God's sake, somebody call... Nextwave...*

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Fin Fang Foom 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Machine Man 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Photon 5 (Super Speed)
Stamina: Fin Fang Foom 6 (Generator)
Agility: Photon 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting Ability: Photon 4 (Trained Fighter)
Energy Powers: Photon 6 (Mass Destruction)

Y'know, for such a third-stringer, Captain Marvel [aka; Photon, aka; Monica Rambeau] is a pretty high rating hero. Oh, and if you didn't know, she once ran the Avengers. Hah-cha-cha-cha-cha.

Still, microwave special beam cannons and SHIELD regulation callisthenics aren't really all that much next to a giant dragon. A giant alien dragon who wears purple trunks, as it were.
As you can see, there are some of those vulnerabilities in the Haseloff system. I never could have accounted for purple underpants. Truly a formidable power (as we shall see).

Stats that include impressive strength levels on the side of Elsa Bloodstone and the Captain, as well as the multitude of abilities possessed by the gadget, geared up Machine Man, while impressive, aren't enough.
Even the dodgy record Fin Fang Foom has against superhero types isn't enough to render him a likely loser in this situation. Not on paper, according to statistics, at least.

Arguably a Nextwave should have far more chance of dealing with the alien dragon than a lone Iron Man, but that probably speaks more to the unfortunate writing of history.
Fin Fang Foom is a poor Iron Man villain choice, and should be granted higher status, dealt with by the likes of the Fantastic Four, or other.

What went down...
The second issue of Nextwave resumes very much where the end of the first left off. As the Nextwave arrives on the scene, Fin Fang Foom, having just been awoken and freed from his mountain prison, is f**king sh*t up!

Former X-Forcer, Tabby "Boom Boom" Smith, swoops in wearing an anti-gravity harness, to give the Fin-man an eyefull of plasma blast fit for 'shake, shaking' the room.
This plan, however, backfires...

Fin Fang Foom is swift enough to catch the little Boomer in-hand, and announces the offensive strategy of intending to place her in his pants. Not a very pretty plan, but effective in concept, none the less.
At least until an airborne Captain hurtles toward the situation.

The f**king absurdly strong action hero grapples with a giant green finger, peeling back until finally... He snaps the finger clean off Fin Fang Foom's hand.

FFF waves his agonized hand around a bit, sending The Captain [and Tabitha Smith] hurtling once more, this time into a nearby apartment building.
Fortunatley, The Captain's absurdly powerful body was able to protect his Nextwave compadre from mortal injury.

Meanwhile, while Machine Man parks the Shockwave Rider, Photon leaps into action. Using her fantastic Photon-y powers, she converts her body into a flying deadly, flying exawatt gamma-ray laser beam! Which results in... her bouncing off FFF's big green chest...

Apparently unable to even damage the creature's toenails with a shotgun, the team decides drastic situations call for drastic measures. Well, okay, they didn't really put it like that, but I'm trying not to drone on too much...

... So, the invincible Elsa Bloodstone leaps into action, shotgun in tow, and fires at Fin Fang Foom's fintastic right eye. Which really hurts, and makes him open his mouth and shout in agony. This oral opening allows the Aaron "the Machine Man" Stack to hurtle into the gullet of the beast.

Twisting his way down through Fin Fang Foom's digestive system, Machine Man pops a whole mess of wacky, dangerous and sharp looking gadgets, and hacks away at FFF's innards like a sissy footballer brutalising a shin in the name of a steal.

In the end, Machine Man's rampaging butchery paid off.
Lurching in agony, Fin Fang Foom wonders if perhaps he had eaten too many people, but this was more than a little Bangalore belly. This was the bitter, hard-to-digest result of man's intolerance for giant alien monsters.

When will you learn to accept, humanity? Shame.

The hammer...
Fin Fang Foom's heart was broken, as was mine, with Nextwave walking away with the victory via excessive force.
This begs the question - is Fin Fang Foom now dead?

Popular opinion is to simply dismiss Nextwave as a book that obeys it's own exclusive canon, irrelevent to the established history of the Marvel "616" universe. This reporter, however, sees it otherwise.

In fact, despite it's comedy stylings, I tend to believe this book would greatly benefit the Marvel universe if it were to be directly attached.
This book has the potential to succeed where other series, like the recent ill-fated Defenders mini, have failed. Despite it's humorous and untamed antics, it has an over the top quality that nullifies, I believe, any potential misuse of characters.

In fact, thus far, it's my opinion that it hasn't even tred dodgy ground.

As a creatively and artistically brilliant piece of madness, this book, in my estimation, has not yet betrayed any of the characters it's borrowed. This opinion is no doubt held intact by the editorial wisdom that birthed a character like Dirk Anger, rather than pushing the boundaries of the likes of Nick Fury beyond parody.

In the case of Fin Fang Foom, I'd like to think a little bit of alien psuedo-reptilian regeneration could explain away a prompt resurrection. With, perhaps, the rest of the book steering clear of potential snafus that would necessitate separation from the other childred.

Critically, I could only fawn over this title.
Thoroughly disappointed with mainstream ventures from Ellis in recent past [Ultimate Fantastic Four, Ultimate Secret, JLA: Classified...], this book not only makes up for those lapses of judgment, but seemingly does it on Ellis' own specififc terms.

The collaborative design produced under Ellis' direction by Stuart Immonen, Wade Von Grawbadger, Dave McCaig and Joe Caramagna, makes this more than just a beautiful, and kinetic read. This is a book generating it's own exciting image, akin more to high-end popart than just another Marvel comic.

I have nothing but gleaming reviews for everything from cover to cover.
The application of under utilised characters is brilliant. I could not say the book is a trailblazer in that sense, but solicitations from the big two are clearly indicative of an overdue realisation that this is a fantastic way to produce interesting, and unique books.

The use of Fin Fang Foom as a recognisable face under the 'UWMD' classification is fantastic. This was surely an intelligent way of ensuring long reading fanboys had interest to invest in the style of the ook, before it deviated to it's own self-perpetuated characters and stories.
I only hope the book can keep one foot in the Marvel Universe, because there are many characters I'd love to see gain new life here.
Post-New Invaders, I think the likes of USAgent and Blazing Skull would fit in superbly here, but I digress...

Since these ramblings are rapidly going nowhere, I'll close with a negative.
While the writing is strong, and suitably wacky, Elsa Bloodstone's dialogue is a bit grinding. Coming from a true Brit like Ellis, I would have expected slightly less over the top British dialogue. It's like someone threw scripts from The Bill in a blender, and pulled out as many of the colloqualisms as possible.

Machine Man's anti "fleshy," robotic antics were fun, but also seemed a little less shiney. More specifically it felt very much like strings from Futurama were being plucked, taking some of Bender's finer moments, and regurgitating them with more psychotic menace.

NEVER THE LESS, a shining review here. This is the kind of effort I'd like to see Marvel producing more often. Superb! If there wasn't a fight in this issue, I probably still would've forced it onto the site.
A pleasure to 'review' such an oustanding book.

*Finally, if you enjoyed the opening lyrics, you can still find the Nextwave theme song via the Thunder Thighs MySpace page. This glorious madness is perpetuated by Nextwave editor, Nick Lowe, along with his brother Matt.

The Fight: 6 The Issue: 7

NEXT: The May main event. Captain America versus Batman. When it comes to fantasy fights, they don't come much bigger than this one folks. Stay tuned!

Monday, May 08, 2006

"The Showdown of the Century!" (DC/Marvel)
Marvel versus DC #3 When: April 1996
Why: Ron Marz How: 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...
Strength: Hulk 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Superman 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Superman 6 (Sound)
Stamina: Equal 6 (Generator)
Agility: Superman 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting Ability: Hulk 6 (Warrior)
Energy Powers: Superman 5 (Lasers)

Oooh, I think I can still hear the seething of fanboys worldwide, reverberating through space and time, each crying foul. Some say Hulk, some say Superman.

As has been the case since employing the new approach, it was difficult to weigh-in, one way or the other, in terms of who dominates who in their talent ratings. Both, according to the patented Haseloff System, clock in at a six for strength. However, it's a popular and fair opinion that the Hulk has the greater potential for strength by the very nature of his powers.

Likewise, inadequacies also arise in under estimating certain abilities.
Superman's intelligence as a tactician is a compromise between the muscle bound moron and the super scientist interpretations of his character. His comptence as a field leader, and combative strategist is relatively consistent, unlike his scientific expertise and ability to 'super learn.'

Going on generally standard information, the Hulk is measured in his common savage state, exhibiting minimal intelligence. It should be noted, however, that in this particular encounter, Hulk possesed the mental capacity, expertise and memories of Bruce Banner.

The question here, of course, is not really about how far one character's powers can be stretched. The problem posed to us is to measure the likely winner, on paper.

Despite Superman's greater superiorities in the initial measure, this is a much closer clash than some may consider. Of course, over estimation of Hulk's abilities can slant the fight the wrong way.
Ultimately it's Superman's broader abilities, and more definitive invulnerabilities that make him the more likely victor. Despite possessing an incredible amount of strength, the Hulk is known to be a creature of gamma irradiated flesh, and though he may be green like kryptonite, he does not weaken the man of steel.

What went down...
Hulk occupied himself by toying around with Metallo, before the big S arrived on the scene.
In true Superman style, he extended some old-fashioned Southern hospitality, thanking Hulk for keeping his spot warm in Metropolis by joining Hulk in partaking in some B-villain smacking.

It was now that the mysterious powers-that-be saw fit to teleport our heroes away from civilization, where their destructive powers could truly be unleashed.
If it didn't resemble some far off craterous region of an alien planet, the barren firma of the Grand Canyon might just feel like a home advantage for the green goliath.

Hulk wastes no time, knocking big blue's block off before he's even out of the gate. Something the Hulk no doubt shared with Thor, for future reference.

Superman hurtles into a nearby wall of rock, but is able to spring back into action with eyes blazing - leaving behind a crater that would make any WB cartoon character proud, and with a glowing red pair of peepers to please Jim Lee.

Being the super-whiz he is, Superman is able to assess the Hulk's strength as powerful enough to survive his maximum heat vision blast, even if he couldn't withstand it.
[Too bad if the Hulk's magic weakness just happened to be fire.]

Hulk, notably shaken, returns fire with his own long range attack, unleashing a trademark seismic slam on the rocky ground.

Shaken but not stirred, Superman moves into close quarters looking to slug it out with the Hulk. The two exchange thunderous blows, blasting rock into the air, and hwff and nnghing their way into the record books.

For his world, universe, and the woman he loves, Superman puts aside his wish to be friends with the Hulk, and gives one last punch everything he has.
With the knowledge that he had to put the Hulk down; Superman's punch sees him coiling his body in the follow through, but also sending the Hulk hurtling into the Grand Canyon, where half of it crumbles ontop of Marvel's mighty mean green fighting machine.

Though the tourist attraction may have been partly destroyed - the DC universe, was one step closer to living on.

The hammer
Let's be honest, as perhaps the number one most recognisable superhero in the world, was there ever any chance of Superman losing? Not bloody likely!

At the time of this series, these two characters had co-existed for over thirty years in the same industry. Their pairing was no doubt inspired by their status as top powerhouses in their respective universes, and yet, of the few Marvel/DC crossovers of the seventies, it was the Batman who encountered the Hulk.

With this history in mind, you'd have to think this was one of the most anticipated match-ups imaginable. Unfortunately, this blockbuster-in-the-making suffers the weaknesses of the format with which this series was presented.
Despite being one of the more dynamic and visually exciting fights, it still suffers heavily from being relegated to a mere four page highlight reel.

Despite efforts to honor both characters here, this fight remains one of the most contested and debated on internet message boards, 'Net-wide.Those that favour the Hulk's ability to combat the strength of the Superman press the argument that Hulk's anger management issues would have financed victory.I tend to think the Hulk's capacity for strength is too often over estimated, confusing his actual strength with his extrapolated potential for strength.

Perhaps what lets this fight down so much is it's potential. Not only is this a pairing I'd love to see in an entire issue, but they are two characters that could arguably sustain an entire mini-series.
With an emphasis on story telling, this could have been a very compelling story of two characters not quite human, but often humane.

The depth afforded to a character like Hulk certainly outshines the potential of the often two-dimensional encounters between Superman and DC's out-of-control powerhouse, Solomon Grundy.

This is definitely a fight that deserves to be revisited in the future, but until differences between the powers at Marvel and DC can be settled, you'll have to swallow this ruling: Superman is the strongest one there is.

The Fight: 3.5 The Issue: 4

NEXT: Punching. Crunching. Exploding. Don't call your mum or your doctor, just pick up the phone and call - NEXTWAVE!

Friday, May 05, 2006

"Blue Monday" (DC Comics)
Blue Beetle #1 When: May 2006
Why: Keith Giffen & John Rogers How: Cully Hamner

The story so far...
During the countdown, Ted Kord unconvered a plot against the heroes led by his former Justice League colleage - Maxwell Lord.

Lord murdered the Blue Beetle, but the scarab once owned by original Blue Beetle, Dan Garrett, was already on a journey of mystic intervention which would eventually lead it to El Paso, Texas.

A Blue Beetle's death initiated the OMAC Project, but it would be the new Blue Beetle who would be instrumental in destroying the Brother I satellite that was plaguing the world and it's heroes. Along with Batman, Green Lantern and many others, this new Blue Beetle began his career by saving the world.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Guy Gardner 3 (Athlete)
Intelligence: Blue Beetle 3 (Straight A)
Speed: Guy Gardner 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Guy Gardner 5 (Marathon Runner)
Agility: Guy Gardner 2 (Average)
Fighting Ability: Guy Gardner 4 (Trained Fighter)
Energy Powers: Guy Gardner 7 (Solar Power)

At surface level you'd have to think ol' bowl cut himself, Guy Gardner, has the new Blue Beetle licked. Of course, that's where you'd be wrong.

Experience plays a major part in Gardner's dominance in the ratings, and with one of the most powerful weapons on his finger, even the Blue Beetle's magical scarb armor is dwarfed by the ring of a Green Lantern. Even if a lunkhead like Guy Gardner is wearing it.

The psuedo-scientific qualities of the magical Blue Beetle armor are quite new. With very little history behind him, it's difficult to be certain whether the new Blue Beetle's abilities have been accurately assessed. It's entirely possible that the capabilities of the suit have been greatly underestimated.

What we do know is that the suit is able to detect things unseen by the human eye. Beyond that, I would honestly have to say all assessments were made based on the information available in the new Blue Beetle on-going series we're featuring. Thusly, the speculative properties of the tape are compromised, but being as unaffected as possible, I render a verdict.

Experience alone on the part of Guy Gardner makes him a far more formidable opponent than he is often given credit. Despite being known for going down to 'one punch,' he's a rought and tough kind of guy, and isn't likely to go down to a kid in the latest Power Ranger togs.

The new Blue Beetle undoubtedly has a strong future, but for now, you'd be crazy not to tip the Green Lantern, Guy Gardner.

What went down...
A fireball descends from the heavens, and from the crater it leaves we are introduced to the new Blue Beetle for the first time officially in a solo capacity.

Having played a crucial role in defeating Brother I and the OMAC units, you'd think young Jaime Reyes would be pretty content to curl up into a ball and cry himself to sleep. And, if Guy Gardner hadn't shown up, he probably would have.

"Oh God... that's the crazy one. The crazy Green Lantern -- he's gonna kill me..."
For those keeping score at home, there have been at least two "crazy" Green Lanterns. One of them was absolved by a convenient Geoff Johns plot involving an evil yellow monster. The other got punched out by Batman.

The crazy Green Lantern, who has had his redeeming moments, probably could've argued he wasn't a threat to the boy. That is, of course, if he wasn't crazed and screaming that he wanted to kill him.

Like any trusty mystic armor, the blue Scarab goes into auto-pilot, protecting the young boy from the Green Lantern's offensive with large shields and by letting off a blinding flash.
A flash that gives young Jaime Reyes enough time to explain that he doesn't even know how to control the armor, and is just frightened and wanting to go home.

Perhaps it was the persistent glint of insanity in Guy's eye, or, perhaps it was the buzzing and sparking of the scarab armor, that inflamed the situation. We may never truly know, but, regardless, Blue Beetle learned another of his powers, shooting out a whopping lightning bolt of energy from his funnel fanning wrist gauntlet thingy... which knocked the seasoned GL on his arse.

Of course, what good would a mystic suit of pseudo-tech armor be without means of airborne propulsion?
Retractable beetle shields become back-mounted wings, as the reluctant Blue Beetle is torn away from battle, still pleading for his life.

Guy Gardner, ever the relentless hero with an iron will the GL Corp is famous for, continues the assault. With the energies of the ring, he fashions a giant jackhammer, and sets about trying to dismantle his pubescent foe.

Driven into the ground, the child makes one last plea as the funky Blue Beetle mask melts away to reveal his terrified little face. A face peppered with the tears of a little nancy boy, afraid of a scary-wary, greeny-meanie, lethally insane Green Lantern who is controlling a giant, green jackhammer.

In a moment of clarity ("A kid?"), Guy Gardner does what any self-respecting, college-cut redhead would do. He blames it on an inanimate object.
Glaring at his ring he cries, "It's just a kid! I... DON'T... HURT... KIDS!"

Who are you trying to convince, Guy? The ring, or yourself?

Now apparently recognising the black and blue motiff of the Blue Beetle (or is that a physically abused Latin minor, with a legitimate case against a Justice Leaguer?), Guy Gardner welcomes BB to the fold, and disappears into the night sky.

As for Jaime Reyes?
With the excitement dying down, the god damn scarab sees fit to disappear into his spine, and make him walk home from the desert, naked.

The hammer...
If I were to go on points, I'd probably have to say Guy Gardner came out with the win here, but because of the peaceful conclusion I'm gonna call this one a draw.

The real winner here is probably anyone who dared to check this issue out. Although running quite behind on updates, this was an immediate inclusion to the list when I read it. In fact, the first three Friday updates all carry that tag as new, unique and enjoyable reads.

Keith Giffen [and John Rogers, apparently] does something very interesting with this story. In it's essence, it's a very tired and cliched set-up: a new character fights an older character, and we learn a little more about the [boy] behind the mask.

Creatively this scenario could have very easily doomed the title to being in the twenty thousands [sales figures], and universally regarded as creative slag.
Instead, the team at work here spins out of Infinite Crisis with an opportunity to do a very strong, stand-alone issue, that uses those professional wrestling style conventions of 'putting a character over,' while still telling a very enjoyable, and inviting story.

Pacing is very successful here, defying the Brian Bendis style of introduction, in favour of cramming in backstory at constructed intervals during the fight.
Flowing, natural beats during the fight do well to allow a break from the traditional superhero slobber knocker, and justify the battle, which is really quite inconsequential.

All the fight really serves to do is elaborate on the abilities of the new Blue Beetle, while also insinuating there may be another side to the magic involved, which is the reason Guy Gardner enters the fray quite crazed.
The blue scarab antagonises the Green Lantern ring, delivering a mental rabbit punch to the already unstable, Guy Gardner.

Of course, there is one other thing the fight does provide. That, quite simply, is an enjoyable, and visually delightful story.
What makes this book such a creative success, in my eyes, is it's ability to cover all bases. The story itself is quite simple, and with another artist involved it may have fallen quite flat.

Cully Hamner's energetic, minimalist toony approach, coupled with a cool palette of David Self colours, serves up a visually appropriate masterpiece. The pencils dance a fine line of animation friendly simplicity, with a convincing seriousness, that does well to sell every moment of the story.

Yes, this title has done the unthinkable.
In the shadow of an abrupt send-off to Ted Kord, we find ourselves with a thoroughly acceptable replacement. This title is so enjoyable, it has to be sickening to any die-hard JLI fan.

That said, Giffen assures fans that there is no anymosity, or personal motivation for the recent string of JLI era slayings.
Maxwell Lord, Sue Dibny and Ted Kord were just asking for it purely on their own merits. Frankly, this reader thinks Wonder Woman snapping Lords smug neck was ten years overdue.

Buy Blue Beetle.
You'll feel better for it.

The Fight: 5 The Issue: 6.5

NEXT: A pleasant, pantheon of primary colours as the two super-heavyweights, Superman and Hulk, duke it out in Marvel vs DC action.

Monday, May 01, 2006

"The Showdown of the Century!" (DC/Marvel Comics)
Marvel versus DC #3 When: April 1996
Why: Ron Marz How: 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...
Strength: Superboy 5 (Super Strength)
Intelligence: Spider-man 5 (Professor)
Speed: Spider-man 4 (Olympic Sprinter)
Stamina: Superboy 4 (Athlete)
Agility: Spider-man 5 (Cat-like)
Fighting Ability: Spider-man 3 (Street Wise)
Energy Powers: Spider-man 2 (Projectile Weapon)

Weighing the information up, it's surprising just how closely matched these two heroes are on paper. Of course, paper doesn't mean squat when you're fighting for the fate of your reality.

In cases such as stamina and fighting abiltiy; advantages were awarded based on the history and potential appilcation of relating powers. In reality, each weighs in at the same rated point as the other.
This fact better highlights just how even the two are, as opposed to the 5/2 advantage overall.

It is important to note that each of these characters were very different at this time of 1996.

Superboy was generally depicted as a far less mature character, whose application of powers rated him considerably less than his Kryptonian counterpart. Likewise, Spider-man was in a very different place quite literally, with the clone called Ben Reilly assuming the mantle in a period where it was believed he was the true Spider-man. Of course, ultimately this fight has far greater resonance in hindsight, with this Spider-man being revealed definitively as the clone.

So, how do these two facsimiles of iconic heroes fare against one and other?

Superboy arguably grew into the more formiddable of the two, with his tactile telekinesis developing further, providing a far higher strength level. Comparable, even, to that of some of DC's heaviest hitting second-tier heroes.
Not that recent status speaks very honestly to the potential of this fight, as both characters are now dead.

Ultimatey both characters are quite evenly matched, with strengths unique to each other. Spider-man's agility and speed makes him a difficult foe, but Superboy's tactile telekinesis is a versatile equializer.

Though built from a mature mold; the Spider-clone retained the memories of his original, and also experienced a lengthy career of his own, not only fighting Spider-man, but also his own adventures, which culminated in the Scarlet Spider identity. In fact, Ben Reilly's experience uniquely gave him the opportunity to defeat Venom without assistance - something the true Spider-man has always struggled to do.

Overall: Scarlet Spider

What went down...
Trademark spider webs hit the similarly synonymous circular sunnies of the oh-so nineties, Superboy.
"NO FAIR!," he shouts as he tosses his eyeware aside, and poses angrily in his bulky leather jacket/glove combo. A combo complimented by skin tight spandex pants, and a shaved undercut.

Spidey taunts the super-clone, emerging stuck to the side of a watertower, but Superboy laughs last, using his oft mentioned "tactile telekinesis" to send a shove in Spidey's general direction.
Spider-sense and comparable agility give Spidey the edge to avoid the blow, but the shove is enough to rupture the water containing structure.

As water floods onto the rooftop, Superboy explains his somewhat appropriate origins. Unaware of the relevence, Superboy hopes Spidey's startled expression isn't reflective of a reclutance to be beaten by a lowly clone.

Superboy's mockery goes around, and comes around quite abruptly, as he's forced to eat spider-feet, as Spidey uses his hands to stick to the tank and throw his legs out in a double footed uppercut kick.
He leaps down to follow the attack, but loses Superboy amongst the murky waters surrounding them.

Like napalm in the morning, Supes burns Spidey, leaping out of the water to flip the web-slinger before his spider-sense can even give him the chance to leap away.

Superboy swoops in for the kill, but this time the spider-clone is armed and ready with his patented impact webbing!
He fires off two shots than explode, entangling and engulfing the young Superboy, who careens into a rooftop electrical box. A dangerous concoction when the rooftop has been flooded with water.

The hammer...
There you have it folks, as he's more affectionately known, the Scarlet Spider picks up the victory for Marvel! Just think, fans worldwide consider him one of the most embarassing blemishes on Marvel's record, and yet here he was in 1996, at the height of his career protecting the entire Marvel universe.

As you saw, this month we're testing out a new method for tale of the tape. It may be a little early to tell, but the status match-ups may just be the most ingenious method yet.

If the one on one match-ups involved fashion faux pas, maybe it would have been a different story. Or maybe it's just too hard to choose between torn sweat shirts, and single earrings.
Yes, like the many weeks previous, we again are granted a window to ten years in the past. This time capsule highlights some of the finest errors of judgment known to any editor across the land.

That said, despite it's silliness, this fight is actually one of the most enjoyable of the entire series. Not only does it not suffer from the controversy of other similar fights, like the voting debacle of Wolverine/Lobo, but it also features three of the more energetic pages dedicated to these potentially universe-altering fights.

Though consistently awkward, the artwork packs some of the most dynamic direction, while also making great use of the characters' abilities, and their surroundings. Certainly one of the more impressive results.

The Fight: 4 The Issue: 4

NEXT: A brand new Blue Beetle has to grow into his superhero mantle, but if his first solo opponent has anything to do with, the only thing he'll be filling is a casket!
Ha-cha! Another month of battling bedlam and secret wars!
EDIT: Entries are often largely completed in advance, so I thought it best to insert a further apology for on-going delays.
Technical problems have made it difficult to complete April's entries, but it will now likely take further delay before we can charge into May.

I will endeavour to fix the problem as soon as possible, and thank you all for your patience.

As fantastic as April has been, May is absolutely going to knock some socks off without even taking off your shoes!
Before we get to all of that we have a few of the usual things to look through. As always, the ever exciting top five is lurking somewhere below this chunk of text, but before we do that...

You'll notice a slight change in format for the preliminary information of each fight. Just to carry the theme through we've now added "why" and "how." These are indicative of what they imply, usually being writer (why) and artist (how). You'll see a slight twist that better justifies the vagueness, soon enough.

For those who came in late...
If you're only just now stumbling upon our humble little fight club, you might not yet know that Monday's are Marvel versus DC madness, highlighting the tenth anniversary of the mega crossover event.

If you missed the event, the challenge goes out to you to try to tip the winners as they come. Sometimes it's easier said than done, and as we move into the final fights, we find controversy aplenty thanks to the voting system used.
Prior to these final five fights were the battles determined by writers Peter David and Ron Marz, and perhaps their editorial overlords. This was a structure that saw DC get out to an early lead in the first month, but that has since changed.

Marvel has stormed through April to prevent DC picking up a single victory!
Arguably some of these results were quite questionable, but alas, this is history as it was written, and so it must be.
As we look ahead, I leave it to those of you who don't know the outcome to speculate away! Will DC's greatest heroes provide a final burst, or will Marvel run away with it? We'll find out in May!

DC: 3 (Aquaman, Robin, Flash) Marvel: 5 (Thor, Silver Surfer, Elektra, Wolverine, Storm)

The card: Mayhem in May!
As we discussed last month, the arrangement of fights for each month will be ordered like a fight card. The main event will be saved for the last week of the month, but in true Secret Earths style, you can be sure even the openers are must-see battles!

This month is no exception, in fact... I think it may just be the most exciting month we've ever had to look forward to. I teased you in the punch-up opening dialogue, but now the time has come to really dangle the fly infront of the fish.

(May 1st) We kick off with Monday Marvel versus DC action. The beginning of the business end as the true icons step out to deal their destruction. It's a battle of the clones, as Spider-man (Marvel) faces off against nineties icon, Superboy (DC).
(May 5th) This may just be the most exciting opener I've ever alluded to. It's a new dog with new tricks, but this old idea is taking on another, who similarly succeeds another. Yes it's vague, but it's less than a week away, and it's hot!
(May 8th) Though only in the second week, this is perhaps the biggest fight any fanboy could imagine. This is crossover action as the big green Hulk (Marvel) takes on the big blue Superman (DC) in a clash of the titans. The real winner here is the fans!
(May 12th) The introductions continue as we usher in the inclusion of some old dogs with new tricks. Tricks like: Photon manipulation! Punching! Crunching! Guitar smashing! Fleshy bashing! Big, sharp metal bitting! And big purple underpants!
If you haven't guessed it yet, then you're doing something wrong...!
(May 15th) The Marvel/DC main event. Perhaps one of the most controversial battles to occur in a battle between icons. Even after this entry, you won't be satisfied, but you'll be damned pleased you tuned in.
The fight: The Batman (DC) versus Captain America (Marvel). The prize? A universe!
(May 19th) Old feuds die hard, but one wandering warrior is about to learn a valuable lesson from the most unlikely of foes. This mountain of muscle has all the reasons to be looking for payback, but what new philosophies has he learnt, and how will they affect the outcome of this classic clash?
(May 22nd) We recap the events of DC versus Marvel, and put some of the events under the microscope. Believe it or not, this special entry has the potential to completely rock the results, as we declare a winner. DC or Marvel? Marvel or DC?
(May 26th) Finally we round out the month by celebrating the exciting release of X-Men 3: The Last Stand in cinemas. This radical new vision is sure to Xcite, and we're going to celebrate it by taking a look at a classic rivalry. Wolverine faces off against one of his oldest foes, but what about this arena is so interesting? Be here to find out!

So, are you excited yet? If you're not, go get a few cups of coffee and mark your calendar so you don't miss out! This is going to be the most explosive month of Secret Wars on Infinite Earths that ever was, and may ever be!

The top five...
And so we arrive at the moment we all wait for every month.
Don't pretend fanboy. You know you love this part as much as I do, and this month there were one or two surprises down the list.

For the top five, the format has changed slightly. The first number in brackets represents the movement through the ranks, and the second represents how many weeks they have been in the top five. This second number replaces the highest ranking record that was noted previously.

As a gateway for new readers to explore characters of potential interest, we also include the company the character comes from. This also just makes it interesting to note who is doing what in the rivalry scheme.

#1 The Batman (-) (5) (DC Comics)
We've been through it five months previous, so there isn't a lot I can say. From the inception of this blog Batman has reined as number one. In these early months he remains challenged, but as time goes on you have to wonder what the chances of him falling will be.

When it's all said and done, Batman has to be universally recognised as one of the greatest fighting characters in comics. Batman as number one is a reality that, unlike some results, is quite fair.

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

#2 Daredevil (-) (4) (Marvel Comics)
Daredevil, of course, is the only character challenging Batman right now. With his hands tied currently in the Ed Brubaker/Michael Lark issues of the on-going series, it's questionable whether or not Daredevil will climb. Of course, with enemies swarming around him in prison, and the FBI trying to move him to general population, it's entirely possible we'll get to see DD back in action!

I think we'll see this spot taken soon enough, but ever a favourite, Daredevil will never be out of the picture entirely.

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

#3 Zatanna (+1) (3) (DC Comics)
Now here is a bit of a surprise. I've lamented previously that Zatanna is not a character to prominently feature in my interests, but through circumstances we see her climb the ranks anew!

As part of the unique "trenchcoat brigade" adventure in JLU, Zatanna has prolonged her stay at the top. Some of her previous successes may keep her here longer than expected, and as One Year Later ticks on at DC, you have to wonder whether or not this woman of intrigue may stick around a little longer. Certainly one of the characters to benefit most from the many Crisis that have plagued DC of late.

- Justice League (inc. Zatanna) versus Deathstroke
- Zatanna versus Zor
- Justice League (inc. Zatanna) versus The Demons Three

#4 Elektra (+9) (RE) (Marvel Comics)
Another somewhat surprising entry, as Elektra climbs the ranks with a bullet. Moving up nine spots, one has to wonder whether or not the top five could be overwhelmed soon by girl power. Very interesting, and unlikely given the nature of male dominated comics.

As one of the greatest martial artists Marvel comics have seen; it's not at all inappropriate that Elektra hit the top five.
Unfortunately as results are loosely dictated by my collection, it means Elektra's odds of staying here are somewhat slim. Like many other second-tier characters, she just doesn't have the quantity to stay here.

Of course, as the current leader of the Hand, that could easily be turned around.

- Elektra & Daredevil versus Bullseye
- Elektra versus Catwoman

#5 Wolverine (+14) (RE) (Marvel Comics)
Marvel steal the final spot, as that ever gritty Wolverine claws his way back into the top five. This is the first time since month-one that we've seen Wolverine this high, but I don't think anyone's surprised.

I don't think anyone buying Marvel comics could avoid Wolverine if they tried. His presence has grown exponentially over the years, most recently with inclusions in the New Avengers, and now a second on-going series that explores his mysterious origins.

Events relating to both of those recent inclusions, and the Civil War, will probably see Wolverine return to Secret Earths in the very near future.
Despite being squashed due to his over exposure, Wolverine may be the one to challenge Batman for the top spot.

- Wolverine versus The X-Men w/Captain America
- Wolverine versus The Invaders
- Wolverine versus Lobo
- The X-Men (inc. Wolverine) & Juggernaut versus Nimrod

Ones to watch...
The top five has been reshaped by the events of the previous month, but what you don't see is the shift among the lower ranks. So, like last month, it seems fitting that we take a look at some of the names potentially on the rise.

#9 Captain America (-2) (Marvel Comics)
At the forefront of the Civil War, and defecting to Canada in the midst of being hunted by SHIELD - Cap is right in the mix.
Ever the fighting hero; Captain America will no doubt be entering into heavy fistifcuffs as chief opposer to Marvel America's demands for hero registration. Particularly, considering their intent to use excessive force.

#16 Iron Man (-1) (Marvel Comics)
Iron Man sits on the flip side of the coin, opposing his long-time friend, Captain America. As a pro-registration hero, and perhaps as a puppet for the movement, Iron Man may even end up battling many of his former teammates.
This development barely a year after the Avengers: Disassembled storyline is somewhat disappointing, but good news for the character.

#27 Spider-man (new) (Marvel Comics)
Sitting somewhere in the middle; Spider-man only just hit the Secret Earths ranks, but will no doubt be at the conscious forefront of comics fans entering the Civil War. Torn between both side, we can only imagine how Spider-man will fight his way out of this situation.

#56 Magneto (-14) (Marvel Comics)
Also in the fanboy's eye will be Magneto, who makes his third feature-film appearance next month in X-Men 3: The Last Stand. The character, played faithfully by Sir Ian McKellen, has proven to be a lasting fan favourite for the franchise. A month of Magneto may be in the future!

#81 Superman (-22) (DC Comics)
Of course, from the distinguished competition comes an equally exciting feature prospect. In fact, if online chatter is anything to go by, the zoo-going fans may follow director Brian Singer away from the X-Franchise, over to the big S.
In the comics Superman has lost his powers 1 Year Later, but with a feature film hitting the big screen, he's sure to be battling.

The hammer...
Thank you for your continued patience as we try to reassemble normality around here.

With some delays through the month, here's a checklist of entries just incase you missed something. Be sure to check those out, and be here next month for more, because it's gonna be a doozy!

- Green Lantern versus Silver Surfer
- Justice League versus Demons Three
- Elektra versus Catwoman
- Spider-man versus The Tri-Sentinel
- Wolverine versus Lobo
- Red Hood versus Black Mask
- Storm versus Wonder Woman
- Nimrod versus Juggernaut & The X-Men

NEXT: Superboy versus Spider-man!
April Hit Count: 1098 (+270)