Friday, June 30, 2006

Engagement Ring (Marvel comics)
She-Hulk #8 When: December, 2004
Why: Dan Slott How: Juan Bobillo

The story so far...
She-Hulk, having been appointed to the Magistrati, is employed to travel to the planet Skardon, where might makes right.

There she is to employ her strength as She-Hulk to battle Tryco Slatterus, the Champion of the Universe.
Entering the ring for legal battle, She-Hulk attempts to succeed where the Gladiator, Adam Warlock, Beta Ray Bill, the Silver Surfer, and Drax have all failed.

Needless to say, things do not go well, and the fight is stopped before She-Hulk is pounded into paste.
She-Hulk uses the brawn of her legal brain to request a rematch, as she claimed the fight had been stopped while she was still able to go on. Thus, she is granted an 'appeal' in three months.

Now she just has to figure out how to avoid that paste situation...

Recommended reading:
Marvel Two-In-One Annual #7: The first appearance of the Champion of the Universe.
Thanos Quest #1-#2: Thanos tricks Tryco into destroying a planet to steal the Power Gem.
She-Hulk #7-#8: She-Hulk assumes her role as one of the Magistrati, before being led to Skardon to face the Champion.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Champion 7 (Omnipotent)
Intelligence: She-Hulk 3 (Straight A's)
Speed: Champion 3 (Trained Athlete)
Stamina: Champion 7 (Unstoppable)
Agility: She-Hulk 2 (Average Human)
Fighting Ability: Champion 7 (Born Fighter)
Energy Powers: Draw 1 (None)

If you're new to the site, you might have missed last March when these two did battle the first time.
As you may have gathered from the introductions, things didn't go exactly according to plan for She-Hulk, but lordy, she's bought herself three months to prepare for a re-trial.

So, what's changed? Well, the tape here is supposed to be based on the general accepted averages of a character, so in that respect absolutely nothing has changed.
Slatterus still out muscles her dramatically, and she's still smarter than he is.

Of course, this is a rematch in which the first fight saw the hero lose, so cosmic law submits that She-Hulk clearly has a much better chance this time around. However, I don't know if cosmic law is submissible if it comes from our universe, so perhaps that should be stricken from the record...

... At the end of the entry, there's no two ways about it.
Slatterus is a little arrogant, but basically an honorable fighter [adhering to a code of combat]. If one were somehow able to, say, think their way around a bit and find a rule or moral to use against the guy, they might stand a chance.

She-Hulk is certainly capable of such a feat, but to stay true to the purpose of this section [and render a prediction]: Tryco Slatterus, aka The Champion of the Universe, should emerge victorious.

What went down...
Jennifer Walters is a dizzy dame who, like most of us, hasn't looked after herself.
So, with three months to train up for her next confrontation with the Champion, it's not She-Hulk who has to bust a gut, but rather her human counterpart.

While training hard to buff up her average build (to facilitate an even more fantastic transformation into She-Hulk), Southpaw moans an unlikely insight that plants the seed for She-Hulk's counter argument for her appeal...

Skardon law forbids the use of weapons in the ring, and so, She-Hulk argues that Champion had benefitted from the use of a foreign object in their previous encounter: in the form of the Power Gem!

Champion agrees to give up the Infinity Gem, and guarantees victory under his own impressive cosmic strength. Even after She-Hulk unveils her impressive new physique, Champion plays it cool, that is, after exclaiming, "BY THE FIRES OF ETERNITY, WOMAN! WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO YOU?!"
[We've all been there with our Chinese swimmer girlfriends, right fellas? - Material Mike]

The bell rings, and the two mighty warriors pledge their cases.
She-Hulk makes a compelling argument in the [early] goings with a stiff left that knocks Champion so hard, he goes into one of those panels where they draw the head a whole bunch of times as it snaps back. Ouch!

With the crowd cheering her name, Shulkie continues litigation, pounding the Elder with various super-strong hooks and uppercuts.
Before long (quite a bit before), Slatterus literally finds himself on the ropes, and the people of Skardon cheer She-Hulk's name - victorious.

Satisfied that it was her brain rather than her brawn that ultimately proved useful to the Magistrati, Shulkie leaves control of Skardon to Adam Warlock, content with returning to Earth.

The hammer...
All hail She-Hulk! Not just for whooping a guy smug enough to call himself Champion, but for being the starring character of such a fantastic read!

There were a lot of positives about the first volume of She-Hulk, but damned if this isn't one of my single favourite issues of 2004.
Slott and Bobillo do a number of truly enjoyable things in this issue, which features some truly awesome, and underappreciated characters from the Marvel Universe.

I could fully understand this kind of thing not being someone's cup of tea, but the unique designs for some of these characters really struck a chord with me.
I would have to say Bobillo's Champion is definitively superior to the design I'm more familiar with, that distincly lacks any grounding or humanity.
Bobillo's lines not only give Slatterus great character, but his overall presentation presents him less like a campy one-note villain, and more like the kind of guy who really has spent his life battling throughout the cosmos.

Likewise, Bobillo tweaks the look of Gladiator and Beta Ray Bill respectively.
I think most would agree BRB really wasn't broken, but Bobillo's touch gives the character an interesting and personal look for this story. It's very much in the vein of his well known Thor inspired appearance, so I probably would've even been happy seeing it carry on in Stormbreaker, but nevermind.

Gladiator, of course, benefits greatly from an update.
The vertical brush mohawk gets traded in for a do that, by issue's end, would surely do Mr. T proud.
Gone too is the bright red, adapted instead into decorative detailin on a blue suit, which looks pretty decent, and maintains that oh-so inventive triangular symbol.

Actually, that throughline of the familiar in Gladiator's appearance is one of the great positives of Slott's issues. While he indulges in the continuity and obscurity of the past, somehow the stories manage to channel something brand new, whilst still throwing back to the good old days.

Slott's continuity also seems to carry a soft touch, and the charm and quirkiness of the She-Hulk title seems to ensure no reader will be intimidated by what he sees.
Like Nextwave, the good humor seems to offer a free ticket to really do anything, and Slott does it well. Unlike Ellis, he even manages to stay within certain boundaries, that ensure there's no reason for She-Hulk to be considered anything but canonical.

This really is a superb read, and if you haven't jumped on the bandwagon already, I'd have to strongly recommend doing so.
Lameasses who prance in the land of trade should be encouraged to pick up the collected first series, but if you're really hardcore, you'll check out the backissues.
Then it's time to do something I haven't yet done, and that's stock up on the second series. Oh yes, I blush!

As should you!

The Fight: 3 The Issue: 7

NEXT: In July we go back in time, and count back the decades from now, back to the seventies. Get all the bad news bears next in the monthly punch-up!

Monday, June 26, 2006

Hulk Smash! (Marvel comics)
Iron Man #2 When: December, 1996
Why: Scott Lobdell & Jim Lee How: Whilce Portacio

The story so far...
When the evils of Professor Charles Xavier's psyche manifested themselves in physical form, the villain that resulted threatened to be the greatest threat to face the Marvel superheroes.

In what the world believed was a final act of heroism, Earth's greatest heroes confronted Onslaught and seemingly sacrificed themselves to thwart the entity's tyrranical plans.

Little did the world at large realise, the heroes had been rescued by the untamed intervention of Franklin Richards, the powerful mutant son of Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman.
Thus, while the world mourns, the heroes relive their origins trapped in a pocket universe the size of a little boy's ball.

Recommended reading:
Onslaught: Marvel Universe: The final events that led to the Heroes Reborn crossover.
Iron Man #1-#3: Iron Man is reborn in the new universe, and the Hulk's rampage begins.
Iron Man #3: The most recent volume of Iron Man, beginning with his battle with Extremis.
Incredible Hulk #449: While Banner is trapped in the Heroes Reborn universe, the Hulk persona remains to face new threats, like the Thunderbolts.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Hulk 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Iron Man 5 (Professor)
Speed: Iron Man 3 (Trained Athlete)
Stamina: Hulk 6 (Generator)
Agility: Iron Man 2 (Average Human)
Fighting Ability: Hulk 6 (Warrior)
Energy Powers: Iron Man 5 (Lasers)

It's only fair to recognise here that the Hulk is the strongest one there is.
However, since Iron Man's first appearance on Secret Earths, standards of strength have been reconsidered. Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed two weeks ago that IM's strength had been ammended to six, from the five he was granted during the review of Iron Man #159.

Iron Man's a character of gimmicks, and in the past his strength has fluctuated accordingly to facilitate upgrades and variants such as the very specific, and quite impractically bulky, Hulkbuster armor.
That said, standards for the character are perhaps better represented by having the character live up to his tagline, thus, he knows carries a six for strength, does the Invincible Iron Man.

Is this enough to topple the fury of the Hulk?
Well, Hulk's pretty used to tossing around tanks and military robots, so you'd have to think there's certainly no intimidation factor.

Iron Man's a little more advanced than the tincans he probably helped build.
It didn't take Civil War to show us he's the kind of guy who keeps the best stuff for himself. He's been palming Rhodey his broken down hand-me-downs for years [Argh! The headache is back!!! - Mike].
We've already seen Hulk swat a similar armored pest in Mach-1, aka the Beetle, when he took on the Thunderbolts.

To the point -- Iron Man has an arsenal of weapons and enhancements in his suit of armor. There are certainly enough tricks up his sleeve these days to give the Hulk a run for his money, but on the night Hulk's capacity for strength should really give him the advantage.

Strong as he may be, Hulk can out muscle and out last IM two-to-one.
Every other fight, Iron Man probably comes out of it with his pants intact, but on the whole my money's got to be on Hulk.

What went down...
What a twist! Stark's own gamma project was responsible for Hulk's transformation in this counter-Earth! Two of Marvel's greatest characters born of science, inexplicably tied together by fate!

Angry and not wearing pants, Hulk rampages through the Stark International compound searching for Liz Ross, his only friend, and one fine piece of ace, when Iron Man turns up in a cloud of smoke. Somebody call Springer!

Iron Man makes a half arsed attempt to reason with the creature, and finds himself on the receiving end of a "NO!" so big it throws him through three concrete walls. Good thing they were mysteriously empty rooms!

IM finds his way back to the fight, and offers Hulk another warning.
Hulk is less than intimidated, mocking Stark's armored confidence as he stands tall with gauntlet extended. Apparently he isn't familiar with a little thing we like to call repulsor rays.

Hulk takes one to the chin, and drops like a sack of potatoes, giving Iron Man time to ensure the safety of Liz Ross, damsel in distress.
Some heavy exposition reveals Bruce Banner died trying to disarm the gamma bomb that was activated by HYDRA terrorists. Unfortunately the fact that the Hulk appeared at this time, and is oozing with radiation, apparently doesn't offer any clues to the concerned mourners.

Meanwhile, the Hulk recovers and globbers Iron Man with a whopping great bit of concrete slab, but fancy pants is okay.
With the aid of his rocket boots, IM maneuvers around to test the suit's functions further, employing a low level force-field to stall the Hulk before he can connect with a punch.

Using the force-field, Stark props the gamma-green giant into the air, and blows him with high intencity repulsor blasts.
Three miles later, before the Hulk has even hit the ground, IM catches his opponent and flies him directly over the nearby Niagra falls.

With the previous incarnation having failed spectacularly (with a fatality), Stark begins to panick as Hulk pounds the untested armor as they float above the gaping chasm of the falls.
He manages to land on a jutting area of rock as a news helecopter hovers overhead, distracting the Hulk's attention and attack.
Hulk tears a chunk of Earth from the ground beneath him, and hurls it at the reporting 'copter.

Iron Man is able to push himself to intercept the rubble, and drag it away with a tractor beam, but this leaves him vulnerable to the Hulk.
As the lumbering monster grinds him into the dirt, he spies a row of cables nearby, but it might be too late. Warnings indicate depleted energy will result in a system shutdown in only ten seconds.

When Iron Man rises from the ground living, Hulk is pissed, so one can only imagine how he felt when this happened:

Of course, this wanton attack leaves Iron Man up the river without a power supply. Or more accurately, Niagra Falls.

The hammer...
It was a close one, but in the end I think I have to give it to Iron Man. Th cable move may have expended the last of his armor's energy, but gosh darn it, it was a decisive blow in an otherwise pretty close fight.

That concludes Hulk month, and indeed, all Monday entries for Secret Earths, in an attempt to help me catch up on the months of entries I've missed.
It's perhaps a little unfortunate that my choices for Hulk month couldn't have been a little more varied. I'm not entirely sure what my thought process was at the time, but revolving around Heroes Reborn seemed like a good idea.

Not to say the story was completely without merit.
Having the Image guys come in and do their thing again with Marvel properties was a reasonable enough premise, but I have to admit, at the time, the most intriguing aspect was simply the fact that these characters were starting afresh in a new world.

In many ways, I think it's Heroes Reborn that has soured me on the Ultimate titles.
There are various concepts and moments similar to those in the Ultimate revamps. One such interesting parallel is the nature of Thor, and the question as to whether or not he is the genuine article. The HR Thor takes on some of Cap's story, being discovered frozen in ice, but his early throughline is much the same as that lingering doubt that surrounds the Ultimate Thor.

I don't know if one necessarily outshines the other, but the fact that Heroes Reborn was a finite story probably sways me. It did what it did, and accomplished what it could in the year of it's publication, where the Ultimate titles, which are on-going, have had time to disappoint, and defer from earlier intentions.

Marvel is currently preparing with controversial Captain America writer/artist, Rob Liefeld, and Superman/Batman writer, Jeph Loeb, to revist the story that initiated Heroes Reborn.

Liefeld and Loeb are fuel enough to start a controversy fire among the right fans, but throw into the mix a story from the heart of the nineties, and you actually have cause for a legitimate argument.
Recently comics have been inundated with 90's style crossovers. House of M, Infinite Crisis, Civil War, 1 Year Later, The Other, War Games, and other smaller stories have not only tied various titles together, but also funded a solid return in other trends from the past, like variant covers.

Sales have continued to creep upward, and the benefit of box office exposure has finally begun to pay off with various moments, like Peter Parker's unmasking in Civil War #2, garnering attention from the mainstream presses, and subsequently new readers.
Unfortunately, hot books like this have also seemingly reintroduced an element that was key to the shocking decline in sales from the mid to late nineties. These are the 'prospectors,' who invest not for creative interest, but rather potential financial interest in resale value.

Of course, sales have not returned to the staggering heights they were at in booms previous, so are crossovers and variant covers potentially setting us all up for a very big fall?
Commentators of varying qualification certainly think so.

This site takes it's name from two popular crossover events from the eighties, which have since been revisited many times over; Secret Wars and Secret Wars on Infinite Earths.
Creatively, these series probably didn't have the manpower and planning processes that current comics have. These guys all had their strengths, and brought a great deal to the world of comics, but they weren't prolific like Grant Morrison, or grand orchestrators like Geoff Johns and Mark Waid.

Even in the last ten years, looking back on Heroes Reborn, we can see a notable leap forward in creativity, and it had to be an absence of solid creative reason that betrayed these books of the past. The motivations of the visual medium, rather than a hybrid of the visual and intellectual arts, were surely major contributors to the downard slide.

So, am I worried about the state of comics and the staggering amount of connections between title and title? Not really, the guys at DC and Marvel have both proven various degrees of competence, but overall it looks promising.

Am I worried about a return to Heroes Reborn and Onslaught?
Well... It can't be worse than House of M.

The Fight: 3.5 The Issue: 3.5

NEXT: We close out the month with the rematch you were promised: In the red corner, representing himself, the current champion of the universe - Tryco Slatterus. The challenger, in the purple corner, representing the Magistrati - She-Hulk! Don't miss it!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Lightning Strikes Twice: Part 3 (DC comics)
Superman #216 When: June, 2005
Why: Judd Winick How: Ian Churchill

The story so far...
Madness tears through the bustling hum of Metropolis calm, as a rock star's suicide appears to set-off a chain reaction of violent deaths and destruction.

When the chain reaches STAR Labs' Dr. Jeannie Tracey, she kills an over zealous admirer, and uses her privilages to access a LexCorp security powersuit.
With the suit, she begins a rampage of destruction designed to attract the attentions of Superman.

Battle with Dr. Tracey reveals the hidden threat of Eclipso, the villain who possess those when weakened by anger.
Superman is able to curb his emotions, but finds himself under attack where he least expected it -- in his home. Unknown to Superman, Lois Lane has been possessed, and when she manages to anger him, Eclipso takes hold.

Enter Captain Marvel.

Recommended reading:
Action Comics #826/Adventures of Superman #639: Previous two chapters of the "Lightning Strikes Twice" storyline.
Kingdom Come #1-#4: Prolific mini-series that set the precedent for the rivalry, and pioneered the "lightning ambush."
Marvel versus DC #3: Superman battles the might of Marvel's strongest champion - the Hulk.
Marvel versus DC #2: Captain Marvel faces a man who has felled Superman himself: Marvel's god of thunder, Thor.
Day of Vengeance #1-#6: Continues the magical qualms presented in this story.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Draw 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Captain Marvel 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Superman 6 (Sound Speed)
Stamina: Superman 6 (Generator)
Agility: Superman 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting Ability: Captain Marvel 3 (Street Wise)
Energy Powers: Superman 5 (Lasers)

As discussed in the previous instalment, there can sometimes be some confusion as to elements of a superhero's assault. Discussed around Daredevil #163, we looked at the Hulk's speed, and to the degree his power reflects on it.
Another such issue emerges here between two of the most iconic characters to exist during the Golden Age of comic books: Superman, and Captain Marvel.

Actually, it's this very conundrum that features as one of the vital ingredients that sets these character's value apart both canonically, and outside the realm of the pages, in the creative field.

If you should any contemporary fanboy what Superman's weaknesses are, there are probably two clear-cut, one-word answers that will be delivered -- kryptonite (the traditional answer), and magic.
[Bonus points to anyone who might like to throw in various deviating shades of solar energy, but if you're talking to that kind of fanboy, you should probably start running. - Malevolent Mike]

Superman is a character who has been both blessed and burdened by his encompassing invulnerabilities. He has become the living embodiment of the greatest of superhero qualities, but for many fans in the current climate, and perhaps even writers, these abilities have made the character bland and uninteresting.

Thankfully, there was a very logical counterpoint waiting amidst the wackiness of the fifties and sixties. An element of comic books that even the super-man himself would struggle to deny. A force that escapes the boundaries of what is normal, and skips process, going directly to result. Magic.

Superman's abilities have evolved to account for most typical comic book threats. There are few physical obstacles and powers that can overcome him, in fact, even death itself has no dominion over the man of steel.
Yet, how can someone with the ability to realise their every whim through backward-speak be denied? What possible solve is there when a character like Superman finds his great prowess in ability to curb the physical aspects of attacks?

As comics attempt to explain more and more of their content, this spaceman from the planet Krypton, far fetched as he may be, suddenly finds himself in a limbo of comic book reality, and so, Superman's psuedo-science itself exposes his vulnerabilities to the inherently illogical.

The question that now arises from this is: How far does his weakness to magic travel?
In an effort to humanize the character through weakness, does magic provide a broad answer, or are we free only to recognise this weakness in context to the truly unexplainable?

Kingdom Come, the prolific mini-series from Alex Ross and Mark Waid, originates the concept of the "lightning ambush" [as it is credited in Superman #216 - Multifunctional Mike], in which Captain Marvel dodges his magic lightning bolt, allowing it to strike Superman.

Captain Marvel, as we all know, is a character powered by the Wizard Shazam.
When youngster Billy Batson utters the cry of the wizard's name, he is embued with fantastic abilities of Gods represented by the anagromous SHAZAM.
One such ability is super strength, and thus we encounter the dilemma of whether or not Superman should be effected above and beyond the norm when struck by the mighty fist of Captain Marvel.

In matters involving kryptonite, Superman has been seen to react on a plane not dissimilar to an average homosapien. However, it simply does not seem right that he be so vulnerable to the magic strength of his big red opponent.
Truth be told, there is no definitive answer based on sources available.

Like the Hulk and his capacity for growing strength, I would like to think Marvel's magic fuelled strength is lower in the ballpark than many fans tend to describe.
While there may be an inherent weakness to magic, the fact that these are physical assaults suggests to me that there should be minimal advantage. Truly Captain Marvel can match the Kryptonian in strength, but these blows should roughly fall somewhere around equal to those of the Superman.

Of course, this argument for the physical starts to arise question as to the effectiveness of the lightning ambush, which feels far more comfortable as an attack.

Thus, we have to assume some kind of compromise concerning the magic of Captain Marvel, and perhaps even speculate that his prowess is enough to fell the mighty man of steel.

What went down...
The Eclipso possessed Superman knocks Captain Marvel so damned hard, he sends him hurtling all the way out of Metropolis to Hawaii, creating a sonic boom as he missiles along.

At the coast of California Superman catches up with his opponent and strikes him again, sending him into an island mountain below.
Having already experienced the longevity of Superman's resolve, Eclipso takes delight in recognising his ability to go toe-to-toe with Captain Marvel as long as is required.

Marvel, with the wisdom of Solomon, swears he won't take the bait of his foes rises. He blocks an incoming punch, and locks up with the super vessel of the beast.

As the two titans duel, Captain Marvel reveals his awareness to Eclipso's true plan to capture a more suitably permanent vessel for his existence, namely the magic body of Captain Marvel himself.

Unable to achieve his goals through fisticuffs, Eclipso goes in search of means to stir the vengeance of Earth's mightiest mortal.
Finding a large ship in the waters, Eclipso threatens mass casuality by using the strength of Superman to hurl the ship into the air toward the Californian coastline.

Marvel is able to halt the ship's descent, minimizing the loss of life.
Still Eclipso maintains his vigil, threatening further violence through the body of Superman, prompting Captain Marvel into action.
He plows into the hovering Kryptonian, and pushes him across the globe to a more barren setting somewhere in the arctic.

Eclipso strangles Marvel, and scoffs his defiance, threatening in detail the lives of men and children and his ability to exact such events in the blink of an eye.
Marvel retaliates with a stiff headbutt, drawing blood, and in return assures Eclipso that he need recognise his ability to always stand in his way. To always protect the innocent.

Marvel floats into the sky and bellows his cry, "SHAZAM!"
The magic lightning bolt that descends reverts Marvel back into his human form of Billy Batson, who begins to tumble earth-bound, threatening the vessel Eclipso hopes to possess.

Faster than a speeding bullet, Eclipso races to the boy's rescue, taking him in his arms.
With a stern look of determination, the young boy again says the magic word, returning to him the power of Zeus.

Marvel locks his powerful arms around Superman's neck and transforms again and again until Eclipso is subdued enough for the man inside to speak.
Locked in a full nelson, Superman emplores Captain Marvel to kill him.

Eclipso resumes control and throws his head back into Marvel's face, but the powerful hold does not break. Marvel again cries SHAZAM, but though weakened, Eclipso is this time quick enough to snatch the feeble Billy Batson by the throat, preventing him from calling for magical aid.

Eclipso, furious at his inability to possess that which he desires, instead vows to destroy the boy.
But then, seemingly from nowhere, a bolt of lightning strikes Superman's battered body again. A bolt borne of the wizard Shazam's ancient hand.

Eclipso attempts to meet his obstacle head on again, and again, to no avail.
Realising Eclipso will not stop until Superman is destroyed, Shazam reveals his trump card, "So, it is time for darkness to meet light."

The divine counter balance to the Eclipso force -- the Spectre -- emerges from the clouds and threatens to engulf the possessed Superman.
Energies swirl to the hero's heart, and Eclipso is forced from his very being.

Though he tries to escape his prison, Eclipso cannot escape the blackheart diamond. Sucked back into his cell, the spirit is hurled across the Earth to again seek the opportunity of a host.
Order, for now, is restored anew.

The hammer...
Though the fight began as Captain Marvel's, it was the intervention of the Wizard Shazam and the Spectre that facilitated Eclipso's defeat. Though Spectre's involvement was minimal, under the sternest of rulings, and treating X-Men vs Wolverine as precedent, I'll have to give the victory to him, with assists to Shazam and Marvel.

Meanwhile, both Superman and Eclipso will share the defeat.
Unlike Wolverine's stint mind controlled by HYDRA [Wolverine #25/New Invaders #6], Superman was not in control of his faculties, instead possessed by an intelligent entity. Therefore, they share the defeat both physical and metal.

If you're joining Secret Earths for the first time, these closing remarks are relevent to the cumulative assessment of characters by their performance in each featured battle.
A running tally is maintained, with the top five ranking characters featured at the beginning of each month. Likewise, in the left menu, you can find a running tally of the top creators as determined by review scores of each issue featured.

After declaring a winner, usually I like to use the hammer to discuss the comic in more general terms, not allowed by previous sections of the format.
Among the many functions of this blog website is to inform and expose readers new and old to interesting, and fun comic books in a level headed manner.

Yes, it's with a level head that I again have something positive to say about Judd Winick.
Currently number four on the top ten by virtue of his work on Batman, this particular issue of Superman defies his reputation as a heavy handed, personally motivated, mediocre writer.

While the issue does not rate among comics best, it is suitably the business end of a three-issue story that was apparently prepared as emergency fill-in.
While previous issues may have meandered, this issue serves to do what a good action, fight-orientated comic should: It delivers story and characterization through and throughout the exchange of blows.

In the case of this issue, and particularly through a slightly overbaring introduction, it characterizes forces that intend to assert themselves in future stories in the DC Universe. While these elements pertain to other stories, there is still plenty of enjoyment to be found within these pages.

Captain Marvel and Superman are a character rivalry that really dates back to the forties, where Captain Marvel managed to surpass his predecessor in sales and popularity right through to the fifties.
Cap was published by Fawcett Comics in direction competition with National/DC, and the character eventually spurred a lawsuit casting Fawcett in the role of defendent, accused of creative intellectual infringments.

The suit would be settled out of court, and eventually DC would obtain the rights to many Fawcett creations, including the entire Marvel family, after licensing the property years earlier.

The rivalry between the characters was maintained, and reached it's greatest heights in the Kingdom Come mini-series already mentioned, which brings up to the contemporary argument of Superman versus magic, and this very story where the famous lightning ambush becomes canon.

There are a lot of great things about the Captain Marvel character, but it remains a travesty that he is unable to attain the popularity once at his command over half a century ago.
In fact, mirroring Superman to a greater degree [much like their powers], Marvel lacks characterization and placement in the contemporary world of comics, and the DC Universe.

Recent efforts have to be praised in titles like JSA headed by comics doyen, Geoff Johns, where Marvel finds a role within the context of the DCU, but one can't help but feel he remains out of place, destined to repeat the role of physical foil to characters like Superman.

If this is the worst fate Marvel suffers, then it could be a lot worse.
As this issue aptly reveals, there's still a lot of fun to be had with this rivalry, despite the definitive account presented by Waid and Ross.

Still, it just seems like the character could be so much more.
Like Batman or Swamp Thing or the Charlton characters, Captain Marvel might just be the ultimate vehicle for something truly inspired. We can only hope.

The Fight: 5 The Issue: 4.5

NEXT: The Hulk battles the man who will trap him in space. A man at the heart of a civil war. Tony Stark -- the Iron Man. Don't miss it, as we wrap up Hulk Month at Secret Earths!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Blind Alley (Marvel comics)
Daredevil #163 When: March, 1980
Why: Roger McKenzie How: Frank Miller

The story so far...
A swanky New York City fundraiser dinner in an expensive high rise appartment may require the attentions of attorney at law, Matt Murdock -- but when the pounding thud of a monstrous heartbeat echoes from the streets below, the Catholic has no choice but to abandon all fun and become -- DAREDEVIL: the man without fear!

Facing a confused and violent Hulk in a back alley, Matt Murdock manages to connect with the beast and calm him down. Thus, Bruce Banner becomes a temporary ward of the blind lawyer, who tries to help him through his struggle.

Banner attempts to escape the densly populated metropolis, but the charm of the New York subway and it's commutors eventually proves too much.
Ergo, the Hulk is unleashed upon an unsuspecting city.

Recommended reading:
The Trial of the Incredible Hulk: A rare and unlikely meeting for the two characters in this TV movie.
Deadpool #4: Hulk faces Deadpool, a character comparable to Daredevil.
Marvel Comics Presents #49: Daredevil versus Scope, a man much larger than he.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Hulk 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Daredevil 3 (Straight A)
Speed: Daredevil 4 (Olympic Sprinter)
Stamina: Hulk 6 (Generator)
Agility: Daredevil 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting Ability: Hulk 6 (Warrior)
Energy Powers: Daredevil 2 (Projectile Weapon)

Okay, whilst cruising the net recently I ran afoul a discussion that seems to come up periodically. It's one of those arguments that seems to get settled, but always manages to pop up again somewhere else.
It's the matter of the super strong, and the super fast.

Here Daredevil is uncomfortably denoted the speed rating of four, which is described in terms of running speed, even though this pertains more to the reaction and physical speed of the character, rather than his sprinting strengths.

There seems to be some confusion over the potential for characters like the Hulk (or Thing), that display incredible muscular power, but err on the side of lumbering, rather than speeding.
I suppose there are many things to consider, not the least of which, is comic book physics.

When it's all said and done, no matter how realistic these stories become, there are comic book laws that help steer the dramatic potential of any given character pairing, or story.
Quite relevent here is the balancing law of strength and speed. David overcomes Goliath through one of two contrasting abilities -- strategy, or speed. These two factors are inevitably the equalising factor when any giant is faced by a lesser character.

Ultimately, Hulk's mass probably does denote a relative speed, because he isn't hindered in movement by his bulky figure and musculature.
His incredible leaps are attributed to the sheer muscular strength of his legs, which is a stretch that doesn't really denote any inate speed, even in comic physics.
He lacks the 'fast twitch fibres' and general agility of a speedster. That said, like the Rhino, over a larger distance, the Hulk could no doubt throw his weight into a sprint of tremendous momentum.

How does this relate to a fight with Daredevil?
Daredevil, like any David, is going to be relying on speed and guile against a creature like the Hulk. Hulk's ability to thwart Daredevil's attack is reliant upon his ability to react to the greater speed and agility.

Daredevil is an extremely skilled fighter, and could no doubt out-maneuver the Hulk for quite some time.
Given the urban surroundings, some of that energy might be expelled in efforts to protect innocents. Likewise, those surroundings could be used by the Hulk as weapons, and a way to contain the movements of the blind lawyer.

When the smoke settles, there are very few general measures that give Daredevil the advantage. The Hulk is simply too powerful in the broadest sense, and try valiantly as he may, Daredevil has no business beating the Hulk.

What went down...
Finding himself trapped in a busy subway car, the Hulk bursts forth through the lower levels of New York, up, up to street level.

With traffic backed up, Daredevil is the only man within his vicinity to hear and know the true horrors that wait up ahead.
While the Hulk tosses cars and bends street lamps, the man without fear leaps into action to once again quell the rages of the rampaging Hulk!

Daredevil's efforts to use brain over brawn are thwarted when a well-meaning NY police officer opens fire on Hulk while his back is turned.
With the connection lost, Hulk swats Daredevil away, assuming he was trying to trick him into an ambush attack.

With the policeman's life in peril, DD springs to life to deliver a swift flying kick.
He continues to try to reason with the man-monster, using his agility to duck and parry his lumbering blows.
DD attempts an offensive, swinging his billy club into the Hulk's nose, but it has no effect. Hulk snatches DD by the wrist, and flings him into the air like a ragdoll.

DD hits the side of a building, and tumbles down to a roof below with a splatter of blood trickling from his nose and mouth.
Lucky to have survived a physical encounter with the Hulk, the man without fear rallies himself in the interest of the greater good, and his own dignity!

Hulk, still freaking out in the middle of an inter-section, starts shouting accusations at the skyscrapers, believing his predicament to be some kind of evil plot set-up by his alter-ego, Bruce Banner.
Fairly desperate by this stage, Daredevil does the only thing imaginable: He drives a bus into the Hulk.

The machine ultimately comes off second best, with DD flying out through the windshield as the bus makes contact [always buckle your safety belt, kids! - Mike].

Hulk tears the bus to smitherines, giving Murdock the time he needs to recover and make a second attempt at subduing the Hulk through mental and physical means. (Kinda sending mixed messages there, aren't you DD?)

Daredevil unloads with all the speed and skill he has, all the while desperately trying to calm Hulk down enough to realise he is not the victim of banner, but rather Banner himself.
Never the less, fearless as he may be, this man is no match for the Hulk.

Hulk again sends DD hurtling away, swatting him through a fence into a nearby alley.

Barely conscious and unable to stand, Daredevil feels the Hulk looming over him via his radar senses. He continues to plea with the Hulk for better sense, and as the beast stands over him with a slab of concrete, ready to crush the Hell's Kitchen hero, something twigs.

As the world falls out from underneath him, Daredevil collapses into unconsciousness, while the Hulk shows mercy for the 'puny human,' leaving him to resume a quest for his own inner devils.

The hammer...
Despite resisting the killer blow, Hulk comprehensively dominated his oponent, and is clearly the victor here.
Not only did he beat the snot (and blood) out of DD, but he also fascilitates a panicked slip by a friend, who pleas for authorities to protect "Ma--" from the Hulk. Not something you want your friend doing if you're Daredevil, and Ben Urich is within earshot.

This issue isn't by any means Shakespeare, but damned if it isn't what Secret Earths is all about. It's fun! It's exciting! It's action packed! Heck, there's even a little bit of story in there to boot.

There are a lot of traditions in comics that are now frowned upon by the self-conscious and embarrassed. People who refer to graphic novels instead of comics. People who don't want to indulge or invest in characters and stories. People who cower in fear, and cover their eyes and ears should any fan explore upcoming projects purely from the realm of speculation.

These people suck. If you see them, do as they wouldn't, and engage in an act of mindless brutality. Bend them backwards over a mailbox, or drive a bus into them! Show them what made superheroes the dominant species in the comic book format... and then get yourself a damned good lawyer, because no doubt they know some poseur lawyer who is a huge fan of graphic novels.

But seriously, there isn't really a lot to say about this particular issue. It is what it is.
The Hulk, a character who has no real business entering the world of Daredevil, is placed in the middle of a populated city. Daredevil, a character who has no business approaching the Hulk, tries to stop a rampage of chaos.

It's just fun.
Two unlikely opponents against one and other, in an old fashioned spit-fister.

Just so I don't wrap things up here without any reference to the issue specific, eagle-eyed fans will have already spotted a young Frank Miller on pencils.
This is, of course, before Miller developed a more stylized look, adopting more of an asthetically commercial Marvel pencil.
It's not terribly flashy, but Miller shows great sense of action and movement.

And I assure, despite my choice in panels to scan, there ARE many backgrounds littered throughout the entire issue. That's just an obscure coincidence. - Mike]

The Fight: 3.5 The Issue: 4

NEXT: The clash of the titans! Captain Marvel versus Superman!

Friday, June 16, 2006

Extremis: Three of Six (Marvel comics)
Iron Man #3 When: March, 2005
Why: Warren Ellis How: Adi Granov

The story so far...
Extremis: the latest in super-soldier initiatives.
Using the cutting edge in nano-technologies, an injection of "nanotubes suspended in a carrier fluid" attacks the brain's 'repair' functions, reprogramming the subject's DNA from scratch to force organic transformation through healing.

When this process is stolen from an old friend of Tony Stark's, and an uncontained subject is found to have survived, you can bet your Stark Industrial stock on Iron Man showing up.

With a vendetta against federal authorities that shot his criminal parents, the Extremis survivor is hell bent on raising chaos, and has all the strength and ability in the super-world to do it.

Recommended reading:
Iron Man #1-#6: The Extremis storyline in it's entirety.
Tales of Suspense #39: Iron Man's origin as it was originally presented, in his first appearance.
Iron Man #159: Iron Man battles Diablo.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Extremis 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Iron Man 5 (Professor)
Speed: Iron Man 3 (Trained Athlete)
Stamina: Iron Man 6 (Generator)
Agility: Extremis 2 (Average)
Fighting Ability: Iron Man 4 (Trained Fighter)
Energy Powers: Iron Man 4 (Lasers)

Do not let the mugshot fool you. Iron Man is not fighting David Mack.
That's Mallen: the bogan bad boy with a chip on his shoulder so big, you'd cut child obesity numbers in half just by killin' him -- and killin' him maye just be necessary.

While Iron Man has a convincing statistical advantage based on the tape stats, these do not fully express just how close a fight this is.
It's by the wax coat on his armor that Iron Man takes the strength and energy stakes. This isn't your father's super soldier! It isn't even your great grandfather's!

Surviving the Extremis process was amazing enough, but Mallen's abilities far exceed anything you see in a Captain America, or Nuke variety super-soldier. The strength levels exhibited by Mallen put him easily in the lower end of the 6 field, and if reports are anything to go by - it gets a whole lot worse.

In the greater spectrum Iron Man has a broad arsenal, and the white hat in the situation, which suggestions the war will ultimately be his - but since this fight is only half way through the series, there's a good chance of an underdog set-up.
Break kayfabe may be cheating just a little. Tale of the tape is about who should win, not who will.

For that reason, I have to give it to Iron Man.
Despite the makings of an impressive opponent, Mallen is inexperienced, head strong, and existing as an unknown quantity in regards to the consumption of the Extremis drug. Eliminating the x-factors, Iron Man still has the great scope of experience and arsenal.

What went down...
Moving on the highway, Iron Man and those wonderful toys of his get a lock on the desired target: Mallen - surviving Extremis user/domestic terrorist.

Using his repulsor rays, Iron Man performs his first trick, slicing the getaway van down the middle - leaving the occupants in both the driver's cab and cargo areas unharmed.
It isn't mentioned, but I'm sure we all know in our hearts Stark is twirling his moustache tips while his assistant shows off his handiwork.

Mallen emerges from the tumbling carriage a little less than pleased.

Iron Man offers the youngster an easy procedural way out of the situation, but the embittered Mallen feels inclined to retaliate.
This course of action invites a sting of repulsor rays, which have little to no effect. Stark moves with the situation increasing intensity to 80%, still achieving little more than a slowing effect.

Mallen goes on the weave, avoiding the attack to launch his own.
Along with impressive resistence and speed, the thug shows off his Extremis-granted ability to breathe flames, and after having his mouth held shut, reveals retractable pegs in his fingertips -- with electrifying results.

The electrical pulse leaves shellhead staggering helpless, with systems failing.
Mallen moves in for the kill, grappling with the Iron Man armor before sending it hurtling through the air without a paddle.

In free fall and heading fast for the freeway below, Stark manages to reboot the armor, but it's too little too late.

The armor crushes the bonnet of an expensive looking car, and creates a multi-car pile up. Cars literally get airborn, creating all manner of chaos on the freeway for Neo... er... Iron man.

With cars exploding, Mallen moves into the action, running straight into a four second sonic burst. The deafening sound appears to have a stunning effect, but Mallen is still able to catch the swinging gauntlet of the golden Avenger.
With his augmented strength, Mallen crushes the glove, ripping through the armor like it were made of paper cups.

At close quarters, the desperation move sees IM fire off a barrage of charges.
Relatively unphased, Mallen returns with a stiff kick to the calf, further mangling the IM armor, and prompting another unrestrained attack in the form of a point blank repulsor blast to the face.

With little more than a few scars and chipped teeth to show for the attack, Mallen drives his fist into the chest section of the Iron man armor.
Blood spatters on Tony's visual screens. "Torso Unit Breach."

In a whole world of trouble, Stark stumbles as Mallen takes a tight grip on a passing Porsche, and with little regard for the passengers inside, hoists the vehicle above his head, as the issue comes to a close.

The hammer...
Well, I feel like I haven't said it enough, but although the fight ends inconclusively, in the interest of public record I declare Mallen the victor in Iron Man #3.

Flicking back through the issues, I didn't find a first name, but if anyone can fill me in on a handle, the WWD might be a little less laborious next time (but that's not a guarantee).

The Extremis storyline really was a breath of fresh air to the Iron Man title.
I've always considered myself an Iron Man fan, even though I haven't always been an avid reader. Part of this is clearly attributed to the stagnant treatment of the character, an element I've discussed in regards to the Hulk in recent entries.

Like many other characters, Iron Man went through a shakey patch of ups and downs through the nineties. IM probably held far greater heights than the Hulk through his era de bland, but from the mid nineties to this fourth volume of the series I had not stayed with the book more than five issues.

The five issue record was achievable thanks to Heroes Reborn [which I probably would have continued to read if the fates had made it more accessable], but was contrasted by the disappointing launch of the Heroes Return Iron Man.
While it did the service of reverting the character back to his origins, having been turned into a teenager by previous storylines, it still managed to feel well short of a contemporary vision of the character.

Honestly, Ellis does very little to alter the character in Extremis.
The success of the presentation is probably in the finer details. Adi Granov's photo realistic CG artwork helps sell many of the ground-level facets of the storyline, lending credibility then to the impressive renders of the IM armor.
It's when in the armor that Granov truly shines, and could be forgiven for indulging in a script that calls for an excessive amount of pages dealing with Iron Man and blue sky.

With this in mind, it's easy to see how Ellis does not deliver the greatest of single issues.
Although not to the degree of his work on Ultimate Fantastic Four, which was paced to the point of boredom; Ellis paces the story with a respect for the non-space and more natural moments of being.
While 'writing for trade' and 'padding' may be occurring here, Extremis seems to exhibit a greater degree of interest than much of Ellis' other recent mainstream work.

Beneath the new story lies a secondary level easily overlooked -- a revamped origin for the Vietnam-era character.
While the nature of the origin remains much the same, it receives a breath of contemporary air, with elements refined and technologies updated relatively to allude to the eventual upgrades.
This really is a truly worthy revamp for a modern audience, even if it isn't as inspired as a Warren Ellis techno-character could have been.

As mentioned, Granov truly shines drawing the Iron Man armor.
The cold metal serves to both highlight Granov's strengths and weaknesses.

At times scenes can look uncomforably still, and characters absent and lacking the warmth of life. It's no small wonder that Granov previously worked on the Silver Surfer - a character that greatly benefits from the eerie still of Granov's characters.

This distanced glaze of photo realism clearly presents the Iron Man armor in all it's glory, and adds a credibility to the scenes that other artists struggle with.
Dealing with the frozen expression of the helmet is a piece of cake for Granov, and while animation is generally lacking with human characters, he still manages to deliver high action scenes. The first issue highlights this superbly.

With intelligent editorial scheduling and management, the slow working Granov, whose art justifies the means with the ends, could without a doubt be a powerhouse talent for Marvel. I hope to see a lot more!

The Fight: 5 The Issue: 6

NEXT: Justice is blind, but is she more compassionate than the military? Rargh! Hulk smash puny Murdock!

Monday, June 12, 2006

(Marvel comics)
Incredible Hulk #449 When: January, 1997
Why: Peter David How: Mike Deodato Jr.

The story so far...
When the world's most powerful telepathic mutant, Professor Charles Xavier, can no longer contain his bottled up emotions, it spells trouble for the entire Marvel universe.

The battle with Xavier's dark shadow, Onslaught, forces Marvel's greatest heroes to band together like never before, to focus their efforts on a single threat.

The final confrontation sees the unthinkable realised: Earth's mightiest heroes are dead. The only survivor is the Hulk, who walks away mindless, confused, and not quite feeling himself.
As he treks across the country, new heroes emerge to pick up the slack.

Recommended reading:
Iron Man #1-#3: Heroes Reborn: Bruce Banner becomes the Hulk all over again.
Thunderbolts #1: The villains as heroes spin-off into their own series.
Deadpool #4: Hulk continues to struggle with the mysterious weakness.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Hulk 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Techno 6 (Genius)
Speed: Moonstone 4 (Olympic Sprinter)
Stamina: Hulk 6 (Generator)
Agility: Baron Zemo 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting Ability: Hulk 6 (Warrior)
Energy Powers: Moonstone 5 (Arsenal)

Well, here you have something I don't think we've encountered on Secret Earths since month one with our first and third entries. Looking back, we find mixed results from those one man against a whole team, which doesn't paint a great picture for the Hulk, incredible as he may be.

The relative inexperience of the Thunderbolts as a cohesive unit casts at least some doubt in their direciton, but even if they aren't a 'champion team' they still pack a punch as a team of champions.

Physicality is always something relevent to a fight with the Hulk, and the Thunderbolts roll their powerhouses in in the form of Atlas and Moonstone.
The application of Atlas' strength is potent, but fairly minimal, while Moonstone's element of the cosmic broadens her use in a fight such as this. In fact, on a good day, one might even just about be willing to say Moonstone could take Hulk alone.

When you throw in the smarts of Techno and Citizen V, it's a potent combination of brain and brawn, with some energy blasts, solid soundwaves and flying armored guys to boot.

Taking all of that surface information into account, one starts to lean toward the Thunderbolts as the likely victors, given the scenario. This is further the case when one acknowledges the continuity of Hulk's encounter with Onslaught, and the plot threads of Heroes Reborn.

The Hulk simply isn't feeling himself, which is potentially a catalyst for unbridled, and desperate rage. Even with the potential calming effect of Janis [Joplin?] Jones in tow, keeping an eye out for the big green lumbering dummy, Hulk can wipeout ANY team on a good day.
That said, as we saw when he faced Deadpool, Hulk simply isn't up to it in the strength stakes. So, at the end of the tape, you'd have to tip Thunderbolts in this dual.

What went down...
For citizens of the Marvel universe, the sound of a rampaging Hulk getting nailed by airborn missile is probably a horrifying sound. It might even be more frightening to hear the jet engines of a flying armored superhero coming to the rescue, too, since that means chances of a fight are likely.

Yet, as the Thunderbolts [Moonstone, Techno, Atlas and Songbird] would discover, the only thing more terrifying than a rampaging Hulk, is a Hulk surrendering...

Notably stunned, the Thunderbolts take no chances.
Taking a field command role, Techno throws up his shoulder-mount laser cannon thingy, and orders Songbird to construct a solid sound prison to contain the jolly jade giant until their fearless leader can arrive.

A light hearted riff of Brian Bendis proportions gets a second run, as Atlas and Moonstone exchange 'human' words on the bizarre situation before them. Ordinarily this exchange wouldn't warrant mention, however -- DUN DUN DUN -- apparently Moonstone has a mysterious past with the Hulk!

Bad ass, mohawk sporting refugee from a future imperfect - Janis Jones - has been accompanying the Hulk, and it's at this point she observes Mach-1 making a sudden dash instead of getting revenge after she kapowed him with her low-tech Mad Max future staff... that shoots lasers.

As it turns out, Mach-1 was conveniently speeding up the introductions reveal Citizen V! Mysterious masked leader of these new champions of truth, justice, and apple pie.
With sword held high, he asks the imprisoned Hulk exactly what it is he's waiting for -- too which the Hulk reveals, "I was waiting... ...for all of you. In one place."
Yes kids. Excessive pauses did exist before Ultimate Spider-man.

The Hulk claps his hands together at startling speeds, forcing Songbird to break her vocal vibrations to create a defensive sonic buffer, thus protecting her from the kinetic effects of Hulk's sonic clap. (Or something).

Apparently, despite allowing the Hulk success in initiating his plan, Citizen V had actually brilliantly deduced this on his trip to the scene. He orders Mach-1 to fire off his heat seeking missiles, while Techno fires off rounds from his shoulder cannon.

Hulk leaps away from the cannon blasts, but is unable to outrun the heat seaking missiles that plow him into the ground, in much the same fashion as the opening pages of the issue.

Hulk is surprised to find that, despite feeling stronger than ever before, much like his encounter with Deadpool, he has been hurt. Bleeding from the chest, the Hulk is rescued by the most unlikely of archetypes -- puny human, Janis Jones!

Jones uses her unassuming staff to blast Moonstone and Mach-1 off target, and avoids Songbird sonic knives long enough for Hulk to recover.
For a moment Atlas is given the false impression he can go toe-to-toe with the Hulk, and to his credit he's more than just a puny human. In fact, as Hulk proves, he's perfect for hurling at pesky moustached inventors like Techno.
[Maybe when he gets back to Earth, Hulk should try hurtling Atlas at his pro-registration leader: Tony Stark. - Mike]

Strength in numbers allow the Thunderbolts to stay one-foot in the game, as the Hulk clearly begins to grow flustered.

Green blood smeared across his chest, Hulk stands like a lion caged as the Thunderbolts warn him there is no escape.

Still, this Hulk isn't any dummy, and is able to turn Citizen V's own words against him in a switcheroo that would have made Foggy Nelson proud!
Acting on their vow to protect the innocent (and get good PR), Hulk throws himself straight through the dam infront of which he fought valiantly, endangering thousands in the villages below.

The Thunderbolts have no choice but to act, and in the end, Hulk manages to make a sneaky exit with his sheet-wearing gal pal, before his injuries get the better of him.

The hammer...
Well, this was quite a tough one to call.
On points, the Hulk had his opponent's number, dominating for hte majority of the fight, but by the end his opponents were still willing and able to fight on. Hulk, on the other hand, technically made a retreat, and for that reason, he should officially be the loser.

Because Hulk was so dominant, I think you'd have to give him the win, but the Thunderbolts make a pretty might effort of their first outing.

Of course, by now we all know the Thunderbolts' nasty secret.
Surprisingly enough it had nothing to do with being a fairly bland combination of designs and characters, and more to do with being alter-egos designed by the Masters of Evil to fool a vulnerable world into trusting them while their greatest heroes were assumed dead.

This initial premise garnered much deserved attention, but like many things from the mid-nineties, it's probably gladly forgotten. Now the concept lives-on with, presumably, far superior execution, even though I'm descriminately disinterested in the book.

I chose this title because it's one of the modern Hulk milestones marking the first appearance of The Thunderbolts, but it really isn't a remarkable issue by any means.

I would say this issue actually highlights the struggles the character has endured at various points throughout the last two decades.
While Peter David will be fondly associated by many with the character, his revisitations have not been anywhere near as fruitful as previous projects.
While the Hulk on the Heroes Reborn side of the equation is having all kinds of Whilce Portatio fun, this half of the character is stuck in stagnant, boring, comic-booky melodrama laced with uninteresting guest characters, and a wandering plot.

This mediocre presentation is helped very little by, as quipped previously, PAD's pre-puBendis dialogue. It certainly intrudes much less than scenes from Ultimate Spider-man, but the quieter moments are unattractive parodies of legitimate characterization.

All of that said, Peter David can write a fight scene. Hot damn, yes he can!
While the overall arc of the fight in this issue is not particularly large, we are privvy to the cramped introduction of an entire cast of gimmick-packing characters who would be the subject of their own heavily promoted title.

We gain insight into the determination and dedication of these characters, while also getting a good whiff of the shocking twist ending that would end Thunderbolts #1.
Much like The Sixth Sense, more people would claim to have seen it coming than had actually read the damn thing before they knew.

Deodato's artwork is fairly typical of the time, and could probably benefit from denser layouts. Some benefit of the doubt has to be given due to the fact that the majority of scenes occur in barren desert location.
Still, pencils seem relatively standard, and a little uninspired. Colours and inks do little to service the page, producing fairly flat blanks of primary colours, and fairly standard blacks.

Points would also have to be deducted for reusing the same image of Techno and his shoulder blast cannon on pages six and thirteen. Thirteen, unlucky for some.
Maybe editorial was just a little hectic during the Heroes Reborn period. I'm sure there's a way we can blame this all on Lifeld, and be done with it.

The Fight: 4 The Issue: 3

NEXT: The villain that changed the hero forever! Iron Man versus Extremis!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Face the Face: Part 1 of 8 (DC comics)
Detective Comics #817 When: May, 2006
Why: James Robinson How: Leonard Kirk & Andy Clarke

The story so far...
It's been one year since Blüdhaven was destroyed by Chemo, and Batman battled a living Jason Todd.

In an effort to rebuild a better Batman, Bruce Wayne and wards, Tim Drake and Dick Grayson, go on a year long journey following the original path of the Batman, retracing the steps of his origin.

In his absence, Batman leaves Harvey Dent, whom he has trained sufficiently to ensure crime does not capitalize on the Batman's absence from Gotham.
Having undergone facial reconstruction surgery, Harvey Dent appears to be purged of the Two-Face persona, but appearances can be deceiving...

Recommended reading:
Batman #615-#619: Harvey Dent is 'cured' during his arc in the maxi-series - Hush.
Batman #649: Blüdhaven is destroyed during confrontation with Jason Todd.
The Dark Knight Returns #1: Alternate outcome to Harvey Dent's cure.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: KGBeast 3 (Trained Athlete)
Intelligence: KGBeast 4 (Tactician)
Speed: KGBeast 3 (Trained Athlete)
Stamina: KGBeast 3 (Strong Willed)
Agility: KGBeast 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting Ability: KGBeast 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy Powers: KGBeast 4 (Arsenal)

Alright, straight away we have to acknowledge an unusual situation.
I would immediately submit a distinct lack of familiarity with the character, KGBeast. While vaguely aware of the character, I cannot ensure these ratings are at all accurate. Anyone with cases for different ratings should definitely scroll to the comments section, and clue me in.

The second curiosity in this situation is Tally Man, who, for all intents and purposes is a brand new character, not to be confused with the grinning character featured in Shadow of the Bat in the early nineties.
Thus, it's quite difficult to draw any definitive conclusion of this character's abilities. He's clearly quite proficient at sneaking around and sniping characters, but beyond that, I cannot be quite sure.

Actually, to be entirely honest, this was one of those spur of the moment inclusions. While not thrilled with the 'new' approach to Batman, this opening scene to the Face the Face storyline was just too interesting to pass up.
Plus, it also fulfilled the opener/DC quota for this month.

Ultimately, from the stats we can draw the conclusion that KGBeast would comprehensively beat this character into bloody submission. While not at all the A-leaguer he once was, KGBeast is still competent enough to battle what appears to be a normal, average, everyday human being.

What went down...
One year since the Batman left Gotham, KGBeast sits perched atop one of the many buildings of the city, with his target in sight. Just a crosshair from his objective.

Suddenly, without warning, gun fire rings out into the night, cutting through the barrel of the assassin's weapon.
Under heavy fire, the Russian leaps from his post and flees for the window - crashing to a rooftop below, pursued by a very fast, silhouetted assailant.

The KGBeast fires off a round from the wrist mounted cybernetics that replace his left hand, and unsuccesfully attempts to reload in mid-air.

Tackled by his attacker, the two struggle, with bullets flying from the KGBeast's cybernetic weaponry.
The mystery man gets in a good right hook, and ducks further fire to grapple with the weaponized arm. He pulls it tight behind the KGBeast's back, pulling until he hears a crack.

Only able to ponder who his murderer is, KGBeast is tossed backward from the roof, as the shadowed man declares himself - Gotham's protector.

The hammer...
The winner, and new kid on the block: Tallyman!

If you've been visiting the website for a while now, you know a few things. You know we're running devestatingly behind, and you know that there generally isn't a lot of regard giving to spoilers. With any luck regular readers have gotten used to scrolling no further than the title, and issue cover, so as to know where to brisk past, and were not to.

Incidentally, both issues converge with this entry. Being massively behind [writing this mid-August], it means we can identify the silhouetted character correctly, which was not possible when I first selected the issue.
Of course, this also means we've dropped a pretty big spoiler if you're a few months behind on your reading (I know I am!). Sorry about that.

As for the issue itself.
Well, it wasn't a bad read, but Batman 1 Year Later disappointed this reader.
At the risk of fulfilling the obsessive, stubborn fanboy stereotype - the problem immediately is the decision to make change.

While quite disatisfied with some of the more recent crossovers to interfere with the Bat-books (chiefly War Games and War Crimes), I actually thought Batman was just about at his definitive best. The book I most looked forward to reading from about the seven-fifties, through the eight hundreds was Detective Comics.
It had an appealing blend of influences ranging from the successful animated series, to certain Milleresque traits, and other broader strokes. It was just a really fantastic package, and with stories like Hush and Broken City running alongside, it was a fun time to be reading Batman.

The interpretation in Face the Face visually seems to draw on the influence of Brian Bolland's work on The Killing Joke. Dark colours peppered with burnt highlights, and flat blacks make up a fairly distinctive interpretation of the Batman universe.

For me, it's just not something I can appreciate. Particularly when the grey, tempered look of the Detective Comics issues already mentioned, was so in key with the kind of Batman I want to see. This, to me, was a distinct step backward, rather than an homage to that which worked.

Thematically, I'd say similar steps backward were taken.
Interviews and reports seemed to suggest 1 Year Later would be about softening, and lightening Batman up, which personally, wasn't something I was interested in either, pointing again to those favoured issues of Detective.

A fairly cartoony, and dull appearance in the follow-up issue by Poison Ivy immediately highlighted an approach almost reminiscent of the sixties television series, if a little wiser and contemporary.

Among the atmospheric problems, I'm also disappointed to see another character rising from the dead. Poison Ivy, who died during the Hush hangover in Gotham Knights, returns alive, and perhaps more powerful than ever - another disapointment.
Not only have her powers bloomed to Swamp Thing proportions, removing her somewhat from the typical Batman street-level nemesis, but she has also returned to her hollow, afterschool special crusade against pollutants and other environmental threats.

All of that said -- what an opening scene!
The only thing disappointing about the opening of this new storyline is that the KGBeast had to be among the Tallyman's victims!

While not exactly an A-list villain these days, this was a character with all the potential in the world. Straight off the bat the redesigned costume was a treat, and was even complimented by the flat blacks of the art direction!

Assassins are the characters I feel that are the most regularly mistreated characters in comics. Many a-time I've come up with treatment for various characters in both the Marvel and DC universes, and the common trait is to have on-going agendas and interaction amongst the assassin community. They are, after all, supposed to be regularly working.

In a time when Batman, under Judd Winick, had been operating in an agenda-filled Gotham, and in a time when villains were united, it's a shame to lose a worthy addition. Likewise, it is a shame to lose this versimilitude that was injected into the Batman title, in favour of more traditional superheroics.

I'm yet to see Grant Morrison's efforts, but maybe we can put Face the Face down to filler, rather than new editorial mandate. Either way, Judd Winick, surprisingly-so, will be sorely missed on the title. As will Dough Mahnke, and the tremendous colouring and inking team.

The Fight: 2.5 The Issue: 3

NEXT: Hulk smash puny villains in disguise! The Thunderbolts tackle the green goliath, as Hulk month continues!

Monday, June 05, 2006

Why is it, to save me, I must kill you? (Marvel comics)
Deadpool #4 When: April, 1997
Why: Joe Kelly How: Ed McGuinness

The story so far...
Once upon a time there lived this dude called Deadpool.
He shoulda died a whole heap o' times, but he got this crazy healing factor from these Canadian scientist dudes, who got it from this Wolverine guy, who got it from his parents, who got it from years of evolution, which began because of... Well, to be honest, it's against state law for me to continue beyond this point, but you get the picture.

So anyway, you probably didn't know it, but behind that big old homocidal facade lies a crispy, yet creamy center -- mostly because of cancer, and that whole Canadian thing. Seriously, dude looks like a piece of bacon that's been left on the roof for six years...

Of course, whether it has three or four legs, a bulldog is still butt ugly and slightly hilarious. So, 'Pool needn't worry about losing his finger, because his Irish crish [Siryn] probably can't stand his stink anyway. Still, she's probably upset that they just found out he can't heal his finger because he's probably dying... Eh, easy come, easy go...

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Hulk 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Deadpool 2 (Average)
Speed: Deadpool 3 (Trained Athlete)
Stamina: Hulk 6 (Generator)
Agility: Deadpool 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting Ability: Hulk 6 (Warrior)
Energy Powers: Deadpool 4 (Arsenal)

Y'know, once in a while here on Secret Earths, we produce a surprising gem of information that you can actually take away with you into the big wide world. Unfortunately, this occasion is not one of those once in a whiles.

That said, it is interesting to note that the Haseloff system gives Deadpool the overall edge based on individual statistical analysis, which really makes it sound like some careful thought was put into the whole ordeal.
Of course, while not at all an accurate indicator, this information could be used to at least suggest a character like Deadpool is capable of defeating the Hulk.

Hulk's brutal strength, savage fighting ability and inexhaustable supply of energy ensures he is a tough opponent against any and all. In close quarters, however, Deadpool's superior speed, weaponry and mastery of said weaponry are all potential skills that could trump the green goliath.
Couple those with a quirky sense of humor, and there's a recipe for outsmarting and out maneuvering the hulking... Hulk. That is, unless, this isn't the moronic day-to-day Hulk.

As was quite frequently mentioned in the punch-up, this Hulk is much like the kind the Backstreet Boys would have sung about - incomplete.
Exactly what that means is a discussion for another time, but it does beg the question of exactly what kind of Hulk Deadpool is fighting. In the past, an 'incomplete' picture for the Hulk would probably conjure one of two images:

- Either the Hulk has regressed into a savage, unruly state.
- Or, alternatively, he's regressed to a weaker state.

Either toss of the coin brings up the Hulk.
So, regardless of the details, you'd probably still have to favour the Hulk on paper, because as we already mentioned, beneath that costume Deadpool is crispy creme.

What went down...
If the Hulk's gamma-irradiated blood had a name, it would be Susan, because Deadpool was desprately seeking it. Fortunately enough for him, and us, the Hulk is a pretty accomodating fellow, and our scene opens with the big green goof just standing around on some Duck Key rooftops.

With a little encouragment, our favourite merc with a mouth drops in on the lone Hulk, and does what he does best - passively provoke! Hulk smash!

Now, remember how I was saying Hulk is Backstreet Back? Well, apparently being incomplete makes him a bit of a sarcastic jerk, and therefore smarter than your average Hulk. Look to the right there. What a jerk!

Still, Deadpool is speedy like the gonzales, and avoids a smashing only to pop up behind Hulk and slash him with his sword. Ouchie!

Unfortunately, as Hulk points out, "... The trick isn't cutting the Hulk... It's getting the Hulk to stay cut!"
As if that kind of jerky delivery wasn't bad enough, he then grabs a veedub, with the intentions of squashing Deadpool like a bug - with a bug!

Luckily Doc Killbrew and Siryn, Deadpool's travelling buddies, brought a spaceship thingy equipped with lasers. The lasers sufficiently distract the jerk-Hulk from Deadpool, but unfortunately for them, he decides to huck the car up at them. Luckily Siryn is a good pilot, and Hulk's maybe a bit of a lousy shot.

Caan't miss when you're perched on a guy's back, though!
Deadpool leaps on the distracted Hulkster, and stabs him again with his sword!
That doesn't do much more than make Hulk mad, though. He disses Hulk Hogan, and then whacks Deadpool through the window of a clothing store. Nasty!

With the sword still stuck in his back, Hulk goes on a rampage stright for 'Pool, while ranting on about the hopelessness of existence, and the inevitable existential dilemmas of lonliness and life. Oh no! He's turned into Emo-Hulk!

So, anyway, Hulk does one of those super-leaps to put the crushing on Deadpool, and winds up with a broken roadsign through his crotch. Straight through to his back! Bummer, dude!

Hulk gets kind of morose about his whole situation, while Deadpool fills the cup... With Hulk's blood... Which he needs to cure himself from death! Geez...

'Pool teleports his way back to the mothership, and Doc Killbrew earns the latter part of his name, and percolates up a fresh batch of death-curing Hulk's blood. Sadly, this transfusion does not have similar results to that which took hold on one Jennifer Walters. Which is a shame, because imagine how cool Hulkpool woulda been!

The hammer...
Dananananananana dananananananana Deadpool!

Deadpool has quite possibly never been as good as he was in the hands of Joe Kelly and Ed McGuinness. These issues were energetic, mad-cap, and a little on the obnoxious side at times, but undisputedly some of the best Deadpool you'll ever read.

Which is interesting, because really, he's a wooden patchwork Lefield character, who should've died on the table. Which, I guess, was really the advantage of the character. He had so little going for him, it was easy enough to spin a really interesting character out of it, without really pissing off any zealous fans.

Of course, changing the merc with a mouth now would upset plenty, because he's developed such a hardcore cult audience, and maintains that despite being teamed up with Cable. Who is lame.

Still, I know what you're thinking... This is supposed to be Hulk month!
Okay, riddle me this, fanboys. Who would make a fantastic penciller for the stagnant Hulk monthly? Ed McGuinness, that's who. The guy is a Hulk fiend, and from what I've heard, the guy actually really likes drawing the character. It's a perfect match!

For me, even though we're tackling Hulk this month, it's a character that hasn't appealed to me in a long time. Which is sort of ironic, because for Hulk month three of the issues of focus are from the mid-nineties, which really wasn't the greatest of years for Hulk, or Marvel in general.

They were pretty fun, though, and I guess that's what matters here.
Ed McGuinness isn't going to sell a dramatic, dark psycho-drama about the struggles of the various Hulk personalities -- but he's going to be fantastic on a fun Hulk comic, that has the villains and the big hero violence.
With the Bendis 'over talk to sound realistic' kind of dialogue that's swept comics, it's kind of disheartening that the superhero fight is almost looked down on.

Obviously it's a facet that works very well, and hasn't shown any sign of going away, but it's just not cool. You can't jump on a message board and say 'this guy and this guy - who would win?' without getting at least a few sneers.
That said, you get something like the Hulk film, which I really loved, that's criticised for not having enough punching and smashing.

Hulk's an interesting character, and not necessarily a character that's money in the bank anymore. Right now the Planet Hulk storyline has been rolling on, and the premise is certainly interesting enough, but it just doesn't interest me. It's kinda like Thing stuck on another planet, which just didn't interest me, either.

So, what would I love to see? If it were me calling the shots, I'd dedicate at least half a year to bringing Hulk back to Earth and having him fight the biggest, coolest choices you could offer up, and I'd have Ed McGuinness drawing it.
Rhino, Juggernaut, Super Skrull, Sub-Mariner -- big guys fighting! Yeah!

Then once that's out of my system, maybe I go back to basics, and see how Planet Hulk affected Banner.

The Fight: 4.5 The Issue: 5.5

NEXT: There's a new element in Gotham, and it's offing villains!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Well, everyone in the present will know I'm a month and a half behind on updates right now, and frantically trying to catch up before the end of July.

Still, I don't think that's spoiled what has been a super month of Secret Wars on Infinite Earths!

After three long months of mad Mondays, I have to say it's been very nice to officially wrap up the DC versus Marvel entries. Though I probably slacked off a little, and ended up with some tedious entries for tedious battles, it was still a lot of fun as a retrospective. Bizarre to think it's been ten years already!

I wonder if we'll still be talking ten years from now.
Speaking of which, I've noticed hits have slowly begun creeping back up, and the page is even turning up a few extra search results, so feel free to drop a comment and let me know what you're thinking about the world of comics!

On a more practical note, no doubt you'll have notied the regularly updated top ten creator list to the right of the main page [currently topped out by Ron Marz].
This list is a fun little addition in a similar spirit to the monthly top five heroes/villains. Like the top five, these results are all calculated mathematically, in this case based on ratings of issues. It's for this reason that Ron Marz has shot to the top, despite only being featured as part of the DC versus Marvel madness.

When Secret Earths began back in December of 2005, we didn't feature ratings for each issue. Therefore, in the interest of maintaining balance, retroactive ratings will be allocated over the next month.

Coming in June:
As you might have guessed from the post-title, this month is all about Hulk on Mondays. Spinning out of his fisticuffs with Superman, I've rummaged through my modest collection to pick out some interesting, but perhaps less traditional Hulk battles.

(June 05) Hulk smash! The card opens with a most unlikely of encounters between an incomplete green goliath, and a certain merc with a mouth who needs a litle gamma irradiated blood to help with his acne problem.
(June 09) This one's all about keeping it current. A brand new villain does away with a cold oldie, in the beginning of a storyline from DC that establishes a new order in the streets of Gotham.
(June 12) Hulk smash! Following on from last Monday, this entry elaborates on the condition of an incomplete Hulk as he tackles an entire team of puny humans. Well, there's at least one chick who isn't puny... but don't tell Hulk.
(June 16) This extreme issue was one I just had to include. With an upcoming film to take inspiration from this story, we'll showcase a fight from a redefining chapter in a certain golden Avenger's history.
(June 19) Hulk smash! The Hulk takes on a top five stalwart in the first of the upper card showdowns. Rampaging in New York, can Hulk find peace, or will justice be forced to turn a blind eye to the man behind the monster?
(June 23) This one is simply made for our website.
Two of the most powerful (and wholesome) enities in the DC universe are going to go head to head on Secret Earths at last! Shazam!
(June 26) Hulk smash! In the headlining Hulk ho-down, the final piece of the incomplete Hulk puzzle is revealed - and it's going to pound a certain Avenger mentioned previously into paste. Which isn't so bad, since his heart could give out at any moment!
(June 30) Finally, Hulk month rounds out with a showcase of the cousin!
An appeal earned She-Hulk the right to a rematch against Champion of the Universe, and her three months are up! Will training be enough to take the greatest fighter in the cosmos, or will brain trump brawn? (Gee, can y'guess?...)

So, how's that for a slice of fried Hulk? I thought so!
Now, on to business if you don't mind, puny human!

The top five...
Ah yes, the top five. Some believe the greatest accolades in comics come from the Eisner awards or Wizard Fan Votes, but alas, the greatest honor is to be one of the listed results beneath the top five super heroes and villains.

After six months of entries, the top five has begun to settle out as more popular and more successful characters begin to take a stride ahead of the pack. Some of these results may surprise you, others may enrage you, but know this... Though Wolverine may appear in eighteen issues a month, he can never take your freedom.*

#1 Batman (-) (6) (DC Comics)
It's probably become a bit of a bore, and as trailing challengers begin to slip away, Batman's dominence seems to only further assert itself.
From the very beginning we all knew to expect dominance by the batty-one, but it may still come as a shock to know Batman has reigned number one every month thus far.

Perhaps a challenge is in order to regular readers: Name your challenger. Who has the skills and the stature to deserve to knock the mighty Dark Knight off his lofty pedestal? Better yet -- who has?

- Batman versus Superman (December 23, 2005)
- Batman versus Superman (January 06, 2006)
- Batman & Red Hood versus The Society (January 27, 2006)
- Batman versus Captain America (May 15, 2006)
- Batman versus Bullseye (May 22, 2006)

#2 Superman (+79) (new) (DC comics)
Well, faster than a speeding bullet, Superman manages to speed his way from the very bottom of the rankings to the very top.
Understandably a contender, Superman no doubt owes far less to his on-the-page fighting prowess, as much as he does to his stature as an industry and cultural icon. Taking a starring role in the Marvel versus DC activities, Superman racked up the victories.

With the beginning of June promising a big budget summer blockbuster from Warner Brothers, Superman may be returning to screens, but he's only just arriving at Secret Earths. Although, one imagines he'll be around for a while.

- Superman versus Batman (December 23, 2005)
- Superman versus Batman (January 06, 2006)
- Superman versus Hulk (May 08, 2006)
- Superman versus Juggernaut (May 22, 2006)
- Superman & Hulk versus Metallo (May 22, 2006)
- Superman & Hulk versus Moleman (May 22, 2006)

#3 Daredevil (-1) (5) (Marvel comics)
Well, after giving such hopeful chase to the Batman, ol' horn head hits a wall of circumstance, despite being still undefeated.
Not popular enough to be among the featured champions in DC versus Marvel, Daredevil goes two months without a feature here on Secret Earths.

Those close to the character know to never count the guardian devil of Hell's kitchen out, no matter how down on his luck he may be.

Though currently in jail, Daredevil is as good as he's ever been in the hands of Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark. It's almost certain you'll see red johns featured in the coming months, and the slow climb will begin anew.

- Daredevil versus Scope (January 13, 2006)
- Daredevil & Elektra versus Bullseye (February 17, 2006)
- Daredevil versus Turk (March 10, 2006)

#4 Wolverine (+1) (3) (Marvel Comics)
Well, as much as you have to hate the over saturation of the character, he more than earns his way on a website like this.
Chances are the killer Canuck will take a breaker from feature on Secret Earths, but the scalps he's already taken might just keep him in the top five for a while.

Wolverine's greatest failings, like a Daredevil, is his capacity for failure. In Wolverine's case, that's largely dependent on a wreckless flaunting of his mutant healing factor. Those defeats will hold the character in check, for now.

- Wolverine versus X-Men w/ Captain America (December 02, 2005)
- Wolverine versus The Invaders (December 30, 2005)
- Wolverine versus Lobo (April 17, 2006)
- X-Men (inc. Wolverine) & Juggernaut versus Nimrod (April 28, 2006)
- Wolverine versus Killer Croc (May 22, 2006)
- Wolverine versus Deathstrike (May 26, 2006)

#5 Zatanna (-2) (4) (DC comics)
Well, an impressive fourth week in the top five for Zatanna.
The simple fact is - Zatanna will not last. This character, as interesting as she is, is completely under my radar and will not likely appear again for quite some time.

As it is, I think I'm just surprise and impressed that a third-tier character like Zatanna maintain a presence here. As I've said before, I try not to project results, making the month end as much of a surprise for me, as it is for you. Fantastic to see some diversity in the list.

- Justice League (inc. Zatanna) versus Deathstroke (December 16, 2005)
- Zatanna versus Zor (February 24, 2006)
- Justice League (inc. Zatanna) versus The Demons Three (April 07, 2006)

Ones to watch...
Well, privvy to the complete rankings list, it's always a bit of fun to speculate where characters might end-up in the next few months. Consider it, also, a mini-game to bet against friends on odds of characters rising, with cookies, or spare change.

#8 Captain America (+1) (Marvel comics)
Last month Cap sat as favourite to rise, and while he wasn't able to work his way into the top five, he remains a lurking threat - quite literally. As the Civil War continues to boil away in the Marvel Universe, Captain America remains at the forefront of every fanboy's conciousness.

#9 Hulk (+33) (Marvel comics)
While Planet Hulk hasn't quite grabbed me in, June is Hulk month, so to expect him to walk away any less than number five would be ludicrous. Of course, the question is really just how far can Hulk go?

The time period in question features an incomplete Hulk, so victories will be in question. Still, with rumblings already making their way across the net about the Hulk's return from space, it's almost a guarantee Hulk will hit top five before the end of the year.

#22 Iron Man (-5) (Marvel comics)
Despite slipping, Iron Man's rise to the top is overdue.
Not only will Tony Stark lead one of the factions through the Civil War event, but news continues to percolate regarding the film, to be directed by Jon Favreau.
Iron Man is a property to watch, and is truly ascending to the top of the Marvel universe.

#69 Captain Marvel (-4) (DC comics)
The Big Red Cheese is going through some changes in the wake of Infinite Crisis, and it's much bigger than noticing lightning bolt shaped hair in strange places.
Though Marvel have managed a dominating plate in the stakes, DC's golden oldies remain steadfast.

#89 She-Hulk (-18) (Marvel comics)
Caught in the middle of Civil War, the second season of this book continues to show why Dan Slott is one of the most exciting talents in comics today!
Thing may have been given the shaft, but She-Hulk's still fighting the good fight, and let's be honest. A superhero gets a scheduled rematch? After losing?
Pffft, I'd take those odds!

The hammer...
Well, this may be the June punch-up, but this post is going out in the middle of July. So, I have to give a big thanks to all still checking the place out, and just enjoying it for what it is.

Secret Earths remains an elitist-free zone for enjoying superheroes, and superhero comics in the silliest, and most enjoyable way possible: With stats!

Sixteen entries in half a month would be a big ask, but even though July 21st is my birthday, the seventh month won't feature Mad Mondays. This will help catch up on entries by cutting the load.
The addition of themed entries may return once things are back on track.

Until then, thanks again folks.
Stay tuned! Got some great, green action for June!

NEXT: Hulk month kicks off with a crotch impalment. Now you've gotta tune in!
May Hit Count: 1270** (+172)

* Tony Stark and SHIELD will be taking care of that.
** Hit count was recorded May 31. Hits for posts made may be reflected in June count.