Friday, July 07, 2006

Enemy of the State: Part 5 of 6 (Marvel comics)
Wolverine #24 When: March, 2005
Why: Mark Millar How: John Romita Jr.

The story so far...
When Wolverine makes the trek to Japan to investigate the disappearance of a child, he find himself under attack and at the mercy of the Hand, working with Hydra under the direction of a new young stud calling himself: The Gorgon.

The Gorgon, a mutant gangster resurrected by the Hand, manages to do the unthinkable by defeating Wolverine.
Thus, the Hand are able to resurrect him anew in their own vision, and under their control.

Unable to resist the control of Hydra's technicians, Wolverine now becomes an instrument of destruction. His mission is simple: Take down superpowers so they can be resurrected too.

Recommended reading:
Wolverine #20-#25: Mark Millar's six-part kick butt epic - Enemy of the State.
Wolverine #26-#31: Freed from Hydra's control, Wolverine turns the tables in - Agent of SHIELD.
New Invaders #6: An Enemy of the State tie-in. Wolverine vs the Sub-Mariner.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Draw 3 (Trained Athlete)
Intelligence: Wolverine 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Daredevil 4 (Olympic Sprinter)
Stamina: Wolverine 6 (Generator)
Agility: Daredevil 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting Ability: Wolverine 6 (Warrior)
Energy Powers: Daredevil 2 (Projectile Weapon)

Alright, come on... Admit it. This is just a really cool pairing of characters.
Pretty well evenly matched, even though they're on two sides of the superpowered line.
The deus X-Samurai versus the blind lawyer ninja.

Not many memories come to mind of these characters mingling, but I'm sure they have. Somewhere around the mid-one hundred and fifties I seem to recall these two, and Vengeance, being brought together by their connections to Typhoid Mary.

Anyway, I'm getting a little side tracked by ten year nostalgia, there.
Who, based on available data, should win a fight between Wolverine and Daredevil?

Well, both would have to be admirably recognised in the Marvel Universe for their fighting abilities. Wolverine, generally speaking, resorts to more feral tendencies of slicing and dicing, while I think we'd all agree Daredevil has a grace and poetry to his moves -- hard hitting as they may be.

To account for guys like the Hulk, less refined, instinctive fighting styles rate quite highly. Honestly, if it were about the technical aspects of who is a better fighter here, I'd lean toward Daredevil. I'm sure he would have a variety of ways to pinch, punch and kick his way to a submission.

Daredevil's also no stranger to adamantium.
As impossible as it's supposed to be, Bullseye has had bones replaced with adamantium substitutes. So, you'd figure even with that kind of dexterity, DD would be well prepared with an intelligent attack.

Of course, Wolverine is no slouch. He's the Predator of the Marvel comics world.
Is he running away? Is he disemboweled? Is he a big fan of Britney going brunete? Or is he just playing games with you?
Truth is, it's all of the above, bub.

Wolverine usually has an inate willingness to maim and/or kill, which has been lost on characters like Daredevil, regardless of their gritty lifestyles and lethal training.
That edge arguably gives Wolverine a leg up against most opponents. We saw it when he took out Northstar [Wolverine #25], and in the past with more profile attacks, like when he scarred Thing's lumpy mug.

It's a pretty good match up, really. I think you could get either/or out of me on any given day, but today, I'm going to have to go with the home favourite.
Daredevil's just that damned good, can match Wolverine's senses/stealth pound for pound, and if you catch him on a bad day [I'd take those odds! - Money-spinner Mike], he might just be willing to get killa on the Canuck.
He'll heal!

What went down...
This issue opens where the last ended, with DD waking up on the sofa after a long night, only to find a fist fulla adamantium at his throat. It was always gonna be that, or a traffic cone.

Now, for a zombified Hydra puppet, Wolverine sure does seem to do a lot of trash talking throughout this series. I don't know if this is a slither of Wolverine secretly enjoying killing heroes, or if it's Hydra, being the cheesy villains they are, just stalling to give the hero time to escape -- but either way, it's quite convenient.

Waiting patiently on a rooftop across the street, sniper rifle in tow, is Elektra and a bunch of SHIELD agents.
You'd think that'd be good news, but Elektra - assassin extraordinaire - misses her shot, zipping a bullet past Wolvie's ample head, and into some nameless Hand ninja. Frankly, if that's the quality of her work, no wonder she died.

The shot buys Daredevil the time he needs to kick Wolverine off him, into a wall, and assess the Hand ninja situation.

DD dives behind the sofa, rolling it with him, and then charges at the arrow-shooting ninja, using the seating as a battering ram.
Realising the Hand are barely even sentient, he snatches on of their swords, and starts slashing.

Making light work of the ninja, Wolverine heads back into the fray.
He makes the delightful acknowledgment that the street guys aren't given credit for their skills, versus the powers of the heavy hitters in the Marvel universe. The skills that are so necessary for those without, "...fancy armor or magic hammers keeping them alive..."

Just when you think DD's skills need sharpening, his stray billy club finds the noggins of various faceless Hand ninja goons!

Much like his fight with the Hulk, Daredevil tries to emplore Wolverine to come to his senses.
As he charges through some more smelly sausage ninja, he cleans Wolverine up and charges them all through a door, and down some stairs to the basement.

Wolverine finally gets a kick in, and sends DD flying into a tool cupboard.

A pair of screwdrivers make for good weapons tossed into the covered faces of the Hand ninja, and those razor keen radar senses probably give DD the heads up to dodge the incoming slashing of Wolverine.

DD locks up with Wolverine, grabbing his wrists in a struggle of strength.
The two shudder with tension, before Wolverine gets a stiff knee to the gut.
Stunned, DD is open long enough to take a grazing swipe from the tips of Wolverine's adamantium claws. DD, narrowly escaping a horizontal fileting, rops onto a stack of weights.

Ever the improvisor, DD snatches up a dumbell and nails Wolvie square in the noggin with a "KLUMP!"

Then, in two of the least graceful panels in superhero history, Wolverine staggers backward, and falls on his arse - impaling himself on one of the Hand ninja swords. How embarassin', bub!

Lying on top of a sausage-ninja, with a blade sticking out his chest, Wolverine is granted a moment of clarity. Freed of Hydra's control, he relays a message for Nick Fury, and generally has a bit of a cry. Fair enough, bub. Fair enough.

The hammer...
Wolverine is the best there is at what he does, and what he does clearly ain't jazz tap. Daredevil reigns supreme!

Enemy of the State is not a smart story.
This issue probably contains a little less story than some of the others, but don't let that do it a disservice. It delivers, and moves the plot along for the next six-issue arc, Agent of SHIELD.

What to say about this series? After droning my way through the previous sections, I do tend to like to take this time to say something interesting and maybe even thought provoking - on this occasion, however, I'm not certain I can.

These stories, written by Mark Millar, are just very straight forward.
It perhaps ends up being far more straight forward than one might have expected based on the initial premise, of Wolverine travelling Japan to investigate the disappearance of a family's child.

Within the first issue we quickly learn of the child's fate ["... we fed him to our pigs."], and then move briskly into the super hero action orientated story that eventuates.
From then on, it's eleven issues of pretty simply slashing, smashing and bashing.

Despite some action high points, I probably don't honestly think the story comes into it's own until the last few issues. By then covers feature a far more refined ink/colour to Romita's ugly, utilitarian pencils, and the saga reaches it's climax with multiple showdowns between chief antagonist, The Gorgon, and the stars of the story, Elektra and Wolverine.

It's intriguing to think of this as it was apparently originally intended -- a Blade story. Perhaps the most puzzling element of that would be the potential for early issues that meander around Wolverine's connection with the X-Men.
Perhaps those issues would've been much the same, with the removal of familiarites, thus justifying the issues even less. One can't help but feel Blade dodged a slow motion bullet, in this respect.

For a character that's enjoyed such phenomenal success on the big and small screens, particularly relative to his comic book history, it's just bizarre that better, stronger stories aren't coming his way. Chaykin and Guggenheim certainly haven't filled me with confidence with previews of their upcoming take - but I digress.

Enemy of the State and Agent of SHIELD are both interesting enough in overall concept, and even though issues may be stretched a little farther than necessary, there's plenty of action and eventual story telling to be found. In that respect, Millar remains an oddity for his ability to tell really dumb stories, without anyone (myself included) noticing.

In a way it's a shame some of the themes within this book couldn't have more directly linked up with Marvel's broader continuity, and fed into Civil War; Millar's current mainstream crossover hit.
Hydra's expansive attack on the superhero/supervillain community, and more importantly the potential effectiveness of such an attack, really could've fed well into the paranoia and necessity for regulation in the Marvel U.

Just to close, I mentioned Romita Jr's hideous pencils.
I think it's fair to say they're a personal taste, but for my directorial eye I think it's a pretty big misstep to give Romita a simple cover job. Eye candy is not his strength, and even the addition of rendered finishes by Richard Isanove leave somethingto be desired.
Still, this was an admirable call by whoever made it. I often feel overall art direction is a ball being dropped by the big two, which is sad, because unlike self-publishers like myself, they have the resources to act upon it.

On the positive, Romita Jr is an incredibly practical sequential artist, and despite a disagreement of style, you couldn't fault his ability to tell a story.

No doubt you'll be seeing more of these issues in the future.

The Fight: 4 The Issue: 4

NEXT: We do the timewarp to the nineties, and jump the fence to take a look at DC's star of 52 - Steel!


Greg said...

Eww....JRJR art as reference. No thanx!

Mike Haseloff said...

Hah! Not the prettiest art around, but I'm sure it has a nice personality.

(Cheers for the comment!)