Friday, August 25, 2006

Civil War (Marvel comics)
Civil War #3 When: September, 2006
Why: Mark Millar How: Steve McNiven

The story so far...
As the stars of a new superhero reality television programme, the New Warriors have embarked on a journey already of a controversial nature, but when a fight with some villains escalates the Marvel Universe will be rocked forever.

When amped up villain Nitro uses his explosive powers, there are far more casualities than the heroes, and far younger. A nearby school is wiped out, and thousands mourn the deaths of their children.

For the first time ever, the question of hero registration is answered with swift action. Leading the initiative, along with SHIELD commander Maria Hill, is Tony Stark - aka Iron Man.

Registration is mandatory. Those who do not declare, will be declared by Iron Man and the various registered heroes who are obligated by law to server and protect.

Previous Form:
Captain America Annual #9: Cap bitterly challenges a possessed Iron Man.
Marvel Team-Up #145: Jim Rhodes teams up with Spidey against Blacklash.
Captain America #6: Cap and Cable do battle with the forces of AIM.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Thing 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Mr. Fantastic 6 (Genius)
Speed: Spider-man 4 (Olympic Athlete)
Stamina: Vision 6 (Generator)
Agility: Mr. Fantastic 6 (Rubber)
Fighting Ability: Hercules 6 (Warrior)
Energy Powers: Radioactive Man 6 (Mass Destruction)

It's been a couple of weeks since the last update. I'm doing this one now on Nov 6, having actually done a November update a couple of days ago.
I'll have to admit, I wasn't looking forward to this entry when I realised exactly what I was dealing with. I suppose it's worth establishing first up, exactly what we're dealing with:

Pro-Registration (Avengers)
Black Widow
Doc Samson
Invisible Woman
Iron Man
Mr. Fantastic
Ms. Marvel
Radioactive Man
Yellow Jacket
Wonder Man
Anti-Registration (Secret Avengers)
Captain America
Iron Fist
Hawkeye Jr
Luke Cage

Okay... That's a lot of characters... Which made doing the stats pretty overwhelming. But, this is the website that's supposed to indulge in these discussions, so I'm going to try not to cheap out on you too much.

I think you can pretty much take one universal fact here, that does seem to be pretty indisputable - The Pro-Registrants have the Anti outnumbered.
This is particularly telling when you take into account the power the pro-team is packing. Characters like Hercules and Captain America are great allies to have, but against a force with the Fantastic Four, Thunderbolts, Iron Man, Doc Samson and other heavy-hitters, it's just tough to bet against them.

By the nature of the argument, I suppose, the anti-registrants are chiefly street level characters, who really have very little business duking it out with the combined forces of the establishment.

The core Secret Avengers team of Goliath, Iron Fist (DD), Cap and Hercules isgreat for punking out Vulture's latest team of Sinister Six, but against an organized group of characters who can go toe-to-toe with the Hulk, they're kinda outmatched.
Just for clarification's sake, we're talking about characters like Thing, Doc-Samson, She-Hulk, Atlas, Iron Man... A mighty shield can only do so mcuh against that, and that's not even acknowledging the fact that half the Secret Avengers' allies are the Young Avengers. Against their seniors, you'd have to think experience counts for something.

It seems ill-conceived for Cap to lead this ragtag mob into a head-on collision with Iron Man's forces, and I guess that's perhaps a highlighting point.
This is not a planned confrontation. This is a trap, and a damned good one.

You can never count out Captain America all-together alone, let alone with an army of troops to be inspired. The numbers make it hard to tip against anyone else, though.

What went down...
I'd have to admit, this is probably a somewhat boring section more often than not. Summaries of what's going on the page are never going to be as interesting as seeing it, especially since sometimes I'm just not that interested anymore.

No WWD has ever been as injust as this one, though.
The team of McNiven, Dexter Vines, Mark Morales and Morry Hollowell make this one of the most amazing looking books I have ever read. This truly is artwork that can not be done justice by dull descriptions such as mine.
Never the less, I attempt to at least relay the events of the fight, for future prosperity.

After hearing a call over the police radio, the Secret Avengers rally their troops to converge as Geffen-Meyer Chemicals, where a tragedic accident has said to have left three to four hundred factory workers in peril.

Scanning his info-net, Cable finds nothing in terms of panic signals or other indicative informations. It's this, coupled with a nasty find, that lead the soldier of the future two twig first. Geffen-Meyer is a subsidiary of Stark Industries, and this scenario is purely for their benefit.

Darts fly dramatically from the sky, burying in the backs of Cloak and Wiccan, an attack to designed to prevent mass retreat. An ambush.
SHIELD helecopters and soldiers descend on the area ans the heroes gather in the presence of pro and anti groups.

Tony Stark attempts to reason with his old friend and ally, and with each faction standing tensely, Iron Man extends his gauntlet in the name of the greater good -- and Cap returns the favour.
"All right! Way to go, Wing-Tips! Didn't I say this was all gonna work out fine?," pipes Spider-man, just as Stark notices something attached to his metallic outer-hand.

As the SHIELD Electron-Scrambler, designed as a contingency against Iron Man, and given to Cap by the renegade Nick Fury, fries the Iron Man armor, Cap springs into action with Black Goliath following suit.

As battle begins, the heroes peel off into various pairings.
Goliath/Yellow Jacket, Atlas/Stature, Ms. Marvel/Cage, Cable/Radioactive Man, Wonder Man/Hercules, Thing/Hulking, Spidey/Patriot...

Iron Spidey intercepts Captain America's shield, and uses it against men he once called friends. Iron Fist (DD) and Vision go down, as Thing gets the better of the Young Avenger, Hulking in the mid-ground.

Cap and Patriot go back-to-back, as Spider-man fades from sight.
Cap explains the stealth function built into the Stark-produced Iron Spider-man outfit, and then has opportunity to feel the full effects of the suit, as Spidey rematerializes right infront of him - using the shield against him!

Meanwhile, Iron Man is rebooting his fried armor, and as Cap fights back against Spider-man in the foreground, IM looms rather ominously with his suit fully functional, and ready to torpedo into the fray.

Hercules, battling Doc Samson, does his best to warn Captain America of the incoming attack, but IM's speed gives him the opportunity to plow the patriot through a partially demolished brick wall.

Cap tries to continue the good fight, but the spiritual leaders of the opposing forces are poorly matched. Stark totes the armor's knowledge of Cap's arsenal of moves as he drives his gauntlets into Captain America.
Blow after blow reigns down, with little regard for the distinct margin between the suit of armor's strength, and the Captain's.

"Out of my way, you filthy traitors! He's killing him in there!"
In one of the less 'widescreen' moments, but also most inspiring, Hercules tosses Samson aside, and barrels through She-Hulk and Spider-man with the objective of saving Captain America.

From the safety of the SHIELD Helicarrier, Maria Hill gives the order to initiate "codename lightning," as a result, Hercules does not have the opportunity to reach his target.

Hawkeye, Cage and Dagger are caught up in the lightning swirl also, as rain begins to fall on the battlefield.
Cable and Iron Fist gaze up to the pouring sky and gaze upon a sight they never expected to see.

They gaze upon a dead God.
They gaze upon Thor.

The hammer...
After Civil War #4, we all now know of course that Thor was in fact a clone manufactured by Mr. Fantastic and Iron Man, and no doubt in the future if I end up getting a hold of the issue, we'll talk some about that.

This is really a difficult situation as far as drawing a usual conclusion. With unfinished fights like this, I think it's best to just consider the end of the issue a cut-off point, thus, it's with no uncertainty that we call the Pro-Registration team he winners.

I probably talked out some of my key feelings on the Civil War during the entirely unrelated review of Thing against the Frightful Four [Fantastic Four #129], and I'm very keen to get this overdue update online, so I'll try to be brief.

I guess what Civil War #3 indicates particularly well is just how mismatched the two sides are at this point in the story. Likewise, it further highlights the lengths at which Captain America is going to fight against a system in which he's already practically involved with.

I mean, I think it's safe to say Cap's stance is one of principle and understanding, rather than one of necessity. He himself could probably be counted among the very first heroes to be techncially registered, purely by his very nature. It's a problem he's run into in the past when he's disagreed with decisions of an establishment, and has been forced to handover the property and trademarks of the government if he wishes to continue superhero-ing.

Even though Cap is probably the majority sentimental favourite, Civil War #3 goes lengths to highlight just how pig headed his stance of principle really is.
The very first scene sees one of the group of children he's leading into battle get taken down. With death right at the heart of this matter, and also all the recent history for the Avengers, there's definitely a negative light to be cast on Captain America and his team's actions.

There's not a lot I can say that hasn't already been said, but I think, when you stop thinking about the pro-registrants who are justly viewed as antagonists, and forget about the victimization of the anti-resgristrants, the other point is there.

Iron Man's team is right because in a Marvel universe where reality is being emphasized, security is what we would want. Likewise, Captain America is turning on his country to the point of blind vendetta, ignoring what is potentially the greater good, and leading this kids into a fight, rather than keeping them safe from the establishment.

The justification comes from the previous discussion [again; FF #129], because these are people reacting to tragedy, but ultimately... Is this the way Cap should go?
Probably not.

The Fight: 5.5 The Issue: 6

NEXT UP: The latest top five, and an all new feature in the long overdue September punch-up!

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Terminus Factor Part One of Five: You are what you eat (Marvel comics)
Captain America Annual #9 When: 1990
Why: Roy Thomas & Dann Thomas How: Jim Valentino

The story so far...
When Sherlock Holmes isn't cracking cases, he shoots heroin. Which is, frankly, why Holmes is nothing but a skinny elbowed English nancy.

Scoffing the most lethal of dangers, Captain America decides to volunteer for an experimental mission to pilot a Stark funded vessel to the center of a newly formed volcano. Why? Well, formerlyto protect Persephone-1 from sabotage, but really, just because he's that good. Human, too.

Things get ugly when a cybernetic egg planted by Terminus begins to crack, and a glowing lot of weird stuff starts to wreak havoc on the mission.
Only by the intervention of Iron Man (who just happens to turn up as Mr. Stark disappears...) do Cap and the pilot escape with their lives -- but so too does the Terminus goo!
Hitting a local waterstream has a strange effect on the fish that swim through it, and subsequently the bear who eats the fish, and so, Terminus enters the circle of life... and the water supply.

Previous form:
Iron Man #2: Iron Man battles Hulk to a standstill.
Captain America #6: Captain America and Cable do battle with AIM.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Iron Man 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Iron Man 5 (Professor)
Speed: Captain America 3 (Trained Athlete)
Stamina: Iron Man 6 (Generator)
Agility: Captain America 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting Ability: Captain America 6 (Warrior)
Energy Powers: Iron Man 5 (Lasers)

It seems like it's been a while since we've had a straight one-on-one.
I guess it seems appropriate that the Civil War theme provide the first in a while. These two guys are arguably among the top tier of Marvel characters, stalwarts of the Avengers, and most recently, leaders of two different camps of thought.

Captain America isn't necessarily the most free-thinking sunnuva gun in town, but he represents the broadest sense of right, and the ideals of what all men aspire to. In many respects he's what America wants to be in the world, as opposed to what it is. He's a guiding symbol of good, who never backs down.

Stark, both in Civil War, and in general, probably represents more of what America really is. He's a character who made his early life producing technological advancements in weapons, and has essentially built a fortune by neglecting extrapolation beyond what serves his immediate goals -- which means ignoring the potential consequences around him.

Both characters exhibit an All-American iron will, but as the stamina readings show, Iron Man just has a little extra technology to back it up.

Wolverine might have a better PR agent, but Cap is truly the best there is at what he does, and he's about as close to human as you can get, without relying upon gadgets, or iron suits of armor. This guy has all the experience and grit to fight overwhelming odds, and plenty of times he'll even come out on top.

Iron Man's equipped to go toe-to-toe with pretty hefty opponents too, mind you.
The red and gold has regularly diced with the likes of Fin Fang Foom, the Mandarin, Titanium Man, and The Hulk.

So, what does all of that mean? Well, Cap may have taken down Japanese kamikaze pilots, and dropped a few Nazi tanks in his time, but neither of those had the maneuverability or firing power of Iron Man. Nor did they have the ability to out grapple him with hydraulic muscle.

He'll always be a sentimental favourite, but against Iron Man? We salute you anyway, Cap.

What went down...
Washington state has more resaons than a newly formed volcano for a couple o' Avengers to visit. You guessed it! It's time for the annual Georgeville trout feast!
Cue ominous music. Oh yes, that trout*.

Cap's a bit more manly than the silver spoon, so he doesn't bother with any food, but IM goes and sits by himself to chow down on some fresh, local trout.

As Cap is putting the moves on Dr. Napier (the Persephone-1 captain), some schmuck in a suit turns into "... a snarling animal -- leaping at us --!"
Napier makes her alliances known by calling Iron Man for help, claiming Captain America needs help, which promps Cap to machismo the guy head-first into the pavement.

As an angry mob starts to form, crazy eyes Iron Man shows up on the scene.
Snarling ponytail suit guy got the jump on Cap, but Iron Man is a drunk, so he's well prepared to backflip, snatch up the damsel in distress, and forward flip his way through a double barrage of repulsor rays.

In the commotion some powerlines become severed, and some of the raving mob start to head toward them with no sense of repercussion. Cap is there to save a zombified kid, as some guy in lime green pants gets fried.
Cap dumps the kid in a barrel of ice, as Iron Man descends into the mob.

Cap, recognising Iron Man as a threat, tries to take him out quick with a swift toss of his mighty shield. IM goes down, and much to the surprise of the Captain, the mob descends on the Golden Avenger!
Meanwhile -- to his further surprise, the kid he dumped in the ice has returned to his senses. This prompts an idea, and also an impromptu opportunity to cop a feel of Napier's arse, as he ushers her into their helecopter with the rather conspicuous line, "Don't wory about us getting lonely..."

Back in the street, Iron Man blasts his way free of the ravenous mob, and cuts the chopper off as he flies over the snowy mountains.
A direct hit overhead to the main propellor ensures the craft head straight for terra not-so firma.

Emerging from the crashed vehicle relatively unscathed, Cap leaves Dr. Napier and challenges Iron Man to, "-- COME AND GET ME!"

Iron Man does just that, but Cap is able to backflip clear.
After getting nothing but net, shellhead decides to drive it to the hoop, and nails Cap square on the kisser with a swooping left hook.
Showing no fear, Cap eggs Iron Man on, taking a backhand that sends him flying again.

As the Captain continues to provoke the supreme assault from his ally, Dr. Napier could be forgiven for wondering if Cap was going crazy too, but alas, no
For Captain America is not without a plan!

Iron Man throws all the energy blasts he has, and then follows it up with a torpedo dive, knocking Cap a little sillier, as he plants himself deep in the snow. [Ding! Ding! Ding!]

Cap tosses his shield, and knocks Iron Man back momentarily, but the armored Avenger strikes back with a vengeance!

Cap spills over the edge of a mountainous cliff, and hanging on for dear life as the zombified villagers below watch, Iron Man blasts at the very piece of Earth Cap is clinging to!

As the sentinel of liberty begins to fall, fall, fall to his demise, something happens! The icey effects of the snow finally snap Tony Stark out of his maddened haze, and with no time to lose, he swoops down and catches the tiny patch of Earth and scoops Captain America up to safety!

The villagers gradually return to normal, and the day appears saved, but Cap and Iron Man are forced to ponder whether or not the menace of the glowing Terminus goo was indeed through.

The hammer...
Even though things ended peacefully, I've got to give this one to Iron Man based purely on points. Though Cap was ultimately able to pacify his sinister urges, Iron Man thoroughly had his number, and it was only by his will that Cap survived the fall from a cliff.

I had an interesting discussion recently about Captain America, and whether or not he has credibility as a military figure, and that ultimately led to a discussion about Civil War, which leads me here.

The conversation actually began when I said I felt Ultimate Captain America had a militant credibility that I felt the regular "616" Cap had long since lost.
I guess, honestly, there are two contributing reasons for that opinion. One is the stereotype of the fighting soldier as either a hardass drill sergeant, or a mindless jarhead. The other, perhaps the more legitimate half of the argument, is the fact that since his revival in the sixties, Captain America has spent his time devided between his roles as superhero, and ideal.

On this, my friend and I were able to agree - Captain America is an ideal - but our opinions largely diverged on whether or not his role as an ideal had superceded his credibility as a militant figure.

Personally, I err on the side of there being a distinct necessity for them to be exclusive. While a soldier may be inclined to go AWOL given the right motivation, and perhaps do so justfully, I still think there is an inherent responsibility to rank, order, and thought processes that might not necessarily reveal outcomes potentially disasterous.

For example; I feel Captain America's ideals in the Civil War scenario representative of his role as the ideal that all mean, of all colour and creed, should/would like to live up to. They are not, however, the actions of a man considering his responsibility to queen, country and greater good.

I would like to think many of us, when distancing ourselves from the material, would ultimately acknowledge that registration is a good idea. That, in the real world, it's exactly the kind of law we would each wish to see enforced and monitored to the greatest degree. This is particularly relevent, as discussed in a previous 'Hammer,' in a post-tragedy scenario.

What I think, logically, we would disagree with, is the way in which anti-registration heroes are being hounded, imprisoned and attacked with extreme prejudice.
Likewise, allowing Captain America a shred of his all-American dignity, I believe he would object to the methods used, but assuming a military role, as opposed to the role of an uber-idealistic superhero, would oppose via due process.

I doubt the thought process of a man who is almost as viciously opposing the registrants, as they are his camp. This is a man who has almost gone to the lengths to lead children (Young Avengers) into a war with his own country. This is a man putting the needs of certain individuals above the needs of the public, which has just recently lost thousands, many of whom were children.
This, in my estimation, is not the approach of a character with military credibility. This is a character who has filtered through the superhero mould, and abandoned process in favour of ideal.

And maybe that's not such a bad thing.

Also not a bad thing: Jim Valentino's pencils!
Maybe not as realistically tight as some of the contemporary best, but this is not the line I imagine when I think of a man who joined the co-founders of Image comics, and created the oh-so nineties character - Shadowhawk.

The Fight: 4 The Issue: 5

NEXT: We round the month out with the one we've been waiting for - Cap and his supporters versus Iron Man and his supporters. Do not miss it!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Hometown Boy (Marvel comics)
Marvel Team-Up #145 When: September, 1984
Why: Tony Isabella How: Greg LaRocque

The story so far...
"I love New York! So why am I going to Cleveland?!"
It's a fair question to open any comic with, but in this case Spidey has his own answer.

After embarassing photos of J. Jonah Jameson taken by Peter Parker were published by the paper, Petey boy took the wrap, getting assigned to cover the 26th Annual Convention of Electronics Engineers and Innovators Cleveland, Ohio.

Little does Parker know, another industrious young fellow is looking for a break amongst the industry leaders. A fellow named Mark Scarlotti -- aka, Blacklash!
Unfortunately for convention goers, Scarlotti isn't havin a great life, and when an offer comes in from the Maggia, he can't resist the temptation to return to a life of crime.

Previous form:
Amazing Spider-man #329: Charged with the cosmic power of Captain Universe, Spider-man dukes it out with the mystically charged Tri-Sentinel.
DC versus Marvel #4: In posession of the black symbiote, Eddie Brock made a brief appearance fighting Quicksilver and the Flash.
War Machine and Blacklash have not yet been featured on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: War Machine 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Spider-man 5 (Professor)
Speed: Spider-man 4 (Olympic Sprinter)
Stamina: War Machine 5 (Marathon Runner)
Agility: Spider-man 5 (Average)
Fighting Ability: War Machine 4 (Trained Fighter)
Energy Powers: War Machine 5 (Lasers)

Hmmm.. I don't want to say we have another clear cut situation on our hands, but even without the green ponytail, Blacklash doesn't exactly strike fear in the hearts of men.

As you might have estimated by way of the identifying mugshot above, the Iron Man we have on our hands here is not Tony Stark, but rather his best bud, Jim "Rhodey" Rhodes.
I guess, for that reason, you might knock him down a few notches for inexperience, and while it's genesis began with a plotline, there does seem to be a vulnerability about a Jim Rhodes Iron Man that knocks hist staminda a rank lower. Even if he has recovered from his jealousy headaches.

Still, Blacklash has been punked plenty of times by the original shellhead, and this circumstance has few reasons to be an exception. Despite various weapons upgrades over the years, Blacklash remains a B-lister, at best. The technological nature of his weapons generally ensure Iron Man a well prepared victory.

Toss the symbiote baring Spidey into the mix, and you have yourself a pretty comprehensive one-sider. Blacklash's best bet against a black costume Spidey would be using his technology to spark some kind fire, and weaken the symbiote, but otherwise, this is a bout won before it began.

What went down...
After Blacklash electrocutes a security guard, causes mass damage, and generally raises some hell - Iron Man makes a none too subtle entrance, laying a big left hook on the vicious villain!

Now, either Stark wasn't sharing his notes, or Rhodey didn't study, because as Blacklash notes, he seems blissfully unaware that the Blacklash costume absorbs blunt force. A feature he's presumably lost since upgrading to leather straps...

Blacklash reckons that if IM's forgotten about his defensive measures, he might be able to sneak by with a few classic offensives. Like lashing his whip around Iron Man's wrist, before disconnecting the handle and letting fly a concussive electric charge!

With Iron Man down, it's about now that Spidey takes the opportunity to use the distraction, and switch his symbiote from casual clothes to superhero spandex!

Spidey leaps in and attempts to web his foe up, but Blacklash is able to use his whip to propel the web back in Spidey's direction. Timing his successive attack well, he utilizes bolas to tie Spidey up with a heavy gravity field generated by the device.

Having used the time to recover, Iron Man jumps back into the frey, and blasts Blacklash with a uni-beam!
The blow is enough to stun the villain, but as Iron Man struggles with the gravity manipulating device attached to his ally and his phrasing [innuendo!], Blacklash looms to his feet.

Slipping out a necro-lash from it's encasement within his gauntlet, Blacklash strikes down across Iron Man's exposed back with full power coursing through the weapon.

Spidey, freed from his shackles, keeps Blacklash busy with some creative maneuvering, while Rhodey's pal Morley tunes into the IM FM via the suit's headset.
Morley directs shellhead's direction to the sparking of Blacklash's gloves, and speculates a potential malfunction.

IM redirects his uni-beam assault, granting the heroes the front footing.
With Blacklash reeling, Spider-man swoops in for finish licks. He tears the costume from Blacklash's chest, leaving him powerless, and exposing not only his flesh, but also his fragile state of mind.

"This isn't something we can handle, Iron Man. We better wait here until they come for him."

The hammer...
Alright, I kinda cheated with the pre-Civil War team-up theme, but never the less, it is Iron Man and Spider-man who emerge victorious.

This was an issue I'd had in mind for a while now, and I was glad to finally get it onto the site. It's got a few things going for it.
First of all, it's a fun comic from twenty years ago, and it's great fun to go back there, and deviate from the earlier direction of the site, which focused more on crisper releases.

The other great thing is that it's an issue with an interesting dichotomy. On the one hand it's pure Secret Earths with a very black and white fight scenario between heroes and villain, but at the same time, as we're informed quite early on, "... This is a story, an examination, if you will, of the super-hero's opposite number... the Super-Villain." From there, we stumble into a hamfisted attempt at some kind of analysis of the motivation and psychological frailty of a second stringer villain like Blacklash.

I haven't really seen much of Blacklash since the nineties, but I'm aware that he's developed a taste for bondage, acquired a female partner in crime, and updated his look to be a little less ridiculous, even if it is essentially a BDSM outfit. [New look reflected in the Tale of the Tape. - Mistress Mike]

I don't know how the psychological profiling has changed with his sub/dom relationship, but I suppose it probably relates well to this story.
While it's not poetry, Tony Isabella at least tries to unveil some of the pathos behind the character, and deliver a fairly relatable, base motivation for what is essentially a crazy villain.

What we're essentially presnted with is a depressive individual who continues a cycle of poor decision making, and denial of his problems. Rather than actually address his situation, he deflects responsibility, and seeks others to solve his problems for him.
It's a hard fall for Scarlotti when, in the story's conclusion, he has suffered another humiliating defeat at the hands of Iron Man, and has been abandoned by everyone around him. Even his parents, who supported him through many failings, deny his existence, as Blacklash is forced to face jailtime and personal solitude.

Personal tragedy and abandonment aren't new to super villains, but it's just interesting to see the way Mark Scarlotti sabotages himself during his effort to break through in what is legitimately a difficult situation. There's an empathy to be found for what was previously, as I interpret it, a pretty two-dimensional, unsympathetic, green ponytailed super villain.

Through this issue we see him for his insecurities, his frustrations, and his neurosis. We see the way his actions could even be the result of misguided reaction to a lifetime of disappointment, even though that could maybe be a crass justification for his efforts.
Never the less, in a scene where, after being rejected by his doting mother, Mark arrives in a bar, we can see just how responsible he is, despite his sympathetic situation.

In spite of his known failings, an old friend offers him a job as a security guard, and a homecooked meal at his house.
When some, for lack of a better term, bullys, harrass him out of the bar after pouring a drink on his head, all the good flies out the window. He obsesses over his inadquacy to deal with personal conflicts, and turns back to the costume, and lashing out.

At the end of the issue when he sits alone with a city appointed lawyer, he's a weak and sympathetic character again. A character who has hit rock bottom so hard, you might even wonder if he might find solace in a padded cell.

I'd like to assume, however, that his path ultimately led to the role of sub in his relationship with Whiplash. In this strong female character, he could potentially thrive, absolved of responsibility or the necessity to think, and yet, at the same time, could potentially feel secure enough to act out his frustrations in a controlled environment.

Where am I going with this? I think it's another one of those aimless summaries that little purpose beyond discussing what is an interesting moment in a character's history, and an interesting comic in the annals.

Incidentally this issue does include two other interesting points of history - James Rhodes as Iron Man, and Spider-man wearing the black symbiote.
With Iron Man and black costume Spidery hitting theatres in the future, I figure there's plenty of time to talk about those guys.

Now it's late, my computer's dying, and I'm tired.
Never the less, the race to get up-to-date continues today, October 16.

The Fight: 3 The Issue: 4

NEXT: Stay tuned! It's round one: Captain America versus Iron Man!

Friday, August 04, 2006

Soldiers (Marvel comics)
Captain America #6 When: April, 1997
Why: Rob Liefeld & Jeph Loeb How: Rob Liefeld

The story so far...
Marvel's greatest heroes are believed dead, sacrificing themselves to defeat the menace of Onslaught.
Unbeknownst to those left behind, the heroes habe been trapped in a pocket universe as an instinctive defensive meaure by the immensly powerful mutant child - Franklin Richards.

Now, reliving a strangely similar but warped version of his previous life, Captain America awakes from a dormant sleep as a defunct SHIELD agent.

Emerging in this strange new world reborn, Captain America goes live once more, facing threats older than anyone in this universe can possibly know.

Previous Form:
Marvel versus DC #2: Captain America outfoxes the devestating Bane.
Incredible Hulk #449: As Citizen V, Baron Zemo leads the Thunderbolts against the Hulk.
MODOK and Cable have not yet been featured on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Cable 4 (Steroid Popper)
Intelligence: MODOK 5 (Professor)
Speed: Captain America 3 (Trained Athlete)
Stamina: Captain America 5 (Marathon Runner)
Agility: Captain America 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting Ability: Captain America 6 (Warrior)
Energy Powers: Cable 4 (Arsenal)

You know, there are actually a few things working against MODOK, before we even arrive at the fact that he's a giant head floating around in some kind of futuristic, cyborg toilet enhancement.

The first problem - he's compensated for his giant headed immobility by allying himself with a guy who wears a pink mask that he took from daddy's closet, and is named Helmut. Second - he's hanging with AIM, who are essentially a non-threatening sprawl of nameless, faceless super scientist drones, who exist for the sole purpose of making evil look goofy as it gets stomped all over by Captain America. With that in mind, it does not bode well for MODOK and his wacky pal, Helmut Zemo.

Update: In all the fun, this update originally asserted the presumption that this was a Heroes Reborn alternate duplicate of the modern day Baron Helmut Zemo. During this event, Helmut was rather prominently featured in the main Marvel Universe in the guise of Citizen V - the leader of villains disguised as heroes: The Thunderbolts. This supports the subsequent understanding that the Baron Zemo featured here is actually Heinrich Zemo - Cap's original WWII nemesis! Please note this correction when proceeding.

Things are partially balanced in this world gone mad, where Rob Liefeld's pencils ensure MODOK, rather than look proportionate next to his super-deformed figures, is actually gargantuan. Actually, I don't remember MODOK ever being so intimidating in battle, nor as a subject to be read.

Cable is a mutant with low level telepathic abilities, military training from a post-apocalyptic future, and big metal cybernetics where diseased limbs once were.
His chief skill in combat is to carry weaponry, armor and shoulder pads that weight twice his bodyweight. When it comes to guns, this guy's futurewares (which are somehow in abundance, despite his residence in the present...) put the Punisher to shame.

So, even despite MODOK's concerning elevation in the supervillain stakes, there are very few scenarios in which Cable would be grossly challenged. On his own, he could probably mow down AIM goons like tin ducks on a motorized rack - call Zemo a daddy's boy - and strip MODOK for parts before a single shell hit the ground.

Oh, and are you dense? Are you retarded or something?
Lest we forget the god damned Captain America!

Honestly, this one's pretty much a case closed scenario...
That's without even getting into the fact that it's only issue six in a series that had SHIELD, the good guys, in an adversarial position at the beginning; and that this is a gratuitous Liefeldian fan service issue, that squeezes his abismal creation [Cable] into the story through the most obtuse means.

What went down...
We enter the fray somewhat disorientated, not by Lifeld's pencils, but rather by virtue of coming in with the action already underway.
Connecting in no way to the previous issue, Captain America stands beside the man called Cable, before a pack of AIM bucketheads, giant MODOK, and Zemo.

Cable doesn't know how he's arrived here, and is curious as to the fact that Captain America is supposed to be dead. As with most of the folks trapped in the Heroes Reborn blue ball, Cap has no recollection of Cable, a trait we all envy.

MODOK takes offense to orders of surrender, apparently prompting Cable to jump qquite high into the air, before he starts shooting his futuristic guns at the bucketheads.

Captain America throws his mighty shield, and clocks a bunch of the yellow jumpsuiters, before following suit with a variety of rampaging fists, dives, shield swings and kicks.

Meanwhile, Carrie Ke... er... I mean, Heroes Reborn girl-Bucky is crowd surfing over the goons, dropping a few fists and kicks whensoever it does suit her.

Now things start to get a little... EXTREME!

Quite literally lording over Cable, MODOK threatens grievous psychic harm.

Cable retorts that in his own world, he's regarded as a pretty decent telepath himself, and proceeds to jump on to MODOK.
Scrambling around MODOK like a bug on a beachball, Cable reaches around to the ample forehead, and starts to probe psychically.

Battling each other within the mind, it seems MODOK is just a bigger psychic target, falling victim, presumably, to the horror of Cable's backstory.

While MODOK sizzles defeat, Cap is managing the army of AIM goons like the one-man army we all know him as.
A few deformed kicks and dives later, and Zemo enters the fray.

The self-professed "Juggernaut of the Fourth Reich" socks it to the American flag, straight across the jaw, but Cap isn't phased. He returns suit, and lays the smackdown with the shield!

To finish Zemo off, he lays down a cermon that should inspire fear in all Golden Age villains who would seek to return: "Whether you ally yourself with A.I.M. or the World Party -- the nightmare called the Nazi Army will NEVER rise again.
America is too strong now. And I share only a hint of her power.

As Cap lays Zemo out for good, Cable arrives as the indesputable fact that, despite all the time travelling/reality jumping knowledge that would contradict his opinion; this must be the original recipe Cap, and not a man from another time or dimension.
This is the one true Captain America. Victorious, as he, Bucky and Cable regroup, only to watch Cable slip away through the timesteam, back to where he belongs. Or at least the next best thing - the Marvel Universe. *snort*

The hammer...
Score one to the anti-registration heroes.Captain America and Cable pick up the victory, with the assist from girl-Bucky!

Jokes aside for a moment, I've got to be honest: I don't hate Rob Liefeld.
He's probably not an artistic force I rate very highly, but honestly, I was never a big mutant reader, so New Mutants/X-Force was lost on me, and I didn't see the appeal in the Image launch. So, really, I haven't had to have a lot to do with the guy.

I think it is irrefutable that the guy has faults.
I have to highlight one such artistic fault here, which actually isn't too jarring in the context of this issue, but is still just a little disturbing from a page-to-dollar ratio.

There are a lot of splash pages.
I'm not talking Bendis and Finch on New Avengers, either. This is... This is pretty bad. This is the kind of thing that would make a pretty compelling argument against the guy from an overall perspective.

Grabbing a random recent purchase, here's how Liefeld's issue compares to a contemporary book written by Allan Heinberg, and pencilled by Jim Cheung:

Young Avengers #12 (2006)
Double page splash: 2
Double page layout: 0
Full page splash: 4
Three quarter splash: 2
Advertising: 4
General layout: 16 (8)
Recap/letters page: 2
Captain America #6 (1997)
Double page splash: 8
Double page layout: 2
Full page splash: 5
Three quarter splash: 2
Advertising: 17
General layout: 6
Recap/letters page: 0

The issue I happened to choose, Young Avengers, should be noted for making very good use of fullpage splashes, and managing to cram a great deal of very cleanly told story telling into each layout. I'm actually exceptionally impressed by YA, which has perhaps an uncommon ratio of splashes, but still puts together a strong story -- AND has a Masked Marvel eight page back-up.

While Liefeld's Captain America reads a fun battle, the ratio of story telling and comic is pretty disgraceful. Ignoring the back-end clogging of previews and in-house advertising, you have six pages dedicated to more traditional panel layouts.
That's utilizing just a quarter of dedicated comic to tell the story, with the rest dedicated solely to very nineties extreme action comic.

As I said earlier, it actually reads pretty well, and isn't overly jarring, but this is a disturbing trait for a comic, and highlights how far comics have come.
Likewise, I should probably commend Marvel for it's efforts to cut back on advertising, which was slowly enveloping publications which just aren't getting any cheaper!

So, what do I have to say about Loeb?
Well, likewise, I don't buy into the Loeb hate. Actually, overall, I probably rate the guy pretty highly on my list of writers, and don't think he should be tarnished by association, just because Liefeld has an exaggerated pencil style, and light reading approach.

The Fight: 4.5 The Issue: 3.5

NEXT: This time around it's Iron Man's turn to team-up with a future ally in the Civil War. I'll give you a clue: he does whatever a spider can!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

MONTHLY PUNCH-UP #8 (August, 2006)
One can't help but feel Secret Earths has waned a little in the effort to get back up-to-date, and the monthly punch-ups in particular have really been kinda phoned in.

This month [figuratively speaking], I thought it might be nice to try something different. Something a little more than some ranting and lists.

Unfortunately I've just run headlong into some serious computer problems, so in the interest of moving forward and getting everything up to date, you'll have to cut me some slack and take the usual crapuscular listings.

Not a lot of movement this month as we return to only four installments a month. If things can get back up to date, and Friday entries return, you can imagine how the monthly top five might heat up, but as we go, the top five is slowly establishing itself away from the pack.

Efforts from Batman further solidify his lead over the rest of the superheroes, while two top tenners from last month, Wolverine and Daredevil, go head to head in a battle to separate.

#1 Batman (-) (8) (DC comics)
Batman continues his dominance with another brief victory.
At this point Batman has been featured in less entries than Hulk, Superman and Wolverine, but has maintained an undefeated streak that has kept him on top of the table.

Batman's becoming a more vulnerable hero again under the watchful eye of comics' rockstar, Grant Morrison, who's drawing his inspiration from a time when Batman was a hairy chested love God.
Dealing with lighter, superhero orientated stories, Batman may find himself a soft target in the coming months. There's a chance those stories might find their way onto Secret Earths, but for the time being, Batman is unstoppable.

- Batman versus Captain America (May 15, 2006)
- Batman versus Bullseye (May 22, 2006)
- Batman, Nightwing & Robin versus Two-Face (July 21, 2006)

#2 Daredevil (+3) (7) (Marvel comics)
Early in competition Daredevil was Batman's nearest rival, and again he takes the number two spot after picking up victory over Wolverine.
Despite the victory, DD remains in the thick of things with the pack forming a few fights away from Batman.

Ed Brubaker's superb Daredevil, continuing on in the tradition of Brian Michael Bendis, has burst out of hard jailtime, and looks to be setting DD up for some fisticuffs abroad.
One of my favourite street level characters is heading into the mix, as Tombstone finds his way to Paris on the heels of ol' horn head.

The last time I saw Tombstone was as a victim of Hydra in Millar's Enemy of the State storyline, but it looks like this time it's a speaking role for Tomby. If I can get my hands on these issues, you can be guaranteed they'll find their way here soon enough.
That might be good for Daredevil, or it might be bad...

- Daredevil versus Turk (March 10, 2006)
- Daredevil versus Hulk (June 19, 2006)
- Daredevil versus Wolverine (July 07, 2006)

#3 Hulk (-1) (2) (Marvel comics)
An inactive Hulk slips down the list, to the surprise of noone.
After rampaging into the list with an entire month dedicated to him, it's unlikely that we'll see the Hulk in the immediate future, but for the time being he's dug himself in deep.

Planet Hulk has been going for roughly eight months now, and while it revolves around a concept perfectly suited for Secret Earhts, the lack of recognisable supporting characters has turned me off.
That, coupled with a lacklustre decade for Hulk, really doesn't set mean and green in a likely position for climbing.

If the promised World War Hulk storyline revolves around the return it possibly insinuates, then things might turn around. Otherwise, these are colourful, but uninspiring stories for Hulk, that aren't winning him points.

- Hulk versus The Thunderbolts (June 12, 2006)
- Hulk versus Daredevil (June 19, 2006)
- Hulk versus Iron Man (June 26, 2006)

#4 Superman (-1) (3) (DC comics)
Superman returns to the top five, slipping another slot down.
Like Hulk, inactivity is the bane of Superman here, and with next month being dedicated to Marvel's Civil War, it's unlikely DC's heavy hitter will hold strong in the top five.

On a whim I picked up an issue of Superman and Action Comics, and if there's a distinct opinion I can take from that, it's that One Year Later provides very little in the way of specific direction for Superman.
Some speculation is apparent about whether or not this is the real Superman, or a repeat of his post-death, which saw various copycats assume the role.

I love Superman, and there's every chance I'll squeeze him in as a DC representitive, but right now there's very little putting big blue in the big show.

- Superman & Hulk versus Metallo (May 22, 2006)
- Superman & Hulk versus Moleman (May 22, 2006)
- Superman versus Captain Marvel (June 23, 2006)

#5 Wolverine (-1) (5) (Marvel comics)
Wolverine rounds out the count, providing a springboard for Daredevil to leapfrog to second position, after an Enemy of the State victory.

Marvel comics seem to have arrived in a refreshing position where Wolverine isn't driving any of the major plots. Thus far, despite being an Avenger and X-Man, his involvement in Civil War has been kept fairly minimal.

Wolvie has been content with tracking the wanted villain, Nitro, with the intent of carving himself some payback. Fortunately for us, it seems apparent Atlantis has different ideas, and if I can get my hands on it, you can be sure we'll be seeing a Wolverine/Namor rematch, where I won't judge as harshly. [See; New Invaders #6]
Otherwise, expect quiet things from Wolverine. His time in the top five might be over for the time being, as other more prevelent presences make themselves known.

- Wolverine versus Killer Croc (May 22, 2006)
- Wolverine versus Deathstrike (May 26, 2006)
- Wolverine versus Daredevil (July 07, 2006)

Now, if you've been with us over the last few months, you'll have noticed the top ten creators in the side bar. It's been running there off to the side for a while now, but because I'm so inefficient with the publishing buttons, there's no snapshot of the list, so, I thought it might be a nice time to at least acknowledge the creators current.

Because of we're a character driven website, there's very little point in speculating the emergence of creators. This is really just a sideshow to the character scoring, and thus, hopefully you'll make do with lists.
If you'd like to see the creator entry elaborated on, drop a comment and let us know!


1. Claudio Castellini
2. Frank Miller
3. Dan Jurgens
4. John Romita Jr
5. Doug Mahnke
1. Ron Marz
2. Judd Winick
3. Frank Miller
4. Warren Ellis
5. Peter David

Friday entries may be gone, but the idea to categorize entries by commonality or theme remains. After ending this month with a commentary on Civil War [Fantastic Four #129], it seems only fitting then that August feature a Civil War theme!

We'll open the month with some flashback team-ups that predate some of the alliances we're seeing now, and then round out the month with a spotlight on the rivalry developing between the most senior of the heroes.
And with that, we segue nicely into the speculative section of the rankings:

#10 Captain America (-1) (Marvel comics)
We've talked and teased at it over the past few months, but this is it. Cap's returned to the top five is all but a done deal.
Cap and his anti-registration Secret Avengers have really embodied the protagonist's point-of-view, so there's a tendency to favour his group. Cap's stock certainly has to have gone up as a result of the mini.

I wouldn't be surprised if I'm tempted to include Cap above and beyond August.

#11 Iron Man (-1) (Marvel comics)
Likewise, Iron Man represents the flipside of the debate, and will no doubt find himself giving Cap a run for his US dollar. Also boosting IM stock is the announcement of Robert Downey Jr. as the lead in an upcoming feature film.
This tangible piece of information drives him the reality of the picture, and should be very interesting. I think I'd actually go with the crowd, and marvel at the astute casting. Should be very interesting.

#22 Mr. Fantastic (-1) (Marvel comics)
Reed Richards has by no means been particularly active on the battle field, but behind the scenes he has been making a lot of decisions that have a lot of people talking. Among his efforts, a government sanctioned prison located within the Negative Zone, to house heroes opposing registration.

This is a fairly unprecedented move on Mr. Fantastic's part, and is tearing his team apart. Thing has opted for neutrality, Human Torch was the first public casualty, and Invisible Woman has turned to sympathise with Captain America's heroes.
It's a very interesting time for ol' stretcho.

#30 Spider-man (-) (Marvel comics)
It's taken some time, but unlike Cap and shell head, Spider-man roughly represents the middle of the conflict. As of recent issues of Amazing Spider-man, he's converted from the pro-team, to the anti-team, completing the shift.
The decision was somewhat telegraphed by preview covers, but ultimately Spidey will probably improve for it. There's probably a legitimate question about his characterization.

Spidey is also one of the most recognisable names in comics, and yet has been drastically under utilized on Secret earths. In fact, as it stands, his clone ranks twenty-two rungs higher.
Loved featuring Sandman [Fantastic Four #129, again], and look forward to getting more Spidey in the mix in the future. Especially with rumors of a black costume return.

NR Iron Fist (-) (Marvel comics)
As one of the core members of Captain America's Secret Avengers, and with a mini-series that looks fantastic on the horizon, Iron Fist might make his overdue debut on Secret Earths, despite featuring on a previous banner.
Operating under the guise of Daredevil has cast Iron Fist straight back into the spotlight, where he really hasn't been in quite some time, despite Luke Cage's elevation in status.

I'm looking forward to things to come from Iron Fist, and have high hopes for his new solo series.

That about wraps it up for July. As indicated by the new banner, I'm still lagging behind the present, but doing my best to maintain a readership with updates.
The problms I'm having with my computer are really kicking my ass, particularly where using Blogspot is concerned, but I'm going to endeavour to keep the hits coming, and appreciate your hits.

We're in October, and as is tradition I've lined up October's featured issues, and taken note of the hit count. Hopefully I can get back to current posting before Christmas!

Comments are few and far between, and maybe the format here doesn't lend itself to them, but it'd be great to hear from anyone reading.
Otherwise, I'm with Cap! Cheers!

NEXT: Pre-Civil War team up action!
July Hit Count: 1621* (+239)

* Hit count was recorded July 31. Hits for July posts may be reflected in September count.