Friday, September 29, 2006

Bullseye Rules Supreme! (Marvel comics)
Daredevil #132 When: April 1976
Why: Marv Wolfman How: Bob Brown & Klaus Janson

The story so far...
There's a deadly new mercenary in town, and he calls himself Bullseye.
His guarantee is that he never misses, and thus far he's lived up to the name.

Looking for publicity and money, Bullseye indulges Daredevil in combat, to enhance his already growing reputation. Thanks to newspapers like the Daily Bugle, Bullseye's reputation is going national.

Having lured Daredevil to the circus, Bullseye plans to make further headlines at the expensive of a certain blind vigilante.

Previous Form:
Daredevil (#4): Daredevil has victories over Wolverine and Bullseye, and has tustled with the Hulk.
Bullseye (#163): Bullseye has suffered defeat at the hands of Daredevil and Elektra, as well as Batman and Robin.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Daredevil 3 (Trained Athlete)
Intelligence: Bullseye 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Daredevil 4 (Olympic Sprinter)
Stamina: Daredevil 5 (Marathon Runner)
Agility: Daredevil 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting Ability: Daredevil 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy Powers: Bullseye 4 (Arsenal)

I think it's always interesting when we feature classic rivalries, particularly the encounters that perhaps are not the best known.
Obviously something like Daredevil #181 is a high profile encounter for these two, known as the issue that killed Elektra.

This meeting is much earlier in the careers of both characters, but lays some of the groundwork for what would eventually become one of the most intereting feuds in comic book history.

Like a lot of rivalries, these two are incredibly well matched.

What Daredevil has in physical ability and enhanced senses, Bullseye makes up for in cunning and skill. They are as different as they are similar, each deadly in their own ways.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about these two is that Bullseye has had the better of DD plenty of times. Bullseye slips through Daredevil's fingers, and even manages to take a couple of his girls, and dish out some punishment to hornhead himself.

We could look at the traits of each character more specifically.
Examine Bullseye's marksmanship, which, in a perfect world makes him unbeatable in the same way DD's ninja stealth might make him the ultimate killer.

Neither scenario is realistic.
Overall, odds favour the hero, and Daredevil is certainly the more apt fighter of the two. Bullseye is a wildcard, but you can only play that so often.

Overall: Daredevil (+1)
The Pick: Daredevil

What went down...
We jump straight into the action -- Bullseye juggling three bowling pins. Daredevil verbalising his situation. Why the hell not?

Bullseye whips pin after pin, DD narrowly avoid each as he nimbly leaps his way to the top of a circus cage. [If you somehow missed it, they're fighting at the circuis. - Ringmaster Mike]

The villain snatches a whip away from one of the nearby animal trainers who is doing jackshit to stop this maniac, whose back is turned -- and uses it to snare DD's leg as he tries to leap to the highwire.

Daredevil tries to maneuver acrobatically to lessen the impact, but he still winds up taking a bellyflop into the dirt below. A fall that wrenches his arm, and generally roughs him up pretty bad.

Bullseye feels somewhat disatisfied with the outcome, as Daredevil lies winded on the dirty circus floor.
Rather than go in for the rather simple kill, he accosts a woman riding an elephant, and rides it in the direction of Daredevil. An attack that is apparently designed to give DD a sporting chance.

Daredevil performs a rather spectacular handspring that propels him out of the path of the rampaging elephant, atop which his nemesis is perched.

Bullseye leaps from the behemoth and heads for the canon, where the human cannonball has apparently been asleep at the post, because he has no idea what's going on; "Hey! Whattaya think you're doin'?"
Clearly didn't notice the RAMPAGING ELEPHANT!

The master marksman takes control of the cannon, and does not disappoint, sending the human ammunition hurtling directly into Daredevil.

This apparently seems like an opportune moment for Bullseye to scale a ladder that leads to the one hundred and twenty foot diving platform.
Daredevil, though injured, follows in hot pirsuit, conscious of the fact that he must hide his injuries from his ruthless enemy.

His injuries prove to be the last of his worries, as Bullseye uses a conveniently unattended bag of rosin as a projectile weapon that promises to suffocate Daredevil as the bag explodes, and the contents within cling to his face.

Bullseye Tarzans it out of there, and DD manages to clear the deadly powder in time to narrowly avoid suffocation, before again taking pirsuit.

Taking one of the cartridges from his hip, Bullseye reveals that they power a special sonic powered gun he uses to fire deadly blasts. A blast he uses to create super heated steam from the 120ft dive pool.

The steam provides sufficient distraction for Bullseye to make an exit, and promise encounters yet to come to Daredevil. The pawn of his enemy, who sought only to put on sufficient enough a spectacle to garner impressive publicity.
Truly a modern villain!

The hammer...
Well, that was a pretty comprehensive win for Bullseye!
Helluva way to start a rivalry.

It's somewhat amusing to look at the stark contrast between this early encounter between the two characters, and more recent versions under the diligent pen of Frank Miller or Brian Michael Bendis.
The arc of the two characters is truly startling.

What reads like an episode of the nineteen sixties Batman series, completely with rampaging elephant and circus bigtop, evolves into the gritty urban drama that we more instantly recognise.

It's interesting to note the vulnerability of the Daredevil charcater, even here. By issue's end he does find retribution by defeating the foe, which is fairly traditional story writing -- but the degree to which he is defeated earlier is a sign of things to eventually come.

Part of what's delayed updates has been progress on my own career as a comics writer, and my own projects.
Something that's been of particular interest to myself and pencilling dynamo Pedro Cruz, is the potential of human frailties and vulnerabilities.

The character I'm writing, the White Ghost, is not unlike a Daredevil.
A relatively normal human being in a costume that fights in urban settings against a psuedo-realistic backdrop. Something I've found, and this was Pedro's observation, is that what we're doing is exploring some of the more base qualities, and doing so with a bit of a sense of humor.

This is perhaps in contrast to Daredevil, which under Miller and Smith and Bendis have really been about pushing a character to the very extremes of angst, and loss, and failure.

To get back to the point, it's just very interesting to even look back at this 1976 issue of Daredevil -- which reeks of a lot of what wasn't spectacular about DD, but still recognise some of these traits that have stamped the character into the minds of comic fans everywhere.

Also interesting to note inks/finishes by Klaus Janson.
Every now and then I forget just how many places he pops up away from Miller.

The Fight: 2.5 The Issue: 3

NEXT: The monthly punch-up, and more on my fledgling comics career! Plus regular features - Quick Fix! Top 5 and more!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Holy Sacrifice (Marvel comics)
The Mighty Thor #465 When: August 1993
Why: Ron Marz How: Bruce Zick

The story so far...
When Adam Warlock took possession of the Infinity Gauntlet, he sought to attain ultimate indifference of judgment by expelling evil and good from his body.
These portions became the beings known as The Goddess and The Magus, respectively.

Though the Goddess was borne of good, she sought resolution against a sinful universe. Thus, she reached out to those mighty and of faith, and gathered them as her army against evil, and those who did not believe.

Though much of the Skrull race was persuaded by the Goddess' touch, the Super-Skrull was not so easily manipulated. Disgusted by the mania of peace that had been bestowed upon his people, he sets out on a mission of war.
A mission that would bring him into conflict with one of the Goddess' most powerful followers -- The Mighty Thor!

Previous Form:
Thor (#17): Thor's most notable opponent to date was Captain Marvel, from the DC Universe.
Super-Skrull: Super-Skrull has not yet been featured on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Thor 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Super-Skrull 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Draw 3 (Trained Athlete)
Stamina: Thor 6 (Generator)
Agility: Super-Skrull 6 (Rubber)
Fighting Ability: Thor 6 (Warrior)
Energy Powers: Thor 6 (Mass Destruction)

Well, if it came down to being awesome, I think Super-Skrull would have this one.

The stats are really rather interesting. With the exception of agility, I've actually rated each of these characters exactly the same. The reason either/or is selected is purely a matter of supremacy within the parameters of the rating.

Obviously Super-Skrull's elasticity, a trait inspired by Reed Richards, gives him a numerical edge, but in combat this ability may serve to be little more than a distraction.

Thor is a God. There just aren't any two-ways about that.
Super-Skrull is the product of Skrull science, and certainly a truly impressive specimen, but Thor is a God. There's just something about that simple fact that really should tip the scales in favour of Thor, regardless of anything.

Of course, Gods can be quite subjective.
One wouldn't imagine the God of cheese would necessarily be very effective in combat. Unless perhaps he were to seduce his foe with a salty little number, and then knock them down with something that smells like unwashed feet. Hmmm...

Anyway, the point stands. Thor is a God, and a warrior God at that.
Though oft depicted as something of a dimwit, he has led Norse armies in strategic combat with many troll menace, and over time even proved to be worthy of the Odin power.

Super-Skrull is always going to put up a tough fight.
With powers comparable to the combined might of the Fantastic Four, as well as his own Skrull guile and military wits, he is a formidable foe. In this case, however, I think his ticket might be had.

Overall: Super-Skrull (+4)
The Pick: Thor

What went down...
So, Super-Skrull is flying through space going to kill The Goddess. Just minding his own business, when all of a sudden -- KRUUNK!
Mjolnir out of freaking nowhere!

Super-Skrull takes a second to come to his senses, and it's then that Thor makes his intentions known. Sent by Moondragon, also under Goddess' spell, Thor intends to punish Super-Skrull for being a non-believer.

Thor tosses his mighty hammer once more, which Super-Skrull dodges with ease thanks to his fantastic elastic powers. The dodge is almost non chalant, as the Skrull warrior hovers bug-eyed - stunned that Thor has succumed to the Goddess' charms.

Surprise soon fades, replaced by concern, and then by fury, as the enhanced Skrull seeks to enforce his will to fulfill his objective.

Thor wraps himself in his flowing red cape, surviving the barrage of flames as any good warrior God should.
He returns verbal assault, professing his own zealous beliefs in combat to the Super-Skrull's unwillingness to believe. But as he does, the Super-Skrull fades from sight!

Where other counterparts may have the edge to locate the invisible Super-Skrull, Thor is at the mercy of a stealthy super strong attack.

Kl'rt tosses the Norse God over his shoulders, and follows up with a barrage of rock-fisted rights and lefts. He batters Thor with each crushing blow, using his elastic body to ensure space does not carry the God into it's distant gulfs.

The verbal battery that accompanies Kl'rt's physical assault stirs Thor to action, and he catches the clubbing fist that struck down upon him - and with the aid of Mjolnir, shows the heretic what a real hit feels like.

Super-Skrull unravels, and quickly shifts his elastic arms into a strangling assault, lacing his arms with flames.
Thor struggles under the pressure and heat, but as has been the case many times before, it is Mjolnir that proves crucial to victory.

The mystic bolt leaps forth from Mjolnir, and fries even the tensile tissue of the rubbery Super-Skrull!

Unconscious and caught by floating meteor debris, Super-Skrull lies at the mercy of the zealot, Thor. Only by the intervention of Moondragon is Super-Skrull saved, as she delivers the message that Goddess is satisfied that the heretic has been pacified.

The hammer...
Well, I bitterly declare Thor the victor.
I don't know of a lot of people who like Super-Skrull, so he's kinda one of those characters I consider one of my boys. He loses first time up... It's Namor all over again.

Anyway, I'm three months behind again on updates, so forgive me if I'm brief.

This was actually a pre-schedulde entry that still managed to grab my attention. Obviously Super-Skrull and Thor are a part of that. Also it's a pretty good self-contained, one-on-one fight, which is perfect for this here site.

Also, there's something about Bruce Zick's art I really like.
Which is odd, because he's not what I'd really call a cutting edge, or master artist. I think a lot of it has to do with Mike DeCarlo's thick, uncompromising inks. Black and relatively certain, when they aren't following the less necessary lines in Zeck's pencils.

Zeck kinda dances between deliciously simple, stylized lines that I find very attractive. While also falling into dimensionally ugly shapes, that almost look like a lethargic Jack Kirby.

On the writing side of things, Ron Marz buys his way further into the top creator spot with a Super-Skrull appearance.
Really, this is probably the kind of issue that highlights what is so wrong with crossovers that force themselves on monthlies. Though not actually numbered as such, this Blood & Thunder prologue does little more than phone-in a villain of the month roadstop.

Sadly this issue lacks even the experimental nature of some more contemporay issues that fall into this same category. The Super-Skrull remains relatively two-dimensional, exploring his capabilities and motives in only the most superficial, and relevent ways. Ways that have already been canonized decades previous.

I was a huge fan of the things done in the Annihilation Super-Skrull mini-series, where Kl'rt is really fleshed out and explored in exciting new ways. His inherent Skrull ruthlessness combines with the powers of the Fantastic Four in new and interesting ways, while even themes that appear in this comic are built upon.
Themes of Kl'rts many failures dealt by the Earth heroes, and his deminished stature as a champion all make for a very interesting tale of a jaded jade warrior.

Marz doesn't come close to that, but this still remains a truly fun read.
Coming before the full fledged barrage of Blood & Thunder issues, I probably rate this as being even better. It's the fun of a superhero space slugfest, without too many strings attached.

The Fight: 4 The Issue: 3.5

Friday, September 15, 2006

Oil and Gold (Marvel comics)
Iron Man #302 When: March 1994
Why: Len Kaminski How: Kevin Hopgood

The story so far...
What happens when you take a billionaire industrialist, and add a deranged killing machine who considers himself a 'lethal protector'?

Recent corporate decisions have brought Tony Stark to the attentions of the alien symbiote wielding anti-hero called Venom, and he wants blood.

Believing Stark to be little more than a cancerous pollup, fleecing hard-working innocents of their hard-earned dollars; Venom makes the march to Stark Tower to get a piece of hard justice.

Previous Form:
Iron Man (#4): Iron Man has gained victories over the likes of the Hulk, Captain America and Diablo.
Venom (#59): Venom has not yet participated in a conclusive battle.
Spider-man: Wearing the black symbiote, Spider-man aided Jim Rhodes in defeating Backlash.

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

First off, I just have to acknowledge how bizarre a combination this is.
Six degrees of Spider-man connect these guys quite directly, particularly in a world post-Civil War, but otherwise there's just no connection here. Which is probably what makes it so enjoyable.

Venom's statistics probably don't highlight how formidable a foe he is, even for Iron Man. While his strength and abilities are perhaps not as potent as the Iron Man armor, Venom still weighs in somewhere around the second or third tiers.

The irony of the stats is that Iron Man could very easily defeat Venom based on some of his simpler tools, even things as base as sonic radar.
That said, being so unfamiliar with Venom as a foe, it's entirely reasonable to expect Iron Man to overlook this kind of specific solution, and instead engage in more direct combat.

Conflicted: As much as he enjoyed his physical comedy stylings as Kramer, can Venom allow Michael Richards to go unpunished?Under those circumstances, Iron Man should still come out the victor relatively comfortably. However, Venom's capacity to barrel his opponents over with sheer strength and aggressions should not be overlooked.
The right kind of front-on attack could easily see the armor peeled open like a very expensive sardine can, leaving Venom to feast on the gooey goodness contained within.

Overall: Iron Man 31 (+7)
The Pick: Iron Man

What went down...
Having burst into one of the many highrise properties owned by Stark Industries, Venom has few bones about leaping all over his intended prey, and popping his head like an overgrown zit.

Fortunately for us, this decapitation reveals a ruse the likes of which would make even Victor Von Doom proud... If he hadn't done it a hundred times before, infidel!
The robotic LMD [Life Model Decoy - Mick Fury] serves only to stir Venom's rage further, but he remains clear of mind enough to deduce that "corporate scum" would probably be in the penthouse, if not the office.

A couple of broken windows later, Venom is again upon our moustached hero -- this time for real!

It's funny because he's crippled.This is the period when Stark was largely housebound, having one of his frailer moments. Which means Tony's a hoverchair bound sitting duck when Venom comes looking for a late lunch.

A bit of quick thinking sees Stark using his chair as a projectile, which nails Venom with such force, it sends him hurtling through the brickwork!

At a slow crawl, Stark makes his way to the express elevator -- commando style!
Still feeling the effects of his near-death experiences, Stark heads for the armory, but Venom is lurking not far behind.
Coming back in the way he went out, Venom is right at the elevator doors as they slam shut.

The symbiote powered anti-hero makes little work, tearing and mangling the doors, before descending down the shaft: "Going down: Men's shirts... House-wares... And dismembered corpses!"

Uh-oh Tone, I think he means you!
"There's a word for what you are now, Stark: Spam."
Yep, he definitely means you!

With the elevator holding up until they reach sub-level 3, Stark crawls his way through his identification systems, as Venom finally begins to rip his way through, moving at a stroll like any good horror villain. Another set of big metal doors coming between stalker and prey, just in the nick of time!

Clawing at the doors, Venom is hurled backward as they blow out!
There, standing amongst the smoke and rubble is the symbol of hope and capitalism - gleaming like an golden angel -- IRON MAN!

Venom recovers and fires webbing over the eyeslats of the armor, forcing Tony to go to ultrasound viewscans. Thus, Venom inadvertantly brings IM a moment of the upperhand!

LITTLE KNOWN FACT: Iron Man's ultrasound visuals are actually generated by high frequency output of his own personal Enya playlist.
Unfortunately for Iron Man, the low frequency device is not enough to directly assault Venom, sending him into a deranged frenzy.

With the webbing away from his eyes, Iron Man holsters the red muleta, as Venom pins him to the ground.
"You're crunchy on the outside -- chewy on the inside!," Venom taunts.

Apparently tired of his foul mouth, Iron Man snatches Venom's wagging, saliva laced tongue and channels an electrical charge through his gauntlet.

If you want to confront evil, Venom... Explain your involvement in the nineties!Whilst verbally defending himself, he throws a punch to back up his strong words, sending the symbiote clad maniac through various generic set pieces.

A barrage of repulsor rays keep Venom pinned down, while Stark attempts to turn the psychological fight around. He accues Venom of being the very evil he claims to police, via his own demented ideals.

"You want to confront evil, Venom -- Take a good long look in the mirror."

Though Venom doth protest, he does so too much.
The psychological blows prove to be the most effective, and the psycho agrees to give Stark length of rope long enough to hang himself.

With that, Venom retreats into the shadows, and Stark lets him go, too weak to have a hope of giving chase.

Next time, Gadget. Next time...The hammer...
Well, given that Venom really left of his own accord after giving Iron Man a pretty tough time of it. I think the best I can do here is call it a draw.
On points I'd probably go Venom, but gosh darn it. Gotta give IM something for effort.

It's been about three or four weeks since I last updated, I think.
I had a big tidy recently, and when I dragged my crammed longboxes out again to see what I might find, this was the gem that popped up. Well, actually, this was the second gem, after Ironman #259 - the issue I was actually looking for.

I decided to scrap the original issue planned for this entry, just to get a post done on enthusiasm. Yes, that's right. I was enthusiastic about a comic from the mid-nineties that featured Venom in an obtuse guest appearance.

The crazy thing about what Len Kaminski does here is not the mere inclusion of the guest character. It's the fact that, beneath the fairly typical execution, lies a sound concept!

One of the things that has me most jazzed about Sam Raimi's inclusion of Venom in the upcoming Spider-man movie is the nature of the character. Though often portrayed more as a psychopathic anti-hero, Venom has the basic fundamentals of a really scary, horror style menace.
This applies even moreso where Spider-man is concerned, with one of Venom's most deadly qualities being the fact that he has Peter Parker's entire history on tap.

Couple that with supreme camouflage abilities, spidey-sense immunity, super strength, and all those other wacky powers -- and Venom becomes a pretty frightening prospect.

It's interesting then to see the character's distorted mobility used as the driving force for a chase comic, like this particular issue of Iron Man.
Like many comics featured on Secret Earths, it's not going to win any awards, but it's a fun a propsect.

Despite Venom's ultimate warning, I don't think the comics ever had him cross swords with Iron Man again. Which, in a way, is a bit of a shame.
Villain-of-the-week appearances like this really didn't help sustain the interest in the character, and highlight some of the missteps taken in the nineties as the character was finding his way in the Marvel world.

I guess an ironic conclusion to this entry is the current course being taken in Civil War. The contrast of Stark's character aside, Mac Gargan is among the villains being employed by Iron Man and the registration crew.
Mac Gargan, better known as Scorpion, has been in posession of the venom symbiote for the last year or two.

The Fight: 4 The Issue: 4.5

NEXT: Whatever tickles my fancy!

Friday, September 08, 2006

What if... Minion had not killed Death's Head? (Marvel comics)
What if...? #54 When: October, 1993
Why: Simon Furman How: Geoff Senior

The story so far...
History is told by those who survive it, but within the cosmos exist an ancient alien race known as The Watchers. It is their duty to spend the eons witnessing and noting history, swarn to watch, but never to act.

Uatu, Earth's Watcher, is privvy to countless realities where each imaginable alternative is played out in vivid detail.

In our reality the cybernetic creature Minion killed Death's Head, and in doing so assimilated his personality, which eventually assumed dominance over the Minion host body.
In another world, however, a split second skips. A finger hits a teleportation switch. And Minion, unappeased, moves on to the next name on his list: #106 - Reed Richards.

Recommended reading:
Marvel Adventures #12: The Fantastic Four did battle with their sinister counterparts, the Frightful Four.
Civil War #3: Captain America leas his Secret Avengers into overwhelming odds, in much the same circumstances over in Civil War.
Neither Death's Head nor Charnal have been featured on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Thing 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Charnal 5 (Professor)
Speed: Sub-Mariner 3 (Trained Athlete)
Stamina: Charnal 7 (Unstoppable)
Agility: Captain America 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting Ability: Captain America 6 (Warrior)
Energy Powers: Human Torch 7 (Solar Power)

If you're looking at the stats there, you might be wondering if I've mixed something up. Well, honestly, Death's Head versus Charnal is something of a misnomer, because Death's Head has jumped back through the time stream to assemble an awesome force of heroic muscle.

Individually they are some of the most prominent heroes in the Marvel Unvierse, but together they are one of the most unlikely collections of chartered Avengers one has ever seen. Not only that - like any group who lose one of their own, they're none to pleased about the death of Reed Richards.

Bruce Banner hogged a lot of the press, but if there's something we've learned in the past, it's that you do not want to make Susan Storm angry!
You would most certainly not like her when she's angry, BDSM masochists withstanding.

Couple that with two old-time heavy hitters in the Sub-Mariner and Captain America; three of Marvel's first family, the Fantastic Four; and two promising contemporary young guns in Cage and War Machine... What villain would be insane enough to go up against them?

This is an alternate reality story, based upon the British UK future comics, whose canonical status is debatable. So, there are a few inherent difficulties that arise here.
It's hard to say whether the insane-enough villain here is Minion, Charnal or something all together different. Apparently Charnal was the prophecized evolution of the original Death's Head's body, mystically enfused with Baron Von Strucker's mind. In our universe Death's Head seized control of Minion's body, and became Death's Head II, and helped defeat the menace of Charnal.

In this world Charnal is instead Minion; post-the death and assimilation of Reed Richards, and again enfused mystically with the evil of Baron Strucker. By no means the true Charnal, but still quite scary none the less...

It's a tough call to say who should win here.
A collection as impressive as the heroes gathered to face Charnal is always difficult to bet against, but that's without taking into account the sheer power at the disposal of Minion. His character is such that he adapts to compensate for weakness, and so the same trick is said to never work twice.
With a guy like that, it's everything or nothing.

Given the circumstances, you'd be mad to go against the heroes, but this one will by no means be a gimme! Also... I'm sweltering hot because the air conditioning can't be repaired until Thursday, so... Cut me some slack.

Average: Charnal 31 (+6.87)
Overall: Death's Head 193 (+162)
The Pick: Death's Head

What went down...
We join the battle right in the thick of things, as Captain America leads the troops in to an intelligence gathering exercise. I have to say two things straight off the bat:
- This story is not for the incredibly squeamish, or sentimental.
- This is actually one of the few stories in recent years that writes superhero Captain America like a competent, vocal military strategist. Go Cap!

So, anyway... War Machine dumps both barrels on Charnal, as Thing literally punches through his torso, producing a rather fetching salmon pink splatter. So it's still alright for the kiddies.
The veterans are in the mix too. Cap deflecting energy blasts from the creature's fist with his shield, while the Sub-Mariner comes around the back for a swooping attack.

Charnal is able t oswat the Thing away, sending him careening into an abandoned building, but the Sub-Mariner arrives in time for a WW2 double team, nailing Charnal from behind while Cap takes the jaw with a mighty toss of his shield!

War Machine dives in for crums, unloading everything available at point blank range - but Charnal proves just how tough he is by not only taking it, but also slicing through the War Machine armor with his axe-like fist!

The team continue their coordinated assault with the Human Torch coming in for a nova attack, while Luke Cage, resisting the heat thanks to his super durable skin, ties Charnal up in a full nelson so Sue Storm can make her move.
The woman scorned uses her invisible force fields to pop Charnal from the inside, creating various bursting cavaties of salmony goodness.

Cap swoops in, ever aware of the entire battle, scooping Sue Storm in his stride, as Thing comes back -- PISSED!
Thing brings the entire house down - literally - right on top of Charnal, ad the gang viewing from afar start the cheers. Prematurely, of course. What kind of an unstoppable killing machine would Charnal be if he went down that easy?

I'd recommend the fish of the day. It's quite fresh... FOR INVISIBLE WOMAN! HAH!Business really starts to pick up, as Charnal emerges from the rubble, acknowledging that the motley crew had succeeded..., "IN GETTING MY ATTENTION!"

Cap declares his intentions to take Charnal's head, but it's now that things start to go wrong.
Charnal catches the shield and manages to swing through it, tossing it in the general direction of Namor - decapitating him!*

It's now that Charnal's rampage really begins to pick up.
As the Human Torch swoops in for another attack, Charnal swings his head with eyes glowing, and asks the haunting question, "I wonder, Torch. Would you be so fond of that flame... If you could FEEL it?"
Then, like a moth to a flame, Johnny Storm is extinguished... Reduced to little more than a pile of smoldering ash.

It's War Machine's turn to take none to kindly to events, this time.
He topples Charnal with a hammering blow that is drawn so superbly, you actually feel the shock. It is a blow that no mere mortal could hope to survive, but Charnal is so much more, and so Rhodey suffers a similar fate.
Lifting his malformed axe-like hand, Charnal strikes forward, penetrating the eye slats of the War Machine's helmet.

I spy with my little e... OH SNAP!Another hero falls to his knees.

Then comes an ambush all too late from friends too angry to feel sad.
First Thing from the left, then Cage from the right. Then together, in unison, they strike a devestating blow to the gut of the beast, and tie up his arms. They mean to end it.

Sue Storm swoops for her attack once more, this time unrelenting -- but it is too little too late. Charnal scoffs her as he turns her powers against her friends -- her family, and then burns her to a crisp like he did her brother.

Thing has no innards! Ewww!Captain America - ever the bad ass - stands alone, prepared to fight the creature that is enfused with the mind of his old nemesis, Baron Von Strucker. He will fail.

Death's Head suits up with a gun that would make even Rob Lifeld blush, and fires into the field toward Charnal, and the lifeless corpse in his arm that wears the garb of Captain America.

Sarah Connor, yes?...FADOOM!
Death's Head follows it up with rapid fire succession, and walks onto the plane to face his smiling enemy. The creature who was destined to kill him in another time and place.

Death's Head extends a wrist mounted energy blade, and runs into battle firing.
He stabs deep into Charnal's chest, and follows it up with a gashing uppercut with his facial tusks.
Charnal continues to boast his superiority, putting serious distance between them with a devestating left.

The two mecha-creatures exchange barrage after barrage of fire, and Charnal finally starts to feel it.
Death's Head walks toward his enemy coldly, taking all the hits Charnal can dish out, before walking straight into a right hook, all the while challenging Charnal to finally tap into one of the 105 brilliant minds he's assimilated.

At close quarters, Death's Head drives a synaptic scrambler into Minion's mighty back. The disruption is brief, but provokes Charnal to tap into the most brilliant minds in the known-world.

Drawing upon their wisdom, Charnal sets out to inflict maximum pain on his counterpart, and with the killing blow in sight, an unlikely moment of hesitation... A moment Death's head capitalizes on - decapitating the AIM cyber beast.

When the embers settle and the smoke clears, Death's Head is left standing. Victorious in a future much brighter than our own. In a future where Mr. Fantastic has died, but had one final moment to live up to the moniker.

The hammer...
Well, it's about time for another first. While Death's Head leads his troops to an epic victory, his entire strategy was built on sacrificing his allies. Way to play the assist, guys!

Whoof! Well, that was a long one, so I certainly won't keep you too long.

Despite it taking me well over a week to actually get around to completing this update, I was actually really excited about it.
What if... has easily been one of my favourite titles for most of my comic reading life. Regardless of the insane fun that can be had peering in on alternate outcomes to critical events -- you're also guaranteed a varied and star studded read every month!

It was easily one of the most disappointing days in Marvel history when the second volume was finally cancelled in the late nineties. Way to go nineties, you soiled the legacy!

Sadly some of the more recent What if work has been more concept driven, and probably hasn't quite come up to par. As much as I love it as a fifth-week event, it jus hasn't been the same, and it seems abundantly clear that there's a narrow sighted approach to the concept.

This is a book that is essentially dedicated to alternate realities, which could potentially open up to be versatile enough to include all manner of stories -- like the recent Age of Apocalypse flashbacks, Exiles, Mutant X, the What If stories we have seen recently, and all manner of additionals.
It might even make a really great anthology series! Short stories, original concepts, a return to existing concepts. Lots that could be done there on a regular basis!

Anyway, I'm rambling, and this has been a long enough post as it is.
You'll notice categories at the bottom of each post. I upgraded to Beta, so hopefully this will aid any navigational needs, and generally enhance the blog.

I doubt I'll be doing daily posts in December, as I'm still trying to catch up. I know you're crushed.

The Fight: 6.5 The Issue: 5

NEXT: The Flash and Nightwing against the menace of Gorilla Grodd!

Friday, September 01, 2006

The Ties That Bind (Marvel comics)
Marvel Adventures #12 When: March, 1998
Why: Ralph Macchio How: Andy Kuhn

The story so far...
The evil mastermind of the Wizard has again begun plotting against the Fantastic Four, this time navigating micro-cameras into Reed Richards' inner scientific sanctum to spy on the team.

When the Human Torch appears to storm away, the Wizard sees it as the perfect opportunity to spring his newly trained Frightful Four into action.

Thus, he gathers the Trapster, Thundra and Sandman, and proceeds to place explosive devices throughout the business district that surrounds the FF headquarters. The Fantastic Three do their best to curb the violence, but succeed only in preventing further destruction.
When they return, they find their abode infiltrated.

Previous Form:
Fantastic Four #129: This very incarnation of the Frightful Four did battle with Thing and Medusa, in Thundra's first appearance.
Civil War #3: Thing, Mr. Fantastic and Invisible Woman were present at the confrontation between opposing sides in Civil War.
Fantastic Four #3: Reed Richards held his own against the Red Ghost and his Super Apes.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Thing 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Mr. Fantastic 6 (Genius)
Speed: Human Torch 3 (Trained Athlete)
Stamina: Thing 5 (Marathon Runner)
Agility: Sandman 7 (Unlimited)
Fighting Ability: Thundra 6 (Warrior)
Energy Powers: Human Torch 7 (Solar Power)

There's kind of a psuedo-technical element to this section with the stats, so I thought it might be nice to round out every week with an additional stat. As objective as I try to be every week, it just looks like I'm picking the winner all the time, so there's a nice little addition. With any luck the uber stats provided by the patented Haseloff system will eventually show the dichotomy of character strength versus standard.

ANYWAY -- A little arch-rivalry here in the form of the Fantastic Four versus their evil counterparts, the Frightful Four.

I don't know if you'd call this the classic group, but it's probably my favourite teaming of Frightul foes.
It's probably worth noting that this incarnation sort of has a counterpart overlap. With Thundra's chief function being super strength, Thing gets her by default, which means Sandman can be shuffled off to either Invisible Woman or Mr. Fantastic, who both have malleable powers. Although, Wizard is the natural nemesis of the team leader/genius, Reed Richards, so you can start to see the team's evolution.

Paste Pot Pete has never really struck me as a good fit, but I guess I like that. I'm not all that fond of the two-dimensional thought process that tells a villain, 'If I counter balance each of their powers, we're assured victory!'

Now, the smart bet might have the Trapster using his powers of entrapment to tangle with the forcefield yielding Invisible Woman - leaving the Sandman to douse the flame of the Human Torch. However, for whatever reasoning, Petey takes the hothead, with whom he's tangled previously, albeit to poor results.

The Sandman's versatility, combined with Thundra's presence does lend a pretty good argument for the Frightful quarter. However, particularly between those two strongarms, there's a lot of in-fighting. Thundra's allegiance to the group is one of convenience, which does tend to make her something of an X-factor.

The FF, while having their squabbles, are generally far superior than most opponents when it comes to being a cohesive unit. They also have a track record of regularly besting their villainous alternates.

I'm reticent to immediately throw it the way of the FF just because of past performance, but one does have to consider the strategic intelligence of each member of the Fantastic foursome. They all possess fairly respectable competence in the art of combat, and flow particularly well as a unit.

This juxtaposes the Frightful team, which are usually far better prepared, but dependent upon the precision planning of the Wizard. Even when they hold the superior advantage, the inability to ensure the prevention of variables is often their downfall.

Between these two teams it'll always be a close fight, but particularly in the Adventures book, you'd be mad to bet against the home team.

Average: The Fantastic Four 21.75 (+0.25)
Overall: The Fantastic Four 87 (+1)
The Pick: The Fantastic Four

What went down...
When the FF return from preventing mass destruction, they find their private Baxter Building elevator has been filled with since-hardened paste. Reed Richards is a smart fellow, so he understandably warns the team to be on their toes!

Unfortunately, when they crack their way in, and head up via the elevator, they find themselves on the ceiling, courtesy of a barrage of Wizard's anti-gravity discs.
The Trapster ensnares the trio in paste, rendering them helpless cargo.

Standing at the controls of Reed Richards' recently devised sub-spatial gateway, the Wizard gloats, revealing the details of his plan, whilst musing that Richards was not the challenge he posed in the past.
As he reaches for control panel, a burning jet of flame torches his hand -- and the Wizard is suddenly informed that it was he who was outsmarted!

Well aware that the Sandman had infiltrated his lair, Richards organized the charade of Human Torch's storm-out, and equipped him with a device capable of rendering the anti-gravity discs useless! Thus, it is indeed clobbering time!

The Trapster fires off a blast of paste, but the Torch is able to harden it in mid-air, and then uses his flame to severe the tubing that feeds Pete's solution into his dispersal gun.
The Torch floats on, leaving Trapster in a flame barred prison cage.

The Sandman tussles with the Invisible Woman, using his extensive sand particles to lace the floor and reveal the invisible foosteps of his foe.
He forms two massive sandstone blocks of his fists, and begins to bring them together in crushing formation, but Sue's invisible forcefields manage to protect her long enough for Human Torch to flare to blinding brightness.

With the Sandman blinded, Sue lets loose a barrage of invisible bubbles!
But... That is apparently ineffective, so Sandman quips, "my turn!," and turns his arm into a deadly stream of hurling sand!
Sue throws up an air-tight invisible wall, and begins pushing the Sandman back bit by bit, and continuing the tradition of super villain mental collapses, he begins to have a serious case of the clausterphobias.
Unable to take the thought of being imprisoned (again), Sandman collapses into a mess on the floor.

Meanwhile, whoa! Look at that!
Thing and Thundra butt heads, aaand... Thundra proceeds to whoop Thing's rocky ass!
A left to the jaw, an axe handle across the back, and then for a big finish, the warrior woman hoists Thing above her head... But lucky for Aunt Petunia's favourite nephew, Sue throws an invisible bubble around her head, forcing her to pass out.

Meanwhile, Mr. Fantastic is being bested by the Wizard and his electrified gauntlet.
Wizard makes his move, heading toward the controls of the sub-spacial gateway once more. Using the control he had pre-devised, Richards manipulates Wizard's anti-gravity discs to lift him away from the controls, but it's too late.

With the gateway activated, Wizard becomes like a father caught in an autumn breeze.
The weakened Mr. Fantastic does his best to stretch out to his nemesis, but finds himself instead caught in the vaccuum.
Quick thinking by Thing sees a makeshift harness devised, and he is able to dive into the universe and snare his best friend. The Wizard, however, continued to slip out of reach, a victim of his own devices, but sure to surface again.

"Y'know, I'm wonderin' what happened to them other three clowns. Guess they decided ta skedaddle while they could."
Right you are, Thing. Right you are.

The hammer...
The winners by victory or forfeit, depending on how you look at it, the Fantastic Four!

I think I mentioned during the JLU review [Justice League Unlimited #14] that it would be unlikely that you'd see me review another Adventures book.
Well, after doing the already oft referred to review of FF #129, this particular issue sprung immediately to mind.
By no means is it a landmark comic, nor is it even particularly memorable in the broadest sense, but it uses these characters that are just something special, and not seen nearly enough anymore. Not by me, at least.

Another oustanding positive about this issue is the pencil work by Andy Kuhn, and the incredibly complimentary inks of Harry Candelario.
DC did tremendously well in cultivating the Bruce Timm animated style into their spin-off Adventures comic books (and beyond), and really, for quite a while Marvel had no equivalent.

While the Marvel cartoons never had a distinct or uniform style among them, Kuhn cultivates a unique style both suited to animation in it's simplicity, but also it's kinetic action. It appears animated in both senses of the word.
I'm actually surprised I haven't really seen Kuhn beyond these pages. While not what I would call a popular mainstream style, I think it's got a lot going for it. I might even rate him among my favourite artists, if I could do such a thing.

Macchio also competently weaves together a yarn that not only harkens back to some of the great seventies writers, but manages to very vividly highlight the characters therein.

Some of the plot stretches plausibility even further than Mr. Fantastic's longjohns, and it's a story of very little consequence, but on a website like Secret Wars on Infinite Earths, I'll gladly pay it. The more FF, the merrier!

Anyway, this was a pretty lengthy update for a fairly brief book, and ideally I'd like to be up to scratch before December, to do some thirty entries on the days.
We'll see how that goes. Stay sharp, folks!

The Fight: 3.5 The Issue: 4

NEXT: Could one moment change a universe? Next up, the swansong of a very unique Marvel hero, and the deaths of many. Be here!
MONTHLY PUNCH-UP #9 (September, 2006)
Bride of the Panther Part 5: "Here Come A Storm"
Where: Black Panther #18 When: September, 2006
Why: Reginald Hudlin How: Scot Eaton & Kaare Andrews

Quick Fix...
I know what you're thinking! What the hell's going on?
Well, in an effort to make these punch-ups just a little more interesting, I thought it would be a nice opportunity to feature those fights that just aren't quite long enough to be a weely post during the month.

These might be anywhere as short as 'one punch! [Bwahaha!]' or a few pages. It's just a way to expand the stats, and get some issues in that might not otherwise be featured; like Black Panther #18.

When Reginald Hudlin took on a new Black Panther series I was moderately interested. I didn't read the Priest series, but I'm a general fan of the Black Panther. Love him via the Fantastic Four, and other stories.
There were some pretty scathing reviews, and I have to say, what I knew of the new series really only seemed to emphasise them. One thing that bothered me in particular was Hudlin's interest in gathering all the afro-characters in the one place... Even if that really isn't what I envision as natural for the character; ie. Blade.

Still, I picked this issue up, and I have to say, it's one of the best Civil War comics I've read! It really is superb, and I probably couldn't recommend it enough, even if you didn't read the first four parts (like me).
This was just a whim purchase from a local newsagency... Which makes it's existence all the more amazing, really. Black Panther in a local store?! Whaaa?

Anyway, keeping to the blog's motiff -- the fight!
As with most comic book weddings, anyone and everyone connected by a string of degrees is invited -- even Wakandan villain - Man-Ape, who had actually come to the wedding to seek vengeance for not being disrespected by not being invited, but upon arrival, was told he was on the list.

So, at the bar, Iron Spidey has a quick drink, and bumps into the Man-Ape. Man-Ape recounts the story of how he arrived at the wedding, one thing leads to another and, well, look left. As you can see, Spidey's advice doesn't have the intended ffect on a guy who clearly already has insecurity issues...

Spidey cowls up; Man-Ape waves a chair above his head; and the next panel...

... is Man-Ape crash landing.

Which, really, is the perfect defining first example of a quick fix. Spidey wins, flawless fictory!

This issue, overall, isn't the best looking issue, and honestly, some of these examples don't evoke Klaus Janson's best work, but still, it's a great read.
I'm actually a big fan of the idea of moving Storm out of the X-universe, and into a relationship with Black Panther. I tend to think this has the potential to better connected the Panther with the on-going relevence of the Marvel Universe, and also give Storm something a little more worthwhile to do.

I don't think it was just Halle Berry who felt Storm could use more to do.
I don't think I've ever thought of Storm as necessary to any moment, outside of maybe fulfilling the minority and female slot required by the X-Men cartoon.

The Fix: 5 The Issue: 6.5

The Monthly Top 5...
#1 Batman (-) (9) (DC Comics)
What is there left to say about Batman? He is well regarded as one of the ultimate fighting characters in comic books, and it should come as no surprise that he's perched so firmly on top.
Omit him from updates for a few months, and you'll be forgiven for still thinking he's being featured every week.

It's not over until it's over, but right here and now, it's looking like Batman is all but assured to be the number superhero of 2006. Marvel have taken over entries lately, but Batman is everpresent.

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

#2 Spider-man (+28) (new) (Marvel Comics)
Okay, this one surprised even me.
It was only this week that I decided to include the Quick Fix having had BP #18 sitting on my desk the past fortnight. Likewise, it was only today that I decided Spidey, IM and Thor-Clone would get the win for Civil War #3 - so... Wow!

Suddenly Spidey is ranked number two, and apart from Batman, is the only undefeated character in the top five. Could this be the first legitimate contender for Batman, right out of the clear blue sky? Who better than Spidey to rival DC's top character?
Very interesting!...

- Spider-man versus Tri-Sentinel (April 14, 2006)
- Spider-man & Iron Man vs Blacklash (August 11, 2006)
- The Avengers (inc. Spider-man) versus The Secret Avengers (August 25, 2006)
- Spider-man versus Man-Ape (September 1, 2006)

#3 Daredevil (-1) (8) (Marvel Comics)
The Daredevil featured in Civil War was Danny Rand, but DD is still a stalwart of the top five, and that's the way we like it.
Honestly, the Quick Fix addition is almost tailor made to include some of the fantastic work Ed Brubaker did when he took over the DD book. Work that involved some great fights, but fights that just weren't quite enough to stretch out to a full post, so... DD is well and truly in the hunt here.

I hear he's fighting Tombstone in a recent issue, which just makes this fanboy all giddy, because if there's a street level hood I love, it's Tombstone!
As I give into my whims more, you'll probably see DD holding onto his spot here, and try (but failing) to take Bats. He's a sentimental favourite here on Secret Earths.

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

#4 Iron Man (+7) (new) (Marvel Comics)
There was a really beautiful situation that arose last month.
I pre-selected the Civil War entries a while before getting to them, so it was purely by divine justice that Iron Man and Cap wound up at #10 and #11 respectively last month.

As the lynchpins of August's entries, and interesting situation arose.
It came down to Civil War #3 with the winner going top five, either way. So, in the end, the unpopular guy hits the top five for the first time.

It's died down by now, but the announcement of Robert Downey Jr. for the feature film is still an exciting prospect, and really... Iron Man's stock ain't going down any time soon!

- Iron Man versus Hulk (June 26, 2006)
- Iron Man versus Captain America (August 18, 2006)
- The Avengers (inc. Iron Man) versus The Secret Avengers (August 25, 2006)

#5 Hulk (-2) (3) (Marvel Comics)
And with the exception of Batman, DC are completely squeezed out of the top by all the Marvel mayhem. Honestly, I foresee something of a Marvel slant for the near future, but that could realistically change.

This is probably the final stop for Hulk as he exits the top five after a valiant effort. As I've said previously, Planet Hulk just hasn't captured my imagination, despite sounding rather suitable for a website such as this.

I'm keen to learn more about World War Hulk, but until then, mean and green can be seen in June's Monday posts.

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

Super Stock...
1. Batman (-) (DC)
2. Spider-man (+28) (M)
4. Iron Man (+7) (M)
6. Superman (-2) (DC)
7. Wolverine (-2) (DC)
8. Captain America (+2) (M)
12. Steel (-3) (DC)
19. Venom Symbiote (+37) (M)
21. Mr. Fantastic (+1) (M)
46. She-Hulk (-) (M)
53. Deathstroke (-4) (DC)
99. Thing (+29) (M)
100. Atlas (+24) (M)
101. Mach-V (+20) (M)
158. Sub-Mariner (-28) (M)
161. Baron Zemo (-42) (M)

The Hammer...
As I may have mentioned, this is being written quite in November. I'm a couple of months behind still, but I have actually made an entry for November (that will be seen once I chronologically arrive at it).

The next couple of months are mapped out, but to better facilitate updates, I'm going to abandon schedule and just start plucking issues on a whim, and doing entries whenever I feel like it.

With any luck we'll be back up to date by December, and if I'm enthused enough, I'd very much like to attempt to fill December with an entry for every day!
Whether or not this is a realistic goal - I DO NOT KNOW! But it'll be fun finding out.

This month [September] we've got a fairly random pre-selection, and October will be the last pre-selected month featuring a theme of Iron Man, Batman and killer robots. Which, I'm sure, is bound to be some fun.
I will probably continue to contribute entries for November, should the urge present itself. Which means they will join the first November entry, which features a gaming franchise comic.

That's about all for now.
Thanks for checking out the log, and hopefully you're having more fun as things shift and settle in different places. Cheers!

NEXT: The Frightful Four return!
August Hit Count: 1721* (+100)

* Hit count was recorded August 31. Hits for August posts may be reflected in October count.