Friday, October 27, 2006

Under the Hood Part 3: Overnight Deliveries (DC comics)
Batman #637 When: April 2005
Why: Judd Winick How: Doug Mahnke

The story so far...
In the wake of a gang war, Black Mask seizes control of the criminal underbelly of Gotham City. With various villainous elements shifting within the DC Universe, Black Mask's own strategies intersect with various others.

Amongst his schemes, the import of various super paraphernalia and weaponry. Much of which leaves his possession via the intervention of the Batman, or the vigilante rogue, Jason Todd - The Red Hood.

One such import is Amazo; an android designed originally by Professor Ivo to combat the Justice League using their own powers and unique abilities.
Though stripped down, the machine poses a substantial threat, and Batman and Nightwing are there to intervene.

Previous Form:
Batman (#1): Batman is currently undefeated in his six previous features.
Nightwing (#88): Nightwing teamed with Batman to defeat Two-Face, in a previous post.
Amazo: Amazo has not yet been featured.

Tale of the tape...
You wouldn't believe how hard it is to get a decent mugshot of Amazo online...Strength: Amazo 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Batman 5 (Professor)
Speed: Amazo 6 (Speed of Sound)
Stamina: Amazo 6 (Generator)
Agility: Nightwing 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting Ability: Batman 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy Powers: Amazo 6 (Arsenal)

Amazo is one of those characters that is a lot of fun, but I have inherent problems with. I guess much of this site shares a skeleton with my own preferences and interests in comics. I'm quite partial to characters that can be easily described and broken down into specifics.

Amazo is not such a character.
Various interpretations of the character lead to the preferred interpretation of there being many Amazo models in existence. Though certainly more comfortable, it does not negate the existant of 'adaptive' Amazo models.
Though traditionally possessing the powers of the seven core Justice Leaguers, shifting rosters have led to a shifting powerset for Amazo.
One answer to compensate was giving Amazo an evolution capability, where he could mimick or imitate abilities of others.

Now, for my taste in logic, this is a big problem.
If you can indulge the writer in me for a moment - my inclination would be to take this idea and maybe turn it into a Terminatoresque program of self-maintenance. I could accept an Amazo that retreats to attempt to build upgrades for itself, and maybe even come to take great pleasure from such a concept (DC, you have my number).

Of course, such a method does not exist as far as I know, and instead various vague explanations are offered. The animated Justice League offering up nanotechnology that inexplicably imitates any ability it 'gazes upon,' despite not having any kind of specific mechanical method of generating these various abilities.

My rigid thought processes don't affect this story too much, as it features a constructed model of Amazo with set abilities. However, for the usual discussion period of the tape, I would have to say... Amazo is just too sloppy to nail down.
I refuse to accept a machine that can produce cosmic abilities from nothingness, thus I tend to think of him as having the abilities of the League that can be constructed, and perhaps not quite as potent.

This model of Amazo has Ivan Drago's match psychology...Amazo is a huge obstacle even with that interpretation, and certainly Batman and Nightwing are in over their head.
Batman's penchant for victory withstanding, there is the advantage of Amazo being technology. As long as he obeys certain logic regarding mechanics and technology, Batman stands a pretty good chance of defeating such a menace.

Mongul, not so much. Amazo, definitely do-able.
With Nightwing in tow to provide destraction, even more so, but you still wouldn't want one of these showing up in Gotham every week.

Average: Amazo 33 (+6.5)
Overall: Batman & Nightwing 53 (+20)
The Pick: Batman & Nightwing

What went down...
Batman? Better? Hah. Stop repeating yourself!In a warehouse somewhere in Gotham, Batman moves before Nightwing can even digest the severity of the situation. As the Batman glides past the android, he drops smoking pellets that explode like angry bugs around Amazo's face.

Amazo mocks Batmans efforts, challenging him to do better: "I did."
Ever the forward thinker, Batman slinks away revealing an electronic batarang staked into Amazo's leg, which he notices only as it exploddes, destroying much of the floor.

Batman and Nightwing flee the scene as a furious android emerges from the warehouse, swatting brick and door out of his way. They take to the bat-lines, and Amazo, though carrying a damaged leg [which can no longer support the speeds of the Flash, given his weight. - Mastiff Mike] takes to the skies with the flight of various JLers.

Nightwing, carrying a leg injury from his own adventures, is slow off the mark, getting caught by the competent flyer in Amazo.
Batman latches on to Amazo's ankle with his bat-line, and reminds his protege that Amazo was designed with basic human principles in mind. Therefore many of his weakness are comparable.

Nice gurdle! *snort*Taking that information, the captive Nightwing plunges two batarangs into Amazo's ears, thus disrupting his gyroscopes and rendering him relatively unable to fly.
Of course, he's still quite capable of walking, and as Batman and Nightwing cling to a fire escape, the robust robot uses his Superman strength to tear the structure from the side of the building.

Wheeeeere's the Batman? Wheeeeeere's the Batman?Batman gets tagged, but Nightwing is there to run diversion.
He uses his acrobatic skills to leap and weave heat vision blasts that crumble the building behind, while Batman sneaks around to impare the vision of the super-foe.

Of course, Batman would not merely obscure vision with putty [and you have to wonder if a super tactical Justice League killer robot might not at least consider that... - Murmuring Mike]. When Amazo attempts to blast through it, the plastique explodes! Thus damaging the vision properties of the machine.

And now things get serious.
Amazo dives into an attack, giving Batman more than enough leverage to send him stumbling face-first into the brickwall behind.
Nightwing leaps in fast for a knee to the jaw, and is fast enough to drop beneath a wild swinging robotic fist. Batman shows him how it's really done.

Theeeeere's the Batman!Though on more event ground, the robot maintains it's attack.

Batman taps his belt, and although the creature does not see, he hears the incoming rumble of an engine. And Batman's plan all unravels, his previous efforts little more than a distraction whilst waiting for the real tool: The Batmobile.

This particular Amazo was believed to have Aquaman abilities. It should come as no surprise that he was completely ineffective from this point on.The vehicle fires off a rocket via remote, colliding with Amazo at high speeds and driving him into the waters below the dock with a stunning explosion.

The hammer...
Despite overwhelming odds, Batman and Nightwing win again. I'm sure you're all very shocked.

I had this issue sitting on my desk around about the time I started to seriously contemplate a website dedicated t ocomic book superhero fights. Issues like this, Identity Crisis #3 and Daredevil #49 were some of the real clinchers to going ahead with it, so it's nice to finally get this one up there.

I think what makes this issue so fantastic is that, apart from being a well written and illustrated story, it's also an interesting and generally unlikely match-up. I'm not sure Batman has ever even seen Amazo outside of Justice League stories, let alone had to fight one. And that's the kind of scenario that's interesting to note, and maybe even discuss as a comic fan.

Anyway, right now it's afternoon New Year's Eve, and I'm typing an October update, so I should probably try to shake things along a little.

I've done Winick/Mahnke updates before [#647, #648], so you should know that it's one of my all time favourite Batman runs. This is certainly the best city-life superhero run that comes to mind, having superior mechanics to even Brubaker or Bendis on Daredevil.

This issue does well to not only do a kickass issue-long fight, which is superbly choreographed, but also continues to show criminal life in Gotham as it is under the new rule of Black Mask.
It features the on-going difficulties of Red Mask aka Jason Todd, while also tackling the matter of more familiar supervillain rogues like Mr. Freeze, who plays an uncertain role in the new world order. This isn't necessarily a unique way of approaching the Batman villains, as stories like The Long Halloween have probably dealt with the criminal/villain dichotomy much better, but the success probably lies in not trying to outdo that calibre or type of story.

Winick's Batman exists in and of itself, whilst simultaneously living in the world of Batman at large. The Jason Todd storyarc pulls history into the picture, but what this storyline does delightfully is paint it's own sense of day-to-day life for Batman, not really ignoring, but not unnecessarily dealing with historical fact.
I'm starting to get awfully close to repeating myself, so I'll just sum it up: This is as complete a slice of Gotham life as I've ever seen.

I hope one day to see more of this approach.

The Fight: 7 The Issue: 6.5

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