Friday, November 24, 2006

Yes. That is a Gambit hologram attached to the cover.THE X-MEN versus MAGNETO
Fatal Attractions: Dreams Fade (Marvel comics)
X-Men #25 When: October 1993
Why: Fabian Nicieza How: Andy Kubert

The story so far...
Growing ever tired of the struggle between human and mutant, Magneto declares himself and his intentions to the X-Men at the funeral of Illyana Rasputin. It is here that Colossus shocks his colleagues by defecting.

More powerful than ever, and intent on ending his war with humanity, Magneto poses a greater threat than ever before. With that in mind, the world initiates the Magneto protocols in an attempt to exile him from the Earth.

A net is relayed around the globe, designed to affect Magneto's powers within the electromagnetic field of the Earth. Magneto penetrates it, and bathes much of the world in a technology destroying pulse.
His hand forced, Professor Xavier forms a crack team to infiltrate Magneto's stronghold, and put an end to their feud once and for all.

Previous Form:
X-Men: The X-Men have had several victories against Nimrod, Wolverine and Magneto.
Magneto (#184): Magneto was previously unsuccessful in an attempt to recruit Namor, and defeat the X-Men.
Professor X (#177): Xavier was also unsuccesful in recruiting Namor.
Wolverine (#4): Wolverine has had various victories, including matching the Invaders.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Rogue 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Professor X (Professor)
Speed: Quicksilver 6 (Sound Speed)
Stamina: Wolverine 6 (Generator)
Agility: Gambit 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting Ability: Wolverine 6 (Warrior)
Energy Powers: Magneto 6 (Mass Destruction)

We just dealt with Magneto in the previous post, but there's certainly a recognisable difference. Some thirty years later, Magneto has become a much more powerful and sure character than he was. At this point in time Magneto is a threat on a global scale, and believing himself to be every bit the mutant messiah he has professed to hapless followers.

Also unlike the previous entry, Magneto stands alone against the X-Men.
As part of their covert entry onto the Avalon orbital fortress, the X-Men use Magneto's own teleportation systems to clear the station of his Acolyte soldiers. Among those removed is Exodus, Magneto's greatest follower.

The team of X-Men chosen for the mission are an interesting crew: Wolverine and Gambit are selected for their stealth; Quicksilver and Rogue provide speed, strength, and also an emotional string to pull at Magneto; and finally Jean Grey and Professor Xavier himself pose a psychic strikeforce.
Professor X is mobile by means of a Shi'Ar exoskeleton that is controlled by his own staggering mental will. It is a great drain, thus necessitating Jean's presence.

Cyclops, Storm and other X-Men are overlooked because their talents are inappropriate for a space station, and also because the Professor desires a strong voice for the next generation to remain behind. Yes, this is where things get serious. Even the Professor doesn't expect to come back.

So, in a vaccuum, who would win such a match?
Magneto has proven over time that he can be more than a match for any collection of foes. The breadth of his abilities allow him considerable defensive advantage against any army, and given the presence of magnetic materials throughout the globe, most battlefields present a ready-made arsenal, assuming he doesn't just feel like taking you outside the Earth's atmosphere.

With the reality of these stories, the X-Men will likely at least hold Magneto to a stalemate. The Professor's presence alone has to be considered a great equalizer for the X-Men, as his presence usually delays Magneto's will to inflict lasting injury.

It's really a tough call. On any given day it could go either way.
I think for my taste, the numbers have to be what tips it in the favour of the X-Men, but Magneto is a helluva tough customer. On paper, he's pretty tough to beat.

Average: Magneto 28 (+5.5)
Overall: The X-Men (+106)
The Pick: The X-Men

What went down...
The suicide mission sees minor resistance from former students, before the mass evacuation of the base. It is this that alerts Magneto to the presence of the infiltrators, and with a wall tearing blast of magnetic energy, he is there.

Wolverine is the first X-Man up, leaping into the fray with little regard for his own safety. His attack provides as much an offensive play, as an opportunity for his allies to regroup. Unfortunately for Wolvie, his claw points are moot.
"Ah, Logan... We dance the dance again and again... And you've never learned the steps very well, have you?"

Jean and the Professor unite to prepare a psychic attack against Magneto's own mental defenses, while the other X-Men enter the battle. Gambit's kinetically charged cards provide the lapse needed for the two psychics to break through.

John Bender wept.While he batters the Cajun with shrapnel, Xavier and Grey penetrate the recesses of Magneto's mind. Sifting through the darkest memories and greatest failures of the self professed mutant savior, they find fact and fiction merged.

With the inner battle raging, Rogue leaps into battle knocking Magneto upside the head, and the personal attacks continue. His own son, Quicksilver, speeds into the picture rocking his father with a devestating uppercut.

Magneto quickly retards his son's attack, but his steely will was inhereted by Pietro Maximoff. Even frozen to the spot, Quicksilver remains defiant until the psychic war waging within again provides a lapse in Magneto's concentration, granting Quicksilver an opportunity to strike with a fierce headbutt.

A furious father lashes out at such a betrayal, tossing his son with unbridled magnetic blasts. Driven to apparent madness, Magneto demands the death of his own blood.

Lurking in the shadows, Wolverine prepares to make another attack.

Wolverine throws himself at his foe. While reruns of betrayal tear at Magneto's psyche, Wolverine tears the fabric from Magneto's chest with his deadly adamantium claws.

"Any man who'd try an' kill his own son deserves no less."
Wolverine's declaration of intent wrenches Jean Grey from her telepathic assault, as she pleads for the greater good. Xavier desperately calls her back to his aid as he struggles with the exertion of his exoskeleton.

The brief pause presumably gives Magneto the clarity to gather himself, inspite of injury, to throw one final attack at the Wolverine. One final gesture designed not just to clear the deck, but to finish the game once and for all.

"... It begins with a small tug -- An almost gentle pull -- A harder yank -- Then a wrench tear --"

What a rip!... Yuk yuk...In one of the darkest moments in X-Men history, the adamantium that famously laced Wolverine's skeleton leeches outward, tearing through flesh and skin.
Jean Grey cannot maintain her concentration, as she joins the other horrified X-Men.

Xavier on the other hand maintains his hand, attacking with new resolve.
He clutches Magneto by the collar and poors outward the emotion of decades, and with that, unleashes a psychic attack unparalleled.

In that one briefest of moments, Xavier can take no more, and while he will not kill, there is an alternative for one of his talent.
He reaches deep into his old friend's mind and clutches not at bitter truths, nor does he flashcard moments of failure or defeat. He simply summons his great power, and ensures that Magneto will never, ever kill again.

With his mind erased, Magneto staggers forward and as his eyes go blank, he utters his final words; "Char--les... I never thought... You would..."

The exertion of wiping Magneto's mind clean leaves Xavier unable to control his Shi'Ar suit any longer. He joins Magneto, tumbling downward to the floor.

Colossus comes to his new master's aid.
He pledges himself to the well being of Magneto, hoping to do for him what he could not for his sister. Colossus reveals his responsibility in blinding censors of the X-Men's incursion, he also informs them that he called Bishop to come to their aid.

With that, the X-Men leave.

The hammer...
If there is a winner here, it's Professor Xavier, although as many readers know, this isn't the end for Magneto, or the Professor.

Jeph Loeb and Rob Liefeld have teamed again ten years later to produce Onslaught Reborn, a story detailing the return of the creature called Onslaught.

For those who came in late Onslaught directly ties to this Fatal Attrations issue, as a psychic manifestation of Professor Xavier's guilt and negativity, largely for what he did to Magneto here. This is the reason for Onslaught's appearance, which resembles quite obviously a distorted image of Magneto.

This is actually one of my favourite X-Men stories.
I think the X-Men in particular have been involved in many events of scope, and dealt with many tragedies, but in a lot of ways I think this is the one that stands out as being when things got really serious.

There's a sombre tone to this story that dances somewhere between the grim hard reality of the story, and the bright spandex of the Jim Lee defined characters. Stories had dealt with this tone before, and they've certainly done so after, but there's just something about Fatal Attractions that resonates to me.

I think perhaps it's largely due to the fact that two franchise players are dealt hefty blows. Yes, Jean Grey died at the end of the Phoenix saga, but even at her height Jean Grey can't compare in monetary value and status to Wolverine and Magneto.

Certainly the imagery in the issue that followed [Wolverine #75] cannot be denied. If you thought seeing the adamantium being ripped from Wolverine's body was an awe inspiring sight, then you clearly haven't seen the first time he popped the raw bone claws. Wow!
Despite it's flippant subject matter, that's some pretty gorey, surprising stuff!

Not being a huge X-fan is probably what has facilitated these last couple of entries, and I must confess that you can probably expect at least one more X-Men feature in December's updates.
As over saturated as they may have become, the X-Men still possess some of the most compelling and enjoyable characters in comics. Their stable of heroes and villains is unparalleled, and it's nice to have that touch of diversity.

Anyway, we're at January 12 right now.
Slowly but surely catching up! Thanks for the patience, guys!

The Fight: 5 The Issue: 6

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Sub-Mariner joins the Evil Mutants (Marvel comics)
X-Men #6 When: July 1964
Why: Stan Lee How: Jack Kirby

The story so far...
Once friends, two of the Earth's most powerful natural forces - Professor Charles Xavier, and the man called Magneto - become bitter enemies as they are divided by philosophy.

Forming their own mutant factions, each pledged to their own ideals of a better world for mutantkind, they come to blows as rivals.

In these formative days, both Xavier and Magneto consider the possibility that the legendary war hero - the Sub-Mariner - may in fact be a mutant, and thus begins a race to pledge the mighty warrior to each other's cause.
Will the stubborn ruler succumb to Magneto's deception, or recognise the righteous path of Xavier? Stay tuned!

Previous Form:
Sub-Mariner (#60): Sub-Mariner defeated Tigershark and Dr. Dorcas with the aid of Spider-man.
Beast (#75): Beast assisted in the capture of Wolverine, controlled by Hydra.
Cyclops (#76): Cyclops was also present whilst tracking the Hydra influenced Wolverine.
Magneto (#116): Magneto was devoured by zombies, despite a valiant fight.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Sub-Mariner 5 (Super Strength)
Intelligence: Beast 6 (Genius)
Speed: Quicksilver 6 (Sound Speed)
Stamina: Magneto 6 (Generator)
Agility: Ice Man 7 (Unlimited)
Fighting Ability: Sub-mariner 6 (Warrior)
Energy Powers: Scarlet Witch 7 (Solar Power)

Happy New Year all! Naturally my computer is succumbing to the crippling effects of the Y2k07 bug, and updates have slowed again. Apologies!

Moving right along, we have some of the most prominent names in the Marvel Universe making their first feature appearances. I don't know how the X-Men have managed to stay off the radar this long, or more notably their chief adversary - Magneto, master of magnetism.

Certainly Magneto is well regarded as one of the most powerful mutants in the Marvel universe, much more impressive in the comic books than his big screen appearances, which perhaps mirror some of his earlier appearances such as the story featured here.

Over time we've come to know Magneto as a much more formidable force, difficult to exhaust, and even harder to get near. His magnetic forces are capable of doing everything from repelling attacks; physically manipulating other individuals by the tiny amounts of iron in their blood; and his power even extends so far as to affect the movement of the Earth.
In prime condition, Magneto is not a guy to be messed with.

It is said Professor Charles Xavier is of comparable stature, but the broad application of abilities is what certainly gives the master of magnetism his edge. Something as simple as the helmet adorned atop Magneto's head can render Xavier's abilities naught, while such devices are much less likely to curb the mutant skills of Magneto.

Lurking between these giants is a less likely power, but one no less omnipotent.
Scarlet Witch, similarly to Jean Grey, reveals herself to have great, but uncontrolled potential. Recently displayed in the House of M series, Scarlet Witch has highlighted her hex magic is capable of extending it's reaches so far as to reshape reality in any image she sees fit.
An ability very likely shared by Jean Grey when in possession of the Phoenix power. A power with which Grey has come to be closer and closer associated.

The likes of Quicksilver and Cyclops, thought more specific, should not be scoffed. Though their mutant capabilities occupy a much narrower field, they each possess their own impressive bredth.

With his solar generated energy blasts, Cyclops can make range attacks of incredible destructive force. With the aid of his ruby quartz visor these attacks are famously referred to being as refined as to shoot through a keyhole, or so wide that they could span a football field.

Alternatively a character like Quicksilver can move at speeds so fast, he may appear as little more than a blur. This proves useful offensively, whilst also ensuring the potential safety of companions, particularly his sister, the Scarlet Witch, over whom he keeps a stubborn guard.

Mastermind's psychic abilities do not approach Jean Grey or Professor Xavier's, but he is none the less effective as creating illusion and minor distraction. Not terribly effective alone, but as a tool for someone as dangerous as Magneto, the slightest doubt can be the turning point.

SILENCE, bitch! I saved your ass in WWII!Of course, I haven't even begun to acknowledge the presence of the special guest of the story. A character pledged by the Brotherhood, but not yet specifically aligned to either side -- the Sub-Mariner.

A mutant himself, Sub-Mariner arguably approaches the level of power possessed by Xavier and Magneto, although his own skills have their own slant.
Existing in the deepest pressures of the ocean, Namor's strength is impossible, as is his iron will and endurance, which are arguably powers unto themselves.

Between the evenly matched forces of the X-Men and the Brotherhood, Sub-Mariner could very realistically be recognised as the deciding factor. However, the X-Men are a better balanced team, compared to the top heavy Brotherhood. Without the Sub-Mariner, the Brotherhood also find themselves outnumbered, which is no small edge.

Average: The X-Men 22.83 (+1.5)
Overall: The X-Men 137 (+9)
The Pick: The X-Men

What went down...
At the dawn of the Marvel Universe proper, things were a little different.
Sub-Mariner had preceded all these bozos by about thirty years, and he was even best pals with Captain America, so he was something of a big man on campus.

Magneto has beaten Xavier to the pledge, but things aren't going all in the Magster's favour. Having arrived on Magneto's secret island, the Atlantean monarch is not at all impressed.
Knowing a good thing when he has it, Magneto tries to seduce Namor with the use of his attractive young daughter - the Scarlet Witch. Unfortunately she has little reign over her powers, and accidentally solicits the firing of a couple of electric bolts at Namor's back.

Unphased, Namor finally notices the charms of the young girl, but it's at this time that the Angel swoops in for an attack, knocking Mastermind down, and prompting Toad to use his inspired powers to leap.

It's after that unceremonious entrance that Angel reveals he has a message for Magneto, but by then he's none too interested. Instead, Magneto tosses a bunch of magnetized boulders Angel's way.
Just to show how much of a bigshot he was at the time, Namor tells Magneto to shove it while he shows him what REAL power is! Nobody's getting away with that these days, nosiree.

But what good is millions of dollars, when I have scaley panties and money making crotch shots!?Real power, as it were, apparently involves snatching out of the air before tossing him in a non-consensual fastball special. How humiliatin'!

Fortunately Beast is waiting on the plank of the X-Men's pirate ship [I wonder if they call it the blackbeard... Yuk yuk... - Merciful Mike] and with the help of Iceman, they bring Angel to safety.

Magneto continues to wreak havok, using a giant magnet to blast the X-Men's ship to smithereens. It is only by Beast's strength that Prof X doesn't end up a legless man in a swimming contest, and Iceman is quick thinking enough to freeze up some solid ground for the team to regroup.

As the team make their way to the secret island, mysterious thorny roots emerge apparently from nowhere. Professor X is steady when he orders to Cyclops to walk directly toward the spikey thorns without hesitance. No doubt the Professor can see through what is clearly an illusion cast by the Mastermind, but hey, even if he's wrong it's probably a win-win.

The illusions failing, Quicksilver enters the field to halt Cyclops as he attempts to sabotage the mighty magnet. Quicksilver's staggering speed leaves the X-Man shooting at air until Jean Grey intervenes, using her telekinesis to snatch Quicksilver into the air, and jerk him around until he's too dizzy to run.

Beseiged by metal, only the hypnotic powers of his well defined swimmer's ass can save Sub-Mariner now!From the safety of his lair, Magneto berates the Scarlet Witch as she pleads with her master to save Quicksilver from the clutches of the X-Men.
Ever the chivalrous chap, Namor steps in with the intention of tearing Magneto's machines asunder as punishment for speaking in such a way to a woman.

The noble Sub-Mariner finds himself assaulted as pieces of metal hurl themselves at his mighty muscles, binding and constricting his very movement.

Cyclops blasts his way into the fort, sending the Brotherhood sprawling. Mastermind casts the illusion of a fog, giving them the opportunity needed to retreat deeper into Magneto's lair, but the Scarlet Witch is too slow. Magneto, declaring his survival of greater importance to the mutant race, leaves her to the men he has painting as demons.

Cyclops isn't the only guy who shoots uni-beams around here! Watch out, Beast! FZZZZZT~!!!Fortunately the Sub-Mariner assumes the role of burly protector!
Enforcing the Witch's pleas for her brother's freedom, Sub-Mariner engages in combat with the Beast. Again the Sub-Mariner proves his superiority, besting Beast's strength.

Field-leader, Cyclops, tries to organize the troops to make a strategized attack against Namor, but the hot-headed Angel is too impetuous.
He leaves Cyclosp to plan, as he flies into battle, crossing directly into the path of a helpless Beast, man-handled by the Sub-Mariner.

With his hand forced, Cyclops makes a spotaneous attack, unleashing his optic blasts with unforgiving force.

Namor's secret weakness: The de-machoing powers of PINK!Pinned to the wall Namor boasts the potency of his enduring will, challenging him to do his worst.

Cyclops does not have opportunity to tire, suffering the probability altering hex power of the Scarlet Witch, who sees fit to aid the man who did defend her.
As the rocks beneath his feet loosen, Cyclops' breaks his beam and the Sub-Mariner is free to deliver vengeance to the X-Men once more.

The intervention of Professor Xavier stays Namor's hand, and while the Atlantean royal takes offense to being referred to as a "pawn," he does not follow through with his fury.

Instead, Magneto launches one final bitter attack from the mechanical electro-magnet. The invisible magnetic force pins the Sub-Mariner to the ground, crushing down on him with untold force.
Unable to move, Namor strikes his mighty fists to the ground again, and again, and again, shaking the ground. His blows unsettle the island, toppling the giant magnet and ending it's attack.

Tired of the insolence of the squabbling mutants, Namor returns to the ocean, leaving the Brotherhood to escape on board a rocket, while the X-Men see to repairing their ship.

The hammer...
Well, I think this is a first as we close out the year.
Since he ended up fighting everyone and winning, the sole victor here is Namor, with an assist from Scarlet Witch.

I can't say I have many comics from the sixties, so it's quite fun to feature this, the oldest comic seen on Secret Earths thus far.
Particularly as it harkens back to a time when a dear favourite of mine, the Sub-Mariner, was almost the kind of celebrity we now recognise Wolverine or Spider-man as.

In the latter part of this decade Namor has enjoyed a more noteworthy time in the spotlight, featuring in The Illuminati, while also having a unique connection to the heart of the on-going Civil War crossover.
It seems fitting that Namor's connection, the death of his cousin Namorita, stems at the very beginning of the event. As I've often said here, Sub-Mariner is the Kevin Bacon of the Marvel Universe.
Spidey has his pals, but Sub-Mariner has links to everyone.

While I enjoy the fact that such an integral character to Marvel's history is again enjoying more priminent success, I do have to be somewhat reticent about the approach. I've had several people alerting me to the confirmation of a new Namor on-going title, and as good news as that is, one can't help but imagine what's coming won't last.

As much of a purest I am, I'm just expecting something a little too plain, and I think to succeed in a starring role, Sub-Mariner needs something a little bit different. A little bit spicey, and unexpected, but still with grounding that makes sense.
I don't think it's necessarily required, but I consider it a good idea to distance Namor from Atlantis. For whatever reason, it just isn't a compelling scenario, no matter how ingrained it is to the character.

I'm a fan of the idea of Namor in the "real world," interacting with elements he's familiar with, but still struggling to come to terms with them.
I tihnk he works on the surface so well because he has spent so much time there over the years. He becomes a very versatile character when you cast a net over all the ideas that have been tried, and I think that's where you really find the strength of the character.

I love that there's a corporate history, I love that there's a mutant connection, I love that he's dealt with Daredevil and Luke Cage and Iron Fist.
... Remind me to show you 'Namor No More' some time...I think if you bring this all together, and think about the character's history, you find a lot of compelling story potential.

I also like the fact that he's incredibly connected, despite being something of a solemn loner character, and a character who really hasn't had to connect with the world, or understand it on anyone else's terms. He's a character of dichotomy, even down to his genetics, which is also a source of story, I believe.

Those reading can probably tell I'm just dying to talk about my 'pitch,' but I'll let you guys off easy today. Let's just say, I'm disappointed Marvel haven't discussed there plans with me, because they're really not helping!
Still, Iron Fist as Daredevil? I can work with that...

The Fight: 4.5 The Issue: 5

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Devil Takes a Ride Part 2 of 5 (Marvel comics)
Daredevil #90 When: December 2006
Why: Ed Brubaker How: Michael Lark & Stefano Gaudiano

The story so far...
Having escaped jail, Matt Murdock is on the trail of the mysterious Alton Lennox in an effort to discover the identity of the person who has been toying with his life, and is responsible for the near-fatal attack on Foggy Nelson.

His travels take him to Europe, specifically Portugal, where DD finds himself sidetracked into helping a damsel in distress with a familiar scent.

When Tombstone intervenes, DD is stretched to the limit, but things may not be as they seem.

Previous Form:
Daredevil (#5): Daredevil has faced Wolverine, Hulk and Bullseye in one-on-one competition.
Tombstone: Tombstone has not yet been featured.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Tombstone 5 (Super Strength)
Intelligence: Daredevil 3 (Straight A)
Speed: Daredevil 4 (Olympic Sprinter)
Stamina: Daredevil 5 (Marathon Runner)
Agility: Daredevil 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting Ability: Daredevil 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy Powers: Tombstone 2 (Projectile Weapons)

I'm just going to say it straight up. Yes, Tombstone's mugshot looks kinda crummy compared to the usual, but damned if I didn't go straight for that issue just to scan a John Sal Buscema Tombstone. Nobody does it better than JB!

So anyway... Tombstone V Daredevil.
Well, it's probably at least worth noting that in this particular circumstance, Daredevil is carrying injuries relating to earlier confrontations with Iron Fist and more specifically, an unnamed Matador.
Not that injuries are exactly strange for Daredevil...

Tombstone hasn't gotten a great deal of respect over the last decade or two, but at the very least his purpose remains constant. He's a high-rating street level bruiser, who can take as much as he dishes out -- and as a kicker, is fast.
I wouldn't go so far to rate him in Daredevil's league in terms of speed and agility, but he has been known to give even Spidey a good run for his money.

Daredevil certainly can't match him in strength, and as a hand-to-hand fighter, Tombstone's physical strength poses a significant obstacle. The equalizer is DD's maneuverability, and generally broad skills in fighting, and fighting logistics.

Tombstone's greatest chances lie with blunt and immediate attack.
Time gives Daredevil the edge to familiarize himself with the scene, and develop a logistic attack. Likewise, though formidable, Tombstone is not invincible, and even a duke-out could swing DD's way given the nature of Daredevil's technical skill.

Overall: Daredevil 26 (+5)
The Pick: Daredevil

What went down...
With Alton Lennox dead, DD follows Lily Lucco's scent to the street, where he spies a car that contains Lily. The car swerves hard, and heads straight for the costumed crusader. The driver is an unlikely foe to come across in Portugal.

Tombstone wastes little time throwing the first punch, and though DD avoids it easily, he follows it up with a clubbing polish hammer. It puts the rain soaked hero down on the wet ground.

Tombstone tells DD to stay down. That he hasn't been paid to deal with him -- but Daredevil doesn't back down.
Clutching his billy club, he throws a left that hits hard.

Tombstone takes it and dishes out his own fists of fury, knocking Daredevil around like a ragdoll. "Maybe I'll just do you for nothin'!!," he says.

DD kicks back, springing into a defensive whilst using his trusty billyclub for an offensive.
The red fighting stick ricochets off a chimney, the car, and... Is caught by the surprisingly agile and quick Tombstone. Possibly a little too agile for my tastes, but fair enough.

Tombstone further menaces the out-of-town hero, slapping him around with another right as DD tries to hit a pressure point on the concrete stomached villain.
Still silly from the punch, Daredevil falls into Tombstone's arms, and he repays the close quarters situation with a headbutt. DD goes down hard again.

Lily Lucco comes at Tombstone from behind with a tyre-iron, but it has little effect on the stoney bulk of Tombstone's mighty shoulders.
He backhands the girl, knocking her stupid. Daredevil watches from the cobblestone road, unable to intervene.

The hammer...
Well, though a site favourite, we've discussed before Daredevil's penchant for loss. Continuing the Spidey kick, I'm just kinda glad the defeat goes to Tombstone.

To any mystifyed readers, I'm typing up this update December 28. I'm still kinda bouncing around based on interest. With Christmas just passed, I figured it was a good time to go with a new issue that I'm into right now.

I mentioned Sal Buscema earlier, and no doubt an issue of Spectacular will show up with Tombstone in the near future. That run in the eighties is one of those things that is comics to me. Sal Buscema is probably to me, what Mark Bagley now is to a lot of people through Ultimate.
I was a big Erik Larsen fan too, and McFarlane's Spider-man is very important to me, and even Romita Sr is a very familiar Spider-artist for my eye. But Buscema just has a special little corner. Something about his characters really popped, and I'm not sure anyone has ever drawn Tombstone with as much menace and personality as Buscema.

Tombstone's a character I have a great affection for, too.
I kinda feel silly claiming all these characters as my own. I can't really do that, because they're not really obscure characters. They've just been a little down on their luck lately.

The last time I saw Tombstone he was a pawn of Hydra, and for the decade before that he's pretty much been relegated to whipping boy of guys like Punisher and Luke Cage, getting thrown off bridges and generally being a schmuck.
It's perhaps this that makes Brubaker's respectful take on the character a little jarring. He almost goes too far, making Tombstone a very impressive threat.

I love that he's gotten a solid treatment like this, though.
I've alluded in the past to various ideas here and there, and I have to say a lot of those street level characters, and assassins, and hired thugs just haven't gotten the world they deserve. They really do deserve to occupy their own world.
I think we've seen ideas like this in Daredevil stories of the past, and certainly Joe Kelly's early Deadpool and the recent mini-series Underworld, too.

It's great to see a Tombstone show up in the super-hero action epic like Enemy of the State, but at the same time, these guys aren't quite like Dr. Octopus or the Mad Thinker. These guys feature in a similar villain-of-the-month format, but their characters depend more on having an on-going life.
Guys like Tombstone don't go back to the drawing board to cook up their next big scheme. They lick their wounds, and then go back to the dives to look for jobs.
Presumably these characters would be involved in street crime and gang conflict far more regularly than we ever get to see.

In this respect Ed Brubaker probably writes catered to me.
His is perhaps a more subtle, less overtly superhero take on the formula than say, Judd Winick's Batman run. It's playing an on-going reality, but doesn't reveal itself through cut-scenes, or co-feature more superheroey obstacles.

A similar style of story can be seen in Captain America, and I actually think, as great as it is, it's why I lost interest in the Cap book, and haven't enjoyed this second storyarc as much as Bendis' work.
I think Brubaker has a tendency to meander, focusing a little too tightly on very small moving parts. This perhaps falls most notably in an issue like this, where there is an indulgance in more gratuitous superhero action.

I think even with five-issue storyarcs, Brubaker's stuff just gets a little lost in itself. It was this subtlty that I found most surprising in Gotham Central, which was a book that came heavily recommended, but did not, in my opinion, live up to the hype.
It has a suitable grounded nature, but unfortunately doesn't marry that to the paced of fiction we're perhaps used to otherwise reading.

Obviously a lot of people are enjoying it, and Brubaker's star continues to rise with titles like Daredevil, deservedly so. I just hope his subdued style will sustain my readership on Daredevil.
Perhaps most telling will be Brubaker's management of story beyond this current period, which is filtering on from Bendis' run, and centered by a constant reference. I think the next big story will be where Brubaker sinks or swims for me.

Though sometimes a little vague, Lark is Lark, and that's okay with me.

EDIT (Nov 26, 07): Well, it only took a year to catch the mix-up of John/Sal Buscema. Which tragically undermines my credibility, but has been corrected for all you info hounds! Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go lash myself fifty times with a car battery tied to a power chord...

The Fight: 5 The Issue:6

Friday, November 03, 2006

Tao (Malibu Comics)
Mortal Kombat: Blood & Thunder #5 When: November, 1994
Why: Charles Marshall How: Kiki Chansomone

The story so far...
For centuries the purity of Mortal Kombat has preserved peace and order among the realms, requiring ten tournament victories of any invading force.

Each tournament spans a generation, and after nine victories, the Shokan champion Goro was defeated by Earthrealm champion and descendant of Kung Lao - Liu Kang. Thus, Shao Kahn and the forces of Outworld are thwarted.

The chosen warriors of Mortal Kombat exist beyond the tournament, and when Kano steals a powerful mystical book known as the Tao Te Zhan, it begins a new battle for omnipotence.
When Scorpion steals the book one of seven riddles has already been solved, and he has just solved the second...

Previous Form:
Rayden & Scorpion: Neither character has been featured previously.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Rayden 3 (Trained Athlete)
Intelligence: Rayden 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Rayden 3 (Trained Athlete)
Stamina: Rayden 7 (Unstoppable)
Agility: Rayden 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting Ability: Scorpion 6 (Warrior)
Energy Powers: Rayden 6 (Mass Destruction)

Avid followers of Secret Earths will be at least loosely aware of my love for beat 'em up video games. In the past, MK's rival, Street Fighter, has been twice featured based upon it's comic book escapades, from Tokuma and UDON respectively.

Even though I probably fall on the Street Fighter side of the fence, I've been with Mortal Kombat from the first video game, and have a great affection for the relatively unique and extensive story and characters they have cultivated.

The latest wave of Mortal Kombat games have been a tremendous step forward, and while Mortal Kombat: Armageddon has been quite disappointing in contrast, it's still compelled me to grab a taste of these characters.
These two in particular are very great representations of the MK franchise, and two of the more interesting of the mainstream exposed characters.

In terms of the usual statistics, Rayden raises some interesting questions.
He himself is a God, and within the context of the storyline, he does not really take an active role, pledged to instead maintain a non-intrusive advisory vigil.
His powers are certainly extensive, and for example, while I did not feel it would be accurate to represent his fighting speed excessively, he can travel from one point to another in an instant.
Likewise, Rayden can die, even though he is a God. It is just quite unlikely.

Scorpion, for those who don't know, is an undead spectre from the Netherrealm. Which means he has a lot of nasty, spooky, hell-related powers.

Unlike a character like Ghost Rider or even Spawn, Scorpion differs in that much of his arsenal existed prior to becoming a hellspawn. Scorpion was simply unable to rest due to the circumstances of his death, and thrived as a spectre of vengeance.

As a spectre, he doesn't really die, which is pretty handy when running head long into "mortal" combat. Death is the kind of stress that can cost you the match, and that's something he doesn't have to worry about, and makes him hard to intimidate or stop.

Ultimately, while Scorpion has a range of powers revolving around teleporting and summoning hellfire -- Rayden is a god of thunder and lightning. Being a God kinda trumps even a character as powerful as Scorpion, based purely on the nature of the beast, and the energy at his disposal.

And in closing, for anyone wondering, yes -- I realised Rayden was only spelt with a Y in home versions. I just have a problem with the pronounciation if it's spelt Raiden -- which is specifically derived from the Japanese Rai.

Overall: Rayden (+4)
The Pick: Rayden

What went down...
Having come into posession of the Tao Te Zhan, Scorpion retreats "many miles away" to a cliff face where he examines the mystic text. Troubled by his own inner demons, Scorpion is distracted by lust for revenge against the Lin Kuei warrior that killed him - Sub-Zero.

Desire to drive his roped spike into the throat of his nemesis presents an unlikely answer to the riddle, "Ten men's length, ten men's strength. Ten men can't tear it, yet a little boy walks off with it." The answer being: Rope!

The mysterious book turns another page, and with energy glowing across his face, Scorpion gets a special taste of electric energy from a true God!

Scorpion assures he will fight for possession of the riddle book, and tosses his modified trademark spear (with spiked ball) into the air in declaration of kombat.

The thunder god evades the attack, disappearing in a swirl of crackling electric energy.

Scorpion scowls the act of cowardice, and demands Rayden return to face his attack. Rayden's teleport proves to be a maneuver of tactic, rather than fear.
He emerges behind the ninja spectre, and blasts him with a hail of electric energy - promising Scorpion a new meaning of pain, unescapable through death.


The hammer...
Rayden wins! Flawless victory!

There're a lot of peculiarities about Mortal Kombat, but I think one of the greatest has to be it's overall popularity and longevity.
Granted, there have been quiet patches, notably around the release of the mediocre Mortal Kombat 4, but somehow MK has managed to stay relevent in the Western world of gaming.

The gimmicks of gore and violence probably played their crucial part, but I would probably say the saving grace of Mortal Kombat has been the characters, and notably their growth and evolution in an expanding universe of characters. Without those, I just don't see how it survived. Until Deadly Alliance, I don't think anyone could accuse MK of having extraordinary graphic and gameplay advantages, and in a world of Tekken and Virtua Fighter, they were just arcane.

The Mortal Kombat comics kind of bring together the lesser qualities of nineties comic books and the MK video games of the same time. In fact, peculiarly so, two years after the release of Mortal Kombat II, the comic book still uses the economically designed sprite costumes of the first game. Costumes that are far less designed and interesting.

Presumably this is to better connect the timeline of the comic's story, but really, this just adds to what is already a fairly uninspired visual experience.
One certainly notes the extreme Image Comics style clear and present in these books, with emphasis on extravagent, if sparsely detailed, action splash pages.
Dialogue is wooden and clunky, and story is just too generous a word to use for what is essentially an opportunity to string together licensed characters in various fighting combinations.

It's in this respect that the Malibu MK comics fail in much the same way other licensed trademarks disappoint. They truly were an exercise in capitalism. I remember the comics ack being dominated by MK comics, and even an entire table section mapped with the various series and mini-series and spin-offs and one-shots... Each even less connected to the property than the last.

The books, like many unsuccessful licensed efforts, also features a variety of characters and concepts 'original' to the comics. Among the better known ideas is the light-blue Lin Kuei ninja Hydro, and Shao Kahn unmasked as a Tarkatan mutant, rather than something entirely different all together.

The benefit of hindsight is a wonderful thing, though, and it's easy to forget that Mortal Kombat has since produced around ten additional videogames that further the Mortal Kombat story and legacy. Which is perhaps why these characters have been able to be identified and characterized so vidialy.
It's disappointing, with that in mind, to see a recent effort to create MK comics go southbound in a similar fashion. Stories revolving around the release of Deception were to be released by a small publishing company, but unfortunately they allowed the license to expire before producing finished material.

I know as both a fan and writer, that's a license I would love to get a hold of.
I'm not quite sure what the circumstances of the recent effort's demise were, but I wonder how it may be similar to the likewise mysterious disappearance of the ill-fated Tekken comics. If anyone has info, be sure to drop a comment.

I have to say I do still regret passing thes Malibu books up.
I'm pretty accepting of any half decent adaptation if I at least get to see the characters moving around in full colour, and participating in some kind of story, and like many nineties comics I missed, these truly were fun.

I imagine as I indulge in my ever changing fad-like interests, you'll probably see more of the three issues of Blood & Thunder I have in my boxes. Prized $1 box finds that occurred months apart.

On a slight note, I am doing this entry on the fourth and fifth of November.
People reading will know I was stuck on the end of August's entries in November, so this might be a little odd. Hopefully I haven't left any gaping contextual snafus that will ensnare me in the future during past entries.

This was just a way to curb falling further behind, by using current interests.
From this point on, you'll probably be seeing more like this, avoiding my usual month-by-month forward planning.
Likewise, you'll notice I'm including more images in entries. Hopefully this makes it a more complete experience in enjoying and lightly reviewing these past comics. I'm using these as more fluid visual aids than the previous 'two highlights' method.

Anyway, see you in the future-past! :-D

The Fight: 1 The Issue: 2.5

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

MONTHLY PUNCH-UP #11 (November, 2006)
Dark Moon Rising
Where: Batman: The Mad Monk #1 When: October 2006
Why: Matt Wagner How: Matt Wagner

Quick Fix...
Alright, I didn't get a lot for Christmas, but among the few comics I got were four issues of Batman and the Mad Monk. I haven't had the chance to read through them all yet, but this issue caught my eye straight away for the opening pages, which detail the fight we're discussing here.

The general gist of these Wagner mini-series [the previous being Batman and the Monster Men - Speak to the Manager, Mike] is to canonize stories inspired by the Golden Age of Batman, whilst placing them in a contemporary interpretation; ala Year One.

I have to admit, I'm a fan who's pretty content with a too-serious-for-his-own-good take on the Batman, so a more transparent Batstory about monsters and cults isn't usually my cup of tea. I can appreciate these pulpy Golden Age stories for what they are, but prefer to leave them there.

That said, Wagner's pencils look great, if a little shakey in a vein not dissimilar to Howard Chaykin at times. This is particularly noticable against a Chaykin-esque eighties colour palette, although, Cameron Stewart's colours are generally more diffused and mat, which is much more to my liking. This rings true of the Year One inspirations.

Pussy-whipped!Anyway, the opening four pages of Batman and the Mad Monk are dedicated to a delightful exchange between Batman and Catwoman, which presumably refers to something from Monster Men, or at the very least, pursues the relationship as it is seen in works like Year One or The Long Halloween.

Caught in the act, Batman accosts Catwoman during a night of thievery in a jewellery store. His intent to take her into custody is an unwanted advance, and she makes a preemptive strike, wrapping his feet up with her cat o nine tails.

The Bat goes down hard, clunking his head as she drags him in.

Is that a batarang in your utility belt, or are you just...?Ever the perveyor of innuendo, Catwoman slinks over her fallen foe and gets inside his head, quizzing him on a relationship with "Li'L Miss "Chanel No. 5"."
He doesn't take too kindly to the personal attack.

Catwoman gets off, but not without leaving an impression, raking her claws through the Batman's chest as she leaps and flips her way for the exit.
"Her claws... Must've been drugged," Batman thinks, whilst considering wearing armor beneath the costume. Something he comes to do, I'm sure.

But did someone say drugged? Why, could that be a plot point of significance later in the story? I don't actually know, and if it isn't, the sarcasm with which that remark was made will be proverbial yolk on my face.

So, what's interesting about this quick fix?
As always, I make an assurance that there is no conceited effort to manipulate events on the site. This book was new and attractive, and it just happened to present the first defeat of Batman listed on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths.
Thus, it is quite a monumentous Punch-Up.

What is particularly interesting about this is that it was Catwoman that took the Batman down. Considering he was just previously featured fighting Amazo, and has taken down foes like Captain America, Captain Nazi and Superman on two occasions, that's pretty spectacular.
I guess this is what makes the site interesting. Batman might tag Elektra, and Elektra might tag Catwoman, but that doesn't mean Catwoman doesn't have an edge over Batman!

The Fight: 3 The Issue: 4.5
Winner: Catwoman

The Monthly Top Five...
#1 Batman (-) (11) (DC Comics)
Well, this this punch-up hasn't just saved your life: It's made your life worth saving. You have lived to see the unthinkable.
With little more than a scratch, Batman has suffered his first documented defeat, and while that doesn't knock him off the top spot, it changes everything.

With guys like Spidey and Iron Man lurking, Batman is vulnerable for the very first time. With two months of Secret Earths remaining, this is no longer a race to beat Batman. This is a race to see if Batman can win!

#2 Spider-man (-) (3) (Marvel Comics)
After whipping MTV Kraven and teaming with the Sub-Mariner this month, Spidey maintains his good fortunes. He now holds the honor of being the only undefeated character in the top five, which sets him up perfectly to take the top spot. Amazing considering only three months in the top five!

My Spidey kick may have ended, but Civil War overflow means this guy is still relatively relevent in the world of comics. I can't predict where my whims will take me, but Marvel's dominance over the past few months ensure this guy will be popping up again. Possibly to face a stone-faced foe, hint-hint.

#3 Iron Man (-) (3) (Marvel Comics)
Though not featured this month, Iron Man remains just as likely a successor to Batman's throne. IM really has returned to the Marvel A-list. Every month we talk about all the things coming and going for Iron Man, and there's just nothing left to say.

I have to admit, right here and now my interest has waned a fraction, but Civil War is everywhere, and Robert Downey is lurking in the wings, and it's just an interesting time for Iron Man.

#4 Wolverine (RE) (6) (Marvel Comics)
There was a degree of anymosity early in the year toward Wolverine's position in the top five, but now I have to say it's probably deserved. At the very least, it has not come easily.

Victory over the Silver Samurai is Wolvie's ticket here, and it was a pretty good match. Don't know if Wolverine has the legs to stay here, but you could never rule it out.

#5 Daredevil (-1) (10) (Marvel Comics)
DD continues his slide downward, and there's every possibility he might exit the top five before the end of the year.
He's a site favourite, and I will telegraph that I got DD comics for Christmas, but that just might not be enough to save ol' hornhead.

He's probably been the sentimental favourite for the year, but the fallability that makes the character so endearing has been what's held him back here. Just in case I don't see you again, happy new year, Murdock.

Super Stock...
1. Batman (-) (DC)
4. Wolverine (+3) (M)
5. Daredevil (-1) (M)
6. Hulk (-1) (M)
8. Captain America (-1) (M)
23. Nightwing (+64) (DC)
46. Catwoman (+53) (DC)
47. Thing (-2) (M)
48. She-Hulk (-2) (M)
57. Sub-Mariner (+105) (M)
59. Venom (-3) (M)
91. Ms. Marvel (-2) (M)
102. Wonder Woman (-1) (DC)
163. Tigershark (new) (M)
164. Dr. Dorcas (new) (M)
169. Silver Samurai (new) (M)
170. Kraven the Hunter (new) (M)
171. Amazo (new) (DC)
174. The Brick (-9) (DC)

The Hammer...
Right now it's New Year's Eve 2007 [Or is that NYE 2006?...], and as you can see I'm only just making the first post for November, so I'm still a couple of months behind.

Rather than interrupt the natural flow of these posts, I won't do a year-end post until I actually reach the December/January portion of scheduled posting. Hopefully you can forgive the latness, and appreciate that I am making an effort here for you guys.

There seems to have been an influx of people checking the site out, which is great news. I hope you guys are all enjoying joining in on the fun, and feel free to drop a comment on any of the posts, and make requests. Chances are I won't entertain them, but it doesn't hurt to ask. ;-p

When I'm done here I'm going to be postnig two entries that were done in advance, so we're already half way through November. Hopefully you're going to enjoy them, particularly the first post, which will take us somewhere a little different.

The end of the year is very exciting, I honestly have no idea where we're going to end up, but hopefully we can have some fun getting there!
Good wishes when the New Year reaches all of you, and be safe! Because fighting is only fun when it's against giant robots, or people who are just begging for it... Like a guy named Dr. Dorcas. C'mon... Seriously, dude.

NEXT: For centuries I ended posts with a tease. For nine generations I have been unable to do this, and now is the tenth... Will humanity prevail in Kombat?
October Hit Count: 2391* (+363)

* Hit count was recorded November 1. Hits for October posts may be reflected in the December count.