Friday, February 24, 2006

ZATANNA versus ZOR
"Zor!"
Where:
Seven Soldiers: Zatanna #4 When: December 2005
Writer: Grant Morrison Artist: Ryan Sook

The story so far...
In this Seven Soldiers mini-series, Zatanna has been adventuring within herself, and the world of magic, as she comes to terms with all that she is, and all she can be.

With her powers failing her, Zatanna travels with a mysterious new apprentice called Misty, who exhibits great magical potential, and has a little magic die that seems to serve her every whim.

Encountering the legendary Ali-Ka-Zoom, Zatanna learns more about her own past, and the history of her young friend, on her way to find council with seven unknown men. What she finds, is Zor.

Tale of the tape...
Like previous entries, Zatanna is a character that has been proclaimed as potentially one of the most powerful heroes in comics. Unlike a Mr. Fantastic, whose abilities rely on his special skills, and execution -- Zatanna's formula is very simple. Say it, and it happens.

Granted, it's not that simple. She has to say it backward, but over the years I can't say I've ever seen her struggle with this. As a novelty act, there are actually people in the world who do phonetically speak backward. So, with a lengthy history behind her, Zatanna really is bound by her own will and imagination.

Intelligence: 2 (Normal human)
Stamina: 3 (Strong willed)
Energy powers: 4 (Arsenal)

For a character with such unlimited potential, it's tough to nail down any kind of rating on each individual stat. Based on her tame interpretations, I have hopefully adequately represented her strengths.
Again, her magic isn't terribly well represented by the typical stats, and therefore her potential is quite a bit higher.

On the flip side, my sources tell me Zor has never appeared prior to this issue, so he enters as an unknown equation. It is quite obvious that he is of greatly significant power, and with Zatanna a little less than certain of herself, he could potentially defeat her.

As we saw in the Justice League's fight with Deathstroke, Zatanna can be swiftly eliminated by an able foe through a silencing maneuver. That said, against the unknown quantity, you'd still surely have to put your money on Zee.

What went down...
Initially Zatanna is surprised. The silhouette emerging through the fog resembles that of her deceased father, the great magician Zatara. It is, of course, not Zatara.

You'd probably never guess it, but FYI, his name is Zor!

Apparently amused by Zatanna's hopeful mistake, Zor shoots her with a couple of eye-bullets (as you do), and remarks that in her world he can make her his daughter, or do anything else he can imagine.

Zor reimagines Zatanna as though she was raised by his own hand. Perverse and spiteful. Dark and venomous. He creates Zorina, dark (and sexy) daughter of Zor.
Of course, the gag is, being a Bizarro-Zatanna of sorts, Zorina rebels against her father, "Erotser annataz ot yonna yddad!"

The formerly captured Shapeless Being serving "the new architect of the universe" is Zatanna's instrument of counter measure, using him to ensure she becomes whatsoever Zor becomes.

The two magical beings exit the physical realm, doing battle in another place. A place where reality is meaningless, and will becomes absolute.
Zor plucks a satellite from orbit and hurls it at Zatanna, only to see it caught and spat out by the heckling Justice Leaguer. She makes fun of his beard.

"Liar! It's a magnificent beard and I know you want one! Hahahaha!"

Zor hurls comets at Zatanna, and she breaks the jar that contains the Shapeless One. Reality slips farther from Zatanna's grasp, and the fight leaves the page, taking a trademark Morrison trip through the fourth wall.

Zatanna and Zor begin to battle with the very reality we're reading.
Zor tears through the panel on the page, as Zatanna struggles and falls.
The two magicians race through the very fabric of reality, and somehow Zatanna manages to get one step ahead of Zor. For a moment they wrestle as two people, in the oily scum of Slaughter Swamp.

Then Zatanna reaches out. She extends her arm toward us, and she realises she couldn't find the seven unknown men because they were there, on the outside, all along. She stands before "the time tailors".

Zor lies on a table, disected by the Time Tailors for manipulating reality beyond boundaries deemed acceptable. Zatanna is granted access to their information, and victorious, this soldier is granted one last moment with her father. The real one.

The Hammer...
I have to admit, this looked like a much better idea after Christmas when I read the mini-series and got very excited about it. My interests have waned a little with time, but it's still a fantastic book, with a fantastic character.

I think it's pretty safe to say Zatanna is unanimously victorious, being that she's the character who managed to continue her existence. Call me old fashioned, but I think existing is always a pretty good indicator of someone's status.

While my interests may have waned over time, I have to absolutely sing the praises of this mini-series. Grant Morrison needs no further introduction, but Ryan Sook is proving to be a name I'm slowly coming to recognise. His pencil work on Seven Soldiers: Zatanna is truly phenomenal, and further complimented by the inks of Mick Gray and Nathan Eyring on colours.

Of the Seven Soldiers collection of series it was only this, and Mister Miracle, so far, that caught my attentions. Without a doubt I imagine Zatanna was the most interesting of the lot. Great read!

The Fight: 3 The Issue: 6.5

NEXT WEEK: The monthly punch-up, with all the information you'll need for the upcoming DC versus Marvel/Marvel versus DC super event! Plus, the newly popular top five! Be here!

Friday, February 17, 2006

BULLSEYE versus DAREDEVIL & ELEKTRA
"The Murdock Papers"
Where:
Daredevil #79 When: January 2006
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis Artist: Alex Maleev

The story so far...
Two years ago Matt Murdock was attacked by his enemies, just like he'd been attacked by his enemies time and time before. This time, however, the toll of all those previous fights had been take, and this time, Matt Murdock intended to end it.

Having been humiliated and utterly defeated at the hands of Daredevil, the Kingpin finally made a move to use the information of Daredevil's secret identity.

Setting up all the pawns, Kingpin negotiates his way to a better life abroad, while manipulating the federal investigation forces into hunting his nemesis down.

The assassin Elektra returns to help prevent the Kingpin's "Murdock Papers" falling into the wrong hands, as one of only three people who know they existed. The other two people being the Kingpin himself, and the man who once killed Elektra, the Kingpin's other prized assassin.

Bullseye is back.

Tale of the tape...
Technically we're featuring the rematch before the kick-off, but these characters are so familiar with each other, I don't think showing fights out of sequence is going to affect things too drastically.

The X-factor in this particular fight is common to all three characters involved, and that's history. Elektra's as cool as they come, but it has to do something to even the best of us, knowing you're fighting a guy who's killed you. Especially the way Bullseye was able to do it, with her own weapon.

Energy powers: 4 (Arsenal)

The energy powers is a difficult category, but here the four is to represent Bullseye's incredible accuracy skills. Essentially he has access to an arsenal, making anything he can throw a weapon.

Agility: 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting ability: 5 (Martial artist)

Obviously having the agility to avoid Bullseye's attacks, or the associated hand-eye coordination to even counter them, is a tremendous advantage. Both Elektra and Daredevil each share the same rating for agility, as do they share fighting ability.

Against a marksman like Bullseye, their greatest advantage is to try to out maneuver his attacks, and then out fight him with a superior fighting discipline.
Of course, against a character as psychologically offensive as Bullseye, that might be easier said than done.

That said, on paper, the Daredevil and Elektra team would be hard to bet against.

What went down...
At the beginning of last issue, Daredevil posed a questionm, and got an answer when he caught a razor tipped ace of spades in mid-air -- right infront of Elektra's neck.

The story resumes with flying onto the rooftop straddling a motorcycle, while throwing razor cards at Daredevil, Elektra, Black Widow and former special agent Angela Del Toro (the new White Tiger).

As DD looks to protect Del Toro, Elektra shows no hesitation where confronting Bullseye is concerned. She charges him, forcing them off the side of the rooftop, and down through a skylight into an office block.

Elektra continues to battle Bullseye through an eating area, avoiding a projectile hot coffee pot, while Daredevil tries to keep Del Toro out of harms way.
Though in posession of the White Tiger's amulet, DD is certain she lacks the skill necessary to fight a man as deadly as Bullseye. He proves his point, snatching the amulet away, and kicking Del Toro off the roof into a garbage laden alley below. She brakes her arm, but lives.

DD charges Black Widow with the task of protecting his wife Milla, before he joins the fray.

Inside the offices, Bullseye manages to get the jump on Elektra, and snatches one of her sai away. Pressed up against a wall, it all looks horribly familiar for Elektra, but before Bullseye can deliver the finishing blow a red billy-club hurtles into his throat.

Elektra cracks her fist against Bullseye's face, and DD makes his landing count, coming through the skylight onto Bullseye.
Bullseye is able to use it to his advantage though, turning the broken shards of glass into lethal projectiles.

Bullseye gets tossed out the window, landing on a buss in the street, but the damage is done. An innocent with a shard of glass in her throat passes. Daredevil will not let it go lightly.

On the street, DD emplores people to clear the area as he and Elektra each hurl one of their weapons at Bullseye. He's able to catch them both, and defend himself against Elektra's attack. It leaves him open to Daredevil, who slams him into the street, and catches Elektra's sai as Bullseye tosses it.

The fight goes to close quarter, Bullseye pulling Elektra into defend himself from a Daredevil punch, before getting a boot in the face. Elektra fights back, and Daredevil gathers himself, driving his fist into his arch-nemesis' face.
The nose busts. Blood sprays.

With his ass in his hands, Bullseye makes a run for it, but doesn't see a truck coming at the T-junction.

His body whips around, leaving him motionless in the middle of the street. Elektra checks for signs of life, and Daredevil tells her his legs are broken, and a rib is shattered, but like always, he still lives.

Elektra seeks vengeance, but despite the evils Bullseye has committed against him, this time the Catholic Murdock shows mercy for his deadly foe.

Before he can retrieve the papers he fought so hard for, a shot is fired, taking his shoulder. A sniper shot from so far away, not even Daredevil's keen radar senses could pick it up. Of course, that's a whole other story.

The hammer...
I think it's pretty safe to say that by the end of the fight, Elektra and Daredevil emerged the victors. Unless of course you consider Bullseye's broken leg predicament to be another notch on the Daredevil belt for championing disabilities.

It's probably noteworthy that despite being one of the biggest writers in comics today, Brian Michael Bendis has not been featured on Secret Earths prior to this. That is largely because of two things -- coincidence that other titles have grabbed my attentions sooner, and also because I am often a critic of his more recent works.

Regardless of my opinion of his work as a whole, I have to undoubtedly acknowledge his Daredevil as a truly impressive comic. Not only due to the fantastic art provided by Alex Maleev, but also because of the overall atmosphere, and Bendis' ability to take Frank Miller's contribution, and continue it.
That fact is also cause for critique, but overall Daredevil has been one of the most fantastic runs of his career. I'm sorry to see it end, but the Murdock Papers has been a worthy send-off!

The Fight: 7 The Issue: 7

NEXT WEEK: A fight that actually leaps off the page! Be here in seven!

Friday, February 10, 2006

GREEN ARROW versus THE BRICK
"New Blood Part Six: Coming Out"
Where:
Green Arrow #45 When: February 2005
Writer: Judd Winick Artist: Phil Hester

The story so far...
In the midst of personal battles at home with his HIV positive ward, and his son, Green Arrow has been fighting a war on the streets.

The war, thus far, has been for naught. Daniel "The Brick" Brickwell, a mutated thug with skin like stone, has been taking Star City piece by piece from under the feet of Green Arrow.

As The Brick's control spreads through the Star City underworld, it becomes obvious that Green Arrow has to put a stop to it.

Tale of the tape...
At this point the Brick really hasn't been in action all that long, so to a degree he's a bit of an unknown quantity. Still, there are some very obvious assumptions that a strategist like Green Arrow could marke.

Strength: 5 (Super strength)
Fighting ability: 3 (Street wise)

Brickwell's most obvious strength is his 'brick' hard skin, and the proportionate super strength that comes with it. In a one on one confrontation, it's his invulnerability that make Brickwell such a difficult obstacle to over come.
A heavy hitter like a Superman could probably handle Brickwell relatively easily, but as a normal human with weapons, Green Arrow runs out of options.

Even if he is able to shoot off a few arrows, there's no guarantee they'll do more than distract Brickwell.

Intelligence: 4 (Tactician)

This has to be a battle of smarts for Green Arrow. Some of his trick arrows might prove as useful distractions, but this is a battle of ego. Green Arrow's motivation is to prove to Brickwell that he wears the trousers in Star City, and if he wants to, he can slap any gangster around.

Of course, against someone with the strength, and resources of the Brick -- that's easier said than done. On paper, if Green Arrow wasn't the super trooper hero he is, you'd have to lean toward Brickwell. Particularly considering Green Arrow has taken little time to plan for this fight.

What went down...
It was an evening like any other in the Brickwell household. Daniel was discussing ways to evade the attentions of the Penguin by outsourcing his arms running, when there was an interruption. Apparently Green Arrow had stopped by.

You've got to admire a hero who knocks on the front door, and challenges his arch-nemesis. Brickwell acknowledges the gaul it took, and orders his boys to hand GA his "toys" back, so they can step outside.

"Bitch, I have not got all day..."

Four arrows stop Brickwell mid-sentence, jamming themselves into his rock hard skin just barely. Brickwell appears surprised by the force of the shots, even though they don't slow him down. GA tries to fire off a couple more, but the Brick manages to swat him before they leave the bow.

Brick challenges GA to do better, and he tries, but Brickwell shows surprising speed. He snaps an unshot arrow, and slams Green Arrow against a concrete pillar. GA spits blood in the gangster's face defiantly, and gets hurled across the lot for his troubles.

The fight continues, Green Arrow finding himself grossly outmatched as he tries to slug it out physically with the Brick. Exhausted, he gets slapped around physically and verbally.

As Brick lunges in to finish him off, GA manages to stuff one of his ball ended trick arrows down his throat. Cold and concisely he fires off a glue arrow straight at Brick's gullet.

"That's not the regular glue bomb arrow." "It's a high-grade industrial adhesive."

Brick struggles in vain, until he falls to the ground -- suffocating.

GA shows mercy, spraying the adhesive with a dissolving compound. Though barely conscious, Brickwell is allowed to live, but not before Green Arrow delivers closing words.

"And don't forget... Don't you ever forget, Mr. Brickwell... who was wearing the boots. "Bitch.""

The hammer...
This was a fight akin to Daredevil putting the "final" kibosh on the Kingpin, so it's a shame The Brick didn't have an opportunity to established himself more as a character. It had the makings of a very solid story, but ultimately fell short through creative premature ejaculation. One would assume this may have come about by editorial mandates.

Quite obviously, despite getting slapped around like a little girl's doll, Green Arrow came out the other end victorious. As far as I know, we haven't seen The Brick since. If anyone wants to let me know, that would be greatly appreciated.

I really enjoyed this issue of Winick's GA. It's been on the pile for Secret Earths entries for a while. My only real critical disappointment with the story is the fact that the book didn't have a more mature tone to it, and couldn't have built up it's urban threats. Previous issues were marred by monsters and goblins.

After this issue things get considerably more Saturday morning super heroey, but that's not necessarily a bad thing for us. No doubt you'll see more GA in the future, but this might've been the best of it.

The Fight: 6
The Issue: 6

NEXT WEEK: The hero, the villain and the lover!

Friday, February 03, 2006

RYU versus BALROG
"Super Action Series"
Where:
Street Fighter II #1 When: July 1994
Writer: Masaomi Kanzaki Artist: Masaomi Kanzaki

The story so far...
Super cool wandering warrior, Ryu, has found his way to the man-made manhattan of the island, Shad.
While looking for a decent meal, he runs afoul gangsters who have been plaguing a small family owned restaurant for insurance money.

Ever the hero, Ryu comes to the aid of the sexy store manager, but not before incurring the wrath of the gang boss -- former boxing champion, Balrog!

Ryu offers Po-Lin and her little brother Wong-Mei a chance to free themselves of debt if they bet money on him to win the fight. But does Ryu have what it takes to win?

Tale of the tape...
Okay, this isn't a typical super hero clash, but using the Haseloff system of categorizing powers and abilities, hopefully these relatively human characters can be accurately shown to measure up.

Fans of the video games will recognize Balrog as a pretty big deal, especially considering this is Ryu's first fight in this particular incarnation of the manga. Although not the easiest or most versatile of playable characters in the Street Fighter games, Balrog has to be acknowledged as a big deal.

Strength: 4 (Steroid popper)
Speed: 3 (Trained athlete)
Fighting ability: 4 (Trained fighter)

Like any real prize fighter, Balrog's keys to victory are in his technique and ability to execute. While regarded as a supremely skilled fighter, Balrog is also known for his ferocity, a fact that saw him thrown out of the boxing circuit.
In a street fight, that viciousness could be his greatest weapon, combined with his incredible strength and relative speed.

Stamina: 4 (Athlete)
Fighting ability: 5 (Martial artist)
Energy: 3 (Explosives)

As a Shotokan karate fighter, you can enter into the debate of martial artist versus boxer very easily. Rather than try to split hairs, let us just assume that each have been measured by a universal standard, and that standard has ranked Ryu a more skilled fighter.

Perhaps the greatest advantage of Ryu's technique, particularly against one of the few Street Fighters unable to harness their ki, is his hadou-ken and shoryuken attacks. Balrog's strength would likely allow him to out fight Ryu through sheer power, but he has to be in close to do that.

Kicks, and energy attacks are Ryu's most likely chance, and you'd have to think it's a good one. Apart from being one of Street Fighter's most revered hero characters, he's also extremely skilled.

What went down...
Little Las Vegas! The grudge bout of the century!
"You're mine..." "Let's do it."

As the fight kicks off, Balrog takes the aggressive offensive, moving in with a barrage of punches and fancy footwork.
Ryu manages to block them all, and moves in for a roundhouse kick, but gets nothing but air.

Balrog's speed is on display as he dodges the kick, and find's Ryu dazed and confused. He unloads with a dashing uppercut, ripping the ribs of the Japanese fighter.

The pummelling continues as Balrog gives Ryu everything he's got. A flurry of high speed punches seem to be too much for Ryu, who really never got out of the gates, as he hits the mat.

Balrog's team greet the champ as all hope seems lost for Po-Lin and Wong-Mei's, who were betting the shop on this one. However, to the shock and amazement of everyone, Ryu gets up!

"When you were in the ring, nobody ever survived your combinations.
But now, you don't even have a third of your old strength.
"

Balrog goes berzerk! He tosses his towel aside and charges into battle with Ryu, as the Japanese fighter berates him, lamenting on his fall from grace.

The taunting is too much for the former champion, who puts everything into his last punch - but it never connects.

Ryu unleashes his hadou-ken attack, putting the finishing move on Balrog, but the threat isn't over. An over zealous goon lines Ryu up in the scope of his rifle and fires at the victor.

Fortunately for Ryu, a mysteriouso stoic Guile emerges just in time to deflect the shot and destroy the gun. Balrog shows signs of turning a new leaf, denouncing the sniper attempt. He is gracious in defeat.

The hammer...
By his own opponent's omission, Ryu emerges as the obvious victor.

It's probably not surprising that I'm a huge fan of beat 'em up video games, and the characters therein. Street Fighter is certainly among my favourites, and this was a long time coming.
I'm pretty sure something from the UDON efforts will turn up on Secret Earths soon enough.

This particular issue serves as this month's attempt at fulfilling the 'obscure' slot. I really know very little about the origins of the book, or what became of it.
Like other beat 'em up comics, I never saw anything beyond the first issue, but I'm not certain whether it failed to make print, or just wasn't distributed.

I actualy bought this issue at the time in a supermarket magazine section.
Generally in Australia, at the time, comics were sold in newsagencys (as well as comic shops, of course), so this was quite an unusual find.

As far as I know the book itself was a Japanese reprint, that may or may not have been printed by Marvel comics. The brand printed on the cover, as you may or may not be able to see in my scan, is Tokuma Comics.
Hopefully by the time of the March punch-up, I might be able to tell you more about this little gem. It's not terribly faithful to the Street Fighter story, but it's still a favourite.

NOTE (Nov. 29, 2007): The Tokuma Shoten series has been translated and reprinted in it's original black and white unedited form, by UDON comics. If you're picking it up via Amazon, consider yourself informed!

The Fight: 3
The Issue: 4

NEXT WEEK: Green Arrow bashes his head against a brick wall!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

MONTHLY PUNCH-UP #2
Alright, I think I'm getting the hang of this.

Welcome back to Secret Earths for the second of what will perhaps be many monthly punch-ups. Having added a hit counter this month, I actually know people are visiting, so... go team!

A pretty good selection of fights this month, even if I do say so myself. Perhaps garnering some of the most attention was Daredevil vs Scope, and for that reason I'm going to endeavor to mix the eras up. Not that you should hold me to that, because there are so many great comics grabbing my attention.

For anyone interested, I was pleased to be informed that Scope is in fact a character unique to the aforementioned feature story. Thanks to Vonn Hennigar for finding confirmation on that.

In case anyone hasn't noticed, I'm running a little behind schedle (contrary to the dates of these entries). Because of that, the weekly punch-up is going to take evasive action, so instead of just waffling on about a character, you're just going to get the top ten as it stands. Thanks for your patience.

March will kick off the three month celebration of the tenth anniversary of Marvel versus DC, and with any luck I'll find them time to upgrade to two entries every week, to offer some diversity. Three months is a LONG time for one theme.
In the mean time, hopefully you'll enjoy the attempt at making interesting selections for February.

The Top Five
#1 Batman (Unchanged)
Hardly surprising on a site like this that Batman would weigh in at first early, and continue to do so. That's largely due to the exposure of the character, and the successful nature of his strengths as a thinking hero. In the next coming months there will hopefully be a greater diversity, which may see this change for a time.

- Batman versus Superman
- Batman versus Superman
- Batman & Red Hood versus Captain Nazi, Hyena and Count Vertigo

#2 Captain America (+1)
Like Batman, you'd have to consider Captain America, a character known for his prowess as a fighter, as a worthy inclusion in the top five. Cap enjoyed a return to my comic collection thanks to the efforts of Ed Brubaker on a new series, but because it featured largely character driven stories, Cap may slide from the top by numbers.

- X-Men & SHIELD w/Captain America versus Wolverine
- Zombies (inc. Captain America) versus Magneto

#3 Mr. Fantastic (-1)
His gradual decline from the top ten has already begun, and you'd imagine it will continue as numbers accumulate. Generally not an active fighter, but as a member of the Fantastic Four, there's still a good chance he'll stick around. With pretty versatile powers, and the brain to potentially use them in infinite ways, Mr. Fantastic is often regarded as one of the most underrated, and potentially powerful, fighters in comics.

- Mr. Fantastic versus The Super Apes & Red Ghost

#4 Daredevil (new)
Here's a guy I'm sure will climb the ranks, just because I'm really digging the character lately. The end of Bendis and Maleev's run will no doubt inspire nostalgia, and several entries.
Like other entries, Daredevil is known for his fighting prowess, and should be considered a very valid top five fighter. Unfortunately my collection is lacking in previous appearances though, so his status could be in question.

- Daredevil versus Scope

#5 Wasp (new)
Okay, to the three or four Wasp fans out there -- I wouldn't expect her to stick around. As an unlikely offensive instrument of doom, zombie Wasp actually proved useful for something other than hasty retreat to deliver messages to loved ones. Yes, alternate reality counterparts to characters are included in the ranks to save confusion. DKR Batman is Batman, and Zombie Wasp is... well, I wouldn't want to say infront of the children...

- Marvel Zombies (inc. Wasp) versus Magneto

The Hammer...
That about wraps it up for this monthly punch-up.
As my efforts become spread thin amongst other projects this is likely the method I'll be taking each month, rather than trying to string together a monologue about a character.

With the Marvel/DC action taking over in March, I took the time to pick out four personal favourite fights for February. You've got a brick shithouse, reality bending mystic battles, old rivalries and more!

Next week: There'll be fighting in the street! Be here!