Friday, February 23, 2007

Vendetta's Echo (Marvel comics)
Blade #5 When: March 2007
Why: Marc Guggenheim How: Howard Chaykin

The story so far...
When the so-called Civil War began amongst the heroes, Wolverine made a point of withdrawing, making a rare declaration of neutrality. Unfortunately, his bloodlust for the villain called Nitro sees him coming into conflict with not only the villain, but also diplomatic denizens of Atlantis.

Thus, Wolverine is dragged into the Civil War, as is Blade, albeit completely inadvertently.

While on the trail of Morbius, Blade is beset upon by SHIELD, revealing Morbius' status as a registered hero. Having been passed over by SHIELD, Blade is finally approached for registration in an effort to recapture a previously detained Wolverine.
SHIELD believe Blade to be their best shot at capturing the mutant Avenger, and in exchange for his services will grant him vampire-hunting amnesty. Thus, Blade hunts a new prey this night...

Previous Form:
Wolverine (#4): Wolverine has solo victories over Lobo, Lady Deathstrike and Silver Samurai.
Blade: Blade has not yet been featured on the site.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Blade 3 (Trained Athlete)
Intelligence: Wolverine 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Wolverine 3 (Trained Athlete)
Stamina: Wolverine 6 (Generator)
Agility: Wolverine 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting Ability: Wolverine 6 (Warrior)
Energy Powers: Blade 3 (Explosives)

Straight off the bat the stats make this look like it's all Wolverine, but that really is not the case at all. In fact, while Wolverine may be deemed to have the edge in some of the above measured feats, statistically each fighter rates on the same level.

Characterization tends to paint Blade in a different light depending on where, when, and under who's watch he's appearing. I tend to like to think of him somewhere in between the various comic book incarnations, but skewed more toward the successful Wesley Snipes film vehicles. This means I've more than embraced the Daywalker moniker, regardless of whether or not it was nature or the nurture of Morbius that granted it to him.

This means Blade should be fully recognised as one damned tough customer!
As the saying goes, 'all of their strengths, none of their weaknesses.'
We're talking enhanced strength, speed, agility and some degree of heightened senses, particularly where detecting the supernatural is concerned.

These abilities are all comparable to Wolverine, and in fact, the Daywalker even possesses a greater capacity for healing. Of course, he probably couldn't survive a stake through the heart (or any other fatal point), let alone three of them.

They say Wolverine's the best there is at what he does.
Despite generally dismissing conventional technical attack, Wolverine is an instinctual and savage fighting presence. Blade's fighting process is far more refined, and he could certainly disarm and detain Wolverine, but whether or not that would be enough to cage the beast is hard to say.

Ultimately skills like a healing factor, reinforced adamantium skeleton, and six protruding claws included with said skeleton, make Wolverine a tough customer for any normal man. And though Blade may not be normal, he isn't extra ordinary either.

The Math: Wolverine
The Pick: Wolverine

What went down...
SHIELD are nice enough to point Blade in the direction of their prey, a tiny, poorly guarded hideout in Brooklyn. Blade notes, the security might not be much, but when you're Wolverine, what kinda security in the burbs do you really need?

Wolverine stumbles in to find Blade in his living room, and having just gone toe-to-toe with Omega Red, he's none too happy about the prospect of anything that doesn't involve a beer and a stretched out spot in his crib.

The two heroes compare cutting implements before Blade lunges into battle with his single sword, promising it will be all it takes to take the X-Man down.
Wolvie disagrees, taking a swipe out of Blade's jacket, but otherwise puts up little defense for Blade to impale him straight-up with his sword.

Impaled healing factor gag? Yeah... It got old...Reminiscent of many-a-scene [including recently featured Cable & Deadpool #36 - Memorisation Mike], Wolverine slides down the sword, making a point of the advantages of a healing factor.

The tips of his blades slice the face of the Blade, and Wolverine puts distance between the SHIELD mercenary with a cracking left hook.

With the pressure off for a couple of minutes, Wolverine yanks the blade from his gut, with a money-back guarantee that he'll stick it where the sun doesn't shine. Now, I know what some readers are thinking -- Wolverine is Canadian. Well, all the more reason to believe that guarantee is iron-clad.

A paragraph of weak comic relief later, Blade is firing off a round from his pistol into the healing torso of the healing mutant.
This proves to set him off, leading Wolverine to abandon his warrior's ironies, and abandon the sword in favour of a more frontal, berzerker attack.

With the mutant up in his grille, as they say on the streets, Blade doesn't back down, throwing out another cracking left.

It does little to phase Wolverine, who maintains a mount position and raises his extended claws above his head. With the half-vampire looking to become all dead, he makes one last ditch effort.

Tearing the mask from Wolverine's face, Blade produces a vial of vampire blood at puts it to Wolverine's neck. The enzymes in the blood promise to turn Wolverine into a vampire far more susceptible to being impaled.

See The Hammer for more on my problems with THIS development...Wolverine, ever the hard ass, scrunches his face up and smiles, offering not fear, but a challenge for Blade to do his worst.

Surprisingly enough Blade relents, and at this time you might think Blade is something of a pansy, but you'd be wrong. With the Wolverine unmasked he finally gets a good look and recognises the mutant for who he is - not an enemy - but an old friend, from long ago.

With that Blade relents, and tells SHIELD that if they've got a problem with Wolverine, they can go through him.

The hammer...
This is probably the kind of scenario that could garner a draw, but with a fairly one-sided battle I'd have to give this one to Wolverine even if only on points.

Before I move on, I'll insert one point I have with this conclusion.
In this world of the scientific viral vampire, what is it about vampire enzymes that supercedes the super-immuno qualities of Wolverine's fictional healing factor? This logic, which has been applied previously, [Marvel Zombies, What if... Wolverine: Lord of the Vampires - Marvelous Mike], seems thoroughly flawed, all other things considered...

And with that, it's good to finally have that summary over and done with. Couldn't tell you why, but that just wasn't a compelling read.
Maybe it was the overdone clich├ęs, the warn out Wolverine-in-the-past flashbacks, or Chaykin's pencils that just took it out of me, dragged it around the back, beat the crap out of it, and then dumped it in the back of a cab.

It remains baffling after three feature films and a moderately well received television series, how Blade can remain such a dud in the comic books.
Previous attempts to capitalize on the character's new-found popularity have failed, and I'd have to say this latest effort from Guggenheim and Chaykin fails miserably. Maybe even worse than some of the previous shots.

I'd have to say, as conceptually great as Chaykin is, the pencils laid out in most of his recent work, if not all, is ugly. FUGLY, even.
Consistency in characters is distinctly lacking, particularly where the bizarrely conceived jaws are concerned. I mean no disrespect to the man, but Robert Z'Dar comes to mind, despite some angles depicting the characters in the more familiar, streamlined manner.

Also baffling is Chaykin's ability to make characters appear to gain weight between panels. Morbius, depicted hideously in his seventies garb (complete with frustratingly large red triangles for eyes), appears to not only be overweight, but chewing a mouthload of food whilst talking. Erstwhile, Blade appears to go from having a massive double chin, to not. And finally, Wolverine unmasked reveals not James "Logan" Howlett -- but rather a hairy John Belushi!

On the positive, the action is managed well, but it's amusing to recall early interviews with Chaykin concerning the comic upcoming, where he refers to lengths taken to keep his characters contemporary. There's a distinct dating to these issues that feels like something from the eighties. Certainly Blade lacks the contemporary cool of his big screen counterpart, well portrayed by Wesley Snipes, who should ideally be the model on which the character is based, within legal reason.

Who would have believed five years previous during the height of comics sales, that Blade would be the first hero to truly revolutionize Hollywood attitudes to comic book adaptations? The success of the character and first film was staggering, and owed much to a vision of the character that featured many of his modern comic traits, but took it to a refined, sleek and sexy place.

Why then, when the comics come knocking, is this what we find ourselves with?
Completing lacking is the solitary respect for urban-hero success stories, instead replaced by sales grabbing Civil War tie-ins, obtuse character cameos, and battles with Dr. Doom... Everything the movies were not.

I'm not saying the character should not operate within the Marvel Universe. I would quickly contradict myself, because some of his greatest appearances, if not all, have been moving in and around the urban characters that populate the Marvel Universe. Even characters as outlandish as Ghost Rider, Morbius and Dr. Strange.
But why oh why would this feature film success be apparently completely ignored? Even previous efforts, though similar to the films, have been likewise lacking.

Where's the artistic vision of someone like Alex Maleev? Where's the tight characterization and urban drama of a writer like Ed Brubaker? Where is the consideration to what made the character work so well on celluloid?

I guess this entry leaves more questions than answers, true believers.
One can't help but think to Mark Millar's Enemy of the State story, which was originally conceived as a Blade pitch. It may not surpass the high concept of this issue, but you have to imagine it would have had stoic, Wesley Snipes-style characterization going for it.

The Fight: 3 The Issue: 3.5


Pedro Cruz said...

well, I still like Chaykin's style -which is mostly that, style. These days, I find interesting his approach to backgrounds, which apparently look computer generated and I would like to find more about his artistic process... even if he has a tendency to have exactly the same recurring "actors" cast as "characters" from different comic projects and, when writing, tells the same type of story again and again, no matter what the project.

Mike Haseloff said...

I think I've really started to regard Chaykin's superhero work with absolute contempt.

The biggest insult is seeing it on a Blade book. I really think, particularly if Marvel were to at least try to capitalize on the mainstream film success of the character, they need to reflect the slick, modern design featured in the film(s).

Chaykin is embarassingly out of touch, and anything but contemporary-chic.

I think I mentioned once when we were talking about him, I could see Chaykin doing Superman, without any fuss.
I could also see his pencils benefitting from similar inks and colours to some of Matt Wagner's work.