Friday, February 16, 2007

Cunning Attractions! (Marvel comics)
Amazing Spider-man #327 When: Mid December 1989
Why: David Michelinie How: Erik Larsen

The story so far...
Tired of suffering defeats at the hands of their foes, the sinister arrangement of The Wizard, Magneto, Kingpin and Dr. Doom gather in an effort to orchestrate their combined efforts to guarantee their acts of vengeance.

Exchanging information and responsibility to combat their foes, it is ultimately Magneto here who steps up to the plate after the failure of Trapster and Titania to do the job on their behalf.

Meanwhile, Spider-man is coming to terms with the mysterious powers that have not only augmented his abilities, but given him brand new cosmic strengths that have him defeating opponents with never before seen ease!
Is this a positive new beginning for Spider-man, or will cosmic powers attract deadlier foes? With greater power must come greater responsibility!

Previous Form:
Magneto (#203): Magneto has been somewhat unsuccessful thus far.
Spider-man (#2): Spider-man previously used his cosmic power to defeat the Tri-Sentinel.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Spider-man 5 (Super Strength)
Intelligence: Magneto 5 (Professor)
Speed: Spider-man 4 (Olympic Sprinter)
Stamina: Magneto 6 (Generator)
Agility: Spider-man 5 (Cat-like)
Fighting Ability: Spider-man 3 (Street Wise)
Energy Powers: Magneto 6 (Mass Destruction)

No sooner than we have the X-Men fighting Lizard [X-Men: First Class #2] than we arrive at this massive miss matching of foes: Spider-man vs Magneto!

For the sake of consistency our statistics do not change based on the circumstances of the fight featured, so there are some misleading facts described in the above 'tape.' This fight features a very different Spider-man.

These days Spidey has organic webshooters, so the amount of metal he's carrying around at any given time is pretty minimal. There's no immediate inherent threat there unique to Spider-man, but anywhere in the civilized world Magneto finds an arsenal at his disposal.
That's completely neglecting the master of magnetism's own mutant virtues. Abilities that occasionally fluctuate but include things like controlling the iron traces in human blood in various dastardly ways, and/or firing off magnetic pulses of concussive energy.

As far as I see, neither character really has any definitive edge over the other.
Spider-man's preternatural senses allow him pretty swift movement around situations Magneto could create, while his own attacks are fairly base, and would conversely have limited effect on Magneto.

Even so, I'd generally have to lean toward saying Magneto has Spidey licked.
Spider-man's one of the best heroes you can find in the Marvel universe, but Magneto is Magneto, and as we've seen in various recent features, he's not a mutant to be messed with.

Of course, as I mentioned, this isn't your typical Spidey-fight.
On the record, this one's Magneto's. Off the record, you have to completely reevaluate the situation when you take into consideration the omin-power that has embued the noble Peter Parker with fantastic cosmic powers as he becomes - Captain Universe!

We've seen this Spidey once previously on Secret Earths [Amazing Spider-man #329] where he averted another typically X-threat of a mystically charged Sentinel. You can reference that to get an idea of the kind of power we're talking about.

With the power of Captain Universe, Cosmic Spidey (as he's affectionately known) is capable of all kind of incredible feats!
He can fly, has enhanced human senses as well as having his own precognative spider-senses amped up in sensitivity. He can produce concussive cosmic blasts, and even in the days of the mechanical cartridge-loaded web-shooters, he could cosmically conjure a comparable compound out of apparent nothingness. Unlimited webbing, to the video gaming folks out there!

So, yeah... Magneto's in trouble, however:

The Math: Draw (Meta Class)
The Pick: Magneto

What went down...
It begins down at the docks, where Spidey is testing out his new cosmic powers, which include super strength enough to allow him to life a fully loaded barge at a scrapyard with ease above his head! The scrapped shells of cars prove a worthy measure as Spidey obliterates the steel with his cosmic hand-blasts, but unfortunately the attention warrants a call to the press from a scrapyard worker.

Contemplating Spider-man's role in the war between human and mutant, Magneto makes note that Spider-man may play an unwitting key role in the survival of either species. Which is nice, because so often he gets overlooked.
A TV in the park tips him off to the whereabouts of the web-slinger.

Before the arachnoid hero even knows what's going on, the barge is swept out of his hands, ushering the arrival of the master of magnetism - Magneto!

Magneto descends upon the hero, flinging a barrage of shrapnel and scrap metal at the hero. His spider-senses aid him in the dodging of the onslaught, but his cosmic powers prove to be the real advanage, allowing him to blast it out of the air piece by piece.

Among the cosmic feats granted by the omni-power, the ability to use one's butt as a weapon...Spider-man flings himself at his mutant attacker, but Magneto's forcefield of magnetic aura protect him from the attack. Never the less, the might of the cosmic Spider-man proves enough to rattle even he.

Using their surroundings, Magneto flings a magnetic loading crane like a wrecking ball at the airborne wall-crawler. Spider-man swings around the obstacle with the aid of his familiar webbing, but Magneto amplifies the potency of the crane to the point where the iron in Spider-man's body is attracted.

Stuck between a crane and a hard place, Spider-man struggles as Magneto brings him down at speed toward the ground. Only by his instinctive use of his mysterious cosmic powers is he saved, changing the molecular composition of the crane from hard metals -- to fragile glass!

Magneto then hurls car bodies at the hero, whose preemptive senses again allow him the advantage of avoiding contact. Free from danger, Spidey uses his cosmic supply of webbing to form a giant baseball bat, swatting the airborne cars out of the park!

Feeling somewhat over the unprovoked attacks of supervillains generally not in his jurisdiction, Spidey then sets his offensive on the Magster himself.

Tangoing with one of the most powerful mutants on the planet seems do-able for a moment, but as Magneto attempts to repell the hero's attacks with his magnetic ability, Spider-man's heightened cosmic senses pick something up.

From his airborne vantage point he spies a cruise ship that fell hapless victim to one of Spidey's own homerun knock-outs with his webbing ball bat.

Deciding to abandon the fight to quash the disaster of his worst nightmares, he discovers the ability of flight, as he heads away from the docks toward the ship in peril.

The diversity of Spider-man's new powers tips Magneto off to his status as human, rather than mutant, and decides to abandon his interests.
Although, he does so, not without promise of a future encounter with the web-slinger, and new manipulations at the hands of the master of magnetism...

The hammer...
As Uatu so dramatically proclaims to the left there, it's a draw.
I can't even give it to anyone on points, the conclusion is clear.

Had this one on my pile for quite some time now. It's one of those many fights that, for whatever reason, got overlooked in 2006. Maybe because there was no conclusion, or maybe just because there have been so many other things going on. Nice to finally get it out there!

I've probably mentioned before how great my affection for this period in Spider-man history is. As much as I love Conway and Buscema, I have to willingly submit Michelinie and Larsen as one of my all-time favourite teams on the character. They just seemed to have story after story full of exciting action, great visuals, and a lot of fun that combined the characters and ideals of the original concept, with a fresh perspective.

Even some of the more casual readers visiting us are probably familiar with some of Todd McFarlane's work on Spider-man, which arguably established a whole new way of approaching the anatomy and style of the character, but pound-for-pound I think Erik Larsen took it, and did it even better.
For me, I think it's just Larsen's linework, which is far less crowded than McFarlane's Spider-man work. Here Larsen appears to lack some of what makes his work today so recognisable, and what hinders my enjoyment of McFarlane's stuff, is the overuse of lines, particular on the faces.

McFarlane isn't bad at drawing faces, but there's a quality to them all that makes them instantly recognisable, and slightly... Well, deformed is a misleading description, but perhaps just a little less than real. Which is ironic, I suppose, because what I'm really talking about is the cartooning simplification of what represents reality in comics.

It's not just the visuals that define this fantastic period of Spider-history, though. David Michelinie - where are you now? I think I heard something about Michelinie doing stuff at Marvel again, but the guy seemed to disappear from the radar after a lot of great work for the company, particularly Spider-man.

I couldn't tell you what it is about the formula, because it isn't particularly identifiable, and it won't hit you over the head with how clever it thinks it is like some of the more contemporary takes on 'good writing.' It just seems to accept itself and move very fluidly between fun cameos, fights and character moments.

Key point that come to mind aren't particularly important in the scheme of things, but appearances by Punisher and Graviton and the Tri-Sentinel just stick in my memory as great moments in Spidey's history. Moments we seem to have lost in this decade amidst the all-devouring gelatenous blob that is Civil War, and the inexplicably popular work of Ultimate Spider-man, built on a house of stuttering and disposable issues.

Actually, I was overjoyed recently to pick up an issue of Sensational Spider-man, which didn't even feature the web-slinger, instead handing the spotlight to Black Cat and Puma, two characters familiar in the era we're referring to here.

If any positive can be taken out of contemporary directions for Spider-man, it's that we seem to have well and truly left the over indulgent, poorly considered work of the mid-to-late nineties behind us.
We've gotten past the creative stablizing of the industry in the earliest part of this decade, too. [Alternatively referred to as the Jemas-period. - Matriculant Mike] And now we're heading, it seems, toward a balance between the two, indulging willingly in the efforts of the second and third tier characters again, but perhaps with some wisdom gained by the mistakes of the past.

Hopefully even though we didn't deliver a conclusive battle, you enjoyed this flashback never the less. I know I enjoyed flicking through the pages again.
Actually, y'know, my comic guy of fifteen-or-so years has closed up, but is selling off back issues. I wonder if he has any of these for sale...

The Fight: 3.5 The Issue: 4

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