Friday, March 30, 2007

Three Angels Fallen! (Marvel comics)
Avengers #214 When: December 1981
Why: Jim Shooter How: Bob Hall

The story so far...
Johnny Blaze is a man both cursed and privileged with the power to become a demonic spirit of vengeance called the Ghost Rider. As Ghost Rider his whim is unpredictable, and it's this volatile nature that has led him into isolation as a wandering soul without a home.

When he spots billionaire playboy Warren Worthington III speeding through the desert, the Ghost Rider takes over and challenges his former Champions teammate to a race which sees the winged mutant hospitalized with severe injury.

The Avengers are alerted of the demon's warpath, and thus they arrive in the desert area of Alakali Flats to investigate and bring the Ghost Rider to justice.
But the Ghost Rider is busy looking for Warren Worthington, and he intends to take anyone who would protect him to justice. Will the Avengers find him in time, or will he find them?!...

Previous Form:
Ghost Rider (#55): Ghost Rider earned his first victory teaming with Spidey against The Trapster.
Capain America (#6): Cap has victories against characters like MODOK, Baron Zemo, Bane, Wolverine & The Punisher.
Thor (#19): Recently suffered a defeat by way of the Symbiote and Avengers.
Iron Man (#4): Iron Man has victories over Diablo, Hulk, Captain America & She-Hulk.
The Avengers [#2]: The Avengers recently beat the Venom symbiote and She-Hulk.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Thor 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Iron Man 5 (Professor)
Speed: Tigra 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Thor 6 (Generator)
Agility: Tigra 5 (Cat-like)
Fighting Ability: Captain America 6 (Warrior)
Energy Powers: Iron Man 5 (Lasers)

I think I've always had a tendency to underestimate the Ghost Rider's abilities, perhaps because of my slant toward the street bound Dan Ketch host of the nineties. I think around this period of the seventies and eighties Ghost Rider was probably a more hopeful A-lister in waiting, and packed the power to match it.

His powers are certainly versatile, but then you have to take a look at the assemblage of heroes who are representing the Avengers on this occasion; Captain America, Thor, Iron Man and Tigra.

Thor and Iron Man are two heavy hitters here, and certainly each has a pretty hefty statistical advantage over Ghost Rider. As the tape shows, they outweigh him in terms of brute strength, and the bredth of their energy related powers dwarf even Ghost Rider's hellflame.

Iron Man as a man in machine is more vulnerable, particularly to the vengeful aspects of the character. Lord knows by now Tony Stark has enough sins to bury him, if Ghost Rider were to turn his penance stare on him today.

Thor, as a God, is presumably less vulnerable to Ghost Rider's attacks, assuming there would even be things to be capitalized on like the weighing guilt of sins.
Even if the Rider were able to roll through the more vulnerable tagerts of Captain America and Tigra, it may come down to Thor, if not the double team of Thor and Iron Man. Two guys who've gone head to head with the Hulk.

The Math: Avengers (Total) Ghost Rider (Average)
The Pick: The Avengers

What went down...
The menace of the hero presents itself long before the Civil War as a child dangles helplessly from a watertower dressed in a red cape in imitation of the mighty Thor! Fortunately Johnny Blaze is on the scene and gives in to the fantastic power of the Ghost Rider in order to save him!

Unfortunately... the indepedent will of the Ghost Rider demon isn't terribly interested in saving the foolish child, leaving the job to the red and gold visage of Iron Man, who happens to show on the scene just in the nick of time!
[Planting the seeds for the need for registration? I DIGRESS! -- Muckraking Mike]
Miles away on a freeway, a motorcycle riding Captain America (with Tigra entow) happens upon the Ghost Rider's flaming hellcycle!
Ghost Rider employs his daredevil riding skills to navigate the narrow gap between a semi-trailer and on-coming traffic, as he dares the Captain to pursue.

Tigra and he follow the Rider into to the desert, but find themselves facing rock in a box canyon as Ghost Rider defies gravity, driving vertically up the cliff face.
The two avengers spill onto the dirt, bailing from the crashing cycle, leaping out of the pan into the hellfire. They suffer the hellish freeze of Ghost Rider's vengeful burn.

The action of the flames alerts Iron Mans' sensors, and he sweeps in to investigate. The Ghost Rider is none too pleased to suffer another fool. He surfs his speeding hellcycle and uses it to launch himself into the air at the golden Avenger.

Though shielded from principle attack, Tony Stark does not have the foresight to seal the gaps on his helmet, allowing him to succum to the unrelenting fire of Ghost Rider's fury.

He plummets to the ground as Thor arrives on the scene.

Thor talks a big game and Ghost Rider isn't buying into it, impatiently spraying the Norse god of thunder with fire from his eyes. The magical pyre does little to the hull of the mighty Thor of Asgard, who attacks in kind with the tossing of his worthy hammer -- Mjolnir!

Ghost Rider, aware of the threat, leaps atop his hellcycle and flees from the airborne hammer. As he builds momentum he finds himself putting distance between he and the hammer, until it appears to reach the apex of it's flight.

As the enchanted hammer turns to reach he summon of it's possessor, the cunning demon snatches the handle and allows himself and his cycle to be dragged behind!

Unable to control the hammer himself, he pops his wheel, riding the flaming bike up into the face of the waiting Thor. The two heroes spill into the air, but Ghost Rider is the one nimble enough to land in stride on his cycle, leaving the thunder god to suffer his bruises.

The Avengers regroup from the attack as Ghost Rider rides into the desert.
Captain America inspires the troops, lending support to Tigra and Iron Man, each fearful of the Rider's touch, having felt first hand the effects of his flames.

The team cuts the spirit of vengeance off at the pass, and Iron Man springs the attack with an uncompromising repulsor ray to the face that dismounts the demon from his hellish vehicle.

Shaken but not stirred, Ghost Rider hurls flame at the fearful Tigra, but Captain America is ready, anticipating the attack to the weakest link!
He defends the feline heroine, and collides with the fiend in a thunderous exchange!

Furious, Ghost Rider pursues the attack, but an unlikely individual steps into the battlefield. Bandaged and in a sling, Warren Worthington approaches his former teammate from the short-lived Champions.

He supposes that the Ghost Rider's lust for vengeance becomes lest caring as Johnny Blaze finds himself increasingly depressed and dissatisfied with his life.
The Angel reaches out to the demon, and pleads for the courage of the man inside to reemerge and quell the demon's rage.

And once again, Johnny Blaze returns.

The hammer...
Despite the peaceful resolution, I'm going to give this one to Ghost Rider based on points. He pretty well manhandled each member of the Avengers, including Thor -- a god!
The assist goes to Angel too, for his participation in ending the fray.

Well, if you've been with us at the time on the site you'll know I've been unwell, and then blogspot ate my Wednesday post.
I'm going to endeavor to rewrite the exciting entry from What If Wednesday, but I'm still a bit under the weather, so if it doesn't get done before the Punch-Up, my sincerest apologies.

The Angel: Continuing to highlight how useless he is in a fight...I have to admit to mixed feelings about this particular issue. It's almost the perfect action comic for this site, and yet, it lacks the charm of some of the other unauspicious superhero fights we've had previously.

I guess part of what's awful about it is that it centers around highlighting the fact that the Angel is utterly hopeless when it comes to a fight.

When writers were handing out secondary mutations in the X-Men books, how this guy got healing blood over some sort of offensive attack completely escapes me. I guess it's kinda fitting.
Put aside any clever Angel/pacifist-martyr connections for a moment, and just think about the fact that his body is continuing to go with what it knows.

The worse he gets injured, the more the team around him benefits!
'Wow, open up an artery Warren! The Beast just got a concussion! If we heal him, we might still stand a chance!'
Way to send a positive message to the kids, guys.

Jokes aside, this is one of the few encounters I've actually had with Jim Shooter as a writer. Somehow, despite his alleged reign of terror, I've run afoul the guy's writing very rarely. It's safe to say you would believe he started writing as a kid... I joke, I joke!

It's a simple comic from a simpler time, and it shouldn't be judged too harsh.
This was a time when Ghost Rider was hopping around the place like a pseudo-Wolverine. A nomadic character without a home, who was popular, and was inherently capable of being thrown into a fight with just about anyone!

In the seventies and eighties, Ghost Rider made even Namor look level-headed!

This book comes amidst the infamous story about the divorce of Hank Pym and his wife, the Wasp, after he assaulted her.
I've never actually read the story in any kind of complete capacity, and as hokey and out of place as it seems in a universe of fisticuffs, I still think it's fairly regarded as a key moment in Avengers history.

So, with something that heavy going on, maybe it was a good time for an issue like this. Maybe contemporary comics could benefit from the odd issue like this!

Or not...

The Fight: 4 The Issue: 3.5

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Unfortunately I [Mike] have been a bit unwell, so What If Wednesday's post was delayed. Then, when I finally found the time/energy to type up a lengthy and thoughtful post, blogger presented an error page that informed me I had exceded the character limit in the labels section.

And then gave me no option to edit.

Thanks a lot, Blogger.

Some delay will occur while I [Mike] stop seething with Black Adam-esque rage.

EDIT: What If Wednesday will be rewritten if time permits, otherwise, we continue with our regular schedule.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Faith In Monsters Part 2 (Marvel comics)
Thunderbolts #111 When: April 2007
Why: Warren Ellis How: Mike Deodato Jr.

The story so far...
Under the direction of Norman Osborn, the Thunderbolts have been completely overhauled in the wake of the Civil War. Incorporating existing members of the super-team and former criminals recruited to hunt rogue heroes, the new team is a volatile and untested mess.

Placing Moonstone in the position of leader, Osborn sends the team out on their first mission: Defeat and detain the rogue protégé of Captain America; Jack Flag.

With the press watching will this soft-target be the undoing of a team of reformed and manipulated villains. Or will they unravel live on the air?

Previous Form:
The Thunderbolts [#14]: Moonstone and Songbird were defeated by the Hulk as part of the classic Thunderbolts.
Venom (#63): Venom has a lethal victory over the Space Phantom.
Bullseye (#77): Bullseye has a victory against Daredevil, for two defeats.
Radioactive Man (#110): Radioactive Man was among the team assembled to take down the Anti-Registration Avengers.
Swordsman, Penance: Neither of these characters have been featured previously on the site.
Jack Flag: Jack Flag has not yet been featured on the site.

Tale of the tape...
Totally NOT Grifter, yo!Strength: Moonstone 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Radioactive Man 5 (Professor)
Speed: Speedball/Penance 5 (Super Speed)
Stamina: Moonstone 6 (Generator)
Agility: Speedball/Penance 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting Ability: Jack Flag 4 (Trained Fighter)
Energy Powers: Radioactive Man 6 (Mass Destruction)

So, as we continue Marvel Ultimate Alliance Mondays, this is supposed to be the Radioactive Man representitive entry. Confession time: Radioactive Man is a pretty insignificant cog in this entry, but I'm not a huge fan of the character, so it's about as good as it gets.

As a character in this situation Radioactive Man is probably more of a second-tier performer, but he brings a great deal to the team. Strength, intelligence and radioactive power being his trifecta of terror.

There seems to have been some confusion about the origins of the Jack Flag character. He's only been on the job since the early nineties, and initially brought very little to the game as an admirer of Captain America.
His skills developed with intensive training and clearly he picked up some points from the Captain himself. It's difficult to tell to what degree it has been retained, but he also gained super human strength after a tussle with Mr. Hyde.

It seems Flag has maybe been scaled down a little from that level, bringing him back to more of a 'roid raging 4 on our stat tape.

Guys like Venom, Radioactive Man and Moonstone all excede his strength level, and Moonstone, Venom and even Songbird have the skills to potentially outmaneuver the earth-bound Flag.

The key to victory for Flag would have to be using the inexperience of some of the characters, and exploiting the lack of preperation they've had as a team. Certainly the volatile nature of many of the characters only stirs the chemicals of dissent and distrust. That said, it's a big ask!

The Math: The Thunderbolts
The Pick: The Thunderbolts

What went down...
The Thunderbolts catch up with Jack Flag in Ohio, where he's been breaking up various criminal activities in defiance of the superhero registration act. Delivering justice without a paycheque or equipment and health benefits... Actually, why wouldn't a two-bit schmuck like Flag be signing up?!

Riding to the DANGER ZONE! DANANANANA!In a scene that would send a film soundtrack platinum, the team struts in unison from their space age plane vehicle. If it were a Mattel the individual credits would go in an order along the lines of; sweet ass Songbird, marvellous Moonstone, radical Radioactive Man, peripherally challenged Penance, voulptuous Venom and the swinging Swordsman!

So, anyway, Moonstone goes about fullfilling her roll as new 'team leader' by orchestrating from the sidelines. With Jack Flag standing tall in the middle of a parking lot, Moonstone orders Radioactive Man to blow the gas tanks, making it appear to the on-looking press as though Flag had rigged the explosions himself.

The explosions put Flag on the back foot, as Moonstone sends in Swordsman and Venom to do the work of soldiers. Unfortunately she doesn't count on the strength and determination of the flag-clad hero, who shatters Swordsman's sword as it hovers above him.

Flag rolls back, booting the airborne sword end into Venom's chest, whilst using the follow throw to knock Swordsman for six.

Though the sword tip doesn't do any permanent damage to the symbiote-clad Mac Gargan, it does send him into a berzerker rage. As Flag stomps on Swordsman's helmet, Venom doubles in size and becomes a veiny mess... Hello!

Venom doubles in size and swells with veins... Kinky!Flag feels the sting of Venom's taloned fingertips, and finds himself in the grip of a creature that's pretty intent on eating his head. A prospect that would produce a win for the Thunderbolts, to be sure, but probably isn't the kind of press you want on the six O'clock news.

Moonstone plays moderator, calling for the activation of an implant that subdues Venom with an electrical charge. They'll pass it off as a hand-held weapon concealed in Jack Flag's gloves later. Oh, they're sly!

Songbird heads to the sky, but the smoke cover caused by the exploded cars proves to make her influence moot. Flag, freed of Venom's grip, goes about taking possession of something that may or may not be a misproportioned wheel mag.

Recalling the advice of his now deceased mentor, Captain America, he whips the cylindrical shrapnel into the air, ricocheting it off a street sign and lamp post, to strike Songbird directly in the throat. The jolt to her vocals quells her sound-based energy powers, and brings her into a heavy descent atop one of the surviving stationary vehicles.

Moonstone denies Radioactive Man opportunity to step in, instead seeing the opportunity to showcase the newest face on the team - Penance. Formerly Speedball, the massochistic turn he's taken, donning an iron maidenesque outfit, allows him to turn his kinetic powers outward.

With blood trickling from his suit, Penance brims with energy and hurls it into the lot. It stirs already twisted metal into the air, but ultimately finds it's target.

Though he's struck in the back, Flag is able to not only survive the onslaught, but turn it to his advantage as he attempts to make an escape down an alley.

The police cut off his backdoor, and he proves unwilling to fight the drones of the law. Perhaps a misguided mark of respect for the men in uniform and their distance from the 'Civil War', or perhaps the true sign of a hero.

Either way he switches strategy, kicking his way into the lower levels of one of the surrounding buildings. A chance to create a distraction and find his way to his goals. Unfortunately, there was one contingent he didn't count on.
There was one last trump the team didn't display in front of the cameras and the action figure buying children, and that was the scariest one of them all. The one scarier than the alien costume that eats brains, or the bulky Chinese guy who glows green.

WASSUUUUUPPPPPPP~!!!Flag feels it before he knows what's happened -- a sai burying deep into his spinal column. The sting of the man called Bullseye, lurking in the shadows to clean up the mess before it spilled completely out of control.
He never misses his target. Flag's cauda equina is the victim, and he will never walk again. All in a day's work for the might Thunderbolts.

The hammer...
Well, with the assist going to the rest of the team, Bullseye scores the victory for the Thunderbolts. Go team!

Y'know, there's a certain level of excitement that occurs when a person says "Warren Ellis" and "Thunderbolts" in the same sentence. Especially when that prospect is said to entail a complete overhaul of the B-list team. Which is a fact that only becomes even more exciting when names like Green Goblin, Venom and Bullseye are getting thrown around!

Unfortunately, the imagination tends to run a little wild with those ingredients, and what actually rests in one's hands is of a flavour more pedestrian, perhaps.
Actually, that accurately describes the tone of the book, as Ellis panders to the 'real world' repercussions of a world where the superheroes have been dubbed outlaws.

There are a handfull of criticisms coming the way of this, and none is more sound than the theory that Bullseye and Mac Gargan could be sold to the public as the good guys. Bullseye, a character we featured just recently, wherein he was dubbed number four on America's Most Wanted list, a hero? [Daredevil #49]

Fair enough, he seems to be lurking shackled to the shadows with armed guards, but Venom is among the public face of the team. His raging "kill!" screaming outburst is dismissed by Moonstone as she fronts the press after the assault, as she assures them Venom is quite incapable of killing, despite a long history of being a known killer and menace in public. Something that dates back even to the days of Eddie Brock [a 'lethal protector'], should there be illusions about who is wearing the symbiote.
Of course, Gargan is the Venom that only a couple of years ago tore buildings down in the streets of New York in an effort to gain the advantage over Spider-man.

I digress, there are some issues to be taken with the details.
What was perhaps most disappointing to me was the subdued nature of the book, and the shadowy psuedo-realistic artwork by Deodato Jr, someone who seems to be being pushed in this sort of street realism capacity; presumably for his photo referenced pencil work.

I think what I hoped for was something a little less covert, exhibiting the unbridled enthusiasm of a Nextwave, or something akin to it. Not necessarily so over-the-top or tongue-in-cheek, but more vibrant, and action packed, and free flowing.

Remove those expectations and there is a good read to be found here.
Some of the conventions and tools are a little obvious, but the first three issues approach facets of the concept with purpose. The first issue reveals the new team, the second issue puts them into action and exposes some problems, and the third issue explains and faces some of the changes, including superficial qualities like Radioactive Man's new suit, or the dramatic changes.

Love it or hate it, it's a decent read, and though seemingly slow paced, as an opening arc it seems to be taking very sure steps forward. Things should hopefully pick up by the second, as team dynamics begin to settle, motivations become clearer, and problems escalate outside of the parade of Z-list heroes.

One can't help but anticipate the in-house problems that will arise with guys like Bullseye on the team. A character who couldn't possibly remain on the team for much longer than a few years, guaranteed.

As for Jack Flag, it's a shame they crippled him. He actually seemed to have come out the end of a revamp looking like a strong prospect for a hero in the post-Captain America world. Maybe that's a little too Death of Superman for some, but I think it might have been nice.

Norman Osborn is looking better than he has in a while too. Hilarious ending!
Songbird apparently got herself a character too, which helps. Albeit, she stole it from Dr. Cameron from TV's House MD, but fair enough...

The Fight: 4.5 The Issue: 5.5

NEXT WEEK: Fin Fang Foom!

Friday, March 23, 2007

(UDON comics)
Street Fighter Legends #2 When: September 2006
Why: Ken Siu-Chong & Double KO How: Omar Dogan

The story so far...
Martial arts fanatic and school girl, Sakura Kusanago, begins her journey to become a great martial artist after meeting Ryu, the nomadic street fighting legend who dethroned the king of Muay Thai -- Sagat.

Staying in touch, Sakura receives the advice from Ryu that to become the ultimate martial artist, she should be open to learning from various styles. Thus, Sakura begins a new quest to learn from various fighting champions.

Her quest takes her to the professional wrestling show in town, where she hopes to observe her favourite wrestler in action -- Rainbow Mika!
R. Mika defeats Zangief in the ring, but while signing autographs Sakura finds herself between Rainbow Mika and a challenge from the kayfabeless Zangief!

Previous Form:
R. Mika, Sakura, Zangief: None of the three Street Fighters have previously been featured on the site.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Zangief 4 (Steroid Popper)
Intelligence: Draw 2 (Average)
Speed: R. Mika 3 (Trained Athlete)
Stamina: Zangief 5 (Marathon)
Agility: R. Mika 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting Ability: Zangief 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy Powers: Sakura 3 (Explosives)

Here we are again, running a little late, and revisiting the Street Fighter scene!
Which really, if you think about it, plays straight into this little section we like to refer to as The Tape.

Zangief is a big ol' Russian who bares scars from fighting polar bears.
He's a legit pro wrestler. Now, if your laughter has subsided, and you're able to stop for a moment to ponder the nature of the grappling system, you'll observe one major a thing -- neck injuries. Seriously, even the pros suffer life altering injuries, and they aren't even playing for keeps.

So, a seven foot tall Russian who fights bears is probably going to be a seriously problem. He's got reach on his side, and while slower than your average Street Fighter, he's still pretty fast considering the bulk of his muscle.

Keys to victory here come down to the numbers game.
If R. Mika and Sakura can double team the big man, then you're starting to calculate a pretty basic win. If he can eliminate and isolate, then it comes down to individual skills.

Both Sakura and Mika have Zangief pegged on the speed and agility front, but neither is as technically proficient with their respective fighting styles, including Mika's brand of high flying/butt pumping wrestling.
So it's got to be about getting in and out, using the speed to the avantage to take out Zangief. But that's probably much easier said, than done.

The Math: R. Mika & Sakura (Total) Zangief (Average)
The Pick: Zangief (Champion Class)

What went down...
Having delivered his rematch challenge at the end of last issue, Zangief wastes little time highlighting the severity of his intent -- launching a flying body press attack at the relatively diminutive opponents.

R. Mika and Sakura leap clear of danger either side, leaving Zangief to land flat on his face.

Mika jumps on the Balkan behemoth, surprised to be joined by Sakura, who imitates her daydream headlock. An off-the-cuff remark about becoming a tag team becomes a reality as the two drive Zangief's head into the ground.

Zangief shrugs the attack off, and to Rainbow Mika's shock he's "wrestling for real". Sakura shoves her idol out of the way to take a diving dropkick.

Rainbow Mika comes to the rescue of Sakura with a moonsault, but it has little effect on Zangief.
He swats Mika off his back, hurtling her into the air.

R. Mika recovers, but sets herself up to suffer at the hands of Zangief's spinning clothesline of the man dubbed the Red Cyclone! Then, with Mika reeling, he intends to follow up with the banishing flat, but... His grip misses.

In an issue full of shots of Rainbow Mika's butt and boobs, this remains a blatant ploy to lure hits from horny fanboys...Yeah... He grabs her arse.
Now, fair enough, it was an accident. He actually meant to finish her off with a deadly finishing move, but... Yeah. He's gonna get it now, chief.

In a rage, Mika throws herself at her rival for a rainbow hip crush, switching her butt from plush, curvy plamed fun -- to deadly weapon of pain!

With Zangief reeling, Rainbow Mika calls in the assist from her fan, referencing the finish to a match from earlier in her career.
Sakura, knowing the reference, slips behind on all fours behind the hulking Zangief, to finish him off with a crescent kick/trip combo.

Only, even though he goes down hard... He gets back up.

Rainbow Mika switches things up for some hardcore rules, spraying the Russian with a fire extinguisher. She taunts him as he stumbles around trying to put his big mits on his foe, and at that crucial moment Dan, seeking to train Sakura, stumbles in.

With the extinguisher foam cleared from his eyes, Zangief doesn't get to see what's coming as Rainbow Mika sneaks behind with a Wingless Airplane reverse head scissors. Leaving him wide open to a juggle combo shouoken attack!

Zangief goes down for good, unable to dispute the defeat this time.
And much to the chagrin of Karin Kanzuki, who happens to be watching TV at the time, Sakura becomes a star!

The hammer...
The winners of this bout, Sakura and Rainbow Mika!

We've got a lot of new people joining us every day, and some of you might be surprised to stumble across Street Fighter on a website mostly dedicated to Marvel and DC superheroes. Fair enough!

My gross slant toward Marvel (and DC) withstanding, this site is actually really just directed toward comic book and comic book related battles, as a vehicle to discuss and document those products. So, be fully aware that Street Fighter animated movies are just sitting in waiting.

I'm a big fan of the work UDON are doing with the Street Fighter books!
If you haven't been reading, you might like to slide back to one of our previous Top Rating Reads. [Street Fighter II #2]

That said, there's a distinct problem I think I'm finding with the Street Fighter franchise, and it actually has nothing to do with the slow release schedule.
I'm a fan of various beat 'em up video games, and like many-a fanboy who insists they're a "writer", the characters in these kinds of games have mooshed around in my head and I've come up with some ideas for story.

What seems lacking in Ken Siu-Chong's stories is a sense of purpose.
For me, because the games so often offer minimal information, I look at the potential of taking everything provided and building it up to a story. Which is what's being done to a degree, but what concerns me is just how unfocused it all seems. I say this having picked up another issue or two of the main book as well, and not just the Legends: Sakura mini-series.

There's clearly a familiarity with the franchise, and UDON seems to be very keen on servicing that, but it as a story it just lacks the kind of density and sense of purpose that I would much prefer. I hate to go down that line, but it really feels like a series that's being written by a penciller.

My writing career suffers a SHAOUOKEN!As a guy who's brimming over with projects but is struggling to get work printed because he needs collaborators, it's probably not a great opinion to hold. But, in all honesty, there are a lot of pencillers who maybe think they supercede writers, but without them... Yeah...

This isn't a book that's suffering a hard crunch, but my attentions certainly have the potential to wander if it doesn't pick up a thread and go with it. That said, if you're a Street Fighter fan and are looking for a fun read, this isn't a bad issue at all. I'm just projecting my concern for the future, as I see the book very loosely tying threads together.
As a fan, I'd like a more complete picture, and it's not casting that net.

Buy it anyway. It's not like you're going to get a Street Fighter 4! *sniff*

So, anyway! I mentioned last Friday [New Avengers #27] that it was International Woman's Day, and we're sort of continuing the theme here with the two girls scoring the victory over Zangief. That theme will continue through next Friday as I pull out a recent tale I've been hoping to have reason to use!

I'm very tired, it's a very late update again.
I've noticed the hits are waning, spread the word folks so that I may have new victims upon which to leech energy. Until they, see you Monday!

The Fight: 4 The Issue: 4.5

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

What If The Alien Costume had Possessed Spider-man? (Marvel comics)
What if...? #4 When: October 1989
Why: Danny Fingeroth How: Mark Bagley

The story so far...
In our reality Peter Parker was able to free himself of the influence of the alien symbiote he obtained during the Secret Wars, but in another universe Peter Parker was not so fortunate.

Reed Richards was able to intervene and remove the symbiotic costume to contain it, but neither he nor Dr. Strange could prevent the creature escaping to again seek out the Spider-man once more.

The symbiote reemerges during a battle between Dr. Strange and Hulk, and wrenches the green goliath from being banished to another dimension. Combatting Strange and Hulk, the symbiote recognises an even more powerful host, and thus the incredible Hulk becomes the possessor of the black costume.

Leaving behind a frail and aged Peter Parker, the symbiote-Hulk now has the combined might of Peter Parker, Dr. Strange, Reed Richards, Black Cat and the Avengers in pirsuit of it. But will they survive long enough to stop it?

Previous Form:
Mr. Fantastic (#16): Mr. Fantastic has a victory against the Red Ghost and his Super Apes.
Hulk (#7): Hulk has tangoed successfully with the Thunderbolts and Daredevil.
Thor (#12): Thor has had victories over Captain Marvel and Super-Skrull.
Venom Symbiote (#11): The Symbiote has been possessed by Peter Parker, Eddie Brock and Mac Gargan.
The Avengers [#2]: The Avengers have battled and won against She-Hulk and the Secret Avengers.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Thor 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Mr. Fantastic 6 (Genius)
Speed: Photon 5 (Super Speed)
Stamina: Hulk 6 (Generator)
Agility: Symbiote 7 (Unlimited)
Fighting Ability: Thor 6 (Warrior)
Energy Powers: Scarlet Witch 7 (Solar Power)

Wow, we're running a bit late today, and we've got a lot ahead of us!

Sadly Peter Parker, having been sapped of his energy, suffers a death of old age before the fight can be taken to the symbiote-Hulk, but as Reed Richards would discover, he did provide key scientific theorums that, combined with Richards' thoughts, provided key to victory.

Which I suppose brings us straight to a huge advantage for the team going up against the Symbiote, and that's Mr. Fantastic. He's one of the greatest scientific minds in the Marvel universe, and one of the foremost authorities on alien life.
So you can trust that Peter Parker's research is in good hands.

You'll see the line-up of the team consists of: Mr. Fantastic, Thor, Dr. Strange, Vision, Starfox, Photon, Scarlet Witch, the Human Torch and the Wasp.

We know the symbiote has vulnerabilities to sonics and flame/heat, so presumably Photon and Human Torch are a big plus in this field. If they can get a clear shot they could potentially end the fight in one shot, so there you go.

Vision is presumably a heavy-hitter who could not be possessed by the symbiote because he's an in-organic lifeform. I don't know the specifics of that, but let us assume that the Vision's strength and varying skills of tangibility would be useful in at least slowing the symbiote down.

The symbiote is entering this fight whilst possessing the Hulk. Which means he's got a massive well of energy to draw upon, likewise, he's bringing an impressive physical strength with him. Which is a pretty big deal, because the Hulk alone could probably tackle the Avengers.

That said, the Symbiote's inherent weaknesses make him a bit of a softer target, even with the Hulk, so unless he steamrolls them, he's in trouble.

The Math: The Avengers (Total) The Symbiote (Average)
The Pick: The Avengers

What went down...
With the team seeking out the Symbiote, Thor stumbles across it revelling in the power of the Hulk, lifting chunks of Earth without a care in the world.
Thor considers alerting his companions, but the Symbiote spots him, apparently as per a premeditated plan to lure the Norse God out.

The Symbiote claims remorse for the death of Peter Parker, and claims to have achieved true symbiosis with the Incredible Hulk. He claims to be restoring Bruce Banner's mind, and be curing him of the Hulk in the process of absorbing the gamma power for himself. A fate far more beneficial than that of Parker's.

The words mean little to Thor who readies to take the Symbiote into custody, provoking the true intent of the alien creature. He spews forth his own brand of webbing, swatted away by the thunder god with the use of a twirling Mjolnir.

The Hulk-powered Symbiote manages to level Thor with a thundering left-hook, but the god assures the creature that he is far from helpless, tossing the mighty Mjolnir verily!

The Symbiote oozes away from his felled host, revealing a frail Bruce Banner where there should be Hulk. Revealing the Symbiote's claims to be true!
Thor feels a brief moment of remorse, believing himself responsible for the deaths of both alien and host, but no sooner than Banner stirs than the Symbiote leaps forth onto Thor!

Thor struggles desperately, but having absorbed the power of Hulk, the Symbiote proves to be a match for his flailing and tearing.

As the Avengers arrive on the seen Thor makes one last gesture of resistence, summoning the might of the heavens in the form of a lightning bolt to strike the creature into submission. Sadly, the only one weakened by the bolt is Thor himself.

Reed Richards attempts to sway the battle of wills with a sonic blast, but the Symbiote has already taken strength from the mighty Thor.
Dr. Strange cannot do anything without dooming Thor himself, but Reed Richards proves unwilling to do what is necessary, concerned about the effects of his Terminator-Blast on the Avenger.

Meanwhile -- the Symbiote, having subdued Thor and taken the form of a Thor silhouette with cape and black hair, flees into a cave to complete the bonding process uninterrupted. The Human Torch attempts to follow in pirsuit, and narrowly avoids death as godly lightning floods from out from the cave.

Captain Marvel [Photon] follows in, moving at incredible speed in the form of microwaves. She plunges into the torso of the alien-costume possessed Thor, but with the energy of a god he channels Captain Marvel's energy back through his hammer -- sending her hurtling back from whence she came!

Starfox manages to catch her upon her violent exit, as the team of heroes are forced to face the inevitable. Dr. Strange and Vision put forth the grim proposal -- the omin-blast terminator ray may be their only chance.

Reed Richards requests a half hour to consider another alternative. What he comes up with is enough to stir a reaction from the creature.

Black Bolt steps into the cave beneath Mount Rushmore, and solemnly stares down his foe.
The Symbiote, still struggling to take complete control over the thunder god, swares he will kill the Inhuman before he can unleash his deadly blast of sound, but he leaps too slow.

Black Bolt screams, and the sonic force emitted is enough to shatter the American landmark around them.

Thor survives, and with the Symbiote is reduced to little more than a stain.
Dr. Strange steps in to begin a spell to expell him to a benevolent dimension, when a lethal omni-blast comes out of nowhere to destroy the creature once and for all!

The Black Widow has her revenge. The Symbiote is a menace no more.
What if... the Symbiote had bonded with Spider-man?...

The hammer...
The winners, of course, are Black Bolt, Black Cat, and the Avengers. As the possessed tools of the Symbiote, Thor and Hulk share the defeat. Sorry to all fans concerned.

I've left it literally until the eleventh hour today, and it was quite a big one. Lots of heroes and statistics to consider with this one.
I like to think the majority stock our United States viewers have means I'm safe. It's still Wednesday for yourselves, but here, I'm a little disappointed with myself. Sorry to let you guys down.

Jokes aside, those who aren't in-the-know might be interested to know that while the Symbiote appeared four years prior, Venom had his first appearance barely a year prior to this issue. Which, I thought was slightly interesting.

With the Spider-man 3 feature mere months away, it's interesting to note that Venom hasn't reverted to the over exposed schedule he featured throughout the nineties, at the height of the character's popularity. Perhaps understandably so, Marvel has made efforts for most previous features to capitalize on the mainstream exposure of the characters, pumping characters like Green Goblin, Dr. Octopus, Dr. Doom and others into the books.

Most recently Sandman has certainly felt this injection in popularity, appearing in various versions of the Spider-man books including the core titles, and also the Marvel Adventures series, aimed at young, movie-going readers.

Venom, currently worn by the Scorpion, has had a smooth bonding with the Symbiote, which has developed a personality quite distinctly different from the power-hungry super villain of this particular issue of What if...

During the exchange of the symbiote the creature's concerns were less focused on the consumption of energy, as much as they were seeking out a 'good roommate' for a host. Someone strong, with likeminded interests, but who would maintain control of their faculties, unlike Hulk and Thor in this feature.

Which I guess just highlights the dangers of alien symbiote costumes, kids.
Sure, sometimes they might seem like your friends, but they can snap and turn on you in a second. Leaving you behind a frail, white-haired husk with your best years snatched before you could have them!

I'm enjoying the Gargan take on the character and his inclusion into the new Thunderbolts team written by Warren Ellis is one of the more enticing elements of the book. I don't think it's been what anyone would have imagined when announcements paired Ellis and Thunderbolts together. Something a little more bombastic and exciting was certainly what came to mind for me, particularly when big names like Bullseye, Venom and Green Goblin were coming out.

Still, it'll be interesting to talk more about that in the near future!

For the time being, keep the hits coming!
It's been a pleasure to see plenty of new and old visitors alike!

Oh, before I go -- note the Mark Bagley pencils!
Certainly one of the most iconic pencillers to work on the character in the last ten years, made particularly recognisable via Ultimate Spider-man and a slew of Marvel/Spider-man merchandising. Check it out, kids. History!

The Fight: 4 The Issue: 5

Monday, March 19, 2007

Origins and Endings: Part IV of V (Marvel comics)
Wolverine #39 When: April 2006
Why: Daniel Way How: Javier Saltares & Mark Texeira

The story so far...
During the Second World War, Bucky Barnes was sidekick to Captain America and tommy-gun wielding posterboy for the war against the Nazis! His will was almost as indominitable as his mentor's, and like the hero he was, he died fighting the fight... Or so it was thought.

In the time between then and now, Bucky Barnes' frozen body was recovered by the Russians. Lost limbs were replaced with cybernetics, and the boy called Bucky was reprogrammed to become the heartless assassin called Winter Soldier.

As the Winter Soldier he performed many assassinations and murders throughout the years, even as the Cold War came to an end. He would inevitably cross the path of old associates and friends of friends. One such mission brought him into contact with the Wolverine, where he would killed his wife and unborn child.
Revenge is a dish best served cold...

Previous Form:
Wolverine (#3): Wolverine has victories over Lobo, Lady Deathstrike, Silver Samurai and Blade.
Winter Soldier: The Winter Soldier has not yet been featured.

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

Wolverine is the best there is at what he does, but what he does is ugly.
Winter Soldier was once a shell spraying monkey boy, but the Russians trained him up real good to be a finely tuned [cyborg] killing machine!

So, how do you break this one down?
Bucky's development puts him in a class perhaps even above Captain America. His cybernetic enhancement increases his strength capacity (by a half), he's had all manner of tactical training, and perhaps most important is the fact that he's willing to employ all of his skills in the most devious of ways.

Wolverine's no stranger to crossing certain lines, and he too is said to have the training of a soldier, samurai, special operative and various other disciplines.

I guess it's a surprisingly even fight, really.
Keys to victory kinda go out the window. I could talk about the advantage of getting the drop could favour them both, or talk about healing factors and guns and explosions and whatever else. But it would be for moot, and I'm running late...

The Math: Wolverine (Meta Class)
The Pick: Wolverine

What went down...
So Wolvie's got the word out that he's looking for the Winter Soldier, and hitched a ride with some smugglers all the way to Serbia just to make it nice and easy.
Because in Serbia, Winter Soldier find YOU!

Heading for the bar for a quick drink becomes difficult when a sniper shot strikes Wolverine in the head above his eye. Gushing blood helps blind him as he goes on the hunt, claws extended.

The sniper, quite obviously Winter Soldier, is no dummy.
Wolverine heads to the location of the shooter to find a fully functioning printing press complete with ink and paper smells in the air, and the audible ruckus of pounding machines. Thus negating the tracking advantage provided by his senses.

Wolverine greets his friend with an unusually sissy scream!Bucky looms in the shadows brandishing a knife, and finally springs his attack as Wolverine stalks past him. He stabs him in the back. Those Russians sure know how to play dirty! Dirty like a fox!

Covered in ink to further mask his scent (and apparently not dying of asphyxiation), Bucky follows the ambush, snapping up his foe with handcuffs, pinning both of Wolverine's greatest weapons behind his back.

Wolverine slips into a berzerker rage as the inky Winter Soldier falls into his peripheral vision. He charges and pays for his lack of discipline with a thundering kick to the back of the head.

Put down hard, the Soldier pushes the knife deeper into his side with his boot, and then grabs Wolverine by the hair to anchor him while he retrieved his blade.
The tiny knife appears to cause many more problems than being impaled on a sword did in the past. [Blade #5]

Is that another knife in my back, or are you just happy to see me?The Soldier puts a blade to Wolverine's throat with a promise for a near death experience for the immortal mutant, but he underestimates the lengths the primal rage pushes Wolverine to.
Being clutched by the hair, Wolverine whips his head forward willingly, leaving a chunk of hair behind, but taking a chunk of arm into his jaws.

Winter Soldier uses his cybernetic arm and pounds the back of Logan's skull, with Wolverine eventually forced to relinquish his grip. With his wrist bloodied, the Soldier is flipped by the grounded Wolverine, and as the X-Man cum Avenger looms over him, he shatters his way free of the handcuffs.

Just as a fair fight appears imminent, a feminine voice comes out from the gloom and snaps Wolverine out of his insane rage. She fires off a few shots.

Two shots to the heart drop him down against a printing machine. Bummer!
The Winter Soldier chastises his rescuer. Pffft. He just wanted the win to go to his name, alone.

The hammer...
Well, despite a shakey finish, this one goes to the Winter Soldier and his mystery accomplice. If anyone wants to clarify who she is, that would be most appreciated. In the mean time, I'll look into it.

So, I know what a lot of you are probably thinking.
When the Winter Soldier rolls over for Marvel Ultimate Alliance Mondays, straight off the back of Captain America's death, you'd think I might go with the more topical showdown of Bucky vs Cap.
Well, much to my chagrin, this is the only issue I have that involves Winter Soldier actually fighting someone. I'm hoping to change that, but that will await a call from the comic store, so, sorry to disappoint.

Suffice to say you wouldn't be the only one disappointed. As the time may suggest, this wasn't an easy one to sit down and write. As fun as it is to see Wolverine establish new nemesis in history, this just isn't an inspired piece of writing. Likewise, as I probably mentioned during the other feature from this story [Wolverine #37], I'm really not crazy about the art, or the colour palette.

About the best thing to come out of this storyline was something I stumbled across reading New Avengers #28, last night. An issue which features the New Avengers in Japan, where they seek refuge at the home of the Silver Samurai, who appears to be in something of a depressed funk after losing his hand in the afforementioned issue.
So, I have to say, that was a very pleasant piece of continuity. After the clash in #37, I honestly expected it to be palmed off somehow via a cybernetic hand, or some other nonsense along those lines.

I've mentioned before that, of the two sidekicks that returned, this site probably leans further toward Red Hood. For whatever reason I've responded to the Red Hood's transition back into the DC universe much moreso than I have Bucky's.

I mentioned during Cap/Punisher [What if...? #51] that I personally feel bringing Bucky around from a cold blooded Russian assassin to a potential replacement for Captain America is too steep an arc. I think just the fact that he's a working SHIELD agent now is disappointing, and that's probably part of what splices my feelings about the two characters. Jason Todd has not only maintained his villainy, but integrated it into the existing world quite naturally, particularly in the Winick run on Batman.

In Ultimate Alliance Winter Soldier shows up early in a pretty dull role.
I don't remember how much we got into it in the Punch-Up, but as far as a gaming experience goes, you're probably not going to buy this if you don't have an affinity for the characters already. Maybe if you're looking to meet a bunch of characters in one interactive fell swoop, there's incentive there too, but the gameplay, and particularly the story are not inspired.

As with many of the many characters featured, Winter Soldier is little more than a lowly pawn in this new incarnation of the Masters of Evil. A group led by a cuckoo for Coco Puffs Dr. Doom, which is never a characterization I'm a fan of.
Thus, that trickles down to guys like ol' Bucky Barnes here, who are probably playing below their weight. And yeah, for all the characters that are there, so many aren't, like Tombstone, whom I'm sure you're all thinking of right now.

Anyway, that's Winter Soldier for now. Might see him again in the future.

The Fight: 3.5 The Issue: 3

NEXT WEEK: It's Radioactive Man and the Thunderbolts!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Revolution Part One (Marvel comics)
New Avengers #27 When: April 2007
Why: Brian Michael Bendis How: Leinil Yu

The story so far...
The heroes of the Marvel Universe have been wrapped up in the Civil War, but whilst acting on behalf of the New Avengers in Japan, Ronin, aka Echo, finds herself unsure of where she stands and who she can trust in the battle.

As she infiltrates the Japanese underworld under the guise of an innocent woman, she stalks them as a symbol in the form of Ronin, someone they would never suspect could be breaking them up from right under their noses.

Wise to her game, Elektra and her clan, The Hand, intervene and although Echo sends out for help from her friends, she finds herself forced to confront the deadly assassin and her undying hoardes.

Previous Form:
Elektra (#14): Elektra has victories over Bullseye and Catwoman.
Echo: Echo has not yet been featured on the site.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Elektra 3 (Trained Athlete)
Intelligence: Elektra 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Elektra 3 (Trained Athlete)
Stamina: Elektra 4 (Trained Athlete)
Agility: Elektra 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting Ability: Draw 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy Powers: Draw 2 (Projectile Weapons)

Well, no sooner than I mention how one-sided some of our fights have been, than we get a situation like this, where you get two characters that are so-similar it's almost uncomfortable.

I'd have to be upfront and say I'm not really a huge fan of David Mack's contribution to the Marvel Universe. That's not to say I dislike Echo, I just haven't really invested the time in the character, and would say her handling beyond the introductory storyarc has probably been less than stellar.

I don't know what I would say about the Ronin suit. It might have some limited armor, but it's hard to tell if that's really anything substantial. It doesn't appear to slow her down, so I guess that levels things out.

Essentially she's maybe falls somewhere in the center of an attributes triangle that has Daredevil, Elektra and Bullseye on the three points. Certainly some of the more glaring parallels are with Elektra, but she shares traits with the two males of this corner of the universe, too. The nature of her imitative abilities -- which come from being deaf -- draw an obvious comparison to Matt Murdock's dis-able-abilities. Her abilities for execution of techniques brings Bullseye to mind.

While she seems to encompass the best of the three worlds, the character certainly hasn't earned her place in the Marvel Universe, and Elektra's far greater palette of experience gives her a massive edge.

It's up for argument to say who is the more skilled warrior. I would lean toward Elektra, but that may perhaps be because of those above listed reasons.
I feel Echo still has a ways to go before she earns initiation.

The Math: Elektra (Meta Class)
The Pick: Elektra and The Hand

What went down...
Having battered and stalked the denizens of the Japanese underworld, Ronin attracts the attentions of the assassin Elektra, and her band of Hand ninja. It was only a matter of time before this situation presented itsself.

Ronin leaps into action against the Hand, disarming some of them of their swords, ony to use the weapons on the freakish ninja creature themselves.
Ronin pops necks and slices through red robes, as the ninja burst into clouds of disgusting smoke all around her.

Elektra studies her adversary as the Ronin cuts through her hoardes.

For every ninja that goes down, there seems to be another, but Ronin remains steadfast in battle. Jumping kick, nunchaku, sweep, roundhouse kick, open palm to the skull -- Spak! Spak! Spak! -- the Hand go down.

That leaves only Elektra, and although she's ready, Ronin does not wait for her to initiate the attack.

They crash through a window out into the streets surrounding and spill into the alley below. Ronin seems to come off second, but still manages to deflect sai attacks with defensive nunchaku swipes.

Elektra blocks a kick, and slips around the jab. Another fist, and a boot find Elektra's palm and wrist, blocked and blocked again.

Ronin leaps a lunging fist, and Elektra uses the moment to retrieve her sai blades and that's the last tactical error Ronin has the opportunity to make.

Disregarding of any armor or additional protection the Ronin suit might provide, the pierce of the sai buries deep and true, finding flesh before straining against more bulk and material.

Elektra holds and then lowers her defeated opponent down, almost gently.
She pulls back at the cowl to reveal the red swelling eyes of Echo. Elektra knows her foe, and perhaps it's that, or perhaps it's the strength of her courage in battle that leads Elektra to do something inadvertently noble.

As the leader of the Hand Elektra is privvy to many things, and that includes mastery over life and death.
She orders Echo's resurrection. She will become one of her warriors, and will never lose like this again. She will live. For now.

The hammer...
For formality's sake alone, let us declare Elektra the winner!

Personally the farce that was the first Ronin saga, when it eventually arrived some months after various cover appearances (and a redesign), just dragged the character Echo further into the mire of what's to be disappointed with in comics.

Likewise, I skipped over her arc in Daredevil which interrupted part of Bendis and Maleev's run on the book. It's fair to say a mini-series probably wouldn't have sold as well as this, but it served a rare opportunity to cull a regular purchase from my list. Which again, isn't a slight to the character or Mack, but more the unfortunate handling of all these things, and having a limited budget as a comics reader.

Again we arrive at an unfortunate situation where the character is actually treated quite well, and finally it feels like there's a justification for the Ronin character to exist -- but again, there's a catch that is a little displeasing.
I think we've discussed before the disappointing nature of Brian Bendis' work on New Avengers, which has been compounded by Civil War, which left Bendis very little room to redeem his less than stellar take on the team.

Again we find ourselves in a situation where Bendis is actually displaying what makes him an enjoyable reader, but the Ronin story joins a slew of others that push the Avengers team very much to the back table.
To the credit of the issue, the latter third is dedicated to the new New Avengers -- the team that exists post-Civil War -- but it's still disappointing to see one of the better New Avengers issues featuring a tight focus on one individual character.

Wha Huh?! overlooked the existing What The...?! franchise, and it feels as though this book overlooks the pre-established [defunct] Avengers Spotlight series. A book where it would probably have felt much more at home.
Well, maybe that's downplaying the team cameo that does find it's way into the book, but never the less... Mixed feelings when it comes to rating this as an issue.

Fun to continue to diversify the characters featured in 2007, though, and also nice to get some more girls on the site. By the sheer nature of comics, and specifically fighting comics, I think we're always going to be bound slightly tighter to the male characters. Mind you, I think DC has become the greater minority on the site than females. Sorry, guys!

This was a prescheduled fight, and much to my chagrin the
rampaging Ragnell was off her game, and alerted her readers to International Women's Day a few days late. So, consider this a conveniently timed belated contribution.
With the current format I like the idea of playing to some of these themes, and via Ragnell and the Written World, it was one I was aware of and awaiting.

[If YOU know of an interesting theme or topical day coming up, drop a comment and let me know! - Calendarious Mike]

With so many comics floating around, themes like these are a nice excuse to force something onto the page. I don't want to overload Fridays with Marvel contributions (in light of Mondays and Wednesdays), but there was a recent duke that fits the criteria, so maybe in a few weeks.

I guess it's kind of a topical time to be featuring women in comics, with the release of the testosterone charged military masterpiece in 300 the movie.
Certainly on both sides of the big two fences there have been efforts to introduce more female characters. Contributions like Echo, and the new White Tiger, Batwoman and Question all respectively add another little twist.

Pfffft! We know this extra ranting is just an excuse to get this last scanned panel in, because it didn't fit in earlier!...Perhaps the only unfortunate thing, and again this is something we've discussed before, is the derivative nature of their characters. Even Echo, the most individual of the four listed, shares many similarities with characters already existing, including Elektra.

In a world where we haven't seen it time and time again, the poignancy of being christened on Elektra's sai might have been there, but this just feels like another chapter in Echo's following in the footsteps of Elektra, which maybe even cheapens the first character to a degree.

One can't help but flash back to interviews where creators, like Bendis, have expressed their reluctance to involve themselves with "Frank's character", but then go ahead and do something like this. Maybe that's even the motivation.
Maybe Echo is an opportunity to have cake and eat it too, I don't know, but it's a little disappointing, none the less.
Time will tell if it becomes a ham-fisted character device, or is just the fairly logical happenings of a superheroine in the universe.

One last thing I have to praise is Lienel Francis Yu!
I don't know if it's the coolest thing in the world to admit, but I really liked his pencil work on Wolverine around the mid and late nineties, and I think this issue just completely stepped it up. In a way he's almost like a more overtly pencilled Alex Maleev, and the colour palette here kind of nurtures this feeling.

So, despite my chagrin of it being New Avengers, full credit to the colour palette and the overall presentation of the issue. Certainly it evokes some of the qualities of Alex Maleev that works so well with Bendis' writing, but Yu brings a vibrance and kinetic action that Maleev might not be able to. Just a shame it was so short!

EDIT (June 17): You are no doubt aware by now that revelations from New Avengers #31 reveal that this was not Elektra at all, but rather a well trained Skrull facsimile! Rankings have now been changed accordingly.

The Fight: 4.5 The Issue: 5.5