Thursday, March 01, 2007

MONTHLY PUNCH-UP #15 (March 2007)
Wild Ride: Meanwhile (DC)
Where: Catwoman #22 When: August 2003
Why: Ed Brubaker How: Nick Derington & Cameron Stewart

Quick Fix...
Another big month for the site, and here we are at another opportunity to reveal just how full of shite I really am.
Batman returns with a vengeance to the site with yet another appearance, a mere month or two after I said it might be lights out for the dark knight. I bow!

Wanted to get some DC action up here for the Quick Fix at the very least, and where better was there to go for a quick tussle than Ed Brubaker's revolutionary work on the revamped Catwoman title? Actually, it was a nice opportunity to visit this series for the first time at Secret Earths, perhaps largely due to the fact it was driven by more than fisticuffs.

Ed Brubaker's come up a few times recently, mostly through his Daredevil work, but his status as darling of Marvel comics was preceded by some very solid work as one-half of the writing team of the critically acclaimed Gotham Central, and of course, as writer here on Catwoman.

I have to admit, a lot of what made this such an attractive read is the visual style, which owes a lot to Darwyn Cooke's role in kicking off this new approach to the character, but is followed through well by a team comprised of Cameron Stewart, Guy Davis, Nick Derington, Matt Hollingsworth and apparently a slew of others, whose significance blurs amongst all the issues.

The minimalist style popularized by DC through their animation, and embraced likewise in the comic books, plays superbly here to a fun, sassy and exciting read, without ever getting silly. In fact, for all it's simple charms, Selina Kyle is as sexy as ever, and the action hits just as hard in what was probably one of the strongest titles being published pre-Infinite Crisis.

This storyarc, Wild Ride, features various guests (such as the JSA's Wildcat and Captain Cold), with the throughline of a fun, road trip story. Various hijinks occur, delivering strong characterizations in all the featured roles in unison with tight-knit, quirky story telling.

Our bash-up brings us to a B-story featuring Slam Bradley, who finds himself on the questioning end of Batman, his rival as romantic interest for Selina Kyle aka; Catwoman.

Tensions between the two build, and Batman makes reference to a tawdy night spent between Bradley and Kyle -- and it's on!

Bradley charges furiously at the Batman, making the assumption that he'd surprised him, simply because he actually lands his punch square in the Bat's mouth. Not that he doesn't quickly find himself on the tread end of Batman's reflexes, getting a boot for his troubles.

The Bat warns the grizzled detective off of any further attack, but the testosterone probably makes the decision for him. Bradley rolls his sleeves up, and moves in with his dukes ready to do the talking.

Batman's superior fighting skills see him slipping from the jab with ease, delivering his own blunt force with a closed fist.

Slam continues his jealous rage. Batman strikes a pressure point, taking one of Bradley's arms away, before following it with a swinging kick to the back of the head. It sends Bradley slamming into a pigeon avery on the rooftop.

"Are we about done now, Bradley...?," Batman asks.
Slam responds with a bloody grin, "... Why...? You gettin'... gettin' tired...?"

The Batman lets Bradley take more of his medicine, but as the match-up continues to be more and more one-sided, Bradley's continuing to get up probably makes it's point. Batman laughs.

Batman gives Bradley credit due for his sheer determination, and leaves him to enjoy a cigarette on amicable terms.

I happened upon a review of this issue that described it as writing Batman better than he was in his own books. Personally, this isn't what I consider Batman to be, but that said, I enjoy the luxury afforded by this type of title to give the character that spin. A spin that allows him to knock around with an old detective and indulge in a laugh at the end of it.

I don't know if it's the fun nature of the title, or the blinding glory of the graphic presentation, or perhaps the luxury of following in Darwyn Cooke's mighty footsteps, but Brubaker shines here in a way I haven't seen.
The writing has that familiar compacted quality to it, working a lot of economy into the scripted page, as I would hope an urban superhero book would. However, it somehow feels much less laboured than the likes of Captain America, Daredevil or even the joint effort on Gotham Central.

Here the story unfolds with a relaxed whimsy that allows it a sense of fluidity, and natural flow that makes it a breeze to open, and a disappointment to close.

The Fix: 6 The Issue: 7
Winner: Batman

The Top Five...
Two months into a brand new top five system for 2007 doesn't leave a lot of room for change, and you could perhaps begin doubting the logic of abandoning the cumulative rankings. If you can be patient enough to read on to The Hammer, we'll talk a little bit about implementing changes to that, and hey... The overall top five isn't doing much either!

#1 Spider-man (+1) (7) (Marvel)
Class: [Meta] Last Opponent: [Magneto]
Win Percentage: [77.78%] Features: [9]

A tie with Magneto doesn't do much for Spidey's win percentage, but it's enough in these early stages to lift him to the top of the monthly top five! Yaaay!

I've got to be honest -- I'm on a realy Spidey high right now. What's weird is maybe that it has very little to do with the Spider-man 3 movie, or even the Back in Black promotional event in the comics. I'm just really enthusiastic about the Spider-man villains, and how well they seem to be being represented in the comics right now! It's a reneissance for villains that may have slipped into the B-list.

I got a stack of new comics, there's a handful of Spidey stories in there I want to get up on the site, there's a handful already on my to-do list. Secret Earths is liking Spidey a whole lot right now! Put your money here, kids!*

#2 Moon Knight (-1) (2) (Marvel)
Class: [Champion] Last Opponent: [Taskmaster]
Win Percentage: [100%] Features: [1]

Moon Knight remains in the top five, and honestly, at number two I can feel a whole lot less guilty about the whole affair.
Moon Knight is a great character, and akin to those so-called B-list villains I mentioned just moments ago, but he isn't a number one. Not based on that one quick fix against Taskmaster, at least... Let's be honest.

I wouldn't expect to see this guy sticking around on the top for too much longer. The Moon Knight title, for all it's positives, just seems to be dragging it's heels so poorly that even if there is going to be a fight -- chances are it's going nowhere.

Lord knows I was thoroughly disappointed by the 'Casualties of [Civil] War' issue, which features maybe four pages of the web-slinger, including the cover.
I'd love to invest in the Captain America guest-issue, but honestly, I'm not expecting much more than a similar cameo there. As far as I know, Moon Knight has been content to remain neutral, and with some assemblence of a story simmering in the background, these gratuitous guest-spots are meaningless.

#3 Red Hood (-) (2) (DC)
Class: [Meta] Last Opponent: [Brick]
Win Percentage: [100%] Features: [2]

Among the purists visiting, I imagine this is the most embarassing feature in the top five. Of the two returning sidekicks-gone-bad, I imagine the split falls more in the favour of Winter Soldier/Bucky, rather than Red Hood/Robin, but you know what? I'm not too fussed.

Though I didn't pick up the follow up to the battle with Brick, I feel the character has at least earned the circumstances by which he finds himself on our top five.

While the character has suffered under the barrage of crossover fever, he has managed to avoid languishing, and I think that's great!
It's just a shame that to keep the character afloat, Winick had to drag him over into a pretty cheesy villain team-up in Green Arrow. I guess that's what you get for being the chief proponent for his return.

#4 The Punisher (-) (2) (Marvel)
Class: [Champion] Last Opponent: [Rhino]
Win Percentage: [100%] Features: [1]

The Punisher lingers as a character we're only just seeing return to the superhero fight scene. Good to have him on board, and while I don't have a large stock to draw upon for the character, you can probably make a safe bet that he'll be popping up on the site again soon.

A great character who has thrived in his own corner, you couldn't knock his position, but it seems a little unlikely, at least in this world, that he'll survive slipping off the bottom of the pile.

#5 Beast (-) (2) (Marvel)
Class: [Meta] Last Opponent: [The Lizard]
Win Percentage: [50%] Features: [4]

Once more we finish up our top five examination with the intelligent, gentlemanly, and ever powerful - Beast!

It occurs to me that other than Wolverine breaking into his own home to fight Sabretooth, I don't have a whole lot of an idea what's going on in the X-corner of the Marvel Universe.
Brubaker, for all the positives highlighted in Catwoman, is taking the X-Men on a retro journey that is the exact opposite of what I'm interested in. Astonishing X-Men remains, in my opinion, a disgustingly overrated piece of derivative tot. And everything else is a bit below my radar, I suppose.

It may be sad, but at the number five spot, we'll almost certainly be saying goodbye to the mighty Beast.

In a slow week, Deadpool stealthily emerges with a bullet (or poison dart), moving up to the top twenty!Super Stock...
1. Batman (-) (DC)
2. Spider-man (-) (M)
3. Wolverine (+1) (M)
4. Iron Man (-1) (M)
14. Robin (+10) (DC)
16. Red Hood (-1) (DC)
18. Steel (-1) (DC)
19. Deadpool (+26) (M)
20. Beast (-2) (M)
27. Wasp (-) (M)**
28. Nightwing (-2) (DC)**
54. Catwoman (-) (DC)
69. She-Hulk (-) (M)
100. Bucky (Heroes Reborn) (-) (M)
193. Space Phantom (+1) (M)
194. Rhino (+1) (M)
195. Lizard (+1) (M)
196. The Joker (new) (DC)
198. Blade (new) (M)
200. Metallo (-2) (DC)
203. Taskmaster (-1) (M)
204. Magneto (-3) (M)
205. Brick (-3) (DC)

#22 The Sub-Mariner
Class: [Meta] Last Opponent: [The X-Men]
Win Percentage: [40%] Features: [5]

I try to do a lot of things through this humble blog o mine.
One of those things is to try to include some sort of perspective of where the written aspect of the story might come from. Granted, that isn't the chief exercise here, but I figure if I'm going to tote myself as a writer, I could at least try to exhibit some understanding of the process, and exploit it to my advantage.

If you noticed the inclusion of the Brother Eye satellite in the banner, it's purely for the inclusion of this section. This spotlight is an opportunity to type up the stats of a character perhaps not in the top five, and talk a bit more about my fabled Sub-Mariner pitch, which has been pepper referenced for quite some time.

So as a spine to this section, I'll be featuring the characters that are wrapped up in this sordid little pitch. Of course, I hope to reserve at least some of my secrets, in the vein hope that one day they may actually find themselves canonized.

Moving on, the crux of the idea is a four issue mini-series that would lead in to an on-going series, or at the very least a title that would last a year.
Much of the concept rests on, as tired a phrase as it is, changing the status quo of the Namor character, and realigning him in the Marvel Universe as a newly relevent, but readjusted character.

I began writing and conceiving this idea QUITE some time ago now, so it predates many of the developments seen in Civil War and other Marvel titles, although, as with all good ideas, it's reasonably malleable to move with those circumstances.

Opening this four issue mini-series, Sub-Mariner: Underworld, is the premise that young Atlantean women have been disappearing. The numbers of missing girls have grown to such that the crimes are brought before the Prince himself - Namor.

What surrounds this initial development is an opportunity for Atlanteans to debate topics as base as teen sub-culture, and the parental gap. This has actually become rather topical where I live, where a girl died recently and clues have been sought on her MySpace page, which is decked out in a gothic motiff with a few 'racey' pictures of the young teen.

As most of us net-savvy folk would know, this is not at all unusual to MySpace sub-culture, but it's amusing to hear of it spoken in such misunderstood terms in news bulletins. So, in that respect, some of the 'impetuous youth' angle bares immediate relevence, at least here. It is, of course, a fairly universal theme.

The idea is that, like human youths, some of the Atlantean teens and young women have been a bit rebellious. One of the dangers for Atlanteans is the attraction of the surface world, which raises other debats among the concerned groups, particularly the Sub-Mariner's own lengthy association with the surface.
As a Prince, you would have to imagine his status as a role model would certainly come under fire, and that's something that would be raised here, even though traditionally Atlanteans cannot naturally sustain themselves on the surface.

Ultimately Namor is spurred to return to the surface, following the few clues he has to New York City's seed urban side. A side of Marvel that the character isn't necessarily associated with, but is none the less aware of, be it through casual visits, or even 'the lost years', when Namor wandered the streets as a transient hobo without a memory.

A lot of the ideas draw on established pieces of fiction in the character's history, including much of the 'corporate Namor' era built by John Byrne.
It's my interpretation that Namor still retains many corporate and industrial interests on the surface world, and he would immediately make use of a room in an apartment tower. One of many surface homes he could potentially own.

The Civil War, prior to his involvement, but even now, helps guide the original idea that he would be steering away from the 'super' side of the Marvel universe.
His sense of royal responsibility and logic is that this isn't really something that he would involve the Fantastic Four with, for instance.

At a later date his relationship with the FF was to arise again, as he becomes needing of scientific advice, and opts for an unlikely source, rather than Reed Richards. Who, of course, is conveniently now characterized as being someone Namor would be less than likely to turn to.

I see Namor as a chivalrous kind of hero, and the kinds of urban struggles that go on in Hell's Kitchen and similar seedy sides of the Marvel urban underworld would present him with distractions. This was also to bring him into conflict with Daredevil, a character he battled in DD's early sixties adventures.

As a mini-series it would be nice if it could stand on it's own feet and date itself prior to Matt Murdock's incarceration, particularly as I had mind to use Iron Fist later on, and actually think his role as substitute-Daredevil fits quite neatly.
Never the less, a theme that would be picked up again in the on-going series would be Namor's difficulty in coming to terms with the way in which the surface world works.

In Atlantis his justice is swift and absolute, but Daredevil quickly informs him that he can't simply plow a would-be rapist spine-first into a brick wall.
The Sub-Mariner in urban New York becomes quite literally an allagory for the fish out of water. The on-going series would feature more of how he tackles this in a unique way, and actually draws largely on Matt Murdock's incarceration.

In the mini-series it's driven more by the story at hand, and it takes a turn as other characters inflict themselves on the Sub-Mariner's path.
And with that, I'll hopefully pick up next month and tell you more about where I would like to go with this story, that attempts much, but in a tight space.

The hammer...
Speaking of attempting much, 5000 hits was passed a week and a half ago, which is huge! This has been the biggest month yet for Secret Wars on Infinite Earths, and I want to send out a huge thanks to everybody checking the place out! Hopefully you're enjoying it, and those of you I see coming back, will keep doing so!

I was thinking about celebrating with some extra updates, and then I went out and picked up Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, which kicked me in a whole different direction.

I've had some developments on the personal front with a sick relative, so it might be a bit much to chew, but I'm going to attempt three updates a week. That's right -- three! Just to sustain that interest!

So the schedule reads something like this, for March Madness:
- Marvel Ultimate Alliance Mondays
Featuring villains from the video game that utilizes the largest assembly of Marvel Comics characters all in the one game. With Civil War being all about the heroes, it seemed like a great opportunity to take a look at the villains.
Even though the villains are the spotlight, expect the heroes fighting them to be characters from the game, just for that extra authenticity!

- What if Wednesdays
This was my original consideration, and hey, after we tipped 5000, why not?
Wednesdays will be all about alternate realities, including not just stories from the Marvel Universe, as the name implies; but also multiverse madness from the DCU. Not that I've got a whole lot of that, mind you...

- Friday Fight Nights
All these bonus updates will, of course, not be at the sacrifice of our usual random fun every Friday. We'll continue to feature patternless battles between characters from the Marvel and DC Universes, and maybe some place else, too.

Anyway, that's the plan guys, but as I said. I've got some personal things going on, so there may be some delays. We'll see how it plays out.

Hope everyone's having a great time, and stay tuned next month because I imagine with a fifth week special in there, we're going to have plenty of movement on the top five rankings!

All the best guys!

February Hit Count: 5208 (+1261)

* Secret Wars on Infinite Earths does not, in anyway, encourage or condone underage gambling. We believe in mocking those who undertake in such activities, and such was our intention. Stay in school.

** Result of a statistical anomaly that was rectified.

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