Monday, March 05, 2007

The Predator and the Prey Part One: The Monster Within (Marvel comics)
Spectacular Spider-man #215 When: August 1994
Why: Tom DeFalco & Mike Lackey How: Sal Buscema

The story so far...
A millionaire China magnate and a genetically altered supervillain may not seem like obvious kindred spirits, but when Phillip Cussler Sr. emerges in the sewers to a raging Mac Gargan (aka; the Scorpion), the two strike up an unlikely relationship.

Cussler employs Scorpion's strength and criminal guile, with the promise that he can give the Scorpion the necessary guidance and cool-headed strategy to find purpose and strategy in combatting his problems, and the Spider-man.

With the Daily Bugle acting on behalf of Cussler Jr in the search for his father, Spider-man hopes to foil Scorpion's apparent hostage situation, unaware that Cussler is masterminding financial attacks on his own heirs. Also unaware that the Scorpion has a new power... strategy!

Previous Form:
Spider-man (#2): Spider-man has previous victories over Kraven the Hunter, Tombstone and Man-Ape.
Scorpion (#34): Gargan previously fatally defeated a disguised Space Phantom with the Venom symbiote.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Scorpion 5 (Super Strength)
Intelligence: Spider-man 5 (Professor)
Speed: Spider-man 4 (Olympic Sprinter)
Stamina: Scorpion 5 (Marathon)
Agility: Spider-man 5 (Cat-like)
Fighting Ability: Scorpion 3 (Street Wise)
Energy Powers: Scorpion 3 (Explosives)

Spidey's on-going rivalry with Scorpion is a pretty traditional off-setting of characters that are similar, yet so very different.

I guess you could equate these two to being something along the lines of Sabretooth and Wolverine. Scorpion, whose powers are arachnoid in theme also, is generally the larger and more powerful of the two, but Spidey's grit, determination, speed, and agility are generally the defining advantage in combat.

Likewise, Mac Gargan, as well spelled out in the intro, has never been a great thinker. Spidey, as is the case with many-a villain, is able to out strategize the Scorpion, to attain victory even in the most dire of circumstances.

Scorpion's key to victory is always his strength and raw aggression, which stems from a deep, personal hatred for the wall-crawler. He's mellowed with age, but Scorpion has always been a character of pathos who willingly thrusts his failings on Spider-man [and occasionally the man who funded his creation - J. Jonah Jameson -- Masterminding Mike].

Though possessing of amazing physical ability, Spidey is almost always portrayed as the far more agile and speedy of the two, lacking the cumbersome accessory of a prehensile tail. This, couple with strength capable of matching the Scorpion, makes Spidey the favourite every time, even on those occasions when the Scorpion comes equipped with an acid or plasma blast stinger.

The Math: Spider-man (Meta Class)
The Pick: Spider-man (Could you not?)

What went down...
Having levelled an assembly of some fifty-odd hired goons, Spidey trapses his way through the filthy muck of the sewers, cautiously aware of the apparent planning put into this plan. A plan that began with Scorpion's retreat into the sewers.

Scorpion charges into the fray, colliding with Spider-man at high speed!
Despite the brilliance of his coaching, Scorpion falls into the villainous folly of revealing his plans, remarking over confidently on the advantage he takes in the confined space of the sewers. Space that narrows the field of Spidey's maneuverability!

The two clash fist against fist, as Scorpion quizzes the web-slinger on the lack of quipping and witty banter. He gets an answer with a wild roundhouse that sends him flying. "Lettin' your fists do the talkin', ain't you?"

Sal Buscema fists of fury. Wrapping lips around jaws; spittle around cheeks; and barrels of awesome around punks like David Finch!...Scorpion retorts, using his tail to flick a chunk of solid concrete wall in Spider-man's direction. The silent Spider-man gladly meets it with a fist, sending shattered shards outward around him.

Distracted by the cries of Scorpion's henchman, attack elsewhere, Spider-man narrowly leaps an attack from the Scorpion's deadly tail.

With Spider-man pinned down and playing into the Scorpion's plan, he declares an end to the shenanigans. Unfortunately, it isn't he who puts the punctuation on the fight.

Spider-man channels all the stress and hate he's experienced over recent life events, which include Aunt May having a life-threatening stroke, and Scorpion suffers for it.

A thunderous left reigns down, following by a jaw breaking right uppercut, and another, and another, and yet another still, until Scorpion goes down like a bag o' bricks.

Thus, Scorpion stands exhausted, but victorious, despite the wile training of one Phillip Cussler Sr.

The hammer...
The winner by knock-out, and still champeen-- Spider-man!

Actually, I've got to say, despite my willing indulgance in Spider-man stories from the nineties, this result is unintentionally hilarious.
I guess it could be counted as a positive that it avoids the conventions of story telling, completely disregarding the build-up of Scorpion's renewed perspective and strategy.

This is a two-parter, but it really has very little to do with the Scorpion in the second chapter. So while you may have been expecting a triumphant Scorpion in part-one, what you actually get is yet another humilation for the Scorpion.
Which is kinda hilarious, if a little unfair to a character of such great potential.

These days you'll find Mac Gargan still in the super villain game, despite rediscovering his humanity in this issue (again thanks to Phillip Cussler), mooching around inside the slimey, symbiote-y togs of the Venom costume.

Some fans scoffed the turn of events that saw Scorpion discard his classic evil green, in favour of the contemporary glitz of oily black and crazy teeth -- but I actually kinda like it. Even if it's only superficial, it somehow feels like progress!

That said, I have to acknowledge a feeling of nostalgia whilst reading this issue. I actually hadn't read it in a while, and just grabbed it off the pile knowing it would fill the Scorpion quota for the Marvel: Ultimate Alliance theme we're running on Mondays.

I kinda miss even this version of the character, which is maybe not quite the original type for the character, but is still kinda close. These days Mac Gargan has lost himself to the Venom character, I think.
During the story that established the switch, Millar maybe wrote him a little less specific than he might otherwise have, servicing the story more than the character [Mark "Civil War" Millar service story over character?! Surely not! -- Muckraking Mike], which probably lent following characterizations to do the same, selling the Venom concept.

Of course, there's a canonical precedent for a change there, too, I suppose.
A character does give of themselves when bonding with the symbiote, but it's perhaps not usually this jarring. Because, yes. There is a Scorpion shaped green hole in comics now, and it won't be filled by anyone but Mac Gargan, but you know what? I wouldn't want it any other way.

Onward ho might Mac, as you become a new man and member of the Thunderbolts! Hoooooo!

If you're one who takes note of the tags, you'll notice the Clone Saga getting a mention. This is one of several issues that sort of ran as precursor to the story proper, featuring a C-story with a familiar looking chappy with the proportionate size, strength and agility of a spider, who manages to keep his face obscured until a couple of issues later. [The chap, of course, being Ben Reilly -- the original Spider-Clone, and brief replacement as Spider-man.]

And that, my friends, is about the sum of it!
Been a pleasure talking comics with you, and I'll see you Wednesday!

The Fight: 3.5 The Issue: 5

No comments: