Monday, April 02, 2007

Dragon Flame (Marvel comics)
Iron Man #271 When: August 1991
Why: John Byrne How: Paul Ryan

The story so far...
With Tony Stark's health worsening, long-time friend and confidant, Jim Rhodes, accompanies him across the seas to China, where communist rulers have allowed him audience with one of the world's greatest Neurosurgeons.

In exchange for her expertise, the leaders required payment -- the unconditional services of Iron Man in eliminating the problem of The Mandarin.

Unwilling to let his friend and boss turn his back on a good thing, Rhodes knocks him out, and sets out as he has before to be the golden Avenger.
Things go from bad to worse for Rhodes. Not only is his track record against the Mandarin poor, but he's got himself a pet dragon -- Fin Fang Foom!

Previous Form:
Fin Fang Foom (#164): Fin Fang Foom was previously defeated by Nextwave.
Warmachine (#32): Warmachine had a victory over Blacklash with Spider-man in the Iron Man armor.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Fin Fang Foom 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Warmachine 3 (Straight A)
Speed: Warmachine 3 (Trained Athlete)
Stamina: Fin Fang Foom 6 (Generator)
Agility: Warmachine 2 (Average)
Fighting Ability: Warmachine 4 (Trained Fighter)
Energy Powers: Draw 5 (Lasers)

To avert angry e-mails from FFF fans (Scherer signal!), I am fully aware that Fin Fang Foom and his dragonesque powers stem from his -alien- heritage.

Moving on, it's interesting to think of Fin Fang Foom in this context.
Generally he would have to be considered one of Iron Man's biggest hitting foes, perhaps not possessing the stature of a Mandarin, but certainly power that puts him above he, and into a class with guys like Ultimo.

That said, he's kind of found his way into the sillier side of fandom.
Under advice of fans, Fin Fang Foom found himself onto the Jim Mahfood penned cover for the recent Marvel comedy special - Wha Huh?!, and made one of his more popular recent turns in a tongue-in-cheek role as an Unusual Weapon of Mass Destruction. [
Nextwave #2]

An indifferent measure puts him in the very highest echelon of a six strength rating. As a giant dragonoid, contextually the way he can distribute his strength is much more impressive than a Hulk, though his vulnerabilities and penchant for destruction are probably comparable.

Certainly against an Iron Man, the size advantage gives him a more encompassing physical presence than the Hulk.
Likewise he is known to be surprisingly nimble considering his gargantuan size.

Iron Man's greatest strengths, be it James Rhodes, Tony Stark or even Happy Hogan, is the arsenal of long-range weaponry the armor brings with it.
It's questionable whether a blunt repulsor ray attack would ever phase the beast, but persistent attacks and maximum power at least proposes that potential.

Key to victory is also: flight!
Without that added maneuverability and distance, Fin Fang Foom is going to run over just about anyone who isn't Nextwave. Of course, that brings us to one of the glaring weaknesses that runs parallel to his strength. These days it's not so bad, but back in the nineties the ol' batteries had a way of running juice.

The Math: Warmachine (Meta Class)
The Pick: Fin Fang Foom

What went down...
"Foom pants" are nowhere to be seen, as Fin Fang Foom rampages through a tiny village on the trail of the jet propelled Iron Man. He narrowly avoids the crushing blow brought down by Foom's powerful fist, whilst avoiding flame-breath.

Foom's tail gives him an edge as Rhodey reminisces about recent events, giving him an opportunity to pin the armored hero down. He mocks the power of his shell, as Rhodey lets loose with repulsor rays, all guns blazing.

Iron Man finds himself put to the test, trapped in the cruel grip of the dragon alien, who decrees a warning through the meaning behind his name, "... He whose limbs shatter mountains, and whose back scrapes the sun? What power could you possess that could contend against this?"

For an alien, this guy definitely talks some straight up smack from the hood, yo! Er, anyway...

IM deploys a pair of hyperwave generators and cranks them up to max, firing conflicting magno-pulse energies from both sides of Foom's mighty head. I don't know much about magno-pulses, but it appears to upset his equilibrium and generally leave him feeling disgruntled.

Foom tosses his prey aside with such gusto, Iron Man's jets aren't able to kick-in, leaving Rhodes to employ the suit's powerful strength to snag a jutting rock and pulls himself to a stop.

Taking the distance put between he and the beast, Iron Man swoops into a canyon when here blasts himself a hefty trench, in order to spring a trap for the winged warrior. He doubles back, reensuring the creature's attention with a double spray of repulsor rays to the face.

Iron Man flees from the creature on foot, firing off a few blasts for good measure, just to make sure the giant dragon is nice and surly when he's chasing him.

Threats continue to be Foom's weapon of choice, but Rhodes turns it around nicely, springing his wile trap by first blinding the creature with a dust cloud stirred by his trusty palm rays. Then, using a titanium cable wrapped around a rock formation, he brings Foom tripping down into his trap.

For good measure he takes to the skies, blasting at the surrounding cliff faces to bring down a hail of rock and debris atop the menacing dragon.

With the Mandarin and his alien ally, Chen Hsu, watching on, the great destroyer, Fin Fang Foom, appears defeated by a clumsy replacement no less.

But Chen Hsu advises that even the mighty Mandarin has much to learn in the ways of what are and will be.
As does Jim Rhodes, the man who would be Iron Man.

Iron Man walks away from the battle a little worse for ware, but still alive, only to hear something stirring somewhere behind, amidst the debris.
Can you guess who it was?...

Rhodes leaps back into the fray without hesitation, but his quipping sense of humor proves to be the least effective remedy to calm the already insulted beast. Foom swats him out of the air, unphased by his repulsor rays.

Iron Man skids to a halt, finding himself lying in the shadow of what is to come.
SHOOM! Fin Fang Foom brings his fist thundering down atop the armored hero, leaving him a cracked mess amongst the shattered ground beneath.

The hammer...
It required some deliberation, but the winner here is clearly Fin Fang Foom. The only question was where the fight officially ended.
The fakeout pause used after Foom is trapped was potentially a close, but I decided to open it up to the cliffhanger ending of the issue. Whether or not we'll follow the conclusion up remains to be seen.

Actually, now that we've been doing this for five weeks, I had almost forgotten that Mondays are featuring the villains of the Marvel Ultimate Alliance videogame. A game that's, presumably, well and truly old news by now.

I mentioned in the Punch-Up [Monthly Punch-Up #16] that I was pleased to see the site referenced as a resource, and I guess that's potentially what I'd like to see these pages become. Maybe these aren't comprehensive accounts of historical milestones for the villains, but what I'd like to think I'm laying down is a combination of both introduction to the villain, and a bit of fun that can get thrown onto the pile of statistical data we call, the 'super stock,' every month.

Fin Fang Foom definitely had to be one of the most exciting inclusions in the game. The gameplay itself was a bit of a letdown, but if I'm not mistaken, this is the first time we've ever seen Fin Fang Foom in a video game!
I wouldn't say he's my favourite villain in comics, but a milestone like that is worthy of joy from any Iron fan!

With some of the April foolery we didn't really get to go into much in the Punch-Up, but it's interesting to note Iron Man's status as it is today.
I think moreso than last year, partially because of recent purchases, we're representing the times a lot more than we did. So, perhaps it's an interesting reflection post-Civil War to see Iron Man featured much less so far.

A recent DTV animated film wasn't a bad step for the character, and graduating to Director of SHIELD adds a really interesting layer to the aftermath of Civil War, but I guess maybe it's a cooling off period for one of the hottest rising stars of the Civil War period. Yes, Iron Man's firmly entrenched back in the A-list, but at what cost has this come in the broader spectrum?
A question I leave to you, intrepid reader!

I'm eager to see where the character goes, and am dying for more info on the feature film. Speaking of which, I also didn't mention (in the punch-up) that the Spider-man film comes out next month, so expect another format shift soon enough!

Speaking of movies -- interesting to note that this is the first time we've featured John Byrne on the site. I guess there's a theme that runs true there, hence the segue, because among the largest stocks in my meager collection is the Fantastic Four. Of which, I was a big fan of Byrne's work!

I don't know if this really highlights the quality of the man's abilities as a writer, but what it does personify is a shift in the field of perspective. The nineties, as many-a reader will gladly tell you, was a decade of shame for a lot of characters and titles, featuring thin plots and thin pencils.
What Byrne does in this issue, and probably very well in general, is tell part of an on-going story that perhaps isn't hugely inspired, but still packs a consistent punch, and propells the story forward in some form.

No mean feat for an entire issue of fighting in the 1990s!
With any luck Rise of the Silver Surfer will be an excuse to pull an issue or two of Byrne's FF. We'll see how we go!

Anyway, I'm running behind schedule again and am clearly struggling my way through this update! Apologies to all who are dropping by and not finding what the expect to see. Appreciate the patience!

The Fight: 4.5 The Issue: 4.5

NEXT WEEK: More Iron Man as we hit up the CRIMSON DYNAMO!

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