THE AVENGERS versus THE HAND
Revolution Part One (Marvel comics)
Where: New Avengers #27 When: April 2007
Why: Brian Michael Bendis How: Leinil Yu
The story so far...
In the wake of Wolverine's tenure as a Hydra puppet, Elektra has taken control of The Hand, but it hasn't been the gift to peace some may have expected it to be.
During the superhero Civil War the hero called Echo has been investigating in Japan under the created guise of Ronin. Her operations in the Japanese underworld have attracted the attentions of Elektra and her new Hand clan.
An SOS distress she sends out to her jailed friend Matt Murdock proves to arrive too late, and Echo is killed, only to be resurrected by The Hand to be an instrument of Elektra. That is, unless her friends make the save!
Better late than never...
Secret Avengers [#16]: Were swiftly defeated by the pro-reg Avengers.
Spider-man (#1): Successfully teamed with the Avengers, Zombies, Human Torch, Ghost Rider, Namor & Iron Man.
Wolverine (#3): Successfully teamed with the Avengers, Zombies & the X-Men.
Luke Cage (#143): Yet to feature in any significant capacity.
Elektra (#10): Victories over Bullseye, Catwoman & Echo.
Tale of the tape...
Strength: Luke Cage 5 (Super Strength)
Intelligence: Spider-man 5 (Professor)
Speed: Iron Fist 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Luke Cage 5 (Marathon Man)
Agility: Spider-man 5 (Cat-like)
Fighting Ability: Iron Fist 6 (Warrior)
Energy Powers: Dr. Strange 6 (Mass Destruction)
Statistically speaking, the tape clearly lines up to favoure the Secret Avengers, but what it fails to consider is the overwhelming presence of The Hand, which supplies an unending supply of disposable ninja. Thus, we should consider that on the terms of team numbers, Elektra far outnumbers the seven Avengers.
Not that these Avengers are a team of piss-ants. On the contrary, there's an interesting blend of characters close to the street, with firepower to back them up when things get rough. The line-up of seven features; Luke Cage, Spider-man, Iron Fist, Dr. Strange, Spider-Woman, Wolverine, and Ronin; aka Hawkeye.
Yes, Hawkeye is the second Ronin, as revealed in the recent New Avengers #30, but more on that in The Hammer. For the time being, let us consider that Hawkeye has gone into combat without his bag of trick arrows. Good or bad?
Well, at least he isn't going to explode any time soon ["Not like this!" - Misgivings Mike], but on the same time, now he's without his trademark weapons!
For those who came in late -- Hawkeye was trained in the early days by the Swordsman, so presumably he's going to be proficient with the Ronin blade he's packing, but one would have to question his willingness to use it.
Willingness to do what's necessary probably isn't going to be much of an issue with Elektra or her Hand ninja, which are all trained in the deadly anatsatsuken assassin arts! Elektra in particular poses a threat to the safety of the team, but they're not without their counter threats.
Wolverine is the best there is at what he does, and that's eviscerating, slicing, dicing and juicing, wherever possible. If push comes to shove, he's the guy who'll do what's necessary to make sure the good guys come out with the least casualties. Meanwhile, on the less lethal but not less deadly side is Iron Fist, who can pound-for-pound match most of the Marvel universe's best fighters!
Throw in the mystic prowess of Earth's Sorceror Supreme, the web-slinging spectacular Spider-man, and the impenetrable hero no longer for hire, Luke Cage, and you've got yourself a pretty formidable unit!
The Math: The Avengers (Total) Elektra (Average)
The Pick: The Secret Avengers
What went down...
After three days of conditioning at the bottom of a hole, Echo might be beginning to slip, but the sound of fighting no doubt inspires her to hold on just a moment longer. Good thing she can't hear what the fighters are saying...
The Avengers find themselves set upon fairly swiftly by the hordes of the Hand ninja. Given their personless nature, there's no holds barred against these animated humanoid collections of goop and mystic meat. Wolverine takes great advantage, slicing through what resembles a neck while Spidey quips about some of their more recent adventures.
As Wolverine lets the inner animal out, Hawkeye remarks, perhaps ironically, on the exchange of discussion during the fight.
Cage pounds his way through some ninja, while Iron Fist remarks upon his distaste for banter during combat. "You're doing banter now, Fist." "No, I'm not." "I didn't say it was good banter."
Though their exchange is corny, their skills remain as sharp as ever. Iron Fist warns Spider-man through a dodge, following through with a fully charged fist of iron that rips straight through the faux-flesh of Hand ninja, reducing them to mist.
Hawkeye, the new kid on the team, enquires about Dr. Strange's techniques, which until this point have involved silently going about his business. The good Doctor reveals his prestige, a series of simple transient spells that reduce the ninja to sleeping, or crying for their mommies.
Elektra enters the fray, furiously bringing her sai down to Cage's chest with an incredibly sloppy, and uncharacteristically undisciplined axe handle motion.
Cage's "unbreakable" skin protects him from damage, allowing him the opportunity to grapple with Elektra, pulling her in for a face-to-face. Introductions are brief; "Rrr... I got a message from Matt Murdock." "Yeah?" "He told me, if I see you, to give you this..."
Pictured right is DD's message.
And, before you say what you're thinking, yes. It does still hurt a great deal. Or at least, so I'm told. Come on, it makes sense. Now, stop snickering...
Spidey stops to quip, but Wolverine pulls back the reins, ordering the wall-crawler toward the initiation pit, as apparently predetermined during team strategizing.
Spider-man webs the stunned Elektra up, and slips down the hole, landing with springy ease. He pulls his mask back to his nose, allowing the deaf Echo to read his lips. He explains that Murdock sent he and his Avengers to rescue her, but the tortured Echo is understandably reluctant to trust the rescue. Fortunately for her, she's too weak to put up a struggle, and Spidey slings his way back to the surface to rejoin his Avengers.
Still battling their way through the endless stream of red cloth and ninja, Cage is all too happy to call a strategic retreat. Wolverine gives the cue, signalling to Dr. Strange to make for a magical exit. While the Doctor conjures his spell, Iron Fist gives them some room, pounding the stoney ground of The Hand's lair, creating a seizmic shake under foot.
Elektra cuts herself free of Spidey's web with a sword, but by then it's too late. The Secret Avengers have made their escape -- for now.
While there wasn't really any physical conclusion to this encounter, there was a very specific mission objective achieved, and a physical dominance worth noting, considering the nature of The Hand. Thus, we crown The Avengers winners!
I'm drastically behind schedule, so it may not yet have occurred to you that this post is occurring on a Sunday! I think I may have mentioned that I wanted to revisit the issue once we knew who Ronin was, so when else would be a more fitting time to do a Sunday Super Special?!
We of course all now know that the new Ronin is in fact the post-House of M resurrected version of Clint Barton - Hawkeye. I think it's safe to say of all the picks, he was the most logical, given the telegraphing nature of New Avengers #26, which featured his return and search for Wanda Maximoff (after a quick visit with Dr. Strange).
We also know that Hawkeye came to be the new Ronin under the flippant conditions that without a costume, he would not be allowed to accompany the Avengers, who were otherwise interested in his aid. Hmmm... For a guy who made his name on gnarly, gritty, street level dialogue, Bendis just can't help but serve up hunks of ham, can he? This issue, particularly with that little hindsight, is positively dripping in ham and honey glazing.
Still, another benefit of hindsight is the progression of the story to better feature this new collective of Avengers. For the first time in the title's history it finally feels like there's a cohesive and grounded direction that actually involves the team! Hey, the team appearing in their book? I'd buy that for a dollar!
I'd be lying if I said I didn't think Hawkeye-Ronin was a debacle of the most hilarious degree. I think the circumstances are what really make it unfortunate, given the previous Ronin fiasco, and the justifiable media it generated.
Though the circumstances by which Barton becomes Ronin are laughable, the delivery would likely have been much more acceptable if it were allowed to be more forthcoming, and free of the marketing angle.
New Avengers, as highlighted during this fight, is a pretty light story that isn't going to excessive lengths to take it's self seriously.
It's a ninja-battling romp thrugh Japan that has the Secret Avengers out of all the red-tape clutter that's bogged the Marvel Universe down, that is freeing them up logically for this refreshing change of pace. It's a sound concept.
The costume-changing action figure antics fit right in with the banter exchange, and butt-kicking that goes with it. The frustration really just comes down the caged scrutiny and responsive secrecy that went along with it. It wasn't worth it.
Still, Ronin-II is out of the way now, and hopefully we can look forward to Captain AmeRonin sometime in season 07/08. Yuk-yuk. Jokes aside, New Avengers has finally found it's footing as a satisfying read, and it looks like this story still promises a lot to come. Groovy!
It's getting late again, and I'm still trying to catch up on updates, so stick around for the next Monday Marvel Ultimate Alliance update. We're skipping Tigershark and Kraken to get straight to the Dragon Man! Be here!
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: 5 The Issue: 5.5