Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Last Stand: Part III of IV (Marvel comics)
Marvel Knights: Spider-man #11 When: April 2005
Why: Mark Millar How: Terry & Rachel Dodson

The story so far...
For the entirety of Peter Parker's career one villain has stood ahead of the rest of them, being the first to discover his true identity, and terrorize him in both his alias and civilian identity. Few villains have shaped Spider-man's life the way Norman Osborn has, aka the Green Goblin.

Finally behind bars, Osborn continues to have an influence as Mac Gargan, the Scorpion, sets in motion a contingency plan arranged years earlier between the two lethal villains. A plan that instructed Scorpion to kidnap an elderly woman should he ever go down -- a woman named May Parker!

Having helped his oldest foe to escape prison; Spider-man, along with the Black Cat, walks right into another of his grand schemes bringing together an assembly of Spidey's most lethal of foes as the Sinister Twelve!
With each villain sponsored by Osborn and his advanced technologies, it seems like certain doom for Spider-man and Black Cat, but help may just be on the way!

Previous Form:
Spider-man (#1): Recorded victories against Green Goblin, Venom, Scorpion, Sandman & Tombstone.
Black Cat (#36): Aided in defeats of the Venom Symbiote as well as Carnage.
Venom (#80): Aided in defeat of Jack Flag as member of Thunderbolts.
Green Goblin: Norman Osborn has not yet been featured on the site.
Avengers [#2]: Victories over Secret Avengers, She-Hulk & Atlantis.
Fantastic Four [#6]: Lodged a strong victory against the Frightful Four.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Thing 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Mr. Fantastic 6 (Genius)
Speed: Lizard 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Iron Man 6 (Generator)
Agility: Sandman 7 (Unlimited)
Fighting Ability: Captain America 6 (Warrior)
Energy Powers: Human Torch 7 (Solar Power)

Okay, so I like to play it sentimentally coy in the opener, but yes. We're fixing for the Avengers to jump in at the last minute, which means this goes from a slaughter to a bloody war between the two super powered factions!

There's a curvy buttload of characters present in these Dodson pencils, so allow me an opportunity to roll call right at the beginning:

The Sinister Twelve: Green Goblin, Venom (Scorpion), Sandman, Lizard, Vulture, Electro, Shocker, Chameleon, Hydro-Man, Hammerhead, Boomerang and Tombstone.

The Avengers: Spider-man, Black Cat, Yellowjacket, Thing, Human Torch, Mr. Fantastic, Invisible Woman, Daredevil, Iron Man and Captain America.

Whew! That's quite an assembly!
With so many characters, it's going to be tough to really draw any concise conclusions. The versatility of strengths and weaknesses really makes this a mixed bag of conclusions, but with characters like the Fantastic Four, Yellowjacket and Iron Man on the job, certainly the heroes are coming well prepared.

The Sinister Twelve roughly divides fifty-fifty for heavy hitters, and street performers. Guys like Hammerhead, Chameleon and even Boomerang, Tombstone and Vulture are going to have limited success where combatting many of the heroes assembled are concerned. In individual breakdowns I might give them a better shot, but we're talking The Avengers!

Sandman and Hydro-Man both present widespread potential problems for the heroes. Given the nature of their respective powers, they can tackle multiple opponents efficiently, whilst also remaining relatively intangible, and subsequently immune to attack.

This is the story that introduces Mac Gargan to the Venom Symbiote, which also means while he presents a potent threat, there's margin for inexperience. Although, teething problems are going to be fairly minute, down to adjustments to the Symbiote's powers and minor communication problems between the host and costume. Otherwise, the already impression Scorpion is only going to be augmented even further than perhaps even the likes of Eddie Brock.

Green Goblin could potentially tackle with the likes of Iron Man, but even he seems somehow dwarfed by the power packed by the majority of heroes who will provide back-up in this scenario. It's hard to really properly break up the twenty-two parts and anticipate the elimination of one over the other.
I guess that's why we have a system...

The Math: Sinister Twelve (Total) Avengers (Average)
The Pick: The Avengers

What went down...
Having aided the Green Goblin's escape from Rykers prison, Spider-man and Black Cat find themselves set upon by the lethal foes of Spider-man, gathered by the Goblin as -- The Sinister Twelve!

Contrary to Norman's plans which involved outfitting many of the villains in more advanced versions of their standing equipment, Mac Gargan shows up wearing the Venom Symbiote, instead of Osborn's upgraded Scorpion costume.
Ever the consumate planner, Osborn is understandably miffed by the shift in affairs, disturbed less by the fact that Scorpion is "wrong", but that he defied him.

Jetting around on his glider, the Goblin promises to settle matters once he's finished murdering Spidey's wife, Mary-Jane Watson. Charming.
The tiff between the two senior villains garners the attentions of the others assembled, who perhaps look on out of curiosity, or question of how the development effects their position in the plan. Either way, Spidey uses the opportunity to strike!

Spidey shoots web and throws his leg out, instructing the Black Cat to do the same, as they prepare to quite literally fight for their lives!

The Cat nails the ravenous Lizard with a stiff kick, while Spidey frog leaps over the Vulture's head. As though willing it to happen, he thinks of the Black Cat, "make it count, baby."

What genius invited Chameleon to a FIST FIGHT, anyway?! Way to go, Norman...With the proportionate speed and agility of a spider, Spider-man leaps across the battle field scoring hits against the Sandman and Shocker, while Black Cat does her best with the Lizard and Electro in the background.

Scorpion answers Chameleon's cries for a result, propelling himself from his rooftop vantage point to collide mid-air with the leaping Spider-man. He drives his agile body hard into nearby crates that line the dock area.

The devestating blow distracts the Cat long enough for bad luck to come her way in the form of Electro. He fires off a charge that rattles her to the core!
The attack incurs the unlikely fury of the Vulture, who had called dibs on Black Cat for an encounter that left him badly beaten and injured in an eye. The intervention of Shocker rallies the aggressions of the villains back to Spider-man, whom they all have motive to destroy.

Scorpion, still on top of Spidey taunts him; "Hear that, Spider-man? They all want a piece of you now. And you know what? They're gonna get it. We're gonna carve our names in your corpse and hang it from the nearest flagpole."

Staring death in the face, Peter Parker's resolve remains undying.
With the total of his super human strength, he sends the new Venom flying through the pack of circling villains. Even resigned to the fact he's going to die, Spider-man stands valiantly before the gathered villains.

A blast of water from Hydro-Man sends Spidey into the air, where Lizard descends from a flying leap, soon to be followed a flocking mass of evil. Sandman, Hydro-Man, Electro, Lizard and Vulture all grab on to get their fill.

At that moment, overlooking the dock, a shadowed figure with winged tips protruding from his head raises a finger. "On my mark, ladies and gentlemen..."

Here comes... DAREDEVIL! We haven't forgotten you, DD!Like a miracle, the Avengers assemble.

Daredevil swings in with a kick that topples Venom, while Iron Man plucks an unsuspecting Lizard and Tombstone, and flies them high above the docks where they can do no harm.

The Thing heads for an old friend, scooping up Sandman as well as the Shocker in his mighty grip, while Human Torch and Captain America's shield blaze technicolour in the background. Finally, for Spidey, it sinks in: The cavalry has arrived.

A giant-size Hank Pym snags Boomerang, Chameleon and Hammerhead, while the fantastic Mister and Mrs Fantastic swoop in to take care of Electro. Still shaken, Spidey is left somewhat dumb founded while the action evolves around him.

Despite the relief he no doubt feels having escaped certain doom at the hands of his deadliest foes, the call of great responsibility compells the Spider-man.
Fully aware of the Green Goblin's plans for Mary-Jane, which are as he speaks commencing, Spider-man takes leave of the situation, leaving the Avengers to clean up the docks. Captain America offers his full blessing.

The hammer...
Unfortunately neither the Captain, nor Thing, who clobbers Tombstone one last time, notices that one Venom has escaped the scene. Even so, Spider-man, Black Cat and The Avengers prevail!

Statistically we've got a few tricky calls to make. Even though the scene is mostly summarized in relatively few panels, all the heroes will pick up the win stat, even Black Cat, who despite being flash fried, was right in the thick of things for the first half of the fight.

Green Goblin actually left before the fight got underway, so despite his instrumental involvement in setting up the pieces, I think I'm going to have to omit him from any result. As orchestrator, he is similarly omitted in recent entries featuring the Thunderbolts.

Meanwhile, to get to the discussion side of things, I guess when you ask for an array of Spider-man villains, the cosmos provides via Web-Slinging Wednesdays!
It was only in the last entry [Marvel: Heroes & Legends #1] that we discussed the lethal foes shaped hole in the Spider-man universe, and this was a recent example that was unfortunately omitted!

If there's a writer in comics right now who deserves to own stock in this particular corner of the blogosphere, it's Mark Millar. Noone writes big superhero action on the boom-crash operatic scale of Mr. Millar, who is behind comics like; Wolverine, Ultimates, Civil War, and of course, Marvel Knights: Spider-man.

At the time Millar's twelve issue run on the newly launched Spider-man title under the Marvel Knights imprint really split the paying audience. Spider-man fans seemed uncertain as to whether this was an instant classic, or a malicious assault on the characters they hold near and dear.
Many cried for the safety of Aunt May, the peril of Spider-man, and the apparent bastardizaton of Venom and Scorpion, in what many believed was going to be another stinky symbiote marketing ploy.

Granted, the new Venom (with vanilla swirl!) narrowly avoided the hideousness of the publisized squid costume design, but ultimately I think it's proved to be a lasting positive for the Marvel universe. Mac Gargan has found new and unusual relevance post-Scorpion, currently being treated to a thorough handling by Warren Ellis in Thunderbolts [also featuring Green Goblin, as mentioned earlier!].

Under very unique conditions, Millar did exactly what we asked for: He provided a fluid tale that managed to showcase many feature villain stories, while also cramming in some C-snaps of characters like Rhino, and the barely seen Chameleon, Boomerang, and Tombstone even in the issue reviewed here.

Granted, this isn't quite the context we were talking about. Stories like this, and the preceding Batman: Hush storyarc from DC's Jeph Loeb are unique situations.
What we aren't looking for is broken up twelve issue stories that cram as many villains in as possible. What a story like Millar's Spider-man could have provided was a launching pad for the kind of evolving reality we did discuss, and are seeing in a detached form, lest we forget the ill-fated Secret War mini-series.

I couldn't end the review without also pointing out that the art team of Terry and Rachel Dodson contributes greatly to making this one of the most enjoyable Spider-man stories of the decade. Dodson's pencils flow brilliantly, delivering not only the sensuous feminine curves that have made him famous, but also high quality action that walks a line between common Spidey, and McFarlane-style agility-in-excess.

Likewise, Rachel Dodson's confident, thick inks and Ian Hannin (of Avalon)'s cool, smooth colour palette make for a visually exciting take on the script, that's quite easy on the eyes. It certainly requires far fewer graces than the dynamic, but blunt pencil work of collaborator, John Romita Jr.

Anyway, that's it for now. I've been pegging back one more post at a time!
This was of course the all-in special for Web-Slinging Wednesday; featuring the villains of the Spider-man 3 feature film. The last post of the month will be a fifth-week special that promises to be one of the biggest battles posted on Secret Earths, so DO NOT miss it!

Likewise, this particular issue of Marvel Knights: Spider-man also features another colossal battle within it, so do not scratch it off your list yet. Like many other issues, we will revisit it at some stage in the future. In the mean time, I've got to go have a chat with the Beyonder. Because there is -no way- I've been taking orders from a lowly stinking mutie all this time!...

The Fight: 5 The Issue: 6.5

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