Monday, July 30, 2007

Awaken the Thunder (Marvel comics)
Avengers #1 When: November 1996
Why: Jim Valentino & Rob Liefeld How: Chap Yaep & Rob Liefeld

The story so far...
Onslaught, a psychic manifestation of powerful telepath, Professor Charles Xavier, has been defeated. The cost, it seems, is the lives of Earth's mightiest heroes: the Avengers, but unbeknownst to the world their heroes have been reborn in a pocket dimension created by super-mutant: Franklin Richards, son of Invisible Woman and Mister Fantastic.

Completely unaware of their fate, the heroes emerge from their new surroundings and origins, as if compelled by destiny itself to fulfill their roles as the great heroes they were intended to be. Surrounding the reawakened super-soldier, Captain America; Vision, Hellcat, Swordsman, Hawkeye and Scarlet Witch are assembled again for the first time as -- The Avengers!

SHIELD rally their team of superheroes to Norway, where archaeologist Donald Blake has unearthed what he believes may be the Norse god of thunder, Thor, and his enchanted hammer Mjolnir. Unable to break the amber that entombs him, the Avengers step up to the plate, but are they opening Pandora's box?...

Previous Form:
Captain America (#9): Had a Heroes Reborn victory over MODOK and Baron Zemo.
Vision (#217): Appeared as a member of the Secret Avengers during Civil War.
Avengers [#2]: Recently defeated by The Destroyer.
Thor (#20): Suffered a harsh defeat against the Asgardian Destroyer.
Loki: Has not yet been featured on the site.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Thor 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Loki 5 (Professor)
Speed: Captain America 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Thor 6 (Generator)
Agility: Hellcat 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting Ability: Thor 6 (Warrior)
Energy Powers: Scarlet Witch 7 (Solar Power)

This has by no means been an easy entry to approach. As much as it might have to do with the excruciatingly pointed Liefeldian noses, it's also to do with the Liefeldian concept.

Okay, okay, no. I'm not going to go there the entire review, but this is probably one of those times I'd actually do it. What makes tackling this tale of the tape difficult (and the last input of the month), is the fact that this issue features a duplicate Thor, unique to this universe, and a character called Swordsman, who was later revealed to be Lielfeld-original; Deadpool. Which, is very neat, but also presents a difficult situation for the statistics where we have a counterpart unique to this dimension, which was supposed to be contained within our own and therefore controlled by who is and isn't present in our dimension. Ugh.

We know that a Thor and Loki are teaming up here, which is always going to be a pretty rough ride for the Avengers. Thor is in the upper echelon of powers, proficient in the art of war, rabble raising and general drunken disorder.
Loki has lots of little jinx and hex powers, and can generally stir anyone already in a frenzy to act in his favour, ever the deceiver. So, with an amped up Thor that's been trapped in amber in Norway for years, yeah... That's gonna be some situation the Avengers are stepping in to.

This is not by any measure the most impressive order of Avengers, either.
Captain America, Vision and Scarlet Witch represent some of the classic heavy-hitting old guard, while Hawkeye is also in tow, looking a bit more like Wolverine without all the potential for lethal force and unbridled bad assery.

Then there's the unmistakingly Liefeldian twist of the afforementioned Swordsman who is ultimately revealed to be this world's version of Deadpool, sometime after he gets his hands crushed by the Hulk. And, to top it all off, a feral Hellcat joins the team, looking not unlike Liefeld favourite Feral from the X-Force. Why the transformation in this universe is a question for the ages.

So, with such a ragtag grouping of Avengers, you'd probably struggle to pick them against Thor alone, let alone Thor with the moustache twirling Loki coaching from the sidelines. Vision and Scarlet Witch represent the greatest attack, Vision providing a physical obstacle for the super-powerful Thor, while Scarlet Witch might capitalize on the distraction to do away with the thunder god through her own mystic means.

Although, due to the magical nature of Thor, and the enchantments of Loki, Scarlet Witch might be too timid to fully realise her powers here.
Captain America will no doubt give his all in battle and as a team leader, but within the statistical confines of the tape, he and his human-level fellows are out in the cold. I guess that explains why they were quick to recruit professional asshole and generally smug prick, Tony Stark -- aka Iron Man.

The Math: Avengers (Overall) Thor/Loki (Average)
The Pick: Thor/Loki (Hard to go against them...)

What went down...
Having freed Thor from his amber prison, the Avengers are riding pretty high on their first victory, but the furies soon shift as Loki, having followed the Avengers' activities for some time, reveals himself to his confused half-brother.

Loki quickly seizes the opportunity, spinning a yarn about the fictional treachery of the Avengers who reduced Asgard to rubble. Though Captain America objects to the unjust act of lying, the enraged Thor is unreceptive, content instead to gather his strength for an old time ass whooping.

Cap's shield proves mighty enough to withstand Thor's pounding fists, but Swordsman and Hawkeye prove decidedly less resilient toward Loki's mystic blasts that send them hurtling across the battlefield.

Hellcat comes to the aid of the Captain, landing on Thor's shoulders, but the warrior god of thunder swiftly tosses her away and into the dawdling Scarlet Witch. Hellcat's new appearance serves only to further cast the group as villains, the Nordic Thor presuming her to be a demon.

Vision, manipulating himself to super density, steps up to the plate to strike the chiseled jaw of the thunder god. Taken aback by Vision's assault, it's the scheming Loki that comes to the aid of his brother, frying Vision's circuitry with mystic bolts of pink lightning. A ploy to further his own wile goals.

Assured by Loki's aid, Thor turns his attentions to the star-spangled Captain America once more. The Captain continues to emplore Thor with their innocence, but it is the inevitable treachery of Loki that finally lifts the veil of deceit from Thor's eyes.

As Loki attempts to attack Thor while his guard is down, Captain America swiftly intervenes, shielding Thor from Loki's spectacular attack.

Knocked down by the attack, Thor is reunited with his mystic hammer, Mjolnir, and thusly his memories come flooding back. With Loki having shown his true colours, Thor quickly realigns himself with the Avengers, who he now recognises as just and true warriors.

Thor menaces his half-brother, well ready to commence once again with a kicking of the ass, but Loki finds himself a bittersweet rescue from his brother's wrath.

The Scarlet Witch summons her fantastic mutant-enhanced mystic powers to absorb Loki's spell to transport Thor to limbo, and turns it back on the god of mischief. Loki's brief reign of terror comes to an abrupt end as he is sucked into his own vortex, doomed to occupy the non-space of limbo.

With the battle finished, Thor struggles to remember his past, but can only recall an onslaught that required great sacrifice. With his mind foggy, and the power of a god, Captain America takes it upon himself to invite Thor into the team as it's newest member, to which the Norse god gladly accepts.

The hammer...
Thor pulls a siwtcheroo to aid The Avengers to victory against this week's Ultimate Alliance feature villain: Loki!
Just in case you forgot what we were doing here, Mondays are of course dedicated to the villains of the popular multi-platform video game, and after several months of Mondays we're finally approaching the business end of that particular thematic device! Yay!

Heroes Reborn is a period in comics generally looked back upon with a flavour of negativity. Reactions range everywhere from bitter contempt, to violent indifference. Granted, this is probably one of the many examples of perpetuated opinions spreading amongst a community of both the informed and the uninitiated, it's fair to say that it isn't all bad press for the sake of it.

Still, it's interesting to take a look at some of the parallels between the work of Heroes Reborn and some of the conceits of later, better regarded works.
The Ultimates is something that always comes to mind when I think back to this very introductory issue of the Heroes Reborn Avengers.

The discovery of Thor is regarded with some scepticism from the beginning, despite the unlikely feat of a man surviving being imprisoned in a chunk of clear amber. In this respect, it perhaps ironically recasts Thor in the position of man-out-of-time to be unfrozen by the Avengers, while Captain America is the chief sceptic regarding the man's true origins.

The Captain continues to question the validity of Thor's claims, ultimately deciding to humor his delusions while inviting him to join the team. A situation that seems to quite strongly echo the future work of Mark Millar in The Ultimates, not that I would suggest any kind of shenanigans.

Actually, I think there's an obscure sense of satisfaction to be taken from the parallels between these books and the Ultimate line of comics, which enjoy a steady regard, despite becoming more and more like their predecessors.

THE FRESH MAKER!!!It feels like there's been a lot of talk about first issues recently on Secret Earths, and despite it's failings, this actually represents a pretty decent first issue, I think. The specifics of the writing style and artwork aside, we get a super-sized issue that divides neatly between introduction to the lead characters (through the eyes of the lurking ghostly villain, Loki, who trapses through their SHIELD headquarters), and a second-half of action. Granted, the action leads to a fairly still conclusion, but I think I'd take a closed ended first issue over the Omega Flight styled meandering of several issues of contemplative nothing.

Obviously criticisms can be drawn regarding a writing style that went out at the turn of the century, along with the likewise bombastic design sensibility of Rob Liefeld, who crams classic designs with naff, blandly indifferent characters that are bitterly reminiscent of many early Image superhero characters.

This issue doesn't escape the wrath of retroactive clutter, either.
Though apparently a concept readily explained by Kurt Busiek, the shift between this barbaric Thor, and something more familiar to classic readers, toward the end of the series feels less like a story, and more like an early effort to start sweeping the mistakes of the present-past aside.

Much of this incarnation of the Avengers goes unrecognised today.
Swordsman and Hellcat's involvement in the team is largely forgotten, in no small part due to further tampering. The already mentioned Swordsman-Deadpool fiasco needs little more elaboration, other than to direct the interested to the mini-series, Heroes Reborn: The Remnants.

I'm not about to bitterly despise this book, or this particular era of comics, because I actually enjoyed a lot of it. I give it a great deal of credit for being the Ultimate comics before the Ultimate comics, with a more forthcoming connection to the classic materials, that is a silent trend gripping Ultimate books today, stripping them of their identity (and instant sales value).

For those who missed out, I can only hope that while I have readily acknowledged some of the faults, you can also recognise that this is a very fun, action-packed issue of Avengers vintage. Vintage that just didn't mature terribly well...

Before we fade away, we should note that as the only two characters unable to mount an offensive (beyond participating in group poses), Hawkeye and Swordsman receive but an assist stat for this particular performance.
AND -- due to the streamlining rule that alternate universe counterparts be lumped in with their originals, the Swordsman stat goes to Deadpool. If you've hitched here through the Deadpool tag, hopefully a word search has cleared up why.

EDIT (October 4, 2007): Swordsman has been relisted as his own character, as per the Superboy-Prime Directive. These stats have been removed from Deadpool's listing.

The Fight: 4 The Issue: 4.5
[Not at all a revolutionary moment in comics history, but obscurely important and perhaps even influential on the future landscape of these characters, and the way in which they might be handled. Action, pose-heavy read.]

Friday, July 27, 2007

Hush Chapter One: The Ransom (DC comics)
Batman #608 When: December 2002
Why: Jeph Loeb How: Jim Lee

The story so far...
Someone has gone to a lot of trouble in Gotham City to assemble a motley crew of mercenaries and muscle in order to kidnap Edward Lamont IV, boy billionaire in waiting for the Lamont chemical fortune.

The Batman is swift in retrieving the boy who was snatched two weeks prior from his school, by a man wearing a trenchcoat. Unfortunately for him, the large man was a newly mutated Killer Croc.

With a paid ransom of ten million dollars, Killer Croc challenges the Batman's interference with the conviction of a motivated man. Killer Croc claims he needs the money, but in this city of stone and steel, it's greatest champion is unsympathetic to the wants of a career criminal. Thus, they come to blows, but little does the Batman know, each is but a pawn in a game much larger...

Previous Form:
Batman (#2): Has toppled foes such as; Hyena, Two-Face, Amazo, The Joker & Superman.
Killer Croc (#172): Suffered a harsh defeat to Batman.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Killer Croc 5 (Super Strength)
Intelligence: Batman 5 (Professor)
Speed: Batman 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Batman 5 (Marathon Man)
Agility: Batman 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting Ability: Batman 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy Powers: Batman 4 (Arsenal)

This one's a rematch [Batman #621], so there really isn't a great deal to run down as far as predicting who should/shouldn't, will/won't win based on the standardized measurements provided by the tape. Plugging them into the patented Haseloff Tape Measure will only garner the same scientific results.

However, in the interest of streamlining, the statistics entered do not take into account the variables presented by time and space. A very different Killer Croc faces the Batman this time around, more monster than man, as opposed to the thuggish misfit that was featured in Broken City.

This hulking, over developed Killer Croc represents a far more formiddable physical obstacle for the Batman. Sitting somewhere in the upper echelon of his burly foes, Batman likely has some portable methods of contingency for dealing with him. If nothing else, less specific devices comparable to that used by Jason Todd against Danny Brickwell [Green Arrow #70], or those employed by Batman himself in encounters with Amazo [Batman #637] and Captain Nazi [Batman #647], are likely on hand.

As mentioned in the intro, Killer Croc is fighting for something. His motivations are much more personal than a lot of his usual work, which gives him an added spark in combat, but ultimately, his record suggests Batman is ready and willing to put him down as hard as necessary. Unlike many of Batman's other foes, particularly in this state, Croc can take it.

The Math: Batman (Meta Class)
The Pick: Batman (Kicker of Ass)

What went down...
So, having taken out the mob of mercenaries, Batman drags the boy into the light of the city. He think about the superior reassurance Superman could offer, but the kid is probably less afraid of the man in the batsuit, and more concerned about the big green crocodile-man charging at them!

UPPERCUT!!!Croc makes good with a briefcase uppercut that knocks the Batman straight to backfoot city. The bulky Croc continues to press the assault, charging forward with a following shot with his free hand.

With Batman dazed and against a wall, Croc declares his intentions to eat his longtime foe, but instead gets a face full of pipe thanks to Batman's superior speed. Taking the path of least resistance, Batman rises from his crouch, striking Croc under the chin with a stiff headbutt, before following it with a devestating boot to the face!

Croc's concerns devolve into a feral bloodlust, letting the briefcase containing the ransom slip from his grasp, he instead seeks the innards of one Batman!

Croc slashes wildly at Batman, knocking him back once more.
Batman is again able to return through superior agility, leaping over his opponent while slappinga tiny device onto the base of Croc's skull.

Taking full advantage of a vulnerability to hypersonics, Batman sets off his device, disorientating his stronger more feral foe to the point where he runs headlong into industrial piping.

Using a nearby chain, Batman wraps Killer up and leaves him hanging from the pipe as the FBI descend on the scene. With the Beureau taking the boy into custody, Batman takes off in pursuit of a heat signature carrying a briefcase.

The hammer...
Rrrring the bell! Round two goes to Batman once more!

For those of you salivating curiously over who stole the money, it was of course none other than Catwoman! Like you didn't guess it already. While in pursuit of Catwoman, Batman's batline is sabotaged and he plummets to certain doom, so begins the storyline that is Hush.

Croc gets hung out to dry, a second time.After talking at length about the scenario that was presented during the release of Azarrello and Risso's Broken City, it seemed fitting to take a look back at the story that effectively sealed it's fate. Not that I'm going to fault Hush for being a successful, top ten performer on the sales charts. Suffice to say, I think it's a shame that Broken City struggled under the weight of it's predecessor, but have been pleased to see a lot of people go back and give Broken City a go.

Hush, despite it's success, was ultimately met with a pretty surly critical response. What had begun as an exciting year-long mystery through the Batman mythos, ended as a sudden conclusion that delivered little surprise to most reading it. It served up the excessively obvious culprit, in cahoots with the obscurely unlikely, and eventually through the addition of others, the downright absurd.

Having reinvigorated Jim Lee as a regular comics penciller, it seemed Hush was only going to lead to bigger and better things. Early-on Loeb and others recounted in interviews the intent to follow the story up with a six parter at a later date, but what eventually unfolded may have only served to further garble what was, for many, an disatisfying end to the year's biggest mystery.

Hush soon resurfaced in the pages of Gotham Knights, weaving his way through a much less intentful story, coming to further blows with Batman, and new enemies too, like Poison Ivy and Green Arrow. Hush would ultimately overstay his welcome, slipping into relative obscurity after a busy couple of years.

What would really shock was the pursuit of Jason Todd, one of the small handful of deceased characters considered untouchable. What had originally been a psychological attack on Batman, because the means for resurrecting Jason Todd for a career as the Red Hood: vigilante with attitude. The answer for his timely resurrection? The apparent influence of an enraged Superboy from Earth-Prime, who had pounded so hard on the confines of his non-space home, he had shaken the very fabric of reality, thus undoing Todd's death while he lay buried.

We'll probably get a chance to talk more about the specifics of the Hush story and character as we featured more issues from the arc. For what it was, I enjoyed the overall presentation, and the excitement that really spurred me to return to Batman after years of ridiculously neglecting most DC properties.

Meanwhile, if I can break into a tangent, you may have noticed that to the right there's a new addition at the top of the menu. Yes, the first issue of a comic written by yours truly has finally hit the virtual shelf, and is available for purchase! I hope there are a lot of things to come for me in comics, and hope all you Secret Wars readers can come along for the ride.

If you haven't already, hit-up Nite Lite Theatre, and follow the links to find a brief teaser preview that gives very little away, and consider picking it up. It's ridiculously affordable for a small press book. Cheers!

The Fight: 4 The Issue: 5.5
[As a first issue, the action is thick, but the plot is well established. None of this neo-fascist three-issue meandering to build up the players!]

Monday, July 23, 2007

In Search of the Gods (Marvel comics)
Thor #1 When: July 1998
Why: Dan Jurgens How: John Romita Jr

The story so far...
The heroes have returned from being trapped in a pocket universe, but their return has garnered mixed pleasures.
The Norse Gods are lost, leaving behind the tattered remains of Asgard, and Thor is alone with the remorse of being the only known survivor, until a man claiming to be the human form of Baldur reaches out.

Thor ultimately discovers the misguided ruse of the crazed individual, but this is not the last hope of an encounter with artifacts from the fallen Asgard. Another menace is lurking in the shadows, ready to strike at those that Thor would care about.

The invincible Destroyer armor, created by Odin himself, has returned with the spirit of a disgruntled soldier inside it. Intent on wreaking independent havoc on the world, the possessor of the Destroyer stands against Thor and the mighty Avengers with a single threat: To open the visor and destroy the planet.

Previous Form:
Thor (#19): Victories over Captain Marvel, Super-Skrull & Superman.
Iron Man (#3): Victories over power houses Hulk, She-Hulk & The Mandarin.
Captain America (#9): Victories over Wolverine, Baron Zemo, MODOK.
Avengers [#2]: Victories over She-Hulk, Atlantean Military & Sinister Twelve.
The Destroyer: The Destroyer armor has not yet been featured on the site.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Destroyer 6 (Super Strength)
Intelligence: Iron Man 5 (Professor)
Speed: Captain America 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Destroyer 7 (Unstoppable)
Agility: Captain America 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting Ability: Destroyer 7 (Born Fighter)
Energy Powers: Destroyer 7 (Solar Power)

Okay! So, I'm back, another year older, and once again running behind on promised updates! Hey, I should probably shut up and get on with it!

So, the Destroyer armor! Another powerful Marvel villain debuts as a result of Ultimate Alliance Mondays and it spells bad news for Thor, who has just made a return to the Marvel universe in this issue -- as he has in the most recent new first issue of Thor! Ooo, tangentially topical!

Like Baron Mordo or Ultron, the Destroyer is a character I have a passing interest in, but have never encountered under circumstances that have led to any deeper connection. You can assume I've been slow to get to this update for similar reasons as those others, because it just isn't a character that pulls me in.

The Destroyer has his own special problem.
People like to say a character like Superman or The Sentry is too powerful to be interesting or truly effective, because for either to fulfill their potential is to be unstoppable. I tend to disagree in no small part due to the weaknesses sewn into their character, but it becomes a more compelling argument for an entity along the lines of The Destroyer.

The Destroyer's power is essentially that he's invincible.
The crux of "his" purpose and the threat of "his" existence is the fact that he has the potential to reduce the planet to smouldering rubble. Which doesn't make it impossible to build a future for the character, but in mainstream production line comics, chances are the various cooks are going to spoil the broth in their haste to get work done.

To go back to the usual point of this section, the Destroyer probably shouldn't lose. The armor alone is effectively unstoppable, and that's the whole point of it, and it lacks even the basic human weaknesses of an "unstoppable" character like the magically enhanced Juggernaut, Cain Marko.
As the Destroyer is animated by the essence of another, the obvious way to defeat it, as depicted in the game that has prompted this entry, is to attack the defenseless inhabitor. If the armor has been defeated in other ways in the comics, I haven't read enough Destroyer stories to know.

I don't doubt that Thor can beat the armor, because he has many times before, but for the purpose of this section I could not ethically declare anyone the likely victor, other than Destroyer.

The Math: Avengers (Total) Destroyer (Average)
The Pick: The Destroyer

What went down...
A quartet of Avengers are already on the scene protecting the innocent as chaos explodes on the outer skirts of Manhattan. Captain America, Iron Man, Scarlet Witch and Hawkeye do their best to aid paramedics in pulling survivors from the wreckage of Destroyer's rampage.

Thor arrives on the scene, giving the Avengers the muscle necessary to launch an attack on the marching Destroyer. Assembled, Iron Man joins the thunder god in a tandem strike of repulsor rays and tossed Mjolnir, which the Destroyer silently deflects with his armored arms. They follow it immediately with a physical clash, flying the behemoth toward a dockside building.

Their attack proves unsuccessful, the two heroes on the receiving end of the Destroyer's destructive blast. As they hurtle across the rubble laden battlefield, Scarlet Witch steps up to attack the armor with a magical hex, prompting the armor to speak for the first time during the battle. His words are certain, a stern warning to the Witch to cease, or suffer the destructive force of the Destroyer's open visor, which will melt the planet.

Hawkeye is nimble enough to whisk Wanda clear of the Destroyer's energy blast, but only the mighty shield of Captain America is intervention enough to protect his fellow Avengers from the destructive clubbing blow of the armor.

Thor charges back onto the scene, directing the Asgardian armor away from his fellows with a thunderous left that knocks him back. The god of thunder continues his attack, clubbing with the power of his enchanted hammer!

The Destroyer strikes back with his own attack, delivering a one-two combo that knocks the wind out of Thor. Captain America recognises the tactic as Thor buying time to evacuate more survivors, but even the mighty thunder god can only withstand the punishment for so long.

As the military forms to the side of the battle, they watch Thor's efforts gratefully, withholding their arms as long as a hero remains in the field.

Thor, clearly unwilling to play the patsy, fights back at the armor designed by his father as a weapon against the all-mighty Celestials. Though he is truly powerful, his blows serve only to shake the armor.

With Thor at pointblank proximity the soldier inhabiting the weapon displays it's might, blasting the thunder god with a devestating stream of orange energies. The Destroyer's supply seems limitless, no matter the efforts of the heroes.

With the remaining civilians removed from the field, Captain America gives the order for another group attack. Hawkeye is the first, drawing a modified explosive arrow from his quiver, while Iron Man and the others charge into battle.

This time it's Iron Man who suffers the brunt of the Destroyer's blast, as he shakes off Hawkeye's arrow attack.

With the destruction again reaching to the innocent, Thor rises from the rubble with the intent of putting an end to the rampage. With Mjolnir in hand, Thor summons the power of the mightiest storm imaginable and unleashes it upon the cold, emotionless suit of enchanted armor with a command to fall!

Motionless, the soldier inhabiting the Destroyer armor coldly defies the thunder god, "I'm not moving. You are." With that, he unleashes a massive blast of energies that reduces the dockside building, atop which stands Thor, to rubble, spilling Thor into the air like a helpless child.

The Destroyer marches over the destruction to Thor's lifeless body.
Revelling in the power in his possession, the nameless soldier marches with the intent of putting an end to Thor's interference. He pounds down at the defenseless god so hard it causes tremors throughout the surrounding area.

With Thor defeated, no one stands to prevent the very thing they feared would happen. Clutching Thor's limp frame, the Destroyer asks Thor to say hello to those in Valhalla, and to the dread of the Avengers, he opens his visor.

Once the light subsides, the Avengers open their eyes to discover their world has survived, but as they climb across the rubble, Captain America has the misfortune of discovering the results first.

Lying smoking in a pool of his own godly blood -- Thor.

The hammer...
And that children is why you should never give The Destroyer armour to just anyone! It was made for defeating the Celestials! It's not a bloody toy!

Speaking of John Romita Jr, if I may diverge from the usual comics discussion/commentary to do a little traditional blogging, it would be much obliged. See, I could use the opportunity to vent...

It was my birthday Saturday, and as you might imagine, being the comics fan I am, I was looking forward to grabbing some of the latest titles thrilling and billing up the charts. World War Hulk was definitely at the top of my list, providing the convenient segue seen above -- just one problem.

Last weekend marked the end of the two week break for kids from school, and apparently I couldn't get my eagerly anticipated reads because children had bought them all. Children.

Oh, well, that's just fantastic! Apparently all the movies and toys and Mark Bagley pyjamas have finally paid off, and the damned kids decided my birthday would be a good time to buy up on all the comics. Fan-freaking-tastic.

So, to all of you out there who are advocating children and comics. To those of you who hand books out at Halloween, and recommend titles like Marvel Adventures: Avengers to parents of younger relatives and family friends. To you the people trying to perpetuate the medium's future: SCREW YOU!!!

It wasn't all bad, I soaked up the awe that was the 'pick of the week', Madman Atomic Comics #3, and have some battlicious gems that will no doubt be popping up on the site in the future. It just pains me to say one of those that won't will be the epic fights contained within the pages of World War Hulk...

To break kayfabe for a moment, it might be an opportune moment to mention I'm hard at work on some of the most enjoyable writing I've done in a while. While we continue to wait on the s-l-o-w print turnaround of The Kirby Martin Inquest #1 (contain your enthusiasm), I'm working on what will hopefully be one of the future NLT hits which will feature some of the early escapades of a character featured in a free online read previously, The Semite!

The story will mark the first conceited effort to produce something kid-friendly, but will still include structured story, character development, and just a lot of plain fun. I'm drawing on some of my childhood excitement for world mythology, and the product is turning out to be a lot of fun! There's maybe a hint of a Tintin meets Dragon Ball feel to these earlier stories, which brings us back around neatly to this issue of Thor!

If you had any doubt about Romita Jr's capacity for big action, just take a moment to imagine the context of the panels featured in today's update.
The story is pretty light here, with the first half being dedicated to developing plotlines and the character of the present-day Thor, while the second half is a Dragon Ball Z style stand-off of super powers. You even get some polite pauses, and familiar stalling tactics, and as a giant-sized issue, it's worth it.

I didn't get much further with the Heroes Return Thor, but in the absence of World War Hulk, this issue somehow feels like a fitting consolation.

The Fight: 5.5 The Issue: 5
NEXT WEEK: The Asgardian menace escalates as we face LOKI!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Broken City: Part Two (DC comics)
Batman #621 When: January 2004
Why: Brian Azzarello How: Eduardo Risso

The story so far...
A murder in Gotham City has left a child orphaned, something the Dark Knight Detective can relate to. As the Batman, Bruce Wayne, son of the murdered Wayne family, uses his inherited fortune to stalk the streets of his city preying on those that would prey on the innocent.

This murder has connected with him, and so the Batman lends his aid, albeit through the filter of Detective Crispus Allen, a GCPD detective whose opinion of the Dark Knight is at least high enough to prevent it interfering in their work.

With the only witness, the son, reduced to a catatonic mess, the Batman decides to abandon a night of grilling steaks, and seek out a more receptive meat.
Somewhere in the dark city sits a man with an appetite of a different kind, and he's about to get a visit from someone most unexpected.

Previous Form:
Batman (#2): Has toppled foes such as; Hyena, Two-Face, Amazo, The Joker & Superman.
Killer Croc (#126): Survived an inconclusive encounter with Wolverine.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Killer Croc 5 (Super Strength)
Intelligence: Batman 5 (Professor)
Speed: Batman 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Batman 5 (Marathon Man)
Agility: Batman 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting Ability: Batman 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy Powers: Batman 4 (Arsenal)

So, in preparing for this month's updates, I found myself collecting issues with the intentions of finding a particular sort of character; a character that somehow represented the pure fighting spirit that the Infinite Wars represent.
Two such characters seemed to present themselves for no reason in particular and they were Batroc the Leaper and -- Killer Croc!

Killer Croc has the distinction of being one of the most physical and far-out villains in Batman's core rogues gallery, as well as having one of the silliest sounding names. I'm rating him somewhere in the vicinity of Killer Moth and Ratcatcher, not quite in the leagues of the dread Crazy-Quilt.

Physically Killer Croc represents one of the strongest brute forces the Batman regularly comes into conflict with. His strength levels have ranged everywhere from competent bruiser, to hulking super-human, sometimes influenced by further mutation brought on by the intervention of others, such as Hush.

Ultimately Batman makes fairly light work of Killer Croc.
His martial arts expertise and superior speed and agility usually give him the necessary edge to out maneuver Killer Croc long enough to put him down with finesse and skill unfamiliar to the crocodilian brute.

The key to victory for Killer Croc is simple: Find someone more motivated to get to Batman, and occupy the strong-man part of a more complex and strategic plan than Croc could ever hope for. In the absence of a mastermind, it's down to surprise and trying to overwhelm the Dark Knight with pure strength.

The Math: Batman (Meta Class)
The Pick: Batman

What went down...
Taking in a pole show at the local club, Killer Croc catches the mutual eye of a perform that suggests they get a private room in the interests of her securing the guarantee of the wad of cash in his grubby mitts.

Agreeing, Croc doesn't resist being strapped to his chair with leather cuffs, taking it in as part of the show, oblivious to the two squinted eyes that gleam out of the darkness into the mirrored walls. "Beat it", the eyes order.

Batman steps into the dimly lit room and looms over the restrained Croc.
"Hmm. Not what I was expectin', but what the hell... Take it off."

The Batman pays Croc's hilarious quip tribute with an unrestrained slap to the chops that makes a mess of the impressive row of chompers the crook is sporting. He coughs up blood, and gets mad.

All Croc's jumping and snarling earns him is a pole-swinging kick to the gut. Still strapped to the chair, Croc falls back into the mirrored walls of the private room. He dares Batman to remove the restraints for a "fair" fight.

Batman turns down his request and moves to interrogation.
When Croc isn't receptive, he asks if he has a lawyer. Croc tells him he has one on retainer. Bats retorts with fist clenched - "Your dentist, too?"

Batman asks again and this time he gets the answers he seeks. Croc doesn't know where the man he's looking for, Angel Lupo, is, but he has enough info to point him in the right direction: Little Tokyo, as it were. As croc pulls a broken tooth from his bloodied mouth, the Batman leaves to follow the lead. It need not escelate this time.

The hammer...
The winner of this bout and still DC champ, Batman!

Some people like to say Batman cheats, but as he mentions during this fight where Killer Croc is restrained, he doesn't really. He plays by the rules, and it's that fact that really solidifies one of the most distinct and enjoyable things about the "grim and gritty" Batman.

Bruce Wayne's super "powers" are his cunning, guile, determination and wealth. By most of our standards those are pretty fantastic powers, but in the world of superheroes he remains but a man, and he elevates himself by bending his morals in ways the other heroes do not.

Villains hold an inherent advantage over the hero because they're willing to go to far more extreme lengths to achieve their goals. Batman draws the line at lethal force, maintaining his heroic core, but still willingly meets the villains on their own terms, and in terms of getting results that has almost made him one of the most admirable and maybe relatable heroes in comics.

For quite some time now I've been itching to talk about these comics on the site, because as peculiar a declaration as it may be, Broken City might just be one of my all-time favourite Batman stories ever! Ever, as opposed to all the other periods left out by "all-time"...

It's my birthday tomorrow and I'm feeling vaguely nostalgic, so let's take a timewarp for the unintiated: It's 2003, and it's a pretty good time for Batman!

In 2003 Detective Comics is at it's most recent best, and Jim Lee has been seduced back to comics for a year-long storyarc by the man behind similarly lengthed successes like The Long Halloween and Dark Victory. I, of course, refer to Jeph Loeb, and the Batman storyarc -- Hush.

Love or hate Hush, the star power involved in it's creation and the mystery faced by Batman ensured DC had a much-needed number one seller on their hands. About the only question bigger than "Who is Hush?" was regarding the next step in the Batman flagship title's future.

Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso are the creative team behind the Vertigo title, 100 Bullets, and suffice to say that while they may not be Lee & Loeb, they had their own unique buzz as the next named creative team on Batman.

Unfortunately for some, the shock to the system was harsh and unexpected.
I was among the number taken aback by the approach seen in the follow-up to Hush. This was far from the tights and capes that traditionally garner the pages of the Batman title. Almost ironically, as a reader enjoying the urban greys of Detective Comics, I was immediately a little put off by the bright, flashy colour palette of Broken City.

This is a story that actually probably would've felt much more at home in Detective. As a subtle, but heavy urban drama, it slid much better into the Detective model of Batman stories, than the larger-than-life superheroics typical of the title it featured in.

When you get past the pinks and oranges, and the fact that Batman often appears brighter than some backgrounds, you start to realise that this a far darker tale than it appears. When you read beyond the Batman's smile, you realise the undertones are much more adult and sinister than you'd expect.

I don't know if I could boil down the facets that makes this one of my favourite Batman stories. Visually it's powerful and distinct, and thematically it intelligentlly deals with the on-going working parts of Gotham's underbelly, while paying careful attention to the finely crafted storyarc of Angel Lupo.

There are definite cues from Frank Miller's work on the title, but as heavy handed as some of those are, they're well balanced by the fact that this story very much stands on it's own. It is tangentially respectful, as opposed to being derivative of Miller's work, unlike something along the lines of Bendis' Daredevil.

As I said, it's surprisingly adult. The violence is complimented with a volley of entendres and double-speak that would likely go over the heads of children who might have read Hush, but probably shouldn't be in their hands just to be safe.

It does suffer the almost obligatory inclusion of Batman's origin, but to it's credit it, the inclusion is interesting, and vaguely unique. It's also to be argued that as a creature of obssession and motivation, it's perfectly reasonable to see the origin as often as we do, but I'm starting to spin arguments above and beyond.

A great story that I hope to revist some time in the future!

The Fight: 3.5 The Issue: 7

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A Scream Across the Sky (Wildstorm comics)
Captain Atom: Armageddon #1 When: December 2005
Why: Will Pfeifer How: Giuseppe Camuncoli

The story so far...
Nathaniel Adam, a former soldier, was subjected to an experiment that left him encased in an indestructable alien alloy that was the material for the ship in which he was to have travelled. From that day forward he became the explosive superpowered agent: Captain Atom!

After years with the Justice League, Captain Atom eventually returns to the military under the Luthor administration, and when a Kryptonite meteor is heading straight for the Earth, is commissioned to pilot a ship to preemptively destroy the threat.

Captain Atom is successfully, but the explosive destruction of his ship throws him hurtling forward through time until, with his skin suffering damage, he finally comes to a stop in a strange and unfamiliar world, with an equally unfamiliar appearance: and in this new world, he's far from welcomed.

Previous Form:
Captain Atom & Mr. Majestic: Neither character has yet been featured on the site.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Draw 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Mr. Majestic 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Mr. Majestic 5 (Super Speed)
Stamina: Draw 6 (Generator)
Agility: Draw 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting Ability: Mr. Majestic 6 (Warrior)
Energy Powers: Captain Atom 7 (Solar Power)

Well, I've gone out of my comfort zone again, this time with far more positive results than the last entry. [Strange Tales #111]

I can't say I've ever had any real interest in Wildstorm in any of it's incarnations. The Authority and some of the stuff done with those characters has at least appeared interesting, but never enough to finally wrench me away from properties I've previously invested in. In fact, prior to this, the only other encounters I've had with Wildstorm characters have been arcs in Superman and Fantastic Four, so I'm entirely unlearned.

Fortunately for the tape, Mister Majestic is an entirely accessible character.
In fact, anyone remotely familiar with Superman (or maybe even Sentry) could have enough information to deduce their way to some reasonable expectations for the character. Sure, there are some considerable differences, but as I love to scream violently at children, you do not need the forty-year history to understand a single, twenty-four page story. You just need to know how to read.

Captain Atom and I aren't exactly bossom buddies, but we're familiar enough to know passing info of each other. I know that he's a hero that's struggled to ever really extend himself above supporting B-character to more prominent characters in the DC Universe. I also know that he has a lot of potential, both destructively and conceptually.

I like to give Captain Atom the same benefit of the doubt I give to Martian Manhunter, and just assume that he can hover around the Superman level of strength and capability, but has been hindered by popularity contests.
Not that you can't readily find stories to back that theory up. It's just, for the purposes of the tape, I'm sure some would argue his strength doesn't quite come up to that par.

Dude... Where's my pants?!Given the nature of these characters we can deduce it will at least be a very close clash. The bredth of capabilities at Mister Majestic's disposal means he should come into a fight like this with the advantage. It's really about Captain Atom stepping up to that, and avoiding succumbing to the onset of power.

Unlike Superman, Majestros exhibits more chi-styled energy attacks, on top of the standard eye beams. Still, as impressive as Majestic gets, Captain Atom's key to victory has to be tapping into that invincibility, and really driving home with the wealth of energy inside him. That said, it might truly be too close to call! Adding to the variables, the fact that in this particular story, Captain Atom has apparently lost his alloy whilst being infused with a taste of the Void power.

The Math: Mister Majestic (Super Class)
The Pick: Mister Majestic

What went down...
Emerging from the rubble of his crash landing, Captain Atom has little time to explore his new appearance. His arrival has not gone unnoticed, and Mister Majestic apparently has some opinions to be made -- with his fists!

Captain Atom, taken somewhat unawares, suffers the consequences of this strange world, alien to him. Majestic's unceremonious attack serves as the first clue to the nature of a world lacking of DC morals and values.

The battery continues, Majestic declaring his Kherubiam will to protect at all costs. His philosophy is reflected in property damage as he sends Captain Atom flying through the rubble of a building, before sending him off with a staggering left hook that leaves Atom to land on a car below. It is crushed.

Surviving the impact relatively unscathed, Atom's concerns shift from his unfamiliar surroundings to more instinctive issues. Majestic swoops down directly into the path of Captain Atom's unbridled rage.

Be honest: You thought this was an unusually sexy pose...The blast leaves a smoking Majestic on his knees before the power of Captain Atom. He makes his own decree about the nature of his powers and strength: "My name is Captain Atom. As in A-Bomb... As in nuclear fission... As in... The end of the world."

With his declaration, the Captain raises his glowing hands above his head and strikes down at the floored Mister Majestic. The force of the impact sends the caped Kherubian shattering through the road and into a plummet far beneath the surface Earth.

Believing from his own perspective he has put a stop to a potential public menace, the Captain turns to the people adjacent to the street looking for accolades, but instead is met with fear and loathing.

Confused and certain that he isn't home, Captain Atom takes to the skies with the question, "Where am I?"

The hammer...
The winner by knock-down -- Captain Atom!

Initially I was fairly shell shocked after reading this issue.
As I mentioned in the opener, I wasn't at all familiar with the Wildstorm Universe going in to this series, and somewhere amidst the reviews and second-hand opinions I got a very different impression of what I was getting myself in to.

The shock came when I found myself reading a superhero book.
Okay, sure, I knew there were superheroes involved, but I mean this is a superhero book. There just aren't any two faux-intellectual ways about it, this makes no effort to make a commentary on the nature of humanity or superheroes, this just serves up a smackdown-fest and a whole lotta plot.

Having long since digested that fact I can definitely say it's a damned good superhero comic! Giuseppe Camncoli pencils up a storm with a firm grasp on the margins of human subtlty that go along with this far-out, in-your-face action piece. It dances a line somewhere between cartoon and from-life, and is slick and smooth, beautifully complimented by inks by Sandra Hope, and colours from Randy Mayor. It really is, visually, the total package.

While the script might not set the world on fire twenty years from now, this is one of the best first-issues I've read in a long time! In a decade bogged down in "slow-burn" opening issues that take excessive amounts of time to look at, but not elaborate on pieces of the puzzle, this one is a real treat.

Where something like the recent Omega Flight meanders around the anticipation of the formation of a new team (for a few issues), this one dives in head-first to give you more than enough information and development to feel satisfied.
We open with stylistically attentive recaps on recent events for Captain Atom, which tie everything together, while also lamenting on the parallels between his current predicament, and perennial origins.

If I had to have a gripe about the series, it would be to the very core of the concept. Armageddon alludes to a prophecy from the Wildstorm Universe, and an editorial decision to reboot the Wildstorm Universe under new direction as an off-shoot world existant within the DC megaverse.

While I have no allegiance to what has come before in the Wildstorm books - in fact, probably quite the opposite, given the relative disinterest in characters that appeared generic and uninspired - I'm never a fan of stop-starting an established canon in the interest of making it so-called "new reader friendly."

It might be a heavy-handed approach to a medium built on a pinch of salt, but I don't think history should be taken lightly. I would rather my art imitate some elements of life, and with rare exception, I don't think time and history should be omitted from the list.

I also had hoped that this might be a slightly more unique way to metatextually tie the DC/Wildstorm knot, forming a relationship between imprint and character that would prove mutually beneficial. Captain Atom lends what little DC "name" he has to the smaller branding, and Captain Atom gets a chance to be a big fish in a smaller pond, and lift his own stock somewhat.

It might have been a more superficial take on things, and I suppose there's every chance it might have upset existing Wildstorm fans even more than what eventuated, but... I don't know. As much as I enjoyed what I read, it just wasn't at all what I had expected. Still, a very enjoyable first issue!

The Fight: 5 The Issue: 6

Monday, July 16, 2007

Face-To-Face With the Magic of Baron Mordo (Marvel comics)
Strange Tales #111 When: August 1963
Why: Stan Lee How: Steve Ditko

The story so far...
Somewhere in the mountainous regions of Tibet lives The Master, ancient master of the occult and mentor to Earth's Sorceror Supreme -- Dr. Strange! The final line of defense against all things mystic, occult and supernatural!

Though Dr. Strange's name inspires intrigue and fear, there is yet another name still that sends an even colder chill down any man's spine. He was once the Master's disciple, but he was seduced by the dark arts, and so he became the exile. The man who could have been the Sorceror Supreme, Baron Mordo.

Using his astral essence to travel undetected into The Master's lair, Mordo uses hypnotic suggestion to command his faithful servant to poison his food!
Unaware of Mordo's act of treachery, Strange sends his own astral form to visit the Master in lieu of new experiments, and finds him besieged. Can Strange overcome Mordo and save his mentor, or is Earth's eldest champion doomed?

Previous Form:
Dr. Strange (#95): Aided in defeats against The X-Men, Venom & The Hand.
Baron Mordo: Has not yet been featured on the site.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Draw 2 (Average)
Intelligence: Draw 5 (Professor)
Speed: Draw 2 (Average)
Stamina: Draw 5 (Marathon Man)
Agility: Dr. Strange 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting Ability: Draw 2 (Average)
Energy Powers: Draw 6 (Mass Destruction)

Okay, Baron Mordo, an evil sorceror, is a character with infinite potential.
You look at the tape there, and as per the infamous Haseloff SCIENCE, it's one of those 'evenly matched' hero vee villain scenarios that everyone loves.
He does comics magic in a superhero universe, so his bredth of capability, like Dr. Strange, is pretty broad, but... I really don't like Baron Mordo.

No, no... I mean, like, I rue the day I decided to feature as many of the core villains from Marvel Ultimate Alliance as I could -- JUST because Baron Mordo is on that list. He... I mean... Look, I'll admit, I'm one of those guys who likes Dr. Strange and wants Dr. Strange to stay in regular print, but I don't have a whole lot to choose from in the Dr. Strange longbox. So, my scope of reference is pretty narrow, but seriously, can't someone do something really wacky and fun with Baron Mordo?

Baron Mordo can take Dr. Strange, and Strange can take Mordo... I don't care!... We don't need to go into what kind of Casshernesque mouth restraints or Dragonmen these guys can conjure. It's not important. If you're dying for that, just look around and take note of the nineteenth object you see in the room, and then imagine it giant and weaponized and with huge teeth -- that's how either sorceror will win. It's fine.

But, seriously... The tale of the tape is all about how much Baron Mordo sucks.
He's like Strange's Dr. Doom, only he never wins, and has lost in a way as such that I instantly think of him as a fat-headed bumbling moron. Which is a shame, because like I said, he's got a ridiculous amount of potential.

After a night of sleep, I'm going to assume there's some grandious read out there I've missed. Something that makes Baron Mordo worthy of his position, and I invite anyone to drop a comment and tell me where to go (to find such a read), but in the mean time...

The Math: Dr. Strange (Meta Class)
The Pick: Dr. Strange (Because Baron Mordo hasn't been good since the sixties)

What went down...
Sensing The Master's perilous predicament through the energies of his amulet, Dr. Strange arrives via astral projection to confront Mordo.

Strange, having long expected Mordo's treachery, is all too pleased to step up, but it is Mordo who throws the first occult punch, toppling the astral presence of Strange.

Mordo continues his metaphysical dominance as the ghostly reflections of the two mystics slide effortlessly through the solid matter of the fortress' stone walls.

While the life slowly fades from The Master, Mordo and Strange debate the finer points of one's worth to maintain and control the dark mystic arts, whilst maintaining their spirited spirit-form fisticuffs.

Mordo declares his intent to destroy the Sorceror Supreme's spirit image, thus extinguishing his life for certain, whilst battling him through another wall.

The Master, even in his weakened state, continues to seek the betterment of his student, muttering something as Strange begins to gain the upper hand.

Strange hits Mordo with a stiff spirit-uppercut, before deducing from the sounds stirring from The Master that his direction was to the amulet Eye of Agamotto!
Sacrificing his own strength, Strange channels pure energy through the mystic charm, instilling The Master with renewed lifeforce.

Mordo recovers, and renews his assault, interrupting Strange's efforts to save his aging master. Weakened by his effort, Strange becomes the victim of Mordo's astral strength.

In one final expulsion of energy, Strange manages to maneuver himself into a somersaulting kick, hurling the Baron's astral projection away from him.

Still toting superiority, Mordo's confidence soon fades as Strange reveals a plan to use his amulet to locate the Baron's physical form to do away with him.

Intent on saving himself, Mordo abandons his pursuits and enters into a competitive retreat to defend his own body.

It is indeed the Baron who arrives first, returning to his mortal form before calling for Strange's surrender. Strange scoffs, revealing his gambit to bluff Mordo into returning to his body, thus lifting the hypnotic spell over The Master's loyal servant. Strange uses the power of his amulet to hold Mordo still, retreating to a fully restored Master, victorious!

The hammer...
As you would expect of a Sorceror Supreme, Dr. Strange emerges victorious from his first encounter with what will become a mortal nemesis across the ages.

So, you might have noticed that I'm posting well after Monday, even though I had officially caught up on posting duties. I have to admit, it took me a little while to get going on this one, even resigned to the fact that I was going to openly confess my distaste for Mordo as a villain.

Dohhh! Why I oughtta!I like some pretty corny villains. I can only assume my select few exposures to the character have been particularly unfortunate, but I think it is here, in his first appearance, that we can isolate some of the reasons Baron Mordo has been cast as a bumbling meathead.

As provisional as standards probably were in the sixties, you'd have to think it's more than contemporary irony or imagination that suggests this was a pretty tame outing for two of the world's foremost mystics.

Mordo's attempts to poison the greatest magical presence in the known world proves less than Shakespearean, likewise his squinted grimace as Strange makes a getaway having tricked him into buggering off is less than epic.

These are men who can conjure objects and manifestations inconceivable to mere mortals. They can defy time and bend logic in their conquests, and yet, these two settle their conflicts by chasing each other around the castle throneroom, while The Master sits slumped in his chair with a labored expression, and a migrane. One has to question if it was the effects of the potion-mick sapping his strength, or dismay at the sight of his two greatest pupils floating around the room like two school children.

Fisticuffs isn't what we know of a contemporary Dr. Strange, and that's a good thing, but I can't help but feel that Baron Mordo has never fully recovered from these seminal appearances. Though he goes on to challenge Dr. Strange in many fantastic and Ditko-driven ways, he is forever caught in the grips of goatee-stroking plots and 'next time Gadget' conclusions.

There's been a lot of 'if I wrote it' talk on Secret Earths lately, and until I muscle my way into any kind of printed credibility, it's a lot of fanboy hot-air. I probably shouldn't be succumbing to the temptation to bring the hammer down to my own concepts, but if I'm going to be so critical I feel I should at least put my money where my mouth is!

And with Mordo, the formula really only needs improved dressing.
The costume, ironically absent from his original appearance, needs to go, and be adapted into something far more subtle. Playing into this design might be an effort to better represent Mordo's inclination towards the dark arts, and an overall overhaul of his philosophy and outward appearance.

These are men who have mastered the fantastic, and I personally like the idea of following that throughline into their design. Their costumes should be basic, and not entirely unrealistic. I like the idea of trenchcoats instead of capes, and in the case of Mordo, perhaps an acceptable dark suit of some kind. I mean, he's a Baron, so it wouldn't hurt to look like it.

Then it's just a matter of giving him terms to develop motivations beyond the vengeful pursuit of Dr. Strange, and most importantly, throwing away the rule book. In this issue these guys are spirit-fighting, in most contemporary appearances characters like Strange and Mordo are conjuring hell beasties, and shooting colourful plasma from their hands.

Sure, that's going to be part of the arsenal, but these guys are Dragon Ball styled chi fighters. They're occultists and mystics! I like the idea of adding some constraints to the common use of their powers. Mythological artifacts and practical processes are always good for that sort of thing.

I even like the idea of putting constraints derived from traditional western magic tricks. Let's remember the fascination of transportation, transformation, levitation and various other stalwarts of traditional stage illusion and magic.

Heck, let's go nuts and build stronger emotional and personal ties between the two characters. I'm almost certain the history of Mordo/Strange has been explored, but these days nothing is sacred, so if they must be inevitably drawn together, let's put some pathos into it! Let's paint with grand and epic strokes!
Colours and chorus that make it something driven and superb!

And now as I delve into madness, let me close with this little sleight of hand:
Christian Bale as Dr. Strange; Hugh Jackman as Baron Mordo; David Bowie as The Master; Michael Caine as Strange's hospital boss! Eh? Eh?

The Fight: 3 The Issue: 4
NEXT WEEK: Thor survived death, but can he survive -- THE DESTROYER?!