MONTHLY PUNCH-UP #19 (July 2007)
SUPER-SKRULL versus BRUCE BANNER
No Autographs (Marvel)
Where: Incredible Hulk #374 When: October 1990
Why: Peter David How: Dale Keown
Everyone has their insignificant favourites.
Issues that bare no real importance in the longterm, but for some individual reason, remain memorable forevermore. I suppose this is one of mine.
The issue is entirely inappropriate for a site such as this. The degree of fisticuffs contained within is relatively minute, reduced to a street robbery and what we're focusing on in the quick fix -- another one-punch wonder! [Ala; JLA/Avengers #1]
I am, of course, afforded the luxury of a rare opportunity to bring such an issue to the table because of last month's big reveal in New Avengers #31. We now know that the Elektra in charge of the Hand was in fact a shapeshifting Skrull, thus casting a net of suspicion and paranoia over everything we see. This beat is already being played upon in the next issue of New Avengers.
If you've been checking back to past updates, you'll see that this new information has recast results taken from previous reviews. [New Avengers #27]
As much as I'd like an excuse to rag on Brian Bendis, I'm actually pretty into what is presumably a bullpen project. Prehaps the only real disappointment here is that, as well explored as it will probably be, it's impossible to escape the fact that Skrulls undercover, and Skrull invasive plots have been done.
This is maybe the kind of thing that actually would've suited the Ultimate comics much better, had they not already developed their own take on the Skrulls through Mark Millar's Ultimates and Ultimate Fantastic Four work. Although, even still, this could just as easily be the follow-up event mini-series to the Galactus Trilogy, or even a project beyond that (ie; Ultimate Origin).
As opposed as I am to redundant story concepts worming their way through the Ultimate comics further, I think this one falls into the 'opportunity to do it different, and well' category.
Never the less, let us throw back to the 1990's -- a decade that contains some of the most infamous Skrull switch-outs, notably Iron Fist and Alicia Masters.
At the turn of the decade, it also marked an issue I always regard very highly from the esteemed Peter David, involving one grey goliath, and some familiar green aliens.
The irony of the issue is that we, as the reader, are in on the gag from the very beginning. The cover does well to highlight the kind of storytelling, where even though there is a clear fakeout (The Thing's arm), the silhouettes ensure we're one step ahead of the protagonist. In a fun metatextual context, the cover technically plays a double take on the idea, since Hulk presumably sees the head casting the shadow, perhaps even before we get past the red herring.
Throughout the issue, even though we know what's going on, there is a great atmospheree of eerie spooks, and dreadful foreboding.
Rick Jones suffers the sins of his past, as Skrulls interrogate him in various guises from the past, both his own and of allies. He goes down early to a trick not unlike the cover, getting fooled by the aid of a Skrull-Thing.
For Bruce Banner and Betty Ross, who drive the story, they're subjected to the classic small American town, where things aren't what they seem. The walls seem to be watching them, and little do they know, they're pretty much on the money.
As the conspiracy town motiff continues, a voice of hope seems to descend in the form of a cutesy, haunted little girl. We of course already know the girl is a Skrull, but as she leads Bruce and Betty to "a bad place" where Rick is being held, we can't begin to anticipate the final reveal.
The uninitiated won't know that for large periods, the Super-Skrull gained his fantastic powers at the expense of his natural ability to shape shift. This, of course, represents a period when that ability had been restored [An ability that has since been lost again], making for a fantastic one-punch wonder of an ending!
The Fix: 5 The Issue: 5.5
The Top Five...
#1 Spider-man (-) (11) (Marvel)
Class: [Meta] Last Opponent: [The Lizard]
Win Percentage: [70.37%] Features: 
Season 2006: [#2] Current Ranking: [#1]
Try as we may, we just can't seem to shake Spidey!
Every appearance seems only to further solidify his dominance in the rankings. Even a landslide of defeats isn't going to shift him from the top spot any time soon. So, resigned to the fact that Spidey's safe for a while, what do we have to look forward to?
The Spidey titles will be wiped clean again in favour of publishing Amazing three times a month, which honestly leaves Secret Earths somewhat bemused. Even with the promise of A-grade talent, like the rumored Dan Slott.
While the Distinguished Competition can claim no real ownership over a weekly publication schedule, it does, despite all intentions, feel like a poor response to DC's weekly successes with 52, and now Countdown. Things are really going to have to pick up for this to make a difference.
#2 Batman (-) (17) (DC)
Class: [Meta] Last Opponent: [Green Arrow]
Win Percentage: [80%] Features: 
Season 2006: [#1] Current Ranking: [#2]
The traditional warhorse of the Infinite Wars; Batman digs the claws in to maintain a position at second, despite taking the entirety of May off. A single appearance last month proving the difference.
It seems Batman will always be a big part of the site, even though his measure of unbeatability has been thoroughly wrung out by the web-slinger.
Things have cooled off considerably for Batman, but as always there's The Dark Knight sequel ever looming on the horizon, and we're now gearing up to usher in a new era of Outsiders, led by Batman as was traditionally the case.
Directly this may have minimal influence on Secret Earths, but even if subconsciously, it invariably helps keep the Batman in our thoughts.
#3 Black Adam (+2) (2) (DC)
Class: [Super] Last Opponent: [Freedom Fighters]
Win Percentage: [100%] Features: 
Season 2006: [#n/a] Current Ranking: [#11]
If Batman has been the traditional leader for DC in the Infinite Wars, then Black Adam has to be considered the new face, at least for 2007. A flashback victory bumps the MVP up two spots.
Despite maintaining a weekly starring role in Countdown, Black Adam's thunder actually appears to be slowing down somewhat. Having still been unable to get a hold of World War III, Adam may have reached the end of his sponsored relevance on Secret Earths.
Of course, as soon as I say that, we must also acknowledge a mini-series on the horizon, that may serve to reinvigorate Black Adam's role on the website.
Hurting his momentum is the shuffle of time, that has put the dramatic kaibosh on the conclusion of WW3 and the loss of Adam's power. Through Countdown we already have insight into the discovery of his new magic word. The delivery of the mini-series, that details his history and quest for the new word, will be the acid test for Black Adam.
#4 Iron Man (-1) (7) (Marvel)
Class: [Super] Last Opponent: [The Mandarin]
Win Percentage: [64.29%] Features: 
Season 2006: [#3] Current Ranking: [#3]
Arguably the most prevelant character in Marvel comics right now, things continue to heat up for the Golden Avenger. With World War Hulk kicking off with a bang, Iron Man stands at the forefront of Marvel's big company celebration of Hulk's return to Earth.
As if Tony Stark didn't make enough enemies from the Civil War, he now has a bloody angry Hulk and his team of aliens to contend with. As far as fisticuffs go, Iron Man has probably got his fair share of options coming.
Another prominent opponent is the Winter Soldier, who in the pages of Captain America has pledged revenge for his former mentor's death, and Stark's role in it.
Then there's that little issue of the major motion picture coming to theatres early 2008, with promotional images of the cast continuing to stir the juices of intrigue. Having just come from seeing the abismal Ghost Rider, IM keeps the torch of hope alive for Marvel movies.
#5 Venom (+10) (new) (Marvel)
Class: [Meta] Last Opponent: [Shocker]
Win Percentage: [54.55%] Features: 
Season 2006: [#9] Current Ranking: [#5]
Bumping Wolverine out of the top five, with a superior percentage, is the Venom Symbiote. As an autonomous creature, Venom piggybacks his success off of Spider-man 3, and the current role of Mac Gargan in the pages of Thunderbolts.
There's an awkward notion to the Symbiote being in the spotlight, particularly over his possessors, but as a character unto itself, the costume has spawned not only spin-off characters and series, but even a current marketing event that is Spider-man: Back in Black. So, we have to give the Symbiote that much credit.
There's been talk of a Symbiote-centric arc of Avengers which may have some larger relevance to the Marvel universe as a whole. I can only speculate as to whether that will start some sort of interspecial war between the Skrulls and the Symbiotes - two subversive alien cultures with malicious intentions - or if this will simply be a ploy to reinstate Eddie Brock as a super powered figure. As it stands, he has survived a suicidal end, and is being explored in the last issues of Sensational.
1. Spider-man (-) (M)
2. Batman (-) (DC)
3. Iron Man (-) (M)
4. Wolverine (-) (M)
5. Venom [Symbiote] (+5) (M)
6. Daredevil (-1) (M)
7. Hulk (-1) (M)
10. Mr. Fantastic (+2) (M)
11. Black Adam (+2) (DC)
12. Green Arrow (-3) (DC)
13. Human Torch (-2) (M)
15. Thing (+14) (M)
16. Invisible Woman (+14) (M)
19. Thor (+13) (M)
22. Elektra (-7) (M)
27. Nightwing (+15) (DC)
33. Silver Surfer (-6) (M)
37. Deathstroke (+60) (DC)
40. Dr. Light (new) (DC)
48. Dr. Doom (new) (M)
50. Death's Head (-3) (M)
53. Sinestro (new) (DC)
54. Bizarro (new) (DC)
81. Dr. Polaris (new) (DC)
82. Zoom (new) (DC)
83. Cheetah (new) (DC)
91. Atlas (+60) (M)
92. Mach-V (+60) (M)
93. Songbird (+60) (M)
94. Moonstone (+60) (M)
95. Skrull-Elektra (new) (M)
100. Thundra (-13) (M)
105. Psycho-Pirate (+147) (DC)
106. Techno (+90) (M)
113. Baron Zemo (+161) (M)
123. Equus (new) (DC)
133. Crystal (+11) (M)
150. Beak (-17) (M)
163. Lyja (new) (M)
200. Scarecrow (-11) (M)
250. Shrinking Violet (-9) (DC)
279. The Ray (new) (DC)
280. Damage (new) (DC)
281. Black Condor (new) (DC)
282. Phantom Lady [Dee Tyler] (new) (DC)
283. Iconoclast (new) (M)
284. Firefly (new) (DC)
285. Wrecker (new) (M)
289. Super Adaptoid (new) (M)
292. Uncle Sam (-132) (DC)
293. Human Bomb (-127) (DC)
300. Azraeuz (-20) (DC)
301. Rhino (-76) (M)
302. Brick (-20) (DC)
303. Lizard (-22) (M)
304. Magneto (-21) (M)
#19 Hulk (Marvel)
Class: [Champion] Last Opponent: [Atlantean Military]
Win Percentage: [50%] Features: 
Season 2006: [#6] Current Ranking: [#7]
A brief reminder that Thor made his return to the realm of the living in the past few weeks, but it is impossible to deny the power of the Hulk right now! Marvel has several mini-events on the stovetop right now with The Initiative and what we've been talking about with the Skrulls - but none of it stands up to World War Hulk!
As always, helping to propel buzz for the character is filtering news of a new motion picture. As a fan of the previous, I'm a little disappointed by the radical shift away from the Ang Lee film, particularly the switching of Sam Elliot for William Hurt as General "Thunderbolt" Ross.
After a decade of being pretty quiet for my money, I think the times demand World War Hulk be part of the Infinite Wars. Who am I to ignore that kind of call? Well, someone who's a little broke, but we'll try...
#n/a Green Lantern (DC)
Class: [Cosmic] Last Opponent: [Silver Surfer]
Win Percentage: [0%] Features: 
Season 2006: [#113] Current Ranking: [#164]
On the flipside, DC's current slew of events all roll into one big one! There is literally so much going on right now there's nothing standing out from anything else - except maybe the Sinestro Corp!
It's the special that has everyone talking, and perhaps the most exciting thing to come from the line-up of villains is an all new Parallax host!
It looks like after all these years of Hal vs Kyle, Rayner is going to step out of Jordan's shadow and into his cuckoo-crazy period, with the shoulder armor and demonic possession.
Perhaps my greatest concern for the team was that it would be filled out with new, uninteresting characters, but those fears have officially been put to rest! With Sinestro, Cyborg Superman and Superboy-Prime at his side, Green Lantern finally might get the respect he's been missing from Secret Earths!
If you were around last year, you'll know July has the very special distinction of being the month of my birth! You'll also know I like to do something a little different, so I'm putting the schedule on the backburner, now that we conveniently have all of the movie hoohah out of the way. [Spider-man 3, Rise of the Silver Surfer]
Unlike last year, where we adapted the theme to a timewarp by decades, I'm just going to open July up to my whims.
In the interest of wrapping it up, I'll be doing my best to maintain Ultimate Alliance Mondays, but for the most part expect updates at ANY TIME, in ANY PLACE!
Be as one with the RSS feed [or all new Ticker Tape], and you'll follow along just fine!
Meanwhile, we've got a lot of people to thank this month!
A big shout out to A Trout In The Milk and The Fortress of Fortitude, who were kind enough to mention Secret Earths in updates, and some some hits [and kicks] our way!
An even bigger shoutout to Shane Bailey for a mention in his Newsarama blog, Meanwhile...! It's been slow coming, but the Infinite Wars might just be getting their dues. Fitting, as aliterations and superheroes fighting spread across the internet blogosphere! Hey, since 2005, baby. Organized!
We've also had visits from time wasting employees/interested representatives from Condé Nast Publications, UK's SkyTV and the New York Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art. Do you think now's the time to start pitching concepts for The Shadow?...
Name dropping out of the way, it's not all fun and glory.
As you will no doubt recall from last month, I was sure you would be able to find purchase details for The Kirby Martin Inquest #1 at Nitelitetheatre.com, but alas, I've been mickey moused about, and all you'll find there is a free preview thanks to ComicSpace.
You can rest assured you'll be the first, second, or maybe fifteenth person to know about it when information on purchasing becomes available. In the mean time, I've been working on some very exciting prospects for ghosts of Nite Lite Theatre future! WhooOOOoOooOoOooo!
So, in closing, what can you expect from July on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths? Well, I've grabbed a pile of books of interest (with a slight DC slant), and from that I would expect to see some Batman, some Killer Croc, some Guile, some Sub-Zero, some Batroc, some Boomerang, some Hawkman... I really don't know what to expect, so stay tuned!
June Hit Count: [4311/22239] (-824)