Friday, August 03, 2007


Cold Fire! (Marvel comics)
Captain America #252 When: December 1980
Why: Roger Stern How: John Byrne

The story so far...
Having escaped prison with a little help from Batroc the Leaper, Mr. Hyde hatches a plan for revenge and fortune, after revealing the promised riches that saw him freed were little more than an enticing lie.

Muscling Batroc into helping him further, the two steal themselves a Roxxon fuel tanker and prepare to turn it into a floating weapon if the United States don't meet their demands. Demands that include the surrender of their shared nemesis -- Captain America!

The Captain attempts to spring a plot of his own, but when things go wrong he finds himself at the mercy of the deranged Mr. Hyde. It's only the morbid intervention of Batroc that keeps him alive long enough to be fastened to the head of the ship, pointed directly at New York City. Is this certain doom for the star-spangled hero, or does peril present unlikely hope? Stay tuned!...

Previous Form:
Captain America (#5): Reached top 5 after aiding in the defeat of Loki.
Batroc (#91): Teamed with Hyde to gain his only victory, over Captain America.
Mr. Hyde (#90): Teamed with Batroc in the afforementioned defeat of Captain America.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Mr. Hyde 5 (Super Strength)
Intelligence: Captain America 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Captain America 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Mr. Hyde 5 (Marathon Man)
Agility: Captain America 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting Ability: Captain America 6 (Warrior)
Energy Powers: Captain America 2 (Projectile)

If you remember back to the feature about the preceding issue [Captain America #251], you'll note that the tape tells much the same story as the previous - with one noteworthy exception: This time Cap and Batroc are fighting on the same side!

That's right! Not a trick! Not an imaginary story!
Big-blue and stinky-cheese-surrender-monkey put their differences asied for the briefest of occasions in the name of defeating a greater evil! No, not French action movies, but rather the menace of the nefarious Mr. Hyde!

While Hyde rates a five in the strength department, the sliding scale does tend to apply here. It's well worth noting that Mr. Hyde has tangled with the likes of the Hulk and Thor, putting him in the company of the upper echelon of super bruisers from the Marvel universe. What lets Hyde down is his inevitable mortality, and occasional fluctuation in the extent of strength achieved through the use of his super drug/formula.

Batroc alone doesn't really pose any kind of risk to Hyde, and we actually saw that in an unfeatured quick fix from the previous issue. It's Hyde's strong arming that convinces Batroc to aid in his insane conquests in the first place.

With Captain America at his side, the two suddenly become a far more compelling argument. Cap represents the all-round strike against a foe of superior strength. He brings the total package of tactical intelligence, experience, fighting skill, speed, agility and a healthy dose of patriotism.

The Math: Batroc/Captain America
The Pick: Batroc/Captain America

What went down...
Chained to the bow of the Roxxon ship, Captain America is pointed helplessly like a patroit missile directly at the docks he was sent to defend. Cap's gambit ultimately weighed little on Hyde's insane decision to destroy the ship anyway, and so all that remains is escape and revenge.

Unable to bend the shield of his opponent, Hyde furiously tosses it overboard, calling Batroc to join him on the bridge to complete their devious course. In his haste, Hyde doesn't notice the insubordinate tap Batroc's foot provides, knocking loose one of the chains restraining the Captain.

A little bit of true blue grit, and Captain America overcomes his injuries to break his way free of the chains of physical oppression. He plummets into the waters below, while on ship, Batroc proves unwilling to sink so low, making his move against Hyde and his machinations of terror.

The Leaper launches a surprise attack, his savate kick delivered with strength and placement that would kill any ordinary man. Unfortunately for him, the quite extraordinary Hyde survives the assault and returns it in kind, tossing Batroc from the bridge window to the decks below.

Hyde is quick to follow, tearing his way through the bridge cabin to launch toward the decks below where Batroc lies nigh-helpless on his back.

It's only the swiftness of gifted and practiced feet that give Batroc a fighting chance against the behemoth. He delivers a vaulting kick that takes Hyde by surprise, and knocks him on the back foot long enough for The Leaper to gather himself.

"And now, we shall see who is truly the superior fighter! ... The gloves are off, N'est-ce pas?"

While a certain hero retrieves his shield from befuddled goons, Batroc's challenge is quickly foiled by Hyde's far superior inhuman strength. At close quarters, Batroc's speed does him no good, becoming the victim of the crushing grip of Hyde's gargantuan hands that wrap easily around his mid-section.

No means no, Hyde!Salvation comes for Batroc in the form of a red, white and blue streak.
The strike of Cap's mighty shield provides a much needed halt to Hyde's crushing grip, allowing Batroc the opportunity to nimbly retreat with a backflip.

Hyde makes his move for the renewed Captain America, charging with a menacing fist. Cap's superior speed and alertness gives him time to weave around the sloppy attack and strike one of his own, delivering a stern chop to the base of Hyde's super-thick skull.

Leaping in with a flying kick, Batroc reveals in the opportunity to strike his sociopathic would-be ally with none of the reluctance of their original team-up. Unfortunately for him, though briefly knocking him back, Batroc's attacks again prove too little against the monstrous Mr. Hyde.

Little known fact: Batroc likes his shorts TIGHT.The Leaper is knocked back into Cap by a wild defensive backhand. With their options slim, the two opt for a blunt double team of their large foe.

The unlikely allies, Captain America and Batroc, charge in with all guns blazing, each avoiding Hyde's clubbing fist to launch fists of fury at his exposed ribs and stomach.

Batroc fields a swatting blow that sends him flying, while Captain America uses the opportunity to charge from behind with his shield. Hyde turns to retaliate, his strength bending the steel of the barge itself as the Captain evades the blow once more.

Batroc leaps back, nailing Hyde in the face with another flying kick, while Cap takes his legs out with a charging shoulder to the backs of his knees.
They punctuate their strategy with another two-fisted double team, but as effective as the attack is, Batroc is again the target of another wind of Hyde's devestating endurance and strength.

Cap throws his mighty shield, striking Hyde directly in the face with devestating force, while moving to the aid of Batroc. He tries to shake some life into the Frenchman, while the rampaging Hyde opts to arm himself with a piece of nearby piping without a thought for it's function.

The torn tubing spews forth liquified natural gas, frozen to temperatures so cold that Hyde becomes a walking snowman as he's covered by the gas. Rigid and caked with ice, Hyde still lumbers toward his goal, before falling backward over the broken siding into the merky depths below.

Ever the self-less hero, Cap dives in immediately after Hyde, but is unable to locate Hyde's body below. He is left to assume Hyde has survived to escape.

The hammer...
Despite a slightly ambiguous conclusion, I have no reason to rule it any other way: your winners, Captain America and Batroc!

If you're wondering, the terror plot is ended, and all ends well for everyone but Batroc. Despite his aid in the defeat of Hyde, his criminal activities seal his fate, leaving him apprehended by Cap.

Y'know, there are a lot of contributing factors in the selection process for entries on Secret Earths. Sometimes we find ourselves influenced by current affairs or releases in comics and comics-related media. Most other times it's down to my dancing whims, new purchases, or like today, sheer convenience.

I haven't been the best of health, so the fact that this issue was already prepped and scanned made it the obvious choice. If I were a little more active, we might have seen some Spider-man or Hulk action, but that's the way the dice roll. It's fluid decision making like this that has led to the peppering of particularly strong inclusions, and keep plenty of exciting battles in reserve.

Currently the Infinite Wars seem to be leaning toward characters particularly at home in combat. As of the Loki entry [Avengers #1], Captain America has resecured his position in the overall top five, rejoining the top ranked elite for the first time since early in Season 2006. No mean feat at this stage of the game!

This has probably been largely due to a belated response to the character's death [Captain America #25], which has been the subject of mild debate ever since. It's perhaps surprising, some months later, to note how accepting a lot of the fanbase has been of the situation.

Perhaps even more interesting is the noted assurance many find in the assumed fact that Captain America will live again sometime in the not too distant future. The opinion speaks volumes of a medium and genre that has built it's name on fake-out disappearances like the conclusion of this story, where Mr. Hyde remains unaccounted for.

Unfortunately the conceptual lines between an out-dated, camp, open ending have blurred to include deaths of explicit clarity and potentially lasting circumstances. Just left of Captain America's death is the example of the resurrection of Bucky, one of the characters long regarded as untouchable.

These points slide easily into the over arching question of a medium populated by fictional superheroes that exist in pseudo-realistic surroundings, but are destined never to age or develop beyond minimal consequence as we desperately hold onto the icons of the past and present.

The debate, springing from the upcoming DC Final Crisis, has been discussed in terms specific to the potential of streamlining, and re-rebooting DC's properties at the Fortress of Fortitude, which led me to put the point under this microscope.

I myself am a fan of all of these characters, but likewise resent the necessity to keep them frozen. I like the idea of cause and effect, and yet, also despise the frivilous death and resurrection of characters, even despite any literary precedents for the cyclical lifespans of heroes.

I don't know if, at 2:30am on a Saturday morning, I hope to conclude or lodge any certain opinion on the subject, but hopefully it has provided at least some interesting points to consider in what was an otherwise unexpected entry.

For now, I am needed elsewhere, to ponder further inconclusions. Do not let me catch you loitering on my lawn again! To me, my hammer!

The Fight: 6 The Issue: 5
[Pure 80's popcorn Marvel comics! The characters you know, doing what you love: Kicking each other in the back of the head, dismantling freighters in an effort to fashion weapons, and disappearing into the sea. Neato!]


Bully said...

This is one of my favorite comics and was my first introduction to Batroc the Leaper. Great analysis!

Mike Haseloff said...

Merci avec bonté, taureau!

These two issues hold the distinction of being among the cheapest comics I've bought.

Well worth it, too!