MONTHLY PUNCH-UP #20 (August 2007)
DIAMONDHEAD versus NOVA
Where: Nova #2 When: July 2007
Why: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning How: Sean Chen
After an ill-fated attempt to get comics on my birthday, I had to settle with a small stack of very low priority books.
On the higher end of the scale was Nova, which has been a series getting some fairly positive reviews, despite the relative obscurity the character has endured over the past decade.
It seems it's not just canonically that Nova has outgrown his New Warriors past. In the wake of the Annihilation Wave, it actually seems surprisingly reasonable to see Nova in a title role. In fact, if the character were able to consolidate his appearances into a secured position as a Marvel A-lister, it might turn out to be a refreshing step forward.
That said, it's hard to know exactly what made these reads so disappointing.
It might have been the fact that they were about the best of the bunch, which omitted many higher interests, like World War Hulk. It might be that the art is put to shame by Adi Granov's simple, but effective cover art. It might be that the interior colour palette is a darkened array of colours, with a motley dark inking job that lacks conviction where shadows are present.
Issue two details Richard Ryder's overdue return to Earth, where he is confronted by his unchanging domestic difficulties with his parents, and the dramatically changing world view of superheroes and their registration act.
Having been confroned by a Tony Stark surprised by Nova's drastic increase in power, Richard Ryder is left to contemplate the depth of his potential involvement in the registration act, and the subsequent Initiative.
Trapsing through the old neighbourhood incognito, Ryder assumes the man tailing him is a SHIELD operative, but as the Nova Corp Worldmind tries to tell him, that is far from the case.
Diamondhead, a villain from Nova's past, has tracked him down via the information leaked regarding the New Warrior's identities sometime after the tragedy of Stamford. Having staked out his parents' home, Diamondhead relishes the opportunity to have his revenge for a previous imprisonment.
A stiff headbutt sends Nova hurtling into traffic, but as Diamondhead soon learns, Nova has changed considerably since their previous confrontation.
Diamondhead charges toward his foe once more, but before the situation can escalate any further, Nova puts an end to the quick fix with a deadly bolt of energy that slices through Diamondhead's wrist, and cauterizes his wound.
The issue does well to contrast the stakes of Marvel's two events of the time: Civil War and Annihilation.
In his discussion with Tony Stark, Nova highlights the pig-headed political insignificance over the Civil War's debate of semantics. Having saved the universe, the battle hardened Nova justly scoffs Iron Man's petty concerns.
Continuing the on-going discussion of first issues, Nova does put together a solid start for a new series. While the first issue clarifies Nova's emotional placement in the world and the role he is fulfilling, the second issue does well to deliver a follow-up punch of how that perspective slots into the Marvel universe at large. Continued through these first issues are themes of outside analysis of the Civil War event, and as many of the 'positive' books during the event did, it casts the pro-registration Initiative in a decidedly negative light. Quite suitable, given the nature of the character and the experiences he has lived through.
There is a hovering sense of frivolity to the way some pieces of the puzzle are inserted, no matter their relevance. A rendezvous with Justice, aka Marvel Boy, seems thoroughly appropriate, yet somehow cardboard in it's delivery.
The issue then concludes itself with the fairly wooden appearance of the Thunderbolts, who have almost absorbed the brunt of the negativity surrounding the actions of the pro-registration heroes as a parody of the conceit.
No doubt we'll be talking at further length about the Thunderbolts and Nova #3, but as a conclusion it perhaps lacked the oomph that it seems to assume. Then again, it seemed a fair consolation given the misleading notion that Iron Man was to be fighting Nova. Easy come, easy go.
I want to be much harder on the book than I fairly can be, but on the basis of the fourth issue, it may be about to provide the appropriate fodder as it trades it's Initiative market branding for an Annihilation: Conquest heading. Conquest being the capitalist limp-wristed cousin of the first Annihilation event, which took everyone pleasantly by surprise.
The Fix: 4 The Issue: 5
The Top Five...
#1 Spider-man (-) (12) (Marvel)
Class: [Meta] Last Opponent: [The Lizard]
Win Percentage: [70.37%] Features: 
Season 2006: [#2] Current Ranking: [#1]
Despite having the entire month off, Spider-man remains an indomitable force at the top of the rankings. His early barrage of features throughout the 2007, thus far completely unparalleled, the large contributor to his status.
News of creative teams for the three-times-a-month Amazing Spider-man have been released at the San Diego International. While there are some very interesting and competent names attached to the character, it entices this particularly commentator naught. It's really going to come down to what these guys actually do, rather than their name-value alone.
Spidey will likely go into August with a return to features, Spider-man Family the driving force behind his continued relevence to this particular reader.
Previews of the new Spectacular Spider-man cartoon series, with an emphasis on villains from the comics, also an encouraging sign for Spider-man's future.
#2 Batman (-) (18) (DC)
Class: [Meta] Last Opponent: [Killer Croc]
Win Percentage: [82.35%] Features: 
Season 2006: [#1] Current Ranking: [#2]
Batman plays for percentage this month, picking up a couple of handy wins over Killer Croc to slip above eighty-percent. It's going to take a strong second-half of the year, but Batman could still challenge Spidey for the crown that he definitively scored in season 2006.
The viral marketing for 2008's The Dark Knight, sequel to Batman Begins, was in full force during the recent Comicon. Orienteering games and website antics (whysoserious.com) have made The Dark Knight without a doubt the most anticipated superhero flick coming next year. The early push has even taken the challenge to the impressive Jon Favreau led Iron Man, which screens two months ahead of the Batman sequel.
As far as comics go, it's actually a pretty quiet time for Batman.
Retroactive interests remain the driving force for Batman's campaign, while the current crop of comics garner little interest for our tastes. Grant Morrison's experiments with future tales in Batman #666, and an overall push for a vintage approach to the character effectively go in the opposite direction to what I would like to see.
#3 Black Adam (-) (3) (DC)
Class: [Super] Last Opponent: [Freedom Fighters]
Win Percentage: [100%] Features: 
Season 2006: [#n/a] Current Ranking: [#11]
A quiet month in the Infinite Wars for Black Adam, difficulties obtaining issues of interest not helping the MVP's stock.
World War III remains a title of interest, while this month marks the first issue release of the Dark Ages mini-series, starring Black Adam. Among the many points of interest are the issue three promise of a tooth and nail showdown between Adam and his aquaintance of a former life, Hawkman.
It seems unlikely that Black Adam will control his position as Number Two for DC in the rankings, but stranger things have and will happen. While Countdown has done few favours for his character, DC have at least managed to keep the character of contemporary interest. Let's hope it lasts.
#4 Venom (Symbiote) (+1) (2) (Marvel)
Class: [Meta] Last Opponent: [Shocker]
Win Percentage: [54.55%] Features: 
Season 2006: [#9] Current Ranking: [#6]
The Venom Symbiote moves up the ranks by sheer virtue of other events. Iron Man's slide from the top opens it up for others to capitalize in a month of many new introductions to the site.
The promise of a symbiote-centric story coming in New Avengers, along with the final hurrah of Eddie Brock, promises some measure of hope for the Symbiote.
Current host, Mac Gargan, is doing plenty to keep the character afloat, not only as a feature character in Thunderbolts, but also as an upcoming unlikely guest in the Sub-Mariner mini-series.
#5 Wolverine (RE) (12) (Marvel)
Class: [Meta] Last Opponent: [Skrull-Elektra & The Hand]
Win Percentage: [50%] Features: 
Season 2006: [#4] Current Ranking: [#4]
Despite clocking no appearances in the past two months, Wolverine slides up the ranks on the merits of his previous appearances, to return to the top five, this month.
A lot of rumors are swirling off the back of the questionable efforts Jeph Loeb on the solo series. After apparently killing Sabretooth with a sword capable of negating their shared healing capabilities, many are picking it as the beginning of the end for the character. Somehow, I think that might be wishful thinking, and while Sabretooth may have been on the dying end of a decapatation, I don't think that's any measure of the destiny of the wolf-man, Wolverine.
There's every possibility it'll be three months gone for Wolverine, with very little current to drag him back into the Infinite Wars spotlight. Perhaps when the New Avengers find their way into battle with the Skrulls, but in the meantime, it looks like it's lengthy discussions on planeflights for Wolverine.
1. Spider-man (-) (M)
2. Batman (-) (DC)
3. Iron Man (-) (M)
4. Wolverine (-) (M)
5. Captain America (+4) (M)
8. Superman (-) (DC)
9. Hulk (-2) (M)
11. Black Adam (-) (DC)
13. Thor (+6) (M)
17. Beast (+14) (M)
20. Thing (-5) (M)
30. Hellcat (new) (M)
32. Cyclops (+55) (M)
33. Angel (+55) (M)
34. Black Cat (-10) (M)
36. Dr. Strange (+54) (M)
37. Iceman (+64) (M)
43. Hawkman (-5) (DC)
50. Moon Knight (-4) (M)
59. The Destroyer (new) (M)
88. Ultron (new) (M)
89. Mr. Hyde (new) (M)
90. Batroc (new) (M)
91. Captain Atom (new) (DC)
94. Hawkeye (-51) (M)
97. Jean Grey (+69) (M)
98. Scarlet Witch (+34) (M)
100. Mach-V (-8) (M)
104. Ryu (-8) (Capcom)
114. Super-Skrull (+107) (M)
115. Machine Man (-53) (M)
116. Vision (+95) (M)
150. Dark Claw (-8) (DC/M)
200. Abnegazar (-7) (DC)
250. Wildfire (-5) (DC)
295. Executioner (new) (M)
296. Jocasta (new) (M)
297. Baron Mordo (new) (M)
298. Mr. Majestic (new) (DC/Wildstorm)
299. Loki (new) (M)
300. Quicksilver (-10) (M)
302. Killer Croc (-183) (DC)
311. Azraeuz (-11) (DC)
312. Rhino (-11) (M)
313. Brick (-11) (DC)
314. Lizard (-11) (M)
315. Magneto (-11) (M)
#6 Iron Man (Marvel)
Class: [Super] Last Opponent: [Destroyer]
Win Percentage: [60%] Features: 
Season 2006: [#3] Current Ranking: [#7]
Iron Man finally finds himself ousted from the top five, just when we finally got to see the inspiring trailer for the upcoming movie. All indications suggest Iron Man is going to be one of the more satisfying superhero movie romps, with Robert Downey positively shining as Tony Stark. Glimpses of his performance as Stark remind us of exactly how delightful this inherent prick of a character used to be!
On top of that, director Jon Favreau will have a mini-series from Marvel Comics soon, I believe set within the logic of the movie, featuring a classic villain he felt would not be viable for the big screen: Fin Fang Foom.
Also on the horizon for Iron Man, the massive battle between the Hulkbuster and the Hulk himself, as he makes his rampaging return to Earth. There's plenty of margain to question whether World War Hulk has fulfilled it's promise that Hulk is madder than ever before, but at the very least, it has delivered an opening battle worthy of awe.
#191 Joker (DC)
Class: [Champion] Last Opponent: [Batman]
Win Percentage: [0%] Features: 
Season 2006: [#n/a] Current Ranking: [#308]
Just like Iron Man, Brother Eye is pointed square in the direction of Hollywood. As mentioned in the top five, San Diego was all about the movies of 2008, and Jokermania is certainly at the center.
The first clear pictures of Heath Ledger were released during the inventive marketing campaign that featured Joker dollars (reminiscent of the first Burton movie's card series), men with balloons in parks, creepy websites, sky writing, and a whole lot of other hooplah that has me laughing in hysterics, involuntarily.
It's nearly a year away still, but no one can deny the joy of the Joker.
Y'know, the worst thing about the punch-up is the tendency to think of a lot of brilliant things here and there, but forget them by the time it comes to actually writing the mammoth of a thing.
One thing no one can be allowed to forget is the release of The Kirby Martin Inquest, a comic book written by yours truly. [Pause for fanfare.]
If you haven't already, you should find your way to nitelitetheatre.com where you can follow the links to buy the first issue online. Fair warning; the issue does not revolve around the face beating antics popularly discussed on this website. However contained within is a dramatic grit-tooth ending that will feed into action and mayhem in issue two.
Mmm, toothy action!
You might remember last month I mentioned I had the intentions of resetting the balance between Marvel and DC features on Secret Earths, and unfortunately that turned out to be a load of hot air. Not only were there not extra updates, but I managed to steer my interests back toward Marvel entries starring characters like Batroc the Leaper. Sorry!
August is no-schedule month again, where updates could come at any time and on any day. So, with any luck we'll at least find our way back to some more DC action, and the world as you know it will be able to continue to spin.
Speaking of worlds, it would be remiss of me to overlook shoutouts to some of the many infinte wars allies who throw hits our way: Rokk's Comic Book Revolution, Fortress of Fortitude and Any Eventuality have been delightful linkers and will be receiving an invisible abstact prize in another life. You can also find lots of other wonderful linkers at the bottom of the menu at any time of the month, as well as specific articles under the new(ish) Related Articles title.
In the next month we'll be punching through suns as we move ever closer to finally wrapping up Ultimate Alliance Mondays, and hopefully on some of those other days of the week we'll manage to get some gems of varying degrees there. There are already a few fights glaring out at me, compelling me to start small fires, and donate my money to non-specific charities.
If you're desperate to see more regular updates, or have me on call 24/7 you should begin making regular donations via PayPal, so that I may finance the purchase of things such as the apparently difficult to find, World War Hulk.
Or, if you want a more immediate return on your buck, check out Nite Lite Theatre and find your way to purchasing information for the previously mentioned The Kirby Martin Inquest. Because if you don't, I'm only going to pine about it at length, and reduce this blog to photos of me with liberally applied eyeliner, cradling my pet cat in the corner of a poorly lit room while I thumb through the complete works of Neil Gaiman.
Don't think I won't do it...
July Hit Count: [4218/26457] (-93)