CONSTRICTOR & SABRETOOTH
The Jade Tiger! (Marvel comics)
Where: Power Man & Iron Fist #66 When: December 1980 Why: Mary Jo Duffy How: Kerry Gammill
The story so far...
Colleen Wing and Misty Knight are the freelance private investigators behind Nightwing Restorations. The job has taken them into the criminal black market trade of rare and exotic artifacts.
When they find their way into the bowels of the criminal's lair, the Nightwing investigators find themselves biting off more than they can chew as they stare down the menace of hired mercenaries, the Constrictor and Sabretooth!
Though Colleen Wing manages to escape, Misty Knight is thrown into the airtight safe that houses the many rare goods. Thus, Wing must seek out the aid of the Heroes for Hire, Powerman and Iron Fist, to formulate a rescue mission!
Iron Fist (#96): A solo tie against Daredevil, with team-up victory over The Hand.
Power Man (#98): Avengers victory against The Hand, with defeats to Charnal and Iron Man.
Colleen Wing, Constrictor & Sabretooth: Each making their first appearances in the Infinite Wars.
Tale of the tape...
Strength: Luke Cage 5 (Super Strength)
Intelligence: Iron Fist 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Iron Fist 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Sabretooth 5 (Marathon Man)
Agility: Iron Fist 4 (Acrobat)
Fighting Ability: Sabretooth 7 (Born Fighter)
Energy Powers: Constrictor 3 (Explosives)
They just seem to keep coming up. Combinations, characters and comics you would just assume we'd have featured in over a year and a half, and yet, this marks the first outing for Powerman and Iron Fist as the Heroes for Hire!
What a great coming out it is too, because they're pitted against the overwhelming debut tag team combination of SHIELD agent gone bad, Constrictor; and the feral mutant menace, Sabretooth!
We'll talk more about how fantastic this comic is later, but for now, who's going to win this fight? Well, they're two very different pairings, to be sure.
Sabretooth and Luke Cage are bringing the physical strength to this fight. Each possesses enhanced strength that has been known to range everywhere from a human and peak physical conditioning, to the definition of super strength.
You'd think putting these guys up against each other you'll reach a stalemate of sorts. If I had to give it to someone, it's going to be Luke Cage.
Durability is key to the strengths of Powerman and Sabretooth both, but their resistance levels vary in the way they survive. Luke Cage's super-tough hide means he can resist damage without harm, while Sabretooth is more of a marathon player, his healing factor keeping him in the big picture, but leaving him susceptibale to short term defeats. A trait we've seen in Wolverine.
Up against Constrictor, Iron Fist is going to struggle.
As a keen martial artist, the Fist fights at close quarters, and with those lengthy adamantium tendrils, the Constrictor is going to be able to keep his distance.
Other than some negligable armoring, the Constrictor's fighting capabilities are limited to his coils, which can become electrically charged, and his combat training from days as an agent of SHIELD. So if the Fist can close the gap, it's almost a certainty that Constrictor will go down.
Fortunately there's strength in numbers for the Heroes for Hire, since a shaken Colleen Wing is able to accompany them back to the villain's lair. Her samurai training makes her a tough customer, and while she might not be able to sever the adamantium coils of the Constrictor, she can certainly tie them up sufficiently to close the gap herself, or provide the opening for Iron Fist.
For the villains to win, they just have to press their advantage.
This fight is really in the hero's court, but I think they have the experience and expertise to handle it.
The Math: Heroes for Hire (Total) Constrictor/Sabretooth (Average)
The Pick: Heroes for Hire
What went down...
Having found her way to the Heroes for Hire, Colleen Wing leads them back to the base of the villains dealing in rare art. With an army of gun toting thugs, they survey the situation from across the street, assessing the best way to infiltrate the building without arousing the thugs' attentions.
Before they can pool their resources, Iron Fist disappears from the group, utilizing his training in the art of Ninjitsu to slink across the street unnoticed by cover of shadow. He sneaks right under the crook's noses, silently infiltrating the building, while across the street...
... Luke Cage decides to forego silent entry, using his brute strength and resilience to storm the building, drawing the fire of well over half a dozen crooks. Colleen joins him, using her sheathed sword as a non-lethal weapon to wrack up her own scalps, before the two reach the front entrance.
Already inside, Iron Fist uses the move that earned him his name to smash through the interior vault's door, where he finds a near unconscious Misty.
Unfortunately for the good guys, the rabble raised by Cage and Wing brings the intervention of the Constrictor. Wing draws her blade, but suffers an electric charge for her troubles, the zap channeled through her metallic blade.
Furious, Cage stalks toward the villain, resisting the whipping prod of the adamantium coils until Constrictor amps up the power to unleash an electrical charge that, he proudly boasts, once felled even the incredible Hulk!
Cage survives the hit, but the powerful charge is enough to put the fear of god even into his mighty heart! He takes evasive action, as the Constrictor lordes his advantage.
Elsewhere, Iron Fist helps Misty Knight from the vault, crediting Cage and Wing's attack as a diversion. All is going well until a gruff voice peeks from the gloom, and the heroic pair turns to find Sabretooth perched atop an armless sculpture!
Having heard the crackling of the iron fist with his animal-like senses, Sabretooth came running for a chance at payback for a previous encounter with Iron Fist.
Sabretooth launches himself at Danny Rand, who selflessly pushes Misty Knight aside to take Sabretooth's momentum and use it against him with a Judo styled toss.
Sabretooth hits the adjacent wall hard, but it's not nearly enough to stop the berzerker rage of the feral mutant. He charges back with claws at the ready, halted just barely by the speedy hands of the Iron Fist!
His hands held, Sabretooth continues to pursue his prey, gnashing wildly at Iron Fist's chest. His bites tear a piece of fabric from the green and yellow costume, and serve to rattle even the cool combatant in Iron Fist.
Doing his best to emulate his partner, Luke Cage is having even less luck with the Constrictor. Utilizing the art of "nin-whatchama-callit", Cage does his best to evade detection by hiding behind various crates and artifacts littered throughout the holding space. Alas, Cage's skills in the way of invisibility are lacking.
Constrictor taunts Power Man, giving him credit to believe sneaking is below him. His taunts of waiting for Cage to die of pneumonia, as an exposed pipe pours water over him, are enough to again stir the bravado of Cage.
Back up stairs, Iron Fist is stirring his own battle, tossing Sabretooth into a suit of armor. All looks good, but it places Sabretooth by the light switch. In the dark, Iron Fist is at the mercy of Sabretooth's keen senses.
Iron Fist does his best to feel out his opponent, but soon feels the slashing sting of Sabretooth's mutant claws. Leaping from the darkness, Sabretooth slashes at his back, dropping him with full force.
Misty Knight can do nothing but watch in horror as Sabretooth lurches from his squat position, looming over a fallen and apparently defenseless foe.
With little regard for honor, Sabretooth offers to give Misty the hero's heart as a memento of her feelings, but before he can make good on his promise of butchery, yellow bootied feet spring forth!
With lightning speed, the cunning Iron Fist launches at Sabretooth with a kick to the face, followed with a stiff right that knocks the murderous mutant silly before he hits the ground!
Rand reveals a sneaky plan to roll through Sabretooth's attack, and lure him in with a little animal trick of his own -- playing possum! With the entirety of his strength behind the blows, Iron Fist succeeds in putting Sabretooth down for good.
Elsewhere, Power Man charges at the Constrictor soaked in water from a pipe exposed during his evasion. The Constrictor makes good on his name, wrapping Cage up in his unbreakable coils before unleashing the full electrocuting force they channel.
Though super-durable, even Cage sweats it out under the concussive power.
Running out of options, he uses the last of his strength to yank Constrictor off his feet by the coils, and swing him around the room!
Like a super villain hammer toss, Cage hurls the Constrictor at the exposed water pipe, turning his electrocution powers against him! Unable to cease the power before impact, Constrictor fries by his own hand!
Fortunately for the villain, his suit provides insulation, but Sabretooth and he are left helpless for the police. And Nightwing Restorations can notch up another successful case, retrieving the Jade Tiger they were hired to find.
Sweet Christmas! It's a victory for the Heroes for Hire, with an assist from Colleen Wing! A good result all round, not just for the gang, but for us. This is one of those issues that's just been sitting on my pile for so long, it was about time we looked at it.
What really pressed the matter was the recent death by decapatation of Sabretooth in Jeph Loeb's conclusion to his disappointing Wolverine/Sabretooth encounter, Wolverine #55.
We were supposed to have already had a look at a couple of other Sabretooth features by now, but I suppose it's serendipity that we start with one of his more conspicuous appearances. The movie-going kids will be interested to know that this was only Sabretooth's second appearance, having faced off against Iron Fist some fifty issues previous!
It would be some years before Sabretooth would become forevermore bound to the Wolverine character, as their histories were developed and intertwined.
For the uninitiated, it should also be noted that Wolverine made his first appearance far away from the mutant mire, showing up in Incredible Hulk #180.
Sabretooth would go through many iterations throughout his thirty-year career in comics, meeting his end while an active member of the X-Men, an unlikely position he has taken more than once. More often than not, Sabretooth's prevailing brutality and lack of true goals have been the difference between he and Wolverine.
We actually see in this issue one of the things I like about Sabretooth, and a tangent by degrees to what's been great in Ed Brubaker's Daredevil.
It seems I just can't help but bring it all back to mercenaries and street-level villains. I guess that's just something I really enjoy and feel passionate about, and I'm sorry that the Sabretooth character won't be a part of that scene.
Well, I say won't, but it probably shouldn't be any less likely that a character with a healing factor would come back to life. Even if his death involved decapatation with a magic sword capable of nullifying healing powers.
But to get back on point, it's the existence of these recurring mercenary characters, whose motivations are malleable to a story or situation, that is something I find so enjoyable about these characters. Ed Brubaker is doing it better than ever in Daredevil, currently utilizing characters like Mister Fear and the Enforcers to great effect.
Unfortunately, as far as I'm aware, the title he's been co-writing with Matt Fraction, Immortal Iron Fist, has lacked this kind of look at the Marvel underworld. Looking at this particular issue really brings up how much I'd enjoy seeing that kind of approach to Iron Fist, but it's been the prerogative of Fraction and Brubaker to steep Iron Fist in a new, retroactive history.
There's a lot of literary and pulp precedent for the work they're doing.
Shades of various pulp characters with ties to the orient, and the famous successive nature of characters like The Phantom have been strongly swirled through, while the Iron Fist mythology grows, combining it's kung-fu heart with various styles and eras. Fun, but maybe not the Iron Fist for me.
It's this more superhero styled Iron Fist that interests me.
The type of character that will cross swords with Sabretooth, and other characters of this kind. A character whose yellow and green togs specifically relate to the simplicity of a combative superhero life; rather than tangential colours representative of a clan that somewhat strips the character of his individuality.
Still, this is really more of a personal desire, and not necessarily a sleight to the work. Certainly I can find something more along those lines in the pages of New Avengers, where Power Man and Iron Fist have been reunited as part of the secret team of Avengers pursuing less cosmic or overly super challenges.
Brian "Lemon Lumps*" Bendis is bringing the corner of the Marvel universe I so keenly enjoy to the New Avengers, as he transitions out of the Skrull-Elektra story, into a new tale starring The Hood, who's aspirations are to become Kingpin of Super Villains.
In a lot of ways this is exactly what I'm talking about, although, we bring the point back to the original motivator - Sabretooth's death - by expressing some disappointment in the way The Hood's story has begun. A collected auction for a mysteriously inoperative Deathlok is the scene where the Hood stakes his claim, assassinating auctioneer The Owl as a way of sending a message.
It's another case of an unfortunate loss of a valuable character, but like Sabretooth, I suppose we can assume there's every chance The Owl will reemerge. It's just a shame that such an unrealistic tact has to be taken for the continued interests of these characters. Lord knows there's no easy way to bring a character back from the dead, as we're seeing with the announced time slip of the 1940's Invaders in the upcoming Invaders/Avengers, that will see a return for Captain America.
But that might be a subject for another time. I think I've awkwardly crammed enough discussion into this Friday's conclusion. Verily, let there be one more item discussed, for it is Friday, and the cosmic decree of Bahlactus rings true!
The Fight: 4.5 The Issue: 5
[Like previous entries from 1980, a thoroughly enjoyable superhero romp full of action, excitement and super villains! I wouldn't have it any other way!]
* Not an actual nickname for Bendis.