Friday, November 30, 2007

Home Truths (Marvel comics)
Nova #3 When: August 2007
Why: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning How: Sean Chen

The story so far...
Now the last of the legendary intergalactic corps of Xandarian Nova Centurions; an exhausted Richard Rider embarks on a journey to return to Earth, acting on the advice of the artificial intelligence, the Worldmind.

Seasoned by his adventures in space, Rider returns a more mature hero than he once was as member of the New Warriors. Having led thousands to their deaths in the war against the Annihilation Wave, Nova finds the self-interested squabbles that have transpired in his absence easily dwarfed by the intergalactic threats to reality he has faced.

Confronted upon his return by Director of SHIELD, Iron Man; Nova is asked to join the Registration Initiative to turn his newly acquired cosmic powers and leadership to the training of a new generation of heroes. Given time to ponder the offer, Nova may find himself ultimately swayed by the intervention of his former teammate Speedball, and his new colleagues, the Thunderbolts!

Previous Form:
Thunderbolts [#6]: This incarnation holds a narrow victory over Jack Flag.
Nova (#73): A single victory over the villain Diamondhead.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Moonstone 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Radioactive Man 5 (Professor)
Speed: Nova 7 (Light Speed)
Stamina: Moonstone 6 (Generator)
Agility: Penance 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting Ability: Nova 4 (Trained Fighter)
Energy Powers: Radioactive Man 6 (Mass Destruction)

- The Thunderbolts are: Moonstone, Penance, Radioactive Man, and Venom.

Assembled under the leadership of an exonerated Norman Osborn; this version of the Thunderbolts are part of a US government division operating seperate, but in conjunction with, SHIELD's superhero registration agenda.

The team is exclusively comprised of reformed super-villains, with the exception of Penance, who, as Speedball, was a member of the New Warriors; the team responsible for the Stamford tragedy that killed hundreds of school children.

Moonstone and Songbird are the only two remaining members from Baron Zemo's original assemblage of diguised Masters of Evil. Their status as senior members, coupled with a divergence of acceptance for Osborn's direction, has led to friction between the two. Despite their familiarities, the frictions have been shown to interfere in their field competence, particularly in dealing with unfamiliar factors like Venom and the brooding, but massively powerful, Penance.

Lurking in the shadows is a contingency for the Thunderbolts in the form of the mass murdering assassin, Bullseye. Though effectively the team's trump card, Bullseye is kept from public eye, allowing for the delicately balanced charade of heroism to be maintained.

- As a teen; Long Island native, Richard Rider, was selected by the dying alien, Rhomann Dey, to assume the mantle of the Nova-Prime.
Swept into a world of intergalactic war and peace keeping, Rider eventually leaves behind his superheroing deeds to join other members of the Nova Corps on the reconstructed home world of Dey - Xandar.

Homesick, Rider relinquished his powers in exchange for the right to return home, but an encounter with the armored hero Night Thrasher would reveal that his powers merely lay dormant within him. Together the two would be prominent members of the teen superteam, the New Warriors.

Rider would revisit his role as a space cop in the battle against the Annihilation Wave. It is here that the Nova Corps of Xandar are once again exterminated, thus leaving Nova to inheret the entirety of their power matrix, the Worldmind.
With infinitely increased powers, Nova becomes the leader of the intergalactic resistence against Annihilus and his armies, and matures into a universal force for justice capable of generating energy blasts, tapping into a reality spanning encyclopaedia of knowledge, and travelling through time and space at fantastic speeds.

The Math: Nova (Average) Thunderbolts (Total) The Pick: Nova

What went down...
Having utilized his massive powers in the defense and arrest of his waiting arch-nemesis, Diamondhead [Nova #2]; Rider finds himself in the unfamiliar scenario of being attacked by the Thunderbolts under the jurisdiction of the Superhuman Registration Act.

Venom is the first to attack, triggering a distanced analysis by the Worldmind. Despite having learnt much from the AI system, it is Nova who this time informs his on-board advisory of the nature of the beast. The Nova Corpsman makes a late leap into the air, avoiding Venom's diving attack to leave him to eat pavement.

Nova chastises the team for attacking in a populated urban street; foibles that don't tend to bother the likes of Moonstone and Radioactive Man, who each launch an energy based attack on Nova. Combining their abilities, they incapacitate his control over self-gravity, resulting in a harsh descent.

Moonstone summons Penance, apparently unaware of his history with Nova as the light-hearted New Warrior, Speedball. She also notes Nova's status as a cosmically powered hero who is not to be underestimated.

Nova emerges from the hole his body made in the street, now having donned his helmet. He summons an energy blast to incapacitate the salivating Venom, while using more specific means for Moonstone, a "phased pulse" doing the trick.

Penance simmers with kinetic energy, but remains flat footed, while Radioactive Man picks up the slack. The radiation of the electromagnetic blast proves inconsequential thanks to the defensive capabilities of the Nova Centurion armor, but the blast is sufficient enough to send the hero hurtling through a stationary truck, into a building.

In a pile of rubble and reeling from the attack, Nova is unable to defend himself as Venom leaps in for a second lick. The burly symbiote pins Nova on his stomach, wrapping his taloned fingers around the floored hero's neck.

Radioactive Man summons Penance from his pause, hoping to utilize his awesome power to put an end to Nova's resistence.
Though reluctant, Robbie Baldwin turns his guilt inward to summon a massive burst of his other-dimensional kinetic energies, reminiscent of his first outing with the Thunderbolts [Thunderbolts #111].

So guilty is the former SPEEDBALL, that he detonates a building in main street, utilizing his powers for destruction parallel to the Stamford disaster. Good thing he's seeing DOC SAMSON!The massively destructive power of Penance's kinetic energy quite literally brings an entire building down atop his former ally. Robbie's current leader, Moonstone, descends on the wreckage with the Radioactive Man with an order to summon their mobile imprisonment "T-Wagon".

To the shock of all, Nova saves them the trouble of finding a body, emerging from the wreckage with a blast of firey, rocketeering energy. The frustrated hero turns the tables on the Thunderbolts by reading them their rights on the basis of the Nova Corps "Pan-Worlds Jurisdiction Treaty."

The clash of law enforcement powers is interrupted by a third party: SHIELD!
Descending with a support team of field agents, the director himself, Iron Man, makes his presence known. Chastising Moonstone for her team's tactics in a densly populated public area, Iron Man does his best to pull rank and calm the situation, as the Thunderbolts leader tries to use Stark's own Registrated Act as justification against him.

Having previously offered Nova a senior position with his Initiative; Tony Stark accompanies him to a more private meeting place to discuss Nova's decision. Though tempted by the support network, the cosmic hero bows to his own responsibilities, and returns to the stars to rekindle the flame of the Nova Corps.

The hammer...
Well, as we close November with a crawl, I give you a draw!
Though both sides got their licks in, I think we can all agree IM pacified the situation before it could really reach any kind of definitive sway.

Adi Granov's covers have a way of demanding the attention of a reader with their futuristic render, typically dwarfing pencils any less than superb. This was entirely true of the fairly mediocre sequentials of Nova, but their plain presentation masks an exercise in super-mundanity that is, at the very least, worthy of acknowledging applause.

Baring the bittersweet branding of Civil War: Initiative after only one issue; the new series, written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning in unknown portions, spins out of the cosmic sleeper crossover, Annihilation.
The book connects with Annihilation's sequel, Conquest, as of issue four, and yet somehow it manages to earn that marketting without the negative conotations washing over your brain as you read this. This is truly a marvellous feat, but once you get past the obvious, it's even more amazing!

In a post-Civil War world where most pro-registrants are predictably concerned with anything but unregistered heroes; the Thunderbolts represent the most proactive element remaining, essentially dedicated to nothing but tracking that element. While Warren Ellis has meandered his way through a combination of light politics and thick character interactions, he's largely failed to deliver on the action in this monster-filled revamp of the Thunderbolts. My point?

It's titles like Nova that have picked up the slack on the street level, illustrating the expected prevelance of the Thunderbolts team. So not only are Abnett and Lanning graciously bowing to editorial mash-ups in their own job, but they're also picking up the slack of other jobs. All that: plus they manage to interweave tonnes of reference to days of Nova past by revisiting vague references with the same fluid flow that facilitated all this other content.

This isn't a great book. To be honest, having bagged all of the first four issues in one-hit, I haven't even the desire to read on, but that simply doesn't change the fact that the craft here is some of the finest Marvel superhero writing to be published in 2007 -- or maybe even years prior!
This book really does it all, without any of the advantageous pretentions or disillusions of being closed off to the rest of the Marvel world. These issues cram in as much character, story, and reality as any issue of Daredevil, but does so without ever feeling like a lazy conceptual hiding behind "style."

So, why aren't I reading on? I guess in a world of hiking prices and shrinking budgets, the reader becomes increasingly selective. As strong a read as this is, it does ultimately lead into a crossover I'm not sure I'm willing to indulge in, and shifts away from the settings that make the first three issues so enjoyable.

And before we wrap up, just to go back to Thunderbolts, I couldn't help but think to the recent issue featuring sessions with Doc Samson, while reading promotional interviews for Jeph Loeb's upcoming work on the "Red Hulk".

Apparently Samson is set to join the investigation surrounding the identity of this new Hulk, with Loeb adopting a deliberate conceit of an FBI profiler, that is interesting, but described in a way that leaves one ever so slightly disappointed.
Of the new Samson, Loeb says, "Leonard Samson, eager to prove himself beyond being just a psychiatrist with green hair, takes the lead."
Pursuing the Hulk in the field is hardly new for Doc Samson, but one can't help but feel that the character's portrayal in the pages of Ellis' Thunderbolts remains a glaringly unexplored facet of the Marvel Universe. It might not quite be necessary to go Dr. Katz with it, but with many heroes tied up in government funded operations, it would've been nice to see Samson employing his psychiatric expertise in more conventional manners.

Oh well, punch on, Doc!
In the meantime, I should probably admit that this one was a standby issue. We've been running a little slow lately, but hopefully December plans will serve up some satisfactory seasons readings for your Infinite Wars needs. Stay tuned for the Punch-Up for more of those Earth-spanning shennanigans!

The Fight: 4 The Issue: 5

Fans of solid superhero writing may just find this book a great way to explore a character they may otherwise be unfamiliar with. As described in the bulk of the review, these early issues of Nova manage to touch upon much of the Initiative, while also providing entry points for the cosmic reneissance occuring with the various Annihilation events. A great stocking-stuffer if you're doing some last minute Christmas shopping on Amazon!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Oh, it's barely even the holidays and we're already slacking right off!
Well, while you wait, maybe you've picked yourself up a Civil War script book, which means you need perspective. Never fear! The Infinite Wars of Christmas Past are here to deliver with their wisdom of many tie-ins!

Marvel as we include all five Civil War reviews previously featured on the site, and pretend like it passes for a comprehensive look back. Be dazzled by our scope, which doesn't even manage to span five seperate months of release!
Hey, I could spend all night selling it to you, or you could just get clicking while I go off and sleep, play video games, and slack off before delivering a new post!

Civil War #1 (July 2006)
"Civil War: Part One of Seven" Millar/McNiven

When the New Warriors, starring in their own superhero reality television programme, corner a group of super villains, they soon discover the perils of fighting out of their depth in the realm of pseudo-fiction.

The resulting destruction results in the deaths of thousands of school children, with consequences felt far and wide across the Marvel Universe -- the most spanning being the initiation of a registration act to catalogue, police, and properly train superpowered individuals.

Approached by SHIELD; Captain America is the first to oppose the invasive initiative that looks to unmask many heroes with families. So begins the Civil War.

Civil War #3 (September 2006)
"Civil War: Part Three of Five" Millar/McNiven

With the lines clearly drawn, the division of the superhero Civil War reaches it climactic peak as the pro-registrants lure the illegal Secret Avengers into combat by faking an industrial disaster.

Revealing the lengths to which he is willing to go, Iron Man pursues his desire to give the heroes the opportunity to police themselves, before others do it for them.

Lengths which include merciless strategic application of SHIELD resources, the deployment of an army of heroes, a willingness to attack children, and worst of all, the decision to deploy a cyborg clone of the deceased god of thunder, and former Avengers, Thor.

Black Panther #18 (September 2006)
"Bride of the Panther: Here Comics a Storm" Hudlin/Eaton/Andrews

They have become the Marvel Universe's most intimidating power couple, and in the wedding of the decade, Black Panther and Storm unite in royal Wakandan marriage.

With both Wakanda and the mutant X-Men maintaining neutrality during the supehero Civil War, the occasion is monumentous enough to cause a brief cease-fire, allowing the pair's many friends to attend without fear.

That is, of course, unless they intend to spend time at the bar, where certain unruly guests may be inclined to take drunken offense, and engage in unwarranted fisticuffs. Oh, Man-Ape!

Blade #5 (March 2007)
"Vendetta's Echo" Guggenheim/Chaykin

The Super Powered registration reaches far and wide across the Marvel Universe, even to the streets, where clandestine individuals such as the daywalking vampire hunter, Blade, stalk the streets in search of vermin.

With the "living vampire" Morbius already consigned, SHIELD are able to entrap the typically cunning and evasive Blade. Their reasons become apparent when acting SHIELD director, Maria Hill, reveals that Wolverine has gone rogue to search for the villain, Nitro.

Blade's unique skills are employed to bring the mutant in, but the purity of battle may be about to rekindle lost memories.

Punisher War Journal #3 (March 2007)
"How I Won the War: Mutually Assured Destruction" Fraction/Olivetti

The registration battle proves so prevelant in the world, it reaches even the street-bound Punisher, who ultimately falls into an area of grey; lacking super powers, as well as being generally regarded as an unhinged murderer.

Perfectly suited to the paranoid trenches of the super hero Civil War, Castle enters into a battle where both sides ally themselves with a criminal element he can bare no tolerance for. This divide sees Castle quickly rejected by the underground heroes, leaving him to fill the void left by they and their wartime enemies; a fact the villains will come to rue. Spider-man never fought like THIS!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

IN STORES: November 28, 2007
You can probably find complete shipping list updates on most major comics sites. Consider this an opportunity to either do all your info-shopping in the one place, or get a speculative perspective on what might be worth checking out. These are untested reads. Secret Wars on Infinite Earths can offer no guarantee or endorsement of quality. These are simply titles that may be of potential interest. Some items may ship late.

The list...
SEP070178 BATMAN #671 (GHUL) $2.99
SEP072184 BLACK PANTHER #32 $2.99
SEP070192 BLUE BEETLE #21 $2.99
SEP072244 CABLE DEADPOOL #47 $2.99
SEP072191 DAREDEVIL #102 $2.99
SEP070159 GOTHAM UNDERGROUND #2 (OF 9) $2.99
SEP070199 JSA CLASSIFIED #32 $2.99
SEP072212 MARVEL ZOMBIES 2 #2 (OF 5) $2.99
SEP073856 PHANTOM #20 $3.50
SEP071958 POPGUN VOL 1 GN $29.99
SEP072227 SUB-MARINER #6 (OF 6) CWI $2.99
SEP070186 SUPERMAN BATMAN #43 $2.99

Not technically a comic, but none the less an intriguing prospect.
While titles like All-Star Batman & Robin, Green Lantern Corps, and Blue Beetle all jump out as potentially interesting reads [for a variety of reasons], it's ultimately the opportunity to take a closer behind-the-scenes look at the Marvel event as it was.

Informed speculation no doubt leaves many savvy readers satisfied, likewise plenty of info has been dripped out, including Mark Millar's more traditional pitch for a series that culminated in the return of Thor and Hulk.

One would assume Marvel is printing only so much, to the point where I wouldn't advise you expect much more than final, polished and press-edited scripts. Even so, despite a consciencious filter, it still stands out to me as a curious addition to the Civil War library.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Yessir! The Spice Girls are back together, and if you enjoyed yesterday's all-girl Street Fighter entry, why not spice up your life with some of the other feminine fisticuff free-for-alls? Alright, so maybe the use of the phrase girl power is fair cause for disinterest, but don't let that fool you! These are a-grade battles!

Many of these classic confrontations have appeared on the link supersite When Fangirls Attack, and boast everyone from Wonder Woman, to Storm, to Powergirl herself! I like to think in an obscure way, that kinda brings the whole theme full circle. Yeah, mind you, I haven't really slept much...

Uncanny X-Men #143 (March 1981)
"Demon" Claremont/Byrne

A legendary instalment, in a legendary period, but two legendary creators! Claremont and Byrne are at their best in this classic stand-alone story that sees Sprite, aka; Kitty Pryde; get a crash-course in being an X-Man!

It's Christmas eve and the youngster has the mansion to herself. Sounds like fun, until a N'Garai demonite shows up to break the silence otherwise stirred by nary a mouse!

It's the ultimate rite of passage as the phasing mutant is put to a test of courage and will. Forced to pit brain against demonic-brawn, all Kitty wants for Christmas is to survive, and it'll take all her tricks to do it!

Marvel versus DC #3 (April 1996)
"The Showdown of the Century!" Marz/Jurgens

The two most powerful universes in comics collide in the biggest inter-company crossover epic to ever occur in sixty years of comics! Forced to fight for the fate of their world, selected champions from each universe go head-to-head in one on one combat.

She who would become Wakandan Queen, Storm, is forced to pit her weather-altering powers against the Amazonian power Princess, Wonder Woman!
Having hoisted the enchanted hammer of Thor, Wonder Woman must put aside her atmospheric equalizer, to fight the good fight against her fellow hero. In a battle such as this, can there really be a winner? I say thee nay!

Adventures of the X-Men #7 (October 1996)
"Rites of Passage" Macchio/Kuhn

In the tradition of the Claremont & Byrne classic comes this animated reinvisioning of the story that put original X-tyke on the map, Kitty Pryde.

The cartoon series' junior Jubilee earns her X-stripes as Sabretooth comes to the mansion looking for a little payback for an arctic encounter with his arch-nemesis.

With the Professor taken out of the picture pretty quick, it's Jubilee who stands alone against the feral mutant who once held her all but for dead, if not for the intervention of Wolverine. Like Shadowcat before her, Jubilee must use all available tools to survive, and mature as an X-Man!

Ultimate X-Men #49 (September 2004)
"The Tempest: Part 4" Vaughan/Peterson

A mutant serial killer called Sinister is on the loose, and the X-Men elite have travelled to Manhattan to track him down. Just one problem: Sinister has left his digs in the city to stalk the students of the mutant academy!

Professor X is the first to fall, leaving many of the unseasoned, and emotionally unstable X-Men to fend for themselves. Leading the pack is the tearaway power-stealer, Rogue, who is able to call upon the strength of her friends to overcome her own inner-demons, as well as those of the gun-toting, mind-controlling Sinister!

It's classic X-dynamics for a new age, as the Ultimate X-Men face their biggest adversary: In-X-Perience!

Infinite Crisis #2 (January 2006)
"The Survivors" Johns/Jiminez

The villains have united, and in doing so have formed a super Society of super villains, orchestrated by the criminal brilliance of former US President, Lex Luthor!

Powergirl stands alone against a villainous taskforce of heavyweights including Clayface, Mister Atom, Giganta and Girder; designed specifically for tracking and defeating her!

Leading the troupe into battle is Psycho-Pirate, who seems to know more of his master's plans than the functioning muscles of the Society's group. Powergirl is set to be little more than a cog in a much larger machine, unless of course a speeding bullet from a forgotten past intervenes!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Where: Street Fighter Legends #1 When: August 2006 Why: Double KO & Ken Siu-Chong How: Omar Dogan

Quick Fix...
Every day at least one new reader finds their way to the Infinite Wars be it by accident, or design. The over-arching scheme of this site is to be a friendly and depthy resource for readers new and old, but it you aren't inclined to quickly hook into what we do, then you're probably out in the cold.

With the exciting announcement of Street Fighter IV [set for release in 2008] there's a contingent of fans finding their way via that particular niche. For most it probably isn't a huge obstruction, but it might be nice to know that, at our centre, we are a comics review/discussion site with a penchant for combat. Not a movie review site, as may have been apparent given the slew of film and television reviews.

There were a lot of Street Fighting battles that hovered around for this weekend, but ultimately I thought it would be nice to quickly check in with the comics again. Sadly, as regular readers will know, I'm more than six months behind on purchases, and a barrage of UDON products are right up there on the wishlist!
A little bit more about those in later, but first, an opportunity to revisit one of the most eagerly anticipated returning characters for SF4: Sakura Kusanago!

Traditionally there seems to a be an obscure divide between average American comics readers, and the trappings of the far East. As a youngster who milled around arcade magazines and machines for a glimpse of the SF characters, I was well primed to be in the thick of things come the animé resurgence of the late nineties.

With that rivetting backstory, I like to think I at least have the credibility to lodge the fact that; despite being quite comfortable with the conventions of animé culture; I am not particularly interested in the shojo, young girls scene.
That said, like any ridiculously dedicated fan, I'm pretty willing to forego that disinterest if there's some sort of pay-off in the form of broader character appearances, which is where Legends: Sakura earns its grace.
[Although, given how bad I'm dragging my heels right now, maybe that grace extends to reading it more than reviewing it... - Malcontent Mike]

If you caught our last Sakura feature [Street Fighter Legends #2], you'll already know the mysteriously popular Hibiki clocks an appearance, along with guest-spots by Honda, Zangief, R. Mika, Karin, and a roster of cameos by characters from Rival Schools. Also making an appearance is Sakura's reluctant sensei, Ryu, who prompts her quest to examine other fighting skills as part of her training. This rather conveniently shoe-horns the wrestlers into the picture, while also creating a logical deviation from the core series. Not a bad line-up for a character largely segregated to a world of sailor suits, homework, and hotdogs!

During one of those rare moments of positivity for the works of Brian "I prefer the square peg*" Bendis [Daredevil #75], we mentioned a predilection for drawing inspiration from real world sources. It's a process I like to read, and indulge in as a writer myself, and if it was somehow lost on you, I also like sports, structured violence, and statistically based leagues and competitions.
It's this recipe - inherent to professional wrestling - that slides effortlessly into Sakura's pop driven fancy, and leads her to a local main event between Alpha stalwarts; Rainbow Mika and Zangief.

The canonical relationship between Mika and Zangief is put aside, presumably by design of both the lighter nature of this reading material, and the similarity between Mika and Sakura's roles as smitten young fighters, characterized by their adoration for longer standing icons of the series.

Here, Zangief and Mika engage in rope hitting action, while Sakura and her friends share cutesy modified versions of iconic WWE isms popularized by Steve Austin, the Rock, and Hulk Hogan. As one comes to expect from any entry level references to wrestling, the parallels here between the SF universe and reality are none too subtle, but enough to sell the world to a casual reader.

Grafting game specials into a world of trademark moves, Mika hits the infamous flying peach butt pump, before going to work on Zangief with a chair, presumably of a steel persuasion. The attack proves sufficient for R. Mika to overcome her burly adversary, scoring her a knock-out win before the capacity crowd.

When Zangief comes to some time later, he furiously calls Mika out for an impromptu rematch. The scene is played for laughs, but highlights the clash of worlds as Zangief personifies Street Fighter logic confronting a realworld performance based perception, held by Mika.

As mentioned earlier, you can find Zangief's disgruntled rampage in a previous Infinite Wars entry [Street Fighter Legends #2], as he carries the fight to the signing table, blissfully unaware of the scripted nature of professional wrestling.

As the importance of so-called realism is pushed further in popular fiction, we sometimes find fiction compromised by it's awkward marriage of the real and imagined. I think in the past I've made my fondness for the internal conceits of the Street Fighter world quite clear, and it certainly relevant to this quick fix.

As much as I like the idea of Street Fighter drawing upon real world reference, the success of the series has always been built on a fiction.
The enduring characters from the first sequel epitomize this formulaic, caricature-based representation of styles, and nation's traditions, that make the Street Fighter fiction work so well. UDON have done reasonably well here to bring the two logics together, without compromising the overall asthetic.

That said, Legends: Sakura notes writing that is particularly light-on.
There's a B-throughline of Dan Hibiki's pursuit of Sakura, but for the most part the series reads as a disjointed collection of cartoony moments. It's probably this kind of storytelling, which lacks any skeletal strength, which is going to befuddle and turn away American readers not already interested in the branding and kitsch of the series.

While I have a great affection for the universe in question, I really regret UDON's decision not to make a more independent move with the franchise. Sakura has enjoyed solo success through the manga, Sakura Ganbaru! ["Hang in there, Sakura!", currently being translated by UDON], and leaves UDON's decision making feeling a little rote.

Of the core series, the most noted concern has probably been similar questions of depth, and if we review the UDON/SF output as a whole, Sakura ultimately drags it down. It might be an unfair assessment, but direction and writing like this inevitably feels like a classic case of a penciller trying to be a writer.
There's a lack of attention that sufficiently facilitates a visual comic book story, but fails to lend any weight to the pages within. Whether or not this is a personal stigma due to UDON's artistic history, I cannot say, but the content of this four-issue mini is what it is, regardless of inflection.

The Fix: 3 The Issue: 4
Winner: Rainbow Mika

This Christmas Sakura's probably strictly for the SF die hards, and maybe wide-eyed young readers.

UDON have expressed interest in pursuing other Legends series, with Chun-Li tossed around as a character to star. While much of UDON's strength has come from strong representation and derivative mythology, I'd rather see them blaze a trail with characters less touched upon. While the core series hovers around the popular icons from the games, anime, and manga, it might be nice to see a Legends series use a character as vehicle to touch upon a theme.
Pursuing similar fiction that touches real world concepts, like the Muay Thai or Boxing characters, might be a fun bit of history to explore.

Battle 01: Shad (Tokuma)
Where: Street Fighter II #1 When: July 1994
Why: Masaomi Kanzaki How: Masaomi Kanzaki

Quick Fix...
If you're a regular War Monger, you'll notice occasional references to When Fangirls Attack, the 'hive vagina' for so-called comics feminists around the internet.

Despite having pretentions on neither side of the debate, I do find myself with a passing interest in that particular corner of opinion and neurosis. For the most part, it deals with the goings on of American superhero comics, but occassionally a manga post will pop up, as far as I'm aware, usually for the positive.

Top 25 Female Characters
#1 Invisible Woman (Marvel)
#2 Storm (Marvel)
#3 Catwoman (DC)
#4 Wasp (Marvel)
#5 Zatanna (DC)
#6 Elektra (Marvel)
#7 Kitty Pryde (Marvel)
#8 Rogue (Marvel)
#9 Hellcat (Marvel)
#10 R. Mika (Capcom)
#11 Phoenix (Marvel)
#12 Black Cat (Marvel)
#13 Wonder Woman (DC)
#14 Black Widow (Marvel)
#15 Lyja (Marvel)
#16 Tabitha Stevens (Marvel)
#17 Hawkwoman (DC)
#18 She-Thing (Marvel)
#19 Sakura Kusanago (Capcom)
#20 Harley Quinn (DC)
#21 Spider-Woman (Marvel)
#22 Firebird (Marvel)
#23 Cheetah (DC)
#24 Powergirl (DC)
#25 Spitfire (Marvel)
Manga has been a phenomena in the comics market that has positioned itself as a perceived threat to traditional American enterprise. Despite well known sub-genres of rabid mysogyny and tentacle invasions, the Japanese have endeared themselves to a market of women and children with parallelled cultures built around a variety of female and feminine archetypes.

This previously reviewed single issue [Street Fighter II #1] exists as a movie-time item of curio in my collection. If subsequent issues were made available at the supermarket I bought it, then I never saw them, but it's a moot point anyway. Fortunately UDON has collected a newer series of translations, which feature artwork unchanged from it's original black and white form.

I refer back to this issue because, it's a bit of fun, and also because the female stars of Street Fighter have been grossly under represented during our weekend romps. Sure, we kinda know that in sponsoring a top five contender, Ryu and Ken are the most likely success stories, but that says absolutely nothing of powerful female leads like Chun-Li, or Cammy White!

Wacky happenstance sees many of the new UDON issues that I've missed containing much of the Chun-Li/Cammy portions of the series, so here we are, arriving at a quick fix feature with Chun-Li and the innocuous dockside sailor, Billy.

Similar to the film, this series depicts a segregated rogue city, this time shortened to just Shad [as opposed to Shadaloo, used in the film, but canonically the name of Bison's criminal organization - Manhattan Mike].
This man-made island has a strong fight culture and a strong criminal element simmering in the bowels of it's seedy underbelly.

On the docks; the wondering fighter Ryu stops to take in the sights, as gambling yobs toss their cash against the prospects of a danty, blue-qipao garbed fighter called Chun-Li. With a win-streak of fifteen bouts, Billy takes the hot odds, but Ryu informs one vocal punter that he's made a greivous financial error.

Behaving like, well, a sailor, "Billy" makes a skeevy attempt to hit on his opponent asking for a date after the fight. As if to foreshadow the events yet to come, Chun-Li shoots him down with a devestating witty retort that makes insinuations about his cognitive functions!

Billy explodes in a rage over Chun-Li's quip, only to run head-long into a barrage of boot blow! The Chinese fighter unleashes the full force of her Hyakuretsu Kyaku attack, setting him up for the finishing blow, a brutal face-shove that leaves Billy's skull to "krunch!" against the street!

As the Interpol agent looking for her father's killer; Chun-Li represents a none too subtle archetype of the genre, but with visuals as strong (yet vulnerable) as her character, she's set herself apart from even folks like Guile; who represents the US Air Force male equivalent of the same role.

Before closing, I do have to lodge the fact that I much prefer Chun-Li's revised outfit of the Alpha series. Apart from being infinitely more believable and practical, it's a great looking suit. I do not, however, weigh in on it's use for crotch shots in the anime, versus the butt shots of the manga.

The Fix: 4 The Issue: 4
Winner: Chun-Li

As mentioned earlier, the Tokuma series of Street Fighter manga by writer/artist Masaomi Kanzaki are now available in newly translated and un-edited form thanks to UDON! An obscure item even amongst some groups of fans, it's the ultimate gift this Christmas for Street Fighter fans across the globe! And in issue two, Chun-Li fights Blanka! Primo!

*Not an actual nickname for Brian Bendis.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

You might be expecting some super Street Fighting, given thant it is Saturday, but alas, the Street Fighters have been bumped back to Sundays, as per the War Plans [observed stage right, beneath the PayPal donate button -- wink-wink].
I finally deemed Saturdays are just too darn busy, while the sabbath provides an ironic window to get some work done. Chika-chika, oww!

If you enjoyed last night's update [Daredevil #91], then maybe you should try diving into the back issue bins for a slice of urban black and gold. On offer we provide a variety of urban bound heroes and villains, including the preceding DD appearance of site-favourite, Tombstone! Remember kids: he plays above his weight, so don't freaking mess with him!

Batman #621 (January 2004)
"Broken City: Part Two" Azzarello/Risso

The team from 100 Bullets deliver their own gritty urban take on the Dark Knight, as he pursues small time crook, Angel Lupo, for the murder of Elizabeth Lupo.

See Gotham City like you've never seen it before, as Batman delves into the quagmire of the criminal underworld, coming to blows with old enemies like the Penguin, Ventriloquist, and the bruiser, Killer Croc.

The Croc knows more than he's saying, and Batman's going to do whatever it takes to interrogate the information out of him, even if it means getting the information from his personal dentist. This gritty battle isn't for the faint of heart!

Solo #1 (December 2004)
"Date Knight" Cooke/Sale

Lighter fare as the Dark Knight detective pursues clues to a robbery where Selina Kyle - aka Catwoman - is waiting for a little alone time with her would-be lover.

In the vein of the Batman animated series comes this derivation on the 'catch me if you can' formula, as Catwoman runs Batman through the smashmouth gauntlet of romance as only she can.

Flowers, dinner, and dancing; but come the end of the night, will Batman get his kiss, or will he taste the bitter sting of this cat's claws? Find out in this superb short from living legends: Darwyn Cooke and Tim Sale!

Green Arrow #45 (February 2005)
"New Blood Part Six: Coming Out" Winick/Hester

The criminal element of Star City is in flux, and the new power cleaning up the competition and organizing the gangs is Danny "The Brick" Brickwell.

A young product of the criminal justice system, Brickwell is from the school of hard knocks, rising rapidly through the ranks due to a public savvy, intelligence, and oh yeah, a mutated hide that makes him as hard as stone!

While Mia Dearden pursues aspirations to become a hero in her own right; Green Arrow goes head-to-head with the gangster years his junior, in a clash for control of Star City. It's a pure one-on-one showdown, no interference!

Batman #648 (February 2006)
"All they do is watch us kill: Part 1" Winick/Mahnke

Over in Gotham, the menace of the new Red Hood is plaguing mobsters and Batmen alike, as he orchestrates his own version of organizing the gangs.

Slightly unstable after his apparent resurrection, Jason Todd incurs the personal wrath of Black Mask, who has grown tired of his erratic demands, and many double crossings, often with lethal results.

Batman races to reach the location as Red Hood and Black Mask have their face-to-face final showdown, but as the tortorous kingpin of crime does battle with his former ward, he knows not the extent of Red Hood's plans!

Daredevil #90 (December 2006)
"The Devil Takes a Ride: Part 2" Brubaker/Lark/Gaudiano

Under the misdirection of a jail break-out staged by the Punisher, Matt Murdock takes flight to Europe, following the clues that lead to Alton Lennox -- the man who has been manipulating his life, and is ultimately responsible for the death of Foggy Nelson.

Having already involved himself in the goings-on of a local organized crime family, Daredevil is surprised to encounter the hired thuggery of NY resident, Tombstone!

DD is up to his neck in it as he confronts the stoney muscle, and does his best to rescue a woman who reminds him of his first true love, the late Karen Page!

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Devil Takes a Ride: Part 3 (Marvel comics)
Daredevil #91 When: January 2007
Why: Ed Brubaker How: Michael Lark & Stefano Gaudiano

The story so far...
With his dual lives in tatters, Matthew Murdock employs the aid of the Punisher to make a daring escape from prison, allowing him the opportunity to avenge the supposed death of his best friend, Foggy Nelson, and unravel the mystery of turmoil that has enshrouded him.

On the trail of a man named Alton Lennox, Daredevil finds himself drawn to Europe, where the mystery thickens to invite new players into the game. Tombstone, an unnamed European Matador, and the daughter of a European crime boss all become entangled in a battle that takes DD from Portugal, to France.

Inching gradually closer to the answers he seeks, it's a Parisian stand-off, as Daredevil seeks the kidnapped crime heiress, Lilly Lucca, and her stone-faced captor. It's a rematch double header as DD faces off against the man who beat him in Portugal, Tombstone, and the Matador he bested on his home turf.

Previous Form:
Daredevil (#12): Solo victories over Wolverine, Bullseye, & the Jester.
Tombstone (#179): Has a victory over Daredevil, and Spider-man.
The Matador: The unnamed Matador makes his debut in the Infinite Wars.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Tombstone 5 (Super Strength)
Intelligence: Daredevil 3 (Straight A)
Speed: Daredevil 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Daredevil 5 (Marathon Man)
Agility: Daredevil 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting Ability: Daredevil 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy Powers: Daredevil 2 (Projectile)

- As a young man, Matthew Murdock was the innocent victim in an accident involving the illegal trafficking of chemicals through New York City. Being doused in the hazardous materials cost young Murdock his sight, but enhanced his remaining senses so intensely he could now "see" through the reverberation of sound -- a bat-like radar sense!

The angry youth would find himself orphaned, and dedicate himself to training his body in the martial arts under the tutelage of the mysterious Stick.
His speed, strength and agility would be built to the human optimum, his enhanced senses complimenting his physicality in battle.

By day, Murdock studied to become a hotshot lawyer, but by night he sought a method of justice without rules as the guardian of Hell's Kitchen: Daredevil!

- As an African-American albino growing up in Harlem, Lonnie Lincoln endured a childhood that toughened him up until he was as hard as stone.
A career criminal; Lincoln would eventually grow into the statuesque underworld muscle called Tombstone. His powers would only be enhanced when, during a battle with Spider-man, he was inadvertently exposed to experimental gases designed by Oscorp scientists.

The experimental Diox-3 chemical embued Tombstone's already impressive physique with enhanced strength levels, durability, and endurance. This served only to increase Tombstone's already formidable strength, complimented by his impressive speed and mobility, despite his size.

- Little is known of the bull-fighter encountered by Daredevil during a brief journey through Europe. Employed by an embittered and dying Vanessa Fisk, the new Matador; presumably unrelated to long-standing Daredevil opponent, Manuel Eloganto; is a highly skilled fighter, proficient with swords dervied from his skills as a bull-fighter.

Additionally, the Matador is incredibly fast and agile, but does not appear to have specific aspirations as a recurring villain.

The Math: Daredevil The Pick: Daredevil

What went down...
Knowing full well that Paris has become the stage for his downfall, Daredevil reverses the tables on Lily Lucca and her co-conspirators as they stage a kidnapping for his benefit. Almost flawlessly, the woman with the scent of a thousand lovers sells the ruse, even her heartbeating to plead the case to the guardian devil, but this time he is well prepared for her deceit.

Silently the Daredevil renders two lakeside gunmen unconscious, before launching into an acrobatic assault on Tombstone and Matador, both.
Lily Lucca continues to play her part, shocked when Daredevil abruptly shoves her aside, no longer lured by the aroma of lost love, Karen Page.

Tombstone is the first to fight back, lunging at the leaping hero with a fist powerful enough to shatter bone. Daredevil swiftly vaults over the stoney assassin, landing ready to tackle his foes, the veil lifted as they openly join forces with some chagrin.

The Matador strikes first, leading with the edge of his ceremonial blade.
Familiarized with his opponent's speed and guile, Daredevil does well to block the attack, and swiftly disarm his deadly new foe. As the weaker link, the Matador is easily tossed aside for later.

The real obstacle barrels in next like a raging bull, scoring with a stiff jab to the side of the Devil's head. The blow rattles Murdock, even knocking him to the ground, but he rolls with it to lure Tombstone in for the kill. The brutish onrush of Tombstone's attack sees Daredevil cartwheel aside, leaving only stone to crash against the thug's equally tough knuckles.

As the Matador recovers and charges, Daredevil again turns the momentum of his enemies against them. This time it's the bull-fighter who does the hard work, staking the tip of his blade into Tombstone's durable hide. The mistakes earns him a super strong backhand from his already reluctant ally.

Tombstone continues to menace his objective, now clearly frustrated by the careening course of events. Tired of Daredevil's acrobatic avoidance, Tombstone launches into the air with surprising speed and skill. The gambit topples both men as the spill across the stone paving, Daredevil combing out the better.

An improvised boot to the face is the final straw for Tombstone, who draws a pistol with the intent to end it clean and fast. The shift in tactic puts a ranged focus on Tombstone's attack, and changes Daredevil's tactic completely.

Retreating to the shadows, Daredevil employs a stealth that forces Tombstone to become the unwitting hunter of his elusive prey. Too angry to think straight or take note of his surroundings, the hired thug is left flat footed as Daredevil pops out of the darkness like a vengeful arcade sock'em.

In Soviet Russia, sock 'em toy hammer YOU!With Tombstone out of the picture, DD turns his attentions to the Matador who has the Lucca girl with a dagger to her throat. With eyes bulging out from beneath bruises and swelling, he spits threats that do little to engender the action of an unconvinced Daredevil.

Content to call the bluff, Lucca and DD both are surprised somewhat that the blade does indeed pierce the skin of her throat. The Matador pulls away before doing any serious damage, letting out a cry before dropping to his knees in a scene of epic European drama.

Apparently ordered to kill Lucca regardless of her crucial involvement in the plot against Daredevil; the Matador succumbs to the manipulative powers of Lucca's uncanny pheremone persuasion. Despite having fallen under the same spell, Daredevil is unsympathetic.

Without allies, Lucca is convinced to reveal more of the plot, as Daredevil himself unravels the puzzle of Alton Lennox' murder, and Lucca's responsibility in the part. Reduced to little more than a pawn designed to remind Murdock of Karen Page's murder, Lucca turns the tables, and reveals finally the source of the deeply personal attacks.

The hammer...
If you already skimmed over the tape and didn't pick up the big reveal (behind Daredevil's troubles), you might like to avoid the spoiler if you haven't read the story. As always, there'll be an Amazon link for your convenience at the end of the post, but in the mean time, how about this spoiler? Daredevil wins!

If the current theme is about the flavours of 2007, one has to wonder if Daredevil is really among them. He was certainly the sponsored favourite of 2006's Infinite Wars, but in '07, he's been somewhat left by the wayside in the wake of Civil Wars, Hulks, and Infinite Crisis'.

If you're a regular reader you'll know new releases are few and far between, but even so, one has to acknowledge the perspective gained even from lack of purchase. Heck, lord knows some of the folks out there with regular pull lists could do with that kind of perspective, but I digress into silliness...

I've spoken before about my theory that, though fundamentally a very good writer, Ed Brubaker has a habit of fading out into a droning hum of acceptable, but unextraordinary content. On Daredevil we saw a reasonably strong transition in the handover from Brian "Rubber Chicken*" Bendis, to the prison bound flow on of Brubaker's continuation of this world.

The flowing nature of the DD universe continued beyond, but a cycle of repetitive mystery driven stories, that offered little detail in which the reader could invest in investigation, came to typify the less than stellar run.
Even now, as I slip behind on the title that has otherwise been quite a consistent purchase over the past few years, I'm not terribly perturbed. Of the books I so eagerly hope to read again, Daredevil has slipped from the top of the list, to the fuzzy milieu just beneath the must-reads. The ranking of the title seems almost ironically reflected in Daredevil's ranking status here in the Infinite Wars, slipping from last year's top five consistent, to a twelve total, and barely top twenty for the year.

Contributing to a lack of interest, the apparent drift to more disjointed storytelling. It's unfair to say storyarcs haven't played a major role in Daredevil history. Even Bendis' run was heavily influenced by 'the trade', fragmenting the specifics of the Daredevil saga into flavoured outings built around demons, literal and personal; unfinished business; and conspiracy.

Though these stories featured a similar 'villain of the month' structure to Brubaker's work, they did so with distinct differences. In such a grounded on-going comic, it's almost strange to refer to division in plot as a good thing, but it's almost certainly the over contrasted grey of Brubaker's work that has led to the death of certain underworked tastebuds.

As you might be wondering; it was whilst browsing over recent solicitations featuring the Enforcers, that this epiphany was reached. Granted, the emergence of Mr. Fear as a new threat in the Daredevil universe is interesting, and I myself have toted the demand for a new criminal element to capitalize on the vaccuum left by the incarcerated Kingpin, Bullseye, Hammerhead, Daredevil, and Punisher - a contrived conceit by nature.

I suppose it just bothers me that it has to be so obvious, and so blandly fragmented, to the point where Tombstone, Gladiator, and Enforcers are the only real strokes by which we differentiate these tales.

But hey, if you want diversity of product, then you're reading on the right day!
Once you've finished soaking up the hits and misses of the Infinite Wars, why not stroll over to Bahlactus, whose Friday Night Fights unite the blogosphere in battle. Pretty pictures, and the occasional essay, are all on offer, as Bahlactus' insatiable hunger is fulfilled with wanton regard for the third-world (and fourth, for that matter).

Also be sure to check out the latest review of The Kirby Martin Inquest, which is delighting all who encounter it! At $2.99 plus shipping, it's a worthy online purchase for this year's stocking stuffers!

The Fight: 5 The Issue: 5

The Devil Takes a Ride is the second arc in Ed Brubaker's run on Daredevil, and features the run-on story of a conspiracy that began in the final pages of Bendis' work. Despite greivances toward newer issues, these first two tales do well to round out any collection particularly interested in DD of this decade, and compliments the undeniable run by Bendis and Maleev.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Kirby Martin Inquest #1

It's the series redefining the comics narrative, and the reviews are all good (all two of them)! Your favourite fight club referee, cum comics philosopher, officially made his foray into writing and creating in published form in July, and he's calling upon all the Infinite Wars readers to dive into this exciting project!

Comic has just featured the latest review to sing the series' unique praises. Noting the collision between pulp and comic book influences, the first issue of The Kirby Martin Inquest dives into the dense musings of Charles Scott, also known as White Ghost.

Part superhero adventure-part urban noir: this series takes you on a dense introductory journey as we learn facts past, present, and future, all revolving around our protagonist's perspective, and his pursuit of the criminal element.

"Mike Haseloff shares a tale that is thick with atmosphere and maintains a nice subtext of tension." - Chuck Moore,

"It's nice to see a tale that is easily approachable but actually requires some puzzle work..." - Bart Croonenborghs, Broken Frontier.

With gritty, pulp-inspired artwork by master penciller Pedro Cruz, The Kirby Martin Inquest merges the benign with the bizarre, to lay the foundations for an intriguing induction into the independent landscape. The twenty-two pages of full-size black and white art seem only to compliment the disguised grey of this urban landscape, and it's many black and white characters.