Thursday, November 01, 2007

MONTHLY PUNCH-UP #23 (November 2007)
Over the past eight months of Infinite Wars, Monday has been all about one thing: Marvel super-villains! More specifically, villains who graced the multi-platform video game, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance.

By now most of us have long since laid our joypads to rest on this particular game, but now marks an opportunity to browse back over the pantheon of characters we've taken a magnifying glass to, from March, through October.

But before we get to that, Activision deserve some credit for creating, what I would call, the first Marvel Universe video game. Sure, we've had a taste with some of the beat 'em ups Capcom delivered, but this is the first game that grants the player an opportunity to move through all corners of the Marvel branding, interacting and controlling everyone from Captain America, to Wolverine, to Thing, to Ghost Rider -- variety that makes this game an amazing first!

We honed in on the villains because, well, there's just such an impressive array of them, and playing through the game I realised, when I wasn't eagerly anticipating the next adversary, that it was the kind of Infinite Wars feature that was possible. Of course, some characters were skipped for time/interest/availability... Go figure...

Of course, as much as the guys responsible deserve full credit for cramming in even relative newbies, (like Winter Soldier), it comes at the cost of a full gaming experience. Despite the opportunity to gather alternate endings narrated by the Watcher, the game really has very little replay value, which is disappointing considering the limited time a player has to meddle with unlockable characters like the Silver Surfer. Retracing steps to battle drones through already completed missions just isn't what I call a fun day at the races, RP levelling-up, or not.

Likewise, the story that does provide the narrative spine for the games action is not at all an original one, nor is it a particularly good rendition of the tired old 'super-sized super-villain team-up'. So while fans will enjoy seeing the many characters in the game, the experience will certainly not match picking up back issues of Acts of Vengeance, Secret Wars, or various other character-packed stories.

The involvement of writers in the creative process of video games has expanded along with the production value of the product, and efforts like the recent Darkness video game, overseen and written by Paul Jenkins goes lengths to show-up the reverse. I'm of the opinion that the story should be the controlling aspect of a game, as opposed to the plugging in of new arenas and villains.
This involvement is particularly effective in the development of new gaming modes, which would stand a steady contrast to the PaRappa model of variation in Ultimate Alliance, the inclusion of a stiff Pitfall homage, not withstanding.

All in all it was a great game, and Xbox users may still be finding legs through add-on purchases such as new playable heroes, villains and training missions.
Although, for my uninformed assessment, this is unlikely to entertain those already bored at the conclusion of the game, making for a tame experiment with virgin download-expansion technology.

The villains from the video game:
- Mephisto
- Phoenix/Nightcrawler
- Wrecking Crew (vs Thunderbolts)
- Lizard (vs Spider-man)
- Executioner (vs X-Men)
- Enchantress
- Ulik
- Kurse
- Ymir
- - Ultron (vs Thing/Machine Man)
- Baron Mordo (vs Dr. Strange)
- The Destroyer (vs Avengers)
- Loki (vs Avengers)
- Shi'Ar Imperial Guard (vs X-Men)
- Gladiator (vs X-Men)
- Deathbird
- Super-Skrull (vs Fantastic Four)
- Paibok (vs Fantastic Four)
- Titannus
- Galactus (vs Zombies)
- Scorpion (vs Spider-man)
- Bullseye (vs Daredevil)
- Winter Soldier (vs Wolverine)
- Radioactive Man (vs Jack Flag)
- Fin Fang Foom (vs Iron Man)
- Crimson Dynamo (vs Titanium Man)
- Mysterio (vs Spider-man/Human Torch)
- MODOK (vs Avengers)
- Byrrah
- Lord Krang (vs MODvengers)
- Attuma (vs Sub-Mariner)
- Tigershark
- Kraken
- Dragonman (vs Deathlok)
- Ultimo
- Grey Gargoyle (vs Spider-man)
- The Mandarin (vs Iron Man)
- Shocker (vs Spider-man)
- Rhino (vs Rhino)
- Arcade
- Blackheart

Of course, after the defeat of Galactus, the game features a slew of evil versions of heroes, including dark versions of the Fantastic Four acting as sub-boss heralds to the final big-bad: Dr. Doom! Just to drag things out a little longer, we dedicated an entire month to evil doppelgangers, before concluding with DOOM!

- Dr. Doom (vs Thor)
- Dr. Doom (vs Fantastic Four)
- Dr. Doom (vs Thing/Yancy Street Gang)
- Dr. Doom (vs Black Panther/Storm)
- Dr. Doom (vs Thing)
- Evil Captain America (vs Captain America)
- Evil Mr. Fantastic (vs Mr. Fantastic)
- Evil Thing (vs Thing)
- Evil Invisible Woman/Evil Cyclops
(vs X-Men/Fantastic Four)

The Top 5...
#1 Spider-man (-) (15) (Marvel)
Class: [Meta] Last Opponent: [Hulk]
Win Percentage: [68.97%] Features: [29]
Season 2006: [#2] Current Ranking: [#1]

I picked Spider-man 3 up on DVD, and depending on the regularity of full posts in November, it might just seal the deal for Spider-man being hero of 2007! It was back in May, when we featured the villains of the Spider-man threequel, and secured Spidey a top spot.

We often prod little reminders of the many mission statements of the Infinite Wars, and as we draw closer to year-end, we should be reminded that part of what this site is all about is reflecting the zeitgeist of the year. I think we've done that with Spider-man, who has, for better or worse, had a busy 2007.

The comics have cooled down, with One More Day looking far from enticing off the back of the thoroughly mediocre Back in Black. As often mournfully noted, we don't have the financial foundation to regularly review new release comics, so specifics like these stories have not been well represented, but the interests they provide are here in some degree. Spidey 3 reminds us of that.

#2 Batman (-) (21) (DC)
Class: [Meta] Last Opponent: [Catwoman]
Win Percentage: [71.43%] Features: [21]
Season 2006: [#1] Current Ranking: [#2]

A month off for the Dark Knight certainly won't help his campaign to take out a second year as the number one hero. Spidey and he have swapped roles from 2006, but the best may yet be to come!

If you haven't been following the exciting viral marketing of, then you've missed out on some fun! The promotion for 2008's Dark Knight has sent fans across the United States scrambling on orienteering adventures, following clues to snap letters that make up the Joker's message. Lying beneath is a new photograph of Heath Ledger in the role, complete with chilling promise from the clown prince of crime that an unnamed someone will "... break your one rule!"

Shades of The Killing Joke as Joker presumably pushes Batman (or Jim Gordon) to stoop to his own murderous ways. Of course, it's developments like that that might just push Batman up the Infinite Wars rankings, but whether or not that will be felt in 2007 or 2008, remains to be seen!

#3 Captain America (-) (5) (Marvel)
Class: [Meta] Last Opponent: [Invaders]
Win Percentage: [40.74%] Features: [27]
Season 2006: [#8] Current Ranking: [#3]

Like a late-artist, Captain America's stock holds stronger than ever.
Fandom continues to speculate who will fullfil the iconic mantle, albeit in shiney foil form. The safe bet seems to go to Winter Soldier, continuing a momentum-filled return from the dead for the former-Bucky.
Avengers and Cap back-issues have fuelled the top five fire for the character in the Infinite Wars, but one has to wonder how long this can last. 2007 might be the year for Cap to make his mark, with his absence still questionable heading into 2008. An Alex Ross series starring time-displaced Invaders from WWII will keep Cap in the consciousness, but it's a long way down from Civil War.

More and more the real-world value of the feature film is being reflected by the Infinite Wars, perhaps leaving Cap's greatest hopes to Marvel Entertainment's eager progress on producing the character. Nothing seems certain for now, but despite his death in contemporary Marvel, he remains one of the major icons Avi Arad and the team are most keen to see on the silver.

#4 Black Adam (-) (6) (DC)
Class: [Super] Last Opponent: [Kobra]
Win Percentage: [100%] Features: [6]
Season 2006: [#n/a] Current Ranking: [#11]

With activity as increased as it's been in the Infinite Wars, it's startling that this would be the month to see absolutely no activity in the annual top five! Black Adam becomes the proverbial checkered flag for any character making a run for a year-end top spot. With an undefeated streak last added to in September, it's cool runnings from here for the Kahndaqi.

Likewise, after a stellar run in the pages of 52, it seems no one is making noise anymore about the dark anti-hero. A dismal supporting appearance in 52-follow up, Countdown, didn't do much for the character, while the spin-off mini-series detailing post-World War III events may have come too late to capitalize on the Black Adam fuhror generated by the year-long spotlight.

Continuing the theme of zeitgeist, it's this failure to capitalize on the development of a new character that perhaps tyifies DC's position in the market right now. The Beat draws attentions to a sorry state of affairs in DC sales figures, raising serious questions on the back of a surprise success with last year's weekly comic efforts.

Of course, all it takes is a surprise purchase to get this year's sponsored favourite back in the chase. And there was a pretty exciting little Hawkman/Black Adam fight in The Dark Age...

#5 Mr. Fantastic (-) (4) (Marvel)
Class: [Champion] Last Opponent: [Dr. Doom]
Win Percentage: [57.14%] Features: [14]
Season 2006: [#14] Current Ranking: [#8]

Well, if not for a month of DOOM, this spot probably would've once again belong to the Hulk! With all the talk about the popularity of films, it's probably worth remembering that the Fantastic Four did just cruise to the top of the box office mere months ago with Rise of the Silver Surfer. It's not like Spidey 3 was the only movie out there, even if it was destined to outshine the sequel to the 2005 disappointment.

Like one of his many rubber ball impersonations, Reed Richards' status post-Civil War bounced around considerably with the induction of Black Panther and Storm into the FF, while he and Sue tended to personal problems. Of course, the pair barely stepped off-screen during this period, and with the announcement of superstar creative team Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch taking over, you know things'll snap back into place pretty quick. Millar, notorious for twelve-issue hit and runs, won't likely be coming to the party for a couple of guest-stars!

Mr. Fantastic brings some super-brain to the top five but you would assume after Millar/Hitch, things might cool down. FF's 2008 future remains unknown, but as Marvel's first family, and certainly one of my long standing favourites, their late rise in the Infinite Wars may have no factual end, making it very similar to most Brian "Converted for the jokes*" Bendis storyarcs.

Super Stock...
1. Spider-man (-) (M)
2. Batman (-) (DC)
3. Captain America (-) (M)
BLACK PANTHER leaps up the rankings, wafter delivering a good kicking to DOCTOR DOOM!4. Wolverine (+1) (M)
5. Iron Man (-1) (M)
6. Hulk (+1) (M)
7. Superman (-1) (DC)
8. Mr. Fantastic (-) (M)
9. Thing (+2) (M)
10. Human Torch (+3) (M)
13. Invisible Woman (+1) (M)
15. Thor (+3) (M)
18. Storm (+3) (M)
20. Luke Cage (+2) (M)
21. Sub-Mariner (+4) (M)
22. Hawkman (+6) (DC)
23. Deadpool (+23) (M)
27. Iron Fist (+16) (M)
28. Dr. Doom (+32) (M)
45. Guile (+63) (Capcom)
46. The Spectre (+39) (DC)
50. Black Cat (-3) (M)
56. Ryu (+63) (Capcom)
60. Ken Masters (+98) (Capcom)
65. Fei Long (+53) (Capcom)
74. Raiden (+13) (Midway)
75. Black Panther (+142) (M)
76. Wonder Man (+111) (M)
77. Hawkwoman (+102) (DC)
78. She-Thing (+37) (M)
87. Noob Saibot (new) (Midway)
88. Akuma (new) (Capcom)
99. Rainbow Mika (-10) (Capcom)
100. Sakura Kusanago (-10) (Capcom)
115. Vega (-10) (Capcom)
116. Dhalsim (-10) (Capcom)
125. Thunderhawk (-8) (Capcom)
126. Powergirl (new) (DC)
129. Union Jack (new) (M)
131. Thin Man (new) (M)
132. Green Lantern [Hal Jordan] (new) (DC)
133. Monolith (new) (DC)
134. Sandman [Wesley Dodds] (new) (DC)
139. USAgent (+95) (M)
150. Machine Man (-15) (M)
160. Unus (new) (M)
162. Blazing Skull (+85) (M)
163. Birdie (+205) (Capcom)
170. Scorpion (+122) (Midway)
Deadpool punks TASKMASTER down to the pits of the bottom five!175. Psycho-Pirate (-42) (DC)
176. Sagat (-33) (Capcom)
177. She-Hulk (-27) (M)
187. Ghost Rider [Dan Ketch] (new) (M)
188. Frank Drake (new) (M)
200. Carrie Kelly (-22) (DC)
242. Chun-Li (-18) (Capcom)
247. Blade (+50) (M)
250. Falcon (-19) (M)
257. Lionheart (-63) (M)
258. Speedy (+66) (DC)
272. Balrog (-20) (Capcom)
300. Hawkeye [Kate Bishop] (-20) (M)
319. Zangief (-18) (Capcom)
350. The Mandarin (-17) (M)
392. Giganta (new) (DC)
393. Girder (new) (DC)
394. Clayface [Basil Karlo] (new) (DC)
395. Mister Atom (new) (DC)
397. Gouken (new) (Capcom)
398. Black Hand (new) (DC)
399. Sodom (new) (Capcom)
400. Grim Reaper (new) (M)
401. Solomon Grundy (new) (DC)
402. Demogoblin (new) (M)
417. Brick (-27) (DC)
418. Lizard (-27) (M)
419. Taskmaster (-36) (M)
420. Dan Hibiki (-32) (Capcom)
421. Magneto (-29) (M)

Always remember what Mr. TOMBSTONE says kids: Say no to drugs!The hammer...
Whooooof! These things just keep getting bigger and bigger, don't they? Then again, so do the Infinite Wars! To facilitate almost daily posting, we've finally opened up the format to provide some more visual variety for readers!

Cover to Cover gives you a chance to take a look at topical, or thematic back issues of the Infinite Wars you might have missed. Brother Eye will be scanning the multi-verse for characters of interest, providing recaps of their history, statistics from the Infinite Wars, and general chitter and/or chatter. To play with the wave of comics current events, Wednesdays and Sundays are also the opportunity to showcase why I've got a great pencil for writing, with the badly drawn Comik-Politik cartoons.

And just because I hadn't found enough ways for you all to fund this website, you'll noticed Amazon purchas applets popping up around the place. You can use those to find great deals on various collections that include the issues we review. All part of the resource services of Secret Wars on Infinite Earths, and a way for me to try to score some Amazon store credits. It's not a lot. Buy generously!

Then once you've KILLED for me, SEEK OUT MY ENEMY REED RICHARDS, AND DESTROY HIM!!!It's been a ridiculous month of non-stop posting, and we'll be doing our best to keep it up through November! We'll be starting our month with spill-over from the short pile of books I gathered for Halloween, that are still sitting on my desk. This is good not only because they're fun reads, but also because I don't have to get up again... Oy!

As always, there've been a lot of great people sharing the love throughout the month. Got to throw some shoutouts to; When Fangirls Attack, Adventures in Comic Book Land, Bahlactus, Fortress of Fortitude, Comic Book Revolution, and all the other blogsites referring hits, and putting up great bits of reading that may or may not garner my retarded comments. Likewise, check out Pedro Cruz and his unfolding webcomic drama - Cosmopolis!

Pedro also pencilled, inked and lettered the first issue of The Kirby Martin Inquest, which is on sale thanks to ComixPress and Nite Lite Theatre comics!
This full-sized black and white comic is available for $2.99, and ComixPress have recently relocated with the promise to provide Xpress prompt shipping!

Stay with us as we make the run home for 2007!

October Hit Count: [5938/42889] (-98)
*Not an actual nickname for Brian Bendis.


Pedro Cruz said...

Reading through the list of characters on this article, reminded me of a few battles I'd like to see you review. So here's a few suggestions:

-Ghost Rider/Wolverine/Punisher versus Blackheart and Mephisto (not sure if you already did this but it's from the GR/W/P special by Howard Mackie, John Romita Jr. and Klaus Janson)

- Daredevil versus Mephisto (it happened in several issues of DD's title during the 80s by Ann Nocenti, John Romita Jr. and Al Williamson. It had several guests like the Inhumans, the Silver Surfer and the introduction of Blackheart)

- Captain America versus the Red Skul (the first modern appearance of the Red Skull from Tales of suspense 79-81, reprinted in the first volume of Essential Captain America by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee)

- Gladiator versus the Fantastic Four ( a classic from FF 249-250, reprinted in volume 2 of John Byrne Fantastic Four Visionaries tpb, with guests like Captain America, Spider-man, the "X-Men" and some nasty skrulls)

- Fantastic Four/Silver Surfer versus Terrax/Doctor Doom (another one from FF 259-260, reprinted in volume 4 of the John Byrne Fantastic Four Visionaries tpb)

Mike Haseloff said...

Oh man, there's some great battles there! I think we had a discussion about the Ann Nocenti stuff, and I've really wanted to get into that ever since.

Funnily enough, the Friday post I [still] haven't finished is a Daredevil/demon issue, albeit from Bendis/Maleev's run.

I think it'll be a few Amazon kick-backs before I can accomodate any of these recommendations, because it's times like these we're reminded how pathetic my collection of comics really is. :-p

It wouldn't be my favourite, but the Gladiator/FF fight is of particular interest just because it speaks to the nature of the site, as a fight club that should showcase some of those less common showdowns.

I love it when heroes/villains you don't necessarily associate together have a good reason to clash.
Some of the better examples we've had of that are bouts like Magneto/Spidey, X-Men/Lizard, X-Men/Executioner...
Although, they all probably highlight the kind of timeframe we seem to be stuck in... :-p