Thursday, January 31, 2008

In the first round of Fantasy Fights from the Infinite Wars, Marvel proved their overall superiority in fifteen seperate battles that culminated with your vote deciding their fate. Now, with DC vanquished, the Marvel Heroes are back to tangle with some old enemies: The world warriors of Capcom's Street Fighter!

By popular demand the Fantasy Fights are sticking around for seven more rounds of non-stop non-canon action! When the characters met in the video games, they were united against common goals, but this time some of Marvel's greatest fighters will be initiated as they duke it out for supremacy over the SF classics!

Strength: Iron Man 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Iron Man 5 (Professor)
Speed: Bison 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Draw 6 (Generator)
Agility: Bison 2 (Average)
Fighting Ability: Bison 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy Powers: Draw 5 (Lasers)

The Hook...
If you didn't much like Tony Stark through the recent Civil War, then you're going to love this hook. In fact, chances are, you're already salivating for better or worse as it dawns on you that we're comparing Tony Stark, Director of SHIELD, to the dictatorous villain of the Street Fighter universe -- Bison.

IRON MAN unmasked: Cover art to IRON MAN #3 by ADI GRANOV!Actually, that's probably the extent of it.
While Tony Stark pressed the issue of the superheroes registering with SHIELD; Bison popularly employed cyborgs in the Street Fighter II movie to monitor the movements of martial artists in the street fighting circuit. Their machinations, though motivated from different perspectives, were designs of domination.

Bison's arsenal of technology is typically more subtle, machines such as the psycho-drive are responsible for complimenting his own energy based "psycho power." Bison, as leader of Shadaloo, has also engaged in extensive programs involving brainwashing and cloning, both key to Cammy White's veiled origins.

During the Civil War, Iron Man was involved in cloning the deceased Norse God, Thor; while also acting in secret as a member of the Illuminati.

The Math: Iron Man Ranking: Iron Man (#4)

The Battle...
Much like Superman/Sentry, the outcome of this one was left to you guys.
Like that scenario, I tend to think Bison/Iron Man could go either way. Personally, my leanings are toward Bison, but I might be letting my arcade notions of the characters get in the way of the scale of what goes on the page.

Given their positions in respective organizations, you almost imagine this kind of confrontation would be almost impossible without some kind of accompanying succession of skirmishes, or a surrounding battle involving minions and heroes.

Despite a statistical divide, Bison's not going to have any trouble matching the physical power of the Iron Man armor. In fact, it's hard to imagine Bison entering this kind of fight any other way than as the confident intimidator. No doubt the swapping of verbage would precede any fisticuffs, and it would probably involve Bison's proliferating about the strength of his psycho power, and the futility of Tony Stark's retorting claims to stop him.

Bison's going to be cagey at first, controlling the fight through evasion and taunting as the Iron Man armor darts for ghostly remnants. A homing weapon fired forces Bison to cease the cat and mouse tactics, even though it fails to connect, easily deviated by psycho-manipulation.

IRON MAN attempts to talk down a terrorist recipient of EXTREMIS: Seen in IRON MAN #3!The contemporary politics of Iron Man could probably lead him to formality of ordering Bison a final chance to surrender, which he's going to pay for, lest characterization disguise the fact that Bison can fight.

IRON MAN suffers a taste of his own handiwork at the hands of EXTREMIS: Seen in IRON MAN #3!The Shadaloo boss launches into an acrobatic display of sommersaulting kicks and offensive aerial descents laden with psycho energy. The heavy attacks rattle Stark, exposing his more limited fighting skills. Bison gets a little cute, pausing to mock the beseiged Avenger who retaliates with a wreckless repulsor blast.
Bison frustrates IM further, deflecting the bast straight back at him.

With his opponent on the ropes, Bison prepares to finish the fight with his patented finishing move, the psycho-crusher. The energy supported dive smashes a rising Iron Man, and though his armor sustains substantial damage, Tony Stark manages to rise once again.

It's here that the endurance of the invicible Iron Man's armor sees him over the line. Analytical systems help Stark time his retaliation as Bison again launches into a psycho-crusher, this time flying face-first into a full blast chest beam!
IRON MAN pummels CAPTAIN AMERICA into submission, having taken a beating of his own: Seen in CIVIL WAR #3!Iron Man continues, attacking the toppled Bison full power with more unfettered blasts.

Iron Man is unrelenting, blasting Bison into the ground with a certain satisfaction. While SHIELD agents, I don't know, dismantle the psycho-drive? Iron Man pummels the Shadaloo boss into submission the old fashioned way, before taking him into custody for imprisonment in the Negative Zone.

The Hammer...
Well, there you have it!
Even though we roughly doubled votes from sixteen to thirty-seven, there seems to be a distinct Marvel bias here, because once again you've decided it should be Marvel that triumphs over adversaries in the Fantasy Fights!

I think we've had a lot of fun with imaginary battles, but after a slow recovery in January, I think we'll try to bring the focus back to what the Infinite Wars are all about: Canon fights and lengthy dialogues and discussions!

That's not to say we've seen the last of the Fantasy Fights. No, sir!
While we normalize over February, I want to hear from you guys! February will be our opportunity to open the forum (or comments section) to the War Mongers who've already thrown a request or two my way.

This entry, along with the upcoming February Punch-Up, will be your opportunity to submit Fantasy Fights by request! Simply cook up an interesting combination not already covered, and come up with a hook a paragraph or so long to tell us all what makes this such a juicy combination! Remember, you don't have to be a registered Blogger to comment, so everyone's welcome!

While you guys are coming up with those, I'll be heading to the Punch-Up!
Stay tuned for the first top five of 2008, along with Spider-Boycott: 2008 discussion, more on Street Fighter, and all the action in the Super Stock!

3 versus 4

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

IN STORES: January 30, 2008
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.

Thin and Crispy...
NOV072140 DAREDEVIL #104 $2.99
NOV072143 FANTASTIC FOUR #553 $2.99
NOV072146 HOUSE OF M AVENGERS #4 (OF 5) $2.99
NOV070211 JSA CLASSIFIED #34 $2.99
OCT070185 SPIRIT #13 $2.99
SEP072008 SUBURBAN GLAMOUR #3 (OF 4) $3.50
NOV072122 ULTIMATE X-MEN #90 $2.99
NOV070275 Y THE LAST MAN #60 (MR) (NOTE PRICE) $4.99

The Deep Dish...
ARTWORK: Jim Lee- NOV070194 ACTION COMICS #861 $2.99
I think when it comes to the Legion of Superheroes you either love them, or absolutely hate them. Of the two, I've always erred on the latter, so it's taken a while for me to really decide how I feel about this arc. The ever-competent Geoff Johns says he wants to do for Superman what he did for the Green Lantern. I'm still not entirely convinced, but after the crawl of his Donner collaboration, it's no mean feat to garner any interest by the fourth part of a Legion story!

From start to finish I have not been able to decide whether I care, or not.
Sounds like some great concepts, but the question of whether the glue is there to hold it together has kept it off my list purely by priority. Despite being utterly obnoxious during a recent Fanboy Radio interview, Dan Slott's probably brought me back around to wanting to have a taste.
[That interview will come up again in the Feb Punch-Up, so give it a listen!]

- NOV070187 BATMAN #673 $2.99
Grant Morrison does the unthinkable, and brings the Batman back from a painful crossover that effectively put the nail in the coffin of a character I couldn't get enough of three or four years ago. The Scot's run continues to be a subject of contention, but this issue, which explores early themes in Batman's career (while the Dark Knight lies in a near-death coma) looks interesting!

- NOV070180 BLACK ADAM THE DARK AGE #6 (OF 6) $2.99
Haven't yet read it, but want to very much!
He was our 2007 sponsored MVP, and I really hope the conclusion of this series can mark some sort of return to the DCU for Black Adam. Sure, there were glimpses in Countdown, but I really want something substantial now that the internal journey is supposedly over.

- NOV072137 CAPTAIN AMERICA #34 $2.99
Even if you buy into our 'Lazy Brubaker Syndrome' theory, you have to agree that that comes with high points. If ever there was a time to buy Captain America, it was probably number twenty-five, but if you don't have a time machine, now is the time! Bucky steps up to the Cap mantle, and presumably we get to see some [attention retaining] stuff happen!

- NOV070206 GREEN LANTERN #27 $2.99
It's nice not to have a meaningless lull post-Sinestro Corps War, but one can't help but wonder if some recovery time might've been nice. We've already talked about the potential to overdo it with the Corps concept [hah!], but I at least applaud the fact that Johns isn't wasting any time or space with GL! Apparently this ties in to the lead up to THE HOOD pays TIGRA a visit, resulting in her 'employment': First seen in NEW AVENGERS #35!Final Crisis. Let's hope that prophecy/end of the current universe leaves us with prophetic egg on our infinite face.

I'm no Western fan, but... Wild West Ben Grimm?
The kid-friendly Adventures line continues to demand attention!

- NOV072166 NEW AVENGERS ANNUAL #2 $3.99
Poor Tigra. Poor, poor Tigra.

An alternate universe tale where the late eighties clash between Wolverine and Spider-man ends with Peter Parker's death? Friend, to me, he's already dead. Spider-Boycott: 2008!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

It's the fifth week special, which means we've crossed the threshold of another month of Infinite Wars! Heading into the home stretch, why not join the time travel as we look back at past reviews of issues that did as we're all doing -- start afresh with a brand new number one!

Moving through the issues chronologically, we naturally come to the end of the line with a crop of fairly recent issues you yourselves may have read. With the benefit of hindsight, how do you feel they measure up, and were they strong platforms from which these series launched, or were they doomed from beginning? Why not let us know, and talk about your own favourite #1s!

If you missed out on the journey, don't fret fanboy!
Here, for your convenience, a go-to guide of this new set of Infinite Wars back issue diversions: Round 1, Round 2, Round 3, Round 4! You can also use the Cover to Cover tag to browse your way to any number of odds and ends.

Beyond! #1 (September 2006)
"The Great Beyond" McDuffie/Kolins

"Slay your enemies and all you desire shall be yours! Nothing you dream of is impossible for me to accomplish!" is the decree that rings out as the motley gathering of Spider-man, Venom, The Hood, Kraven, Wasp, Hank Pym, Medusa, Gravity and Firebird, find themselves trapped aboard a spaceship headed for the Beyonder's planet. The omnipotent entity, who has apparently been testing low-grade groupings for years, is at it again!

And all too happy to claim the prise of his greatest desires, Mac Gargan; the new host for the Venom symbiote; sees his objective right in front of him! But what exchange has been made to save the web-slinger from Venom's sting?!

Batman and the Mad Monk #1 (October 2006)
"Dark Moon Rising" Matt Wagner

Matt Wagner returns with a sequel to his critically acclaimed mini-series, 'The Monster Men.' Continuning on in the tradition of Year One, Wagner places Batman in the earliest year of his career, in an ever-changing Gotham full of greed, corruption, and villainy.

Catwoman, up to her old tricks robbing jewellery stores, provides a distraction as the Dark Knight Detective maintains his presence patrolling the Gotham skyline.

This story, inspired by a Golden Age Bill Finger classic, introduces old ideas into a contemporary canon! After Catwoman, Batman will puzzle his way to a strange cult led by a vampire called - the Mad Monk!

New Avengers: Illuminati #1 (February 2007)

2008 will be the year of the Skrull as Marvel unleash their latest intrigue based universe-wide crossover, Invasion!

It all starts here as the cabal of super powered leaders, dubbed 'the Illuminati', gathers during to take it upon themselves to confront the Skrull empire in secret, and warn them off any further invasions of Earth.

Unfortunately for them, the Skrulls don't take kindly to intimidation tactics, and are about to turn the tables on this group of Avengers in a way that will rock the Marvel Universe decades later. The Skrull Invasion has come again, and this time they will be undetectable!

Spider-man Family #1 (April 2007)
"Catfight" Van Lente/Manfredi

The super-anthology serves up a brand new story featuring an early confrontation between the superheroine Hellcat and soon-to-be Spidey foil, the Black Cat!

These two feisty feline femme fatales are about to come head-to-head on the grounds of a museum where the Black Cat intends to put security to the test. Little does she know Chicago has their own brand of Manhattan style defender, and she's about to turn her powersuit on an unsuspecting burgler!

It's quite literally an all-out CATfight, and when the flur finishes flying, you won't believe how this one ends!

Omega Flight #1 (June 2007)
"Alpha to Omega" Oeming/Kolins

When the composite powered entity called The Collective slaughtered Alpha Flight it looked like that would be the end of the Canadian super-team. Not so, however, as threat of spill over from the American superhero civil war threatens those across the Northern border!

Not content to leave the property lie, the Canadian government offers the initiative one last attempt to work, resulting in the formation of Omega Flight!

Charged with rebuilding the team, Sasquatch awaits the arrival of USAgent and Arachne, but there's just one catch. The Wrecking Crew might KILL him before then!

Monday, January 28, 2008

"Birth of the Black Lantern" (DC)
Green Lantern #25 When: January 2008
Why: Geoff Johns How: Ivan Reis

The story so far...
In the wake of the crisis that saw Alexander Luthor Jr and his Society of supervillains rock the very fabric of reality; Sinestro's involvement becomes redefined. Having served as a super powered lackey under Luthor, Sinestro escapes from battle to the anti-matter universe, where he encounters a restored Anti-Monitor, who had reborn along with a new Multi-Verse.

The Anti-Monitor joins Sinestro in creating a new Corps of agents with the intent to use them as heralds of his conquest over the positive realm. Harnessing the yellow power rings of Qward; the antithesis to the Green Lantern's Oa; the Sinestro Corps operate on a design of fear, using it to control their yellow energy the same way the Lanterns us willpower.

Tricked into believing the Sinestro Corps were to attack Oa, the designates of Sector 2814 soon find themselves four against an army as the Anti-Monitor and his heralds emerge in the Milky Way. They launch their attack on Earth, central to the new multi-verse, but the rest of the Green Lanterns, along with the heroes of Earth, soon join the war. Amidst the chaos, more personal skirmishes break out, and in an intimate exchange, Sinestro finds himself facing off with his two greatest Earth-born rivals...

Tale of the Tape...
ARTWORK: Ivan ReisARTWORK: Alex RossStrength: Draw 2 (Average)
Intelligence: Sinestro 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Draw 2 (Average)
Stamina: Draw 6 (Generator)
Agility: Sinestro 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting Ability: Draw 4 (Trained Fighter)
Energy Powers: Draw 7 (Cosmic Power)

- The Green Lantern Corps are: Hal Jordan and Kyle Rayner.

Having succumed to the effects of the Parallax entity; Earth's most famous Green Lantern, Hal Jordan, would lead a grief stricken rampage against his fellows in a bid to gain power enough to resurrect his obliterated city.
At the cost of the few survivors, the Guardians of the Universe would pool their energies to create one final, immensly powerful ring, which would be sent out into the universe with the last surviving Guardian from Oa; Ganthet.

The ring would come to be the inhereted by Kyle Rayner.
The young graphic artist's imagination would make him an ideal recipient, his creative mind opening up a realm of possibilities to the ring's powers of solid manifestation. These iconic Green Lantern powers would come to Rayner with the added responsibility of being the last of the Corpsman - a footnote that would continue to be a part of his education right until the return of the Corps.

- Born on the planet Korguar, the man called Sinestro was selected by the Guardians to become the Green Lantern of Sector 1147. Dedication to justice in the space region would soon see him excel to a revered status as one of the greatest Corpsman the Green Lanterns had ever seen.

Assigned to train a human designate, Hal Jordan, selected to succeed Abin Sur's duties over Sector 2814; Sinestro's path would be that of a fallen dictator. A reviled Jordan would aid his mentor in defending his homeworld against invasion, but when the Guardians are called to aid them, Sinestro's fascist methods are exposed.

While in exile in a parallel anti-matter Universe, Sinestro encounters the planet Qward, counterpart of the Guardian's homeworld, Oa. The inhabitants, the Weaponers of Qward, construct for Sinestro a yellow ring that harnesses the universal power of fear, and grants him a yellow version of the same adaptive powers of the Green Lanterns. Powers that chiefly allow him to physically manifest any construct he is able to fathom.

The Math: Sinestro (Avg) Green Lanterns (Ttl) Ranking: Hal Jordan (#51)

What Went Down...
Above the rebuilt Coast City, the Green Lanterns fight their cosmic war against the Sinestro Corps, now granted the powers of lethal force by their masters, the Guardians of the Universe. Claiming such provocation as his true motive, Sinestro charges on his mortal enemy, Hal Jordan, with the suggestion that he remains the greatest Lantern in history.

The nobility of Sinestro's plan is quickly lost as he summons the robotic Manhunters designed by Hank Henshaw with the purpose of draining a ring of it's power. Both Hal Jordan and Kyle Rayner fall victim to the automatons' trick.

Stripped of their power, and without a battery to recharge, the two Green Lanterns make a tumbling landing atop one of the Coast City buildings below. Pursued still by Sinestro, the pair are forced to improvise, calling upon their physical prowess to maneuver in the absence of Lantern propelled acrobatics.

While the Sinestro Corps War rages on in the skies above them, the Cyborg Superman becomes a victim of the new killing powers of the Green Lantern, caught in a blast designed to destroy the Anti-Monitor and the yellow central battery. The apparent death results in mass malfunction of the Manhunters.

With the robotic scouts plummeting motionless from the sky, Hal Jordan is able to snatch one of their skulls whilst fleeing Sinestro. He soon turns the tables on the villain, using a yellow energy sapping Manhunter to strip the villain of his energy. Powerless, Sinestro finds himself on even terms, and all too happy to boldly challenge both Lanterns to unarmed combat.

The trio of powerless Corpsman tumble across the rooftop, before falling onto a construction site. All three are toppled in the harsh landing, but Sinestro fares well enough to turn an offensive, rapping the already shaken Kyle Rayner with a devestating left hook.

Taking advantage of the makeshift weapons strewn around the skyscraper construction, Jordan puts his willpower behind a 2x4 plank of wood!
The weapon shatters across Sinestro's head, taking a spray of blood with it.

Sinestro plays the psychological card, lamenting on Jordan's time possessed by the entity Parallax, and the things it made him do. Jordan spear tackles Sinestro through wall construction while the villain recounts tales of the death of Jordan's father. Jordan proves fatigued, but defiant, as Kyle Rayner reemerges.

Rayner dives at his inherited foe, putting his own body on the line in an effort to send the fear mongering Sinestro through a pane of glass. Pain is undoubtedly what the pair feel, as they each come to land on a lower level of construction.

Sinestro touts metaphorical victory over the pair, lording the initiation of lethality as a lasting tribute to the fear purveyed by the Sinestro Corps, and the destiny of the Green Lantern Corps as armed lawmen. Jordan silences him with a fist.

Outside, and across the country, the Sinestro Corps find themselves defeated by the united might of the entire Green Lantern Corps, Guardians, Justice League, and Justice Society. Inside, it is Hal Jordan and Kyle Rayner who are victorious.

With Sinestro bloodied a fraction more than his green counterparts, Hal Jordan takes great pleasure in exercising restrain. Sinestro's fate is consolation.

ARTWORK: Patrick GleasonThe Hammer...
Your winners and inductees in to Season 2008: the Green Lanterns! They get no prize, but join the many superheroes and villains already vying for top spot in this year's rankings. Stay tuned Friday for more on the rankings, but in the meanwhile...

After talking about Annihilation, it was hard to just turn and run, so I really wanted to take the opportunity to not only feature another comic dated 2008, but also flash back to the Green Lantern side of things which only just started getting airplay toward the very end of 2007!

Dependent largely on where you were looking, Sinestro Corps War may just have been the biggest event rocking your reading as the previous year came to a close. For those of you following the story through to it's already promoted 2009 sequel, Blackest Night, there's still plenty to come, it would seem!
Hand-picked by Geoff Johns himself; Sterling Gates writes Green Lantern Corps where Mongul has been seen lurking with exciting prospects, while the master himself continues to plant seeds and explore the aftermath not only of the War itself, but also the connected ramifications.

I'm going to say this of Johns: he's earned his place at the top of the game.
Often we might express critical views of certain person(s) output, but that isn't always indicative of a broad view of that writer, penciller, or other.

If you're inclined to view the our menu [located right] you might have noticed a top ten creators tally. It rarely changes because, unlike our character stats, it isn't wiped periodically, which means Geoff Johns is going to be at the stack for quite some time. Being dependent on ratings values, Johns has actually amassed a lead over nearest rival [Jeph Loeb] worth approximately five must-reads.
These terms are all abstractions, but what I'm trying to illustrate is at least the tactile presence of Johns, and the constitent quality of his work.

THE ABSORBASCON has me convinced something bad will happen if I don't end with a GREEN LANTERN looking stupid, or badly injured...Based on the issues I wound up with, I couldn't agree with those touting Sinestro Corps War as memorable and fantastic. Amidst the chaos, I tend to think Johns inevitably falls into the void of strong concepts, and solid logic, but a story that ultimately lacks any identifiable character.

Johns can clearly grapple with understanding some of DC's most maligned and vintaged characters, but the undeniable weakness in his arsenal remains the ability to convey characterization through subtlty; something many of his peers lord as an asset in a writer's market, still driven by the influence of early 2000's wordy fads.

In some ways I would describe the Sinestro Corps War as quite ambitious. Not only does it reorganize and root the Green Lantern mythos in a very specific style of science fiction concept, but also attempts to layer a sense of commentary beneath the strong overtones of a familiar superhero crossover epic. Again, this added layer lacks some subtlty, but with very few dull moments, the ratio of crossover to page is probably well worth it.

After events convenient, the Green Lanterns stand victorious over the successively toppled menaces of the Sinestro Corps, Anti-Monitor, and herald baddies; Superman-Prime, Cyborg Superman (Hank Henshaw), and Sinestro.
Fairly urban concepts of distrust for law enforcement become the most obvious concept explored as the Green Lanterns return to a universe that will now know them as lethal enforcers bound only by individual discretion.

The irony of combatting a man, Sinestro, who abused his Green Lantern powers in the past, is somewhat lost to the driving momentum of plot points that likely need wrap up during 2008. What we weren't able to talk about last time was the promise of a 2009 event which will introduce another of the spectrum of Lantern enforcers, rising from the corpse of the Anti-Monitor to be the undead Black Lanterns. Again, the prospects of the comic book overshadow any political commentaries designed to suggest versimilitude, but that's a matter of interest.

We could talk more about the potential of 'internal affairs' style sub-sections within the Lanterns, but without details, I do tend to feel that's a precipice to Sinestro's history as the league leading corrupt Green Lantern. Then again, that in itself suggests commentaries of super powers in times of fear, and Star Wars style depictions of a Bush-style assumption post 9-11. Not that I think Johns is trying to cast those aspertions, as much as he is telling a contemporary story that's inevitably associated with those sorts of allusions.

Last time [Green Lantern #24] we talked a bit about the potential to water down the entire concept with an excess of coloured Corps. That said, the lingering concept of a Black Lantern Corps composed entirely of the resurrected dead is a delicious spin on the otherwise over populated zombie genre in comics.
Even in the context of watching Infinte Wars-style combat in 2008's comics, it's going to be hard not to observe every perilous situation in DC comics and it's Final Crisis with suspicion for who might return in a Cyborg Superman style role.

If the dead are open fodder, I suppose that even opens the fanboy door to all kinds of skeletons. You almost dare not imagine the notion of a Bart Allen Black Lantern, although, a Black Flash would be entirely appropriate.
Even for those undermining dangers, I think you have to credit Johns for his penchant for grand design. In the fashion Annihilation reintroduced key characters and concepts from the cosmic Marvel Universe; Johns puts together an 'all in one' tour of what one should expect of a new Green Lantern universe.

Promises of prophecies, wars, and crisis are a sure way to keep fans watching, but as we roll on to the afforementioned Final Crisis, we once again consider that horrible thought. With the Spider-man reboot being the measure of precedence; Johns' ability to contribute, redefine, and reshap, without stripping away chunks of history in a haphazard slate-wipe, makes fear for what the Crisis means to on-going continuity all that more concerning.

Blackest Night may very well be a guarantee for the secured future of the DC Universe, or maybe that's just the perfect creacendo to the end of this world as we know. Let's hope, either way, it's a tad more artful than the house across the street.

The Fight: 5.5 The Issue: 6

While it might not go down in history as a "must read", the Sinestro Corps War is going to be on any Green Lantern fans reading list for years to come. If you're excited about the Green Lanterns, and missed out on this redefining event spectacular, it's the perfect jumping on point! You can jump right in with the trades, both available through Amazon! Amazon not only offers affordable prices, but by using the purchase links provided here, you sponsor future entries into the Infinite Wars themselves.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

In the first round of Fantasy Fights from the Infinite Wars, Marvel proved their overall superiority in fifteen seperate battles that culminated with your vote deciding their fate. Now, with DC vanquished, the Marvel Heroes are back to tangle with some old enemies: The world warriors of Capcom's Street Fighter!

By popular demand the Fantasy Fights are sticking around for seven more rounds of non-stop non-canon action! When the characters met in the video games, they were united against common goals, but this time some of Marvel's greatest fighters will be initiated as they duke it out for supremacy over the SF classics!

Strength: Draw 3 (Athlete)
Intelligence: Wolverine 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Draw 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Wolverine 6 (Generator)
Agility: Draw 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting Ability: Wolverine 6 (Warrior)
Energy Powers: Ryu 3 (Explosives)

The Hook...
We're wrapping things up, and for the final few Fantasy Fights we're taking a look at match-ups that could actually have occured in the right gaming sessions!
Yesterday we took a look at the All-American showdown between Guile and Captain America, but today the resonances are a little less obvious!

Ryu and Wolverine are obviously two of the most popular and easily identified icons from their respective companies, but it's their status as wandering warriors that brings them to our attention. While each holds their friends very close, they have found themselves distanced by their fighting spirit, and the internal darkness each has struggled with.

RYU succumbs to the dark hadou when he steps in the ring with ZANGIEF: Seen in STREET FIGHTER ALPHA, the animated movie!For Ryu, the sinister temptation of the dark hadou energy truly tests the truth of his spirit and the motivation of his fighting. Wolverine has struggled with even deeper darkness, facing his own murderous intent in the form of the feral rages that lurk deep within his mutant mind.

It's easy to discount Wolverine's fighting skill, observing him as little more than a berzerker. More often than not that's probably true, but time in Ryu's homeland of Japan marks a period of growth in an already impressive set of hand-to-hand combative skills. Wolverine is said to be akin to a masterless samurai, not unlike Ryu, who wanders the planet without destination, but a strong sense of justice and favour for the innocent.

The Math: Wolverine Ranking: Wolverine (#3)

The Battle...
Wow! It's until I actually sit down and try to think of how this kind of fight is going to go that I really appreciate how interesting it is. Both characters represent a superhuman advantage. For Wolverine, being in-close with the threat of his retractable adamantium claws is going to be a threat even greater than anything Ryu's seen from Vega. On the flipside, Ryu's ranged game with the hadouken fireball gives him just as lethal an option against the Canuck!

A very still scene is almost inevitable at opening.
Wolverine's going to reflect the Japanese sensibilities of Ryu, each well aware of the threat the other represents. They aren't going to be in such a rush to beat each other senseless, and there might even be an instant sense of respect between two fierce, but ultimately good hearted warriors.

I couldn't imagine who would lead, but the first punch will inevitably be lost as the exchange quickly heats up. Wolverine's going to let the healing factor do it's job, absorbing a lot of what the more skilled Ryu has to offer. I wouldn't expect anything overly fancy from a pair of seasoned fighters, but that doesn't mean RYU shows DHALSIM what he's made of when he seeks training in STREET FIGHTER II #3!they're going to be going easy. Ryu's going to throw a lot of muscle into his shots, while Wolverine will take advantage of any opening that arises.

A sense of ceremony would probably keep Wolverine from using the claws, but as the fight progresses it's going to come down to whether or not instinct takes over. Ryu's ki is going to start to factor in as the two move across their terrain more often, and some of the kicks and footwork that the shorter Wolverine doesn't have are going to be a part of Ryu's arsenal. It lets him take the fight to Wolverine, without worrying about the gritty close quarter blows the mutant can dish out, even without claws.

As things get more heated Wolverine's going to start chasing the fight, and as his sweat builds the claws are bound to come out. A lot of wide, but controlled slashes are going to start happening, designed to wound as opposed to lop.
Ryu's going to come out with a few grazes, and he might need a new gi, but his superior fight skills will see him put enough distance between he and his opponent, in the absence of swift maneuverability.

With the stakes reaching a peak, Ryu's going to grab the finisher, and even if Wolverine manages to play a strategy beyond abusing his healing factor, the decision will be taken away. A mid-strength hadouken finishes it off, at least until Wolverine recovers. The eventual rematch? Who knows?...

WOLVERINE tastes a swift defeat from another Japanese fighter, THE GORGON: As seen in WOLVERINE #20!RYU charges up for a HADOUKEN fireball when he faces off against ZANGIEF: Seen in STREET FIGHTER ALPHA!
The Hammer...
Will STREET FIGHTER succeed where DC failed, and come out number one? YOU DECIDE!Well, to the shock of everyone in the room I'm sure, we find ourselves with a Capcom/Marvel tie! Good thing we're geared up for a special bonus round Thursday; the end of the month! Hey, even more fortunate that we've got ourselves a poll, because it's up to you the War Mongers to steer the fate of the respective franchises! Just like when you picked The Sentry to defeat Superman [DC/Marvel Round 15], the final representatives will go head-to-head with your outcome deciding the winner!

Marvel have got the lead once more, so if you world warriors want to prove your might to the Marvel zombies, you're going to have to start voting now!

Y'know, speaking of Wolverine, it kinda brings something to my attention. It should be fairly stated that I'm not exactly the biggest X-Fan in the comics blogosphere, but like most, have a passing acquaintance with the characters. Wolverine currently sits in our cumulative top three, and accounts for the majority of X-Men related entries.

Looking ahead to upcoming features on the Infinite Wars, we may just have to fix up the cosmic balance. Always interested in reflecting the zeitgeist, buzz surrounding the interest stirring Messiah Complex puts forward a compelling argument for the X-Men, even if I hold complete and utter disinterest for a story that crams a bunch of characters I'm not interested in; into a story that sounds typically dismal for the X-Franchise; which has already suffered, I believe, post-Decimation; with a multi-title crossover reminding us of how far we've come.

Still, to a degree we are but slaves to you, the readers.
And whether or not any of us are terribly interested in taking a look at the X-Men, there aren't a lot of other certainties promoting themselves early in the game. That, however, is probably discussion best saved for the upcoming February Punch-Up. For that, I'll see you at the beginning of the month, but otherwise, stay tuned for more fisticuffs as we head toward a fresh top 5 for 2008!

3 versus 3

Saturday, January 26, 2008

In the first round of Fantasy Fights from the Infinite Wars, Marvel proved their overall superiority in fifteen seperate battles that culminated with your vote deciding their fate. Now, with DC vanquished, the Marvel Heroes are back to tangle with some old enemies: The world warriors of Capcom's Street Fighter!

By popular demand the Fantasy Fights are sticking around for seven more rounds of non-stop non-canon action! When the characters met in the video games, they were united against common goals, but this time some of Marvel's greatest fighters will be initiated as they duke it out for supremacy over the SF classics!

Strength: Captain America 3 (Athlete)
Intelligence: Draw 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Captain America 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Draw 5 (Marathon Man)
Agility: Captain America 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting Ability: Captain America 6 (Warrior)
Energy Powers: Guile 3 (Explosives)

The Hook...
If you're an avid follower of the Fantasy Fights then you're already well aware that we're matching characters up not only by theme, but also by some comparable fighting level - something the now classic Capcom/Marvel games failed to. Well, that's not entirely true, and for the first time we're looking at a battle that actually might have occurred in one of your gaming sessions!

It doesn't take a genius to recognise that these characters are the two All-American soldiers of their respective universes. Each stands for truth, justice, and the American way, and does it with stern dedication, and a skilled fist.

GUILE delivers some justice to BIRDIE in the pages of UDON's STREET FIGHTER #1!On the surface, a guy who can do an offensive sommersault kick, and shoot sonic boom energy attacks is going to look like the favourite -- but then you put that into context. Typically fiction outside the arcade puts some limitation on the extent by which a ki/energy attack is used. In the reality of a story, the likelihood (and creative merit) of an endless stream of sonic booms designed to lure the opponent in for a flash kick, just doesn't ring true.

Captain America - recipient of the one and only super-soldier serum - is in peak human physical condition. He's a sharp thinker with a penchant for military strategy, an undying spirit when it comes to the fight, and he's a lot tougher than a guy in blue jim-jams looks!

He's man-plus, which sadly trumps Guile's impressive, but ultimately human status.

The Math: Captain America Ranking: Captain America (#6)

The Battle...
As has been the case through most of the week, I'm running late and running on empty, so we'll try to keep this brief. Actually, notice how every time I say that, my sentences go much longer and wordier than they need to? Go-figure!

Wordy sentences aren't going to be an issue when Guile and Cap face off.
There might be a little bit of a macho military exchange, but any exhibited friendly rivalry is going to come second to each soldier sizing the other one up.

Cap's shield is just for show, and I've got to think it's an indication of his likelihood to be one the defense early on. The shield, plus his own maneuverability and hand-to-hand defenses, are going to be at the ready to let the offensive Guile break the ice. And break the ice he will!

GUILE flexes those trademark muscles, laying the pain on BIRDIE in STREET FIGHTER #1!Guile might not be a super-soldier, but he's packing some hard earned muscle, and a ppi rating off the charts. He's going to lead with a lot of the moves we know from the games. Wide punches are the order of the day, with a gradual design to move inward with a lot of boxing style jabs with the big picture being a suplex, or maybe even the dreaded sommersault spectacular!

Cap's gonna be glad to take it, and slip his own contributions in wherever he can, but for the most part this is fact-finding. Captain America's a solid fighter, but BARON ZEMO tastes the bitter edge of CAPTAIN AMERICA's shield: Seen in CAPTAIN AMERICA #6!he's probably going to look for some space to move in and out of the fight taking full advantage of his superhuman stamina and impressive speed.

Captain America's not going to be delicate.
The shield's going to come into the equation when, unable to find comfort in grappling, Guile will reach for the sonic boom. The attack will no doubt rattle Cap, but the shield'll absorb most of it, and allow him the perfect opportunity for retort when Guile has a momentary opening after the blast.

If he manages to dodge the shield the first time, and on the return, he gets put down by an old fashioned slamming, because all those who chose to oppose Cap's shield must yield!

The Hammer...
Well, how do you feel War Mongers? Did we get it right?
On the back of Elektra's fantasy win [v Chun-Li], Marvel take the lead over the Capcom fighters, reflecting the current standing in the poll! You've only got a few more days to make your voice heard, so if you're psycho for Street Fighter, get the word out and bring the vote to the menu [top right]!

Like we've mentioned for previous participants in the Fantasy Fights, there's big things coming for these two. I'm sure I don't need to tell you about Street Fighter IV, the eagerly anticipated sequel to the franchise that's spanned three decades!
Thus far there's no news on Guile, but as one of the icons of the franchise, many are putting the safe money on the American joining the SFII inspired cast.

Over on the Marvel side of the fence, Cap's looking at anything but a resurrection. At some point Alex Ross will unleash his Invaders time travel caper when the 1940's heroes of the Second World War find themselves displaced in a world where Captain America is dead, and the heroes' relationship with violence has changed dramatically post Civil War, and the deaths of several heroes.

Before that, a new star-spangled hero will be in town when Bucky Barnes, Cap's WWII sidekick, inherits the role he had grown to hate during his years as a secretive Russian controlled assasin. How the hero's former protege will react, should he encounter the vintage Cap, should be one of the most interesting interactions to be seen from the time displaced Captain, Namor, and Toro.

That about wraps it up!
Stay tuned tomorrow for the second-to-last of our Capcom/Marvel Fantasy Fights [gee, I wonder who'll win this one...], and then hold on tight for a special seventh bonus round on the 31st as we close out the first month of Season 2008 with our second bout of Fantasy Fights! Cheers!

2 versus 3

Friday, January 25, 2008

"Revelation" (Marvel)
Annihilation #4 When: January 2007
Why: Keith Giffen How: Andrea Divito

The story so far...
When the expansion of our universe comes to impede on the dimensional space of the anti-matter universe called The Negative Zone; Annihilus, it's mighty ruler, marches an army of insectoid creatures in an act of war, thus beginning the path of the Annihilation Wave.

The Wave moves through the universe punishing both the ill-prepared, and those unwilling to pool their forces. Skrull, Kree, Nova Corps, and many other groups, are left decimated, leaving certain key figures from all to rally their forces in an unlikely alliance for the greater good of the entire universe.

Thanos, having allied himself with the destructive Annihilation Wave, sets about facilitating the creation of a weapon designed to imprison and harness the energies of the cosmic world devourer, Galactus. Fortunately, Drax is among the warriors pledged to the resistance, all too ready to fullfil his destiny of destroying Thanos. Great news for the good guys, until Thanos has a change of heart, and quickly goes from harbinger to saviour... Uh oh!

Tale of the Tape...
ARTWORK: Andrea DivitoARTWORK: George PĂ©rezStrength: Draw 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Thanos 5 (Professor)
Speed: Drax 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Thanos 7 (Unstoppable)
Agility: Drax 2 (Acrobat)
Fighting Ability: Drax 7 (Born Fighter)
Energy Powers: Thanos 6 (Mass Destruction)

- During secret observation of Earth, Thanos murders a family who have the misfortune of witnessing his ship's presence over the desert. Unable to tolerate the threat Thanos poses to life in the universe, his father, Mentor, summons the astral essence of the murdered man, Arthur Douglas, and has it grafted to the artificial humanoid that would come to be known as, Drax the Destroyer.

Drax lacks the memories of his human spirit, but carries the passion in his designated mission to destroy Thanos at all cost. This pledge brings him into conflict with the mad Titan many times, and even results in temporary death.

These resurrections result in physiological changes in Drax, who typically possesses superhuman strength and durability, flight, energy blasts, and extreme survival capabilities. In the past Drax' physical powers have been balanced by a severely diminished intellect, but more recently he possesses a warrior's instinct, and a penchant for knife fighting.

- His birth on Saturn's moon would come to earn him the monicker of The Mad Titan, but the universe at large Thanos would have no anonymity.
Born with a genetic anomaly that altered his appearance considerably from his fellow Eternals, Thanos grows distant and eventually comes to obssess over death, both figuratively, and as an abstract entity living in the universe.

Thanos embarks on a lifelong quest to prove his love to Lady Death, and is distracted from his pursuits only by attempts to amass further power.
His abilities, inherent and asumed, include; superhuman strength, invulnerability, cosmic energy projection, knowledge of advanced alien sciences, and other.
As a result of his relationship with Death, Thanos is denied passage to the after-life, ultimately making him unstoppable.

The Math: Thanos Ranking: Thanos (#72)

What Went Down...
Having battled his way through the insectoid hordes of the Annihilation Wave, Drax becomes possessed by his mission to destroy Thanos. All to aware of the situation, the Mad Titan compells Drax' 'daughter', Moondragon, to defend him while he dismantles the machine designed to harness Galactus.

Moondragon uses both her psionic powers and an empassioned plea to break through the rage that grips Drax. Both prove ineffective, the green skinned powerhouse tossing one of his newly adopted daggers to incapacitate his daughter with a non-lethal strike of the handle.

Thanos, far from intimidated, asks only for moment long enough to work his way through the processes to dismantle the Galactus bomb. Alas, much like the pleas made by Moondragon, word of the greater good falls on deaf ears.

Drax eminates a green energy as he feverishly stabs and claws at the purple energy shield erected by Thanos. The Titan does his best to continue with the task at hand, despite the imminence of Drax' tearing attacks, but a distant glimpse of a familiar figure is all too informative.

Before it even happens, Thanos calmly recognises his fate, and makes peace with it. After a lifetime at arms length, Death has finally arrived to welcome Thanos in his moment of noble sacrifice. Drax completes his mission, and in doing so, condemns the universe to destruction. Thanos is dead.

ARTWORK: Andrea DivitoThe Hammer...
Well, well! In his timely debut appearance on the Infinite Wars, Drax picks himself up a tidy victory over Thanos, and Moondragon!
You'll note the chaos mite, Skreet, is present on Thanos' shoulder throughout the entire confrontation, but at no point enters into the conflict. So, if you spot that tag but can't figure out why, you need to come back and read this, thus negating this order.

In the last shipping list [January 23] the Annihilation Conquest and a brand new Guardians of the Galaxy series were raised, which made this the perfect opportunity to go back and take a look at one of the overlooked crossovers of 2007! Like so many others, it seems we spent so much time on Civil War and Infinite Crisis, Annihilation got completely skimmed over! So, here we are!

It seems there's been something of a cosmic revival on both sides of the 'big two' fence. We closed the year catching up with the events of the Sinestro Corps War, which was the Annihilation-esque extension of the return of Hal Jordan, and the development of a whole new era for the Green Lantern franchise.

I suppose you could say there was a time when cosmic adventures held the same kind of weight as today's urban military fare. The various Infinity sagas famously pit characters as street level as Captain America against the likes of Thanos in what might have been the cosmic crossover taken to it's most absurd level, but thankfully, the Annihilation-revival hasn't been nearly as milque toast [as great as the Infinity Gauntlet and it's related stories were, at the time].

It's somewhat fitting that we acquaint ourselves with the latest of Marvel's cosmic offerings through Drax, because it's with that character that we got the first glimpses of the revival. Though not contrived to be so, a four-issue Drax mini-series pitched and penned by Keith Giffen, proved to be the progenitor of this expansion of the cosmic properties. It's here that you'll find the back story that explains Drax as he is at this point; a far cry from the more familiar purple caped Hulk-like oaf of the 1990's.

Prior to the core mini-series, [of which we are reviewing an issue], a collection of four issue precursors introduced some of the familiar B-list majors of the cosmic roster, and set-up events like the eventual capture of Galactus, and his story throughout the earliest days of the Annihilation Wave. This was told in perhaps the most prominent of the series, Annihilation: Silver Surfer, which also brought the chrome crime-fighter back into servitude of his former master.

Other series featured Super-Skrull, struggling with the Wave in the field, as well as uncooperative Skrulls, and his own struggles with his fleeting status in the Skrull empire. Ronan and Nova filled out the remaining spotlights, which eventually led to a new on-going series for the Centurion survivor.

Being a fan of a lot of these characters, I joined the many other eager fans in lapping this stuff up. In a vaguely ironic way, the thing that probably made this cosmic reneissance so palatable was it's attention to so many characters. The story arcs in a manner familiar to traditional crossovers, but manages to do so mostly isolated from unnecessary tangents and tie-ins.

I'm not exactly a big sci-fi guy.
As much as it is a powerful tool in fiction, if you start to reach Star Trek levels of attention to reality, I'm going to start to get my hackles up. Maybe it's all that sport I've played, but something about that in a science fiction context just has a way of getting out of hand, and I don't like it one bit. Fortunatelly, for the time being at least, the cosmic characters have managed to exist in a reality that has allowed traditional superhero segregation, with versimilitude implied more than it is overtly enacted.

If I had one complaint, it would be a common and trivial one.
Actually, I think it's potentially a great solution to the problem, which if I get around to just saying it, is frivilous death and resurrection.

Somehow Annihilation manages to hold on to a very grim wartorn atmosphere, even though many of it's key players not only have a history of coming back from the dead, but even do so in these very pages! In the cosmic arena, it's almost reasonable to see this as a bold acceptance of this ebbing flow of life and death at this level, but on the other hand, like any other comic, it just cheapens the threat and leaves a bitter taste.

Despite this, there's almost a sense of finality to the unlikely death of Thanos, and I think I'd almost like to see him remain as he's seen in a later issue of Annihilation, standing in accompaniment to "Mistress Death". If pushing the character to rare cameos can be accepted, I'd love to see Thanos be part of that infamous pantheon of cosmic deities and forces that made a lot of this stuff so memorable, for good and bad reasons.

With Conquest I've fallen behind, and honestly, I think we're seeing the perilous pitfalls of the cosmic corner of the Marvel Universe. After the construction of the Annihilation Wave, the return of the Phalanx while brilliant, feels almost too contrived. As wrong as it seems to say it, I almost want to see a couple of on-going series (like Nova) indulge more in the cosmic superheroing of it all, before delving back into the depths of a gritty minute-by-minute battle. Then again, that's more of a personal preference, and I'm not sure I could fault them for it.
At the very least, I think I'd have to be reading Conquest to pick at it and it's more obscure (but pushed) heroes. [Marvel: Review comps welcome!]

Guardians may just serve up what I'm looking for, but for now, the conceptual rebuilding process continues!

And hey, speaking of cosmic fisticuffs, once you've been through the [updated] Infinite Wars Issue Index, you can find yourself a whole other universe of punching, kicking, and screaming thanks to the cosmic force of nature that is: Bahlactus' Friday Night Fights! Are you ready for the Prize-Fight Knockout?!

The Fight: 4.5 The Issue: 4.5

Things get a little heavy at times, but I imagine Annihilaton reads great in a single sitting! The Annihilation mini is collected in the third Annihilation Trade Collection, with the many other related pieces of reading included in books one, and two.

You can pick all of the trades up thanks to Amazon!
By using links found on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths, you not only find a great price, but help fund future entries of your favourite form of fist flying fight clubbery! Mmm, kick-backs!