Monday, December 29, 2008

2007 Fantasy Battles:
Captain Marvel Jr vs Hercules
Catwoman vs Tigra
Aquaman vs Sub-Mariner
Booster Gold vs Mar-Vell
Green Arrow vs Hawkeye
Nightwing vs Moon Knight
Wonder Woman vs Ms. Marvel
J'onn J'onnz vs Professor X
Green Lantern vs Nova
Mr. Terrific vs Iron Man
Black Adam vs Hulk
Red Hood vs Winter Soldier
Green Lantern vs Silver Surfer
Batman vs Daredevil
Superman vs Sentry
Most comics sites and blogs spend some amount of time looking back at the year in review, but here on the Infinite Wars, we like to do things a little bit different. Combining the always sought-after practise of fantasy fights with a year-end retrospective, we take a look back through 2008 by drawing parallels between the major events and characters of the two major companies and pit them against each other!

2007 produced some memorable fantasy pairings, but as always, some of the close encounters left room for doubt. Thus, in 2008 the Infinite Wars changed the game, handing control over the final results to you!

Any dramatic contrivances have been completely stripped from the results this year, leaving each duo to face each other in a pure scenario of superiority. How that superiority has been determined can only be explained by those few who voted, but we would assume a combination of fighting ability and excellence in stories, contributed.

Defining the movements of DC and Marvel in 2008 were two key events: Final Crisis (DC) and Secret Invasion (Marvel). Both feature prominently throughout the many thematics that combine pairs of characters.

There were twenty-one polls. The final ten will be posted at the end of the year, but for now, soak up the first ten winners as determined by you! Each result also provides the last shot at bonus points for the 2008 Fantasy League teams.

[NR] :2008

2008: [NR]
Politicized Nationalists...
Strength: Draw 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Capt. Britain 5 (Professor)
Speed: Capt. Britain 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Draw 6 (Generator)
Agility: Capt. Britain 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting: Draw 4 (Trained)
Energy: Rocket Red 4 (Arsenal)

The Math: Captain Britain

The Year in Review...
While the two major events gripped each respective universe, the true battle was fought beyond the frontlines manned by just the major superheroes. Two organizations vital to both universes, Checkmate and MI:13, respectively.

The Russian government supported the admission of current Rocket Red #1, Captain Maks Chazov, into the International intelligence agency. Unfortunately, this Captain was much less fortunate in his universe's struggle, succumbing to the Anti-Life Equation that claimed much of the DC Universe.

On the flipside, Captain Britain, who also suffered defeat (death, actually) in the service of MI:13, proved far more successful in his violent battle against the invading forces of the Skrulls.

Both represent their nations in the deepest way possible, but when it came to the vote, your faith was put in one of the most powerful mystic forces in the Marvel Universe. I'm not sure I can blame you given the raw magic powers that fuel Captain Britain -- a source traditionally more reliable than metals.

Winner: Captain Britain (100%)

[NR] :2008
[#98] :RANKING

2008: [#207]
RANKING: [#255]
Duplicitous Crackshots...
Strength: Bullseye 3 (Athlete)
Intelligence: Draw 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Draw 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Draw 3 (Strong Willed)
Agility: Bullseye 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting: Bullseye 4 (Trained)
Energy: Bullseye 4 (Arsenal)

The Math: Bullseye

The Year in Review...
Deadshot might be best known for his cavalier career as a mercenary, but over the years he seems to have developed a select few associations. At the beginning of 2008 he held tenure with the Suicide Squad, but when the villains of the DCU were sent the hell planet, Salvation, those ties were officially severed, allowing Deadshot to commit more specifically to the Secret Six.

Across the Bleed, the situation wasn't quite as amicable for Bullseye.
The divide caused by the superhero Civil War gave many villains the chance to become part of the payroll for a government funded initiative that demanded every available superpower be catalogued, trained, and potentially enlisted, no matter how crooked. Few personalities represent how far the new administration was willing to go in it's pursuit of unregistered heroes, than Bullseye.

The Kingpin's former assassin is kept out of the limelight cast on Norman Osborn's Thunderbolts, kept for special emergencys. This clandestine operation and distrust is not too dissimilar to Deadshot's tenure with the Suicide Squad, and the ultimate betrayal by Amanda Waller makes for a vague analogue to Bullseye's predicament as internal conflict rips at the T-bolts.

When it came to making your choice of deadly never-miss assassin, you felt it was the Marvel hitman who had the deadlier aim. Given Bullseye's ability to adapt nearly anything into a deadly accurate killing tool, I'm inclined to agree, even if it's only a split-end that seperates the two. There's also a sense that, in practise, Bullseye might just be more accustomed to the hard fights.

Winner: Bullseye (83%)

[#317] :2008
[#306] :RANKING

2008: [#6]
RANKING: [#32]
Undercover Alien Shape-Shifters...
Strength: Draw 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Draw 4 (Tactician)
Speed: M. Manhunter 5 (Superhuman)
Stamina: Super-Skrull 6 (Generator)
Agility: Super-Skrull 6 (Rubber)
Fighting: Super-Skrull 6 (Warrior)
Energy: Super-Skrull 6 (UWMD)

The Math: Super-Skrull

The Year in Review...
The two shape-shifting green-skins spent much of the year dealing with armies at home, and abroad. Martian Manhunter began his year on Salvation, disguised as the new Blockbuster, to infiltrate and monitor the villains imprisoned. When he was ratted out by Catwoman, the situation became dire, but the Martian survived. He wasn't so lucky, however, when the newest version of The Society, led by Libra, came looking for a little bit of payback at the start of Final Crisis. In an effort to prove his might to the other villains, Libra led an assault on the Martian Manhunter in an effort to bring about the dream of Human Flame -- a mort of a villain, regularly embarassed by the Martian. They succeeded in killing him.

Disgraced by his many defeats, Kl'rt, the original Super-Skrull, was shunned by his people long ago. Exiled, he has become a masterless warrior walking the line between intergalactic villain, and hero. Super-Skrull began his year alongside Nova and the Guardians of the Galaxy in their struggle against the mounting offense of the Phalanx! War and Nova was a combination that again brought Kl'rt out of the shadows, this time undercover with the new breed of super-powered Skrulls plotting to invade Earth. His allegiance proved difficult to follow, but in the end, his guile and might proved too much for his juniors.

Martian Manhunter's weakness is a famous one, and was a vital condition to making him an easy target for Libra and the other villains. Unfortunately, that simple fear/weakness is fire - an element Super-Skrull wields as part of his imitative Human Torch powers. Ergo, this is one of the more clear-cut scenarios in a conventional Fantasy Fight set-up. That said, sentimentality probably kept your vote quite close on this one.

Winner: Super-Skrull (60%)

[NR] :2008

2008: [#375]
RANKING: [#312]
Movie Maniacs...
Strength: Draw 2 (Average)
Intelligence: Joker 5 (Professor)
Speed: Draw 2 (Average)
Stamina: Joker 5 (Marathon)
Agility: Joker 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting: Draw 3 (Street Wise)
Energy: Jigsaw 4 (Arsenal)

The Math: Joker

The Year in Review...
2008 was defined by comic book events, but certainly on the Infinite Wars, it was also largely about some of the most anticipated feature films in recent years. Alright, so maybe Punisher: War Zone wasn't one of those, and turned out to be a substantial stinker in the eyes of most intelligent humans, but there's a point to be made. Each of these villains burst onto the screen as disfigured maniacs with a grudge against their damaged vigilante counterparts -- Batman and Punisher. In their own ways, they were each reactions to the "hero."

Reestablished as one of the world's leading pop culture icons, it's little wonder the Joker emerged here the victor. Jigsaw didn't have the penetration I thought he might, but in the end it's irrelevant. In a Fantasy Fight scenario, we too would be forced to hand it to the Joker, if for no other reason that both are well known punching bags, but Joker has a knack for weasling out of these things a bit less bloodied. Not like Jigsaw, who only seems to add to his scars, even if he is one of the few lucky villains to survive battle with Frank Castle.

Winner: Joker (85%)

[#57] :2008
[#44] :RANKING

2008: [NR]
RANKING: [#54]
Resurrected Sidekicks...
Strength: Winter Soldier 3 (Athlete)
Intelligence: Draw 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Draw 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Capt. America 5 (Marathon)
Agility: Red Hood 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting: Red Hood 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy: Capt. America 3 (Explosives)

The Math: Draw

The Year in Review...
Since their shock 2005 resurrections, the two famous Golden Age sidekicks have been conflicting measures of interest. Granted; since Bucky's transformation into Captain America's successor, a distance has formed between the two characters, but that underlying comparison is still there. In fact, in early 2009, Jason Todd will have a chance at a similar ascension in Battle for the Cowl -- a post RIP competition seemingly pitting Bat allies and villains against one and other to take up the vacant mantle of Batman.

Todd nearly had a comparable experience during Countdown, when, in a parallel universe, he encountered a Batman who had hoped to see Todd ascend to the role of "Red Robin." After the reality altering events, Todd chose to throwaway the tribute, resuming his career quietly as the lethal vigilante, Red Hood.

A little less confident than his Marvel counterpart -- Bucky stepped into the red, white, and blue boots of his mentor with problems. While he seems on the fast track to acceptance with fellow heroes (likely to join the New Avengers in '09), Bucky has still had some teething problems. He's still thinking in the old ways and maybe hasn't yet grown fully into the larger-than-life role. He is a much more fallable personality than Steve Rogers ever was, recently taking his licks from Batroc, of all people.

From the split, the Infinite Wars stood pretty firmly behind Jason Todd as the preference of the two. That said, in our 2007 Fantasy Fights, we saw fit to hand victory to Bucky Barnes. Interested to see what a public rematch might do, I turned this oh-so close battle over to you, and you felt, at least this year, that Jason Todd emerged the superior.

The battles could be so close, I'm pretty happy either way, but I wonder if a bit of a DC bias might have influenced this particular result. It's no secret that the Infinite Wars has been far more impressed with DC's approach in 2008, and became particularly despondent with Ed Brubaker's work on Captain America.
It is surely a subject I hope to revisit sometime in 2009, among others.

Winner: Red Hood (71%)

[NR] :2008
[#176] :RANKING

2008: [NR]
Organized Villain Lords...
Strength: Draw 2 (Average)
Intelligence: Libra 6 (Genius)
Speed: The Hood 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Libra 5 (Marathon)
Agility: The Hood 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting: The Hood 3 (Street Wise)
Energy: Libra 6 (UWMD)

The Math: Libra

The Year in Review...
As part of his scheme to manipulate the multiverse, Alexander Luthor Jr consolidated the villains of the DCU as an almost impenetrable union. For the most part, The Society has remained in tact ever since, putting most villains on good terms, even if not regular association. When Libra emerges with powers seemingly beyond comprehension, he proposes his candidacy for leadership, quickly convincing all but the alpha-minds, whom he tempts with the promise of their wildest dreams -- ie; the death of Martian Manhunter and an emotional ambush that preoccupies Superman.

With similarly mysterious (demonic) powers and a hood-centric fashion sense, The Hood continued a comparable drive to unite the Marvel universe villains under his rule as "Kingpin" of supervillains. His pledge came in the form of the brutal bashing of Tigra at the end of 2007, and has continued quietly behind the Skrull Invasion, leading to his membership in a secret Dark Illuminati with other major powers of the Marvel Universe.

Their ascension and scope has been quite similar, but defining Libra's powers has, as yet, been almost impossible. He claims the will of the fallen New Gods, bringing with him the plague of the Anti-Life Equation which successfully enslaves almost all who oppose he and his Society. Once, he was merely capable of pale imitations of his enemies' powers, but after becoming one with the universe, it seems Libra is much, much more. So much more, he was even able to resist and bedevil the vengeful Spectre! This scope puts him in a league far above the twin pistols and less impressive demon-juju of The Hood.

Winner: Libra (100%)

[NR] :2008

2008: [#225]
RANKING: [#432]
Personal Vendettas...
Strength: Hush 3 (Athlete)
Intelligence: Hush 5 (Professor)
Speed: Hush 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Draw 3 (Strong Willed)
Agility: Hush 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting: Draw 4 (Trained Fighter)
Energy: Draw 3 (Explosives)

The Math: Hush

The Year in Review...
For Batman and Daredevil, personal vendettas led to dark affairs of the heart as two of their most zealous enemies waged war on them in 2008, costing not only themselves, but also their loved ones, dearly.

The bitter and twisted surgeon, Thomas Elliot, returned in his Hush persona to renew his rivalry with Batman in tangential RIP tie-ins. Hush's strategy included ambushing the woman close to Batman's dark heart - Catwoman - in a plot to combine his surgical skills with the advanced stasis technology developed by Mr. Freeze, to keep Selina Kyle alive while removing her heart from her body.

Larry Cranston, a lawyer by trade, returned to Daredevil's life with a similarly pointed approach. Mr. Fear reemployed old minions, The Enforcers, in an effort to trouble a Daredevil already struggling with the chaos brought by spillover from The Hood's uniting of villains. The fear inducing villain targetted Matt Murdock's wife, Milla Donovan, who was driven irreversibly insane by his toxin.

Villains like Mr. Fear always propose an interesting X-factor not covered by our tape measure. While Elliot's training has brought him up to a level to rival Batman, his emotional baggage exposes him to the potential of Mr. Fear's aura. Although, on the same token, given his association with Scarecrow, one wonders if Hush would still be susceptible. It's an interesting question, but one I probably would've been inclined to answer the same as the narrow majority.

Winner: Hush (60%)

[NR] :2008
[#673] :RANKING

2008: [#373]
RANKING: [#310]
Feline Freedom Fighters...
Strength: Cheetah 4 (Enhanced)
Intelligence: Draw 2 (Average)
Speed: Cheetah 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Draw 3 (Strong Willed)
Agility: Draw 5 (Cat-like)
Fighting: Draw 3 (Street Wise)
Energy: Draw 1 (None)

The Math: Cheetah

The Year in Review...
2007 was a bad year for Tigra, but in 2008, the characters was redeemed.
After suffering the beat-down heard across the world [New Avengers #35], Tigra had an opportunity to quickly strike back at those that wronged her, using their arrogant assumptions against them to launch an ambush when they came looking for the headquarters location of the Secret Avengers. Since, Tigra has acted as both a member of the newly formed Lady Liberators, and stood on the frontlines of alien invasion as a member of the Avengers Initiative -- possibly becoming impregnated by a Skrull posing as Hank Pym!

Though traditionally a villainness; Cheetah turned her back on Libra and the newest incarnation of The Society, upon returning from Salvation. Her fenine wiles give her a rare edge in a world dominated by those who have succumed to the Anti-Life Equation. Only when she encounters one of the other rebels - a teleporting Snapper Carr - does she become vulnerable (while getting a little sum'n-sum'n on the side, just like Tigra!)

Tigra ain't the hero she used to be, but the support rallied by fans (and pseudo-feminists) clearly made an impact, because she found some level of awkward redemption in the pages of New Avengers. I'm not sure I rate her quite as high as Cheetah on the feline-powers scale, but the argument is certainly starting to swing back to a respectable level. Something certain fans will be pleased with, I'm sure.

Winner: Cheetah (66%)

[#349] :2008
[#36] :RANKING

2008: [NR]
Tournament Champions...
Strength: Iron Fist 3 (Athlete)
Intelligence: Iron Fist 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Iron Fist 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Draw 4 (Athelte)
Agility: Iron Fist 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting: Iron Fist 6 (Warrior)
Energy: Static 5 (Lasers)

The Math: Iron Fist

The Year in Review...
Admittedly, I'm calling this one a little bit soon, but I found myself so enthusiastic about the integration of the Milestone heroes into the DCU, it seemed easier to rationalize the Dark Side Club's secret champion, than maneuvering through some sort of tangential tournament connection from DC's involvement in Mortal Kombat versus DC Universe.

Iron Fist has been one of the real breakout characters of the past few years at Marvel. With Ed Brubaker (and then Matt Fraction) parting ways with the property fairly quickly, I've felt Iron Fist has managed to keep an energy about it, that now continues under a new creative team enfusing it with something a little bit more contemporary. As a ham for superheroes and martial arts tournaments, I thoroughly enjoyed The Seven Capital Cities of Heaven, and very nearly slotted Steel Phoenix into this spot.

It's really hard to say what to expect from Static in the DCU, but fans of the cartoon (Static Shock) should be among the excited. I wonder if perhaps it was those people, less familiar with the comics, that voted Static our winner.
Personally, I'd be inclined to favour Iron Fist's high level fighting skills and experience in combat, but that's me.

Hopefully we'll see big things from Static in particular in 2009, and the continuing maintenance of one of Marvel's great underrated characters. Of the two, it seems Iron Fist is probably the one more likely to suffer, but with major releases like Street Fighter IV on the way, maybe there's still hope for a kung fu comic.

Winner: Static (66%)

[NR] :2008
[#76] :RANKING

2008: [#39]
RANKING: [#23]
Undercover Agents...
Strength: Hellcat 3 (Athlete)
Intelligence: Draw 3 (Straight A)
Speed: Draw 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Draw 4 (Athlete)
Agility: Draw 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting: Catwoman 4 (Martial Artist)
Energy: Hellcat (Projectile)

The Math: Hellcat

The Year in Review...
Hellcat found herself stationed in Alaska as an under recognised member within the post-Civil War Initiative, not seen as a viable candidate for the last shot at the Defenders, despite Nighthawk's personal request. I guess acting as the lone hero in Alaska isn't exactly "undercover" work, but she's a cat-themed agent (of SHIELD), just the same.

Catwoman's work as a double-agent in 2008 proved a little more catty.
The anti-heroine continued to walk a tightrope between hero and villain, involving herself with dual cause in the Amazon Attack, and falling into a similar trap of survival whilst stranded on the planet Salvation. Grudges with other villains, like Cheetah, forced her into a varying morality that included revealing the identity of Martian Manhunter, who was living among them disguised as Blockbuster!

Like last year's battle with Tigra, this is probably more about pitting two ferocious feline fighters against each other to see who comes out on top.
Perhaps out of dominance or sentimentality, Catwoman reigns supreme, even if I think Hellcat might give her a bit of a run for her money!

Winner: Catwoman (60%)

[#347] :2008
[#307] :RANKING

2008: [#34]
RANKING: [#28]
Mob Trouble...
Strength: Nightwing 3 (Athlete)
Intelligence: Punisher 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Nightwing 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Draw 4 (Athlete)
Agility: Nightwing 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting: Nightwing 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy: Punisher 4 (Arsenal)

The Math: Nightwing

The Year in Review...
Once upon a time he was the bell-toed sidekick to the Dark Knight of Gotham, but it's been a long time since Dick Grayson played junior detective as Robin!
Struggling to escape his former identity and role as second-fiddle to an infinitely more prominent mentor, Nightwing steps into the spotlight with the apparent disappearance of Batman as a result of "RIP" and/or Final Crisis. In fact, Grayson seems the most likely heir to the mantle cum Battle for the Cowl, with various reiterations coming from the now cancelled Nightwing series, which included; meetings with super-powered peers who've known him much of his life (ie; Superman), and a fierce battle with Two-Face. Nightwing also had the grim responsibility of being the first hero to discover the corpse of Martian Manhunter.

Punisher, though motivated by similar circumstances, can never be the hero Batman is. As much as the Dark Knight dwells in the shadows, Frank Castle is a man almost truly alone in his obsessive crusade against crime. Every bit as uncompromising, but focused lower than Batman, the Punisher exists in a tier below, which makes him a strange sort of benchmark for Nightwing to surpass.

With his acrobatic prowess and fighting skills, you felt he could certainly outfight Punisher, regardless of his stature as a hero. In an individual context, he probably already outranks Punisher, but in the vast expanse of the DCU, there's still that stigma of Robin attached to him. It will be interesting to watch how Nightwing develops in 2009.

Winner: Nightwing (100%)

Thus, we conclude the first half of our 2008 year-in-review Fantasy Fights!
Stay tuned for the last few days dated December as we wrap up with the headliners of year! Cosmic villains, moral ambiguity, and self-made heroes!

It'll take a lot for the Marvel Universe to follow-up their 2007 victory, going in to the final ten with a five-win deficit! The results are already in - as per your votes - and they'll be revealed very soon. Stay tuned!

3 versus 8

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