Wednesday, December 31, 2008

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!

ARTWORK: Doug Mahnke2007 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!

If you missed it, be sure to track back to the first half of our year-end Fantasy Fights where DC gained the overall advantage with eight wins-to-three. Also included in the first half, links to last year's summary Fantasy Fights!

Defining the movements of DC and Marvel in 2008 were two key events: Final Crisis (DC) and Secret Invasion (Marvel). How have they shaped the fates of your favourite superheroes and villains? Let's see!...

[NR] :2008
[#162] :RANKING

2008: [#230]
RANKING: [#258]
Cosmic War Generals...
Strength: Ultron 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Ultron 5 (Professor)
Speed: Draw 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Ultron 6 (Generator)
Agility: Sinestro 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting: Sinestro 4 (Trained)
Energy: Sinestro 7 (Cosmic)

The Math: Draw

The Year in Review...
Spillover from 2007 brought with it a series of cosmic challenges for select characters from both companies!

DC played host to a major mini-event, the Sinestro Corps War! For the Green Lanterns, the threat of Sinestro and his yellow fear Corps threatened not only their existence, but also that of Earth and the entire DC multiverse!
Marvel had their own space crisis brewing in the former of the Annihilation Conquest event, which ushered in the return of another yellow menace, the technoarchy of the Phalanx! Worse still, the Phalanx had themselves their own figurehead to lead their assimilation of the universe -- Ultron!

Both events might have been overshadowed by larger promotion for Final Crisis and Secret Invasion, but at the beginning of 2008, their significance could not be debated. Particularly not for those keen to see the revival of cosmic superheroes!

Sensing something of a trend with DC-centric favortism, you, the voters, saw fit to declare Sinestro the victor in this encounter. I'd like to think their abilities (and armies) are different enough that multiple outcomes might occur from their meeting, but I'd probably tend to agree with your vote.

Winner: Sinestro (100%)

[#5] :2008

2008: [#159]
RANKING: [#304]
Government Contingency Pawns...
Strength: Hulk 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Lex Luthor 6 (Genius)
Speed: Hulk 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Hulk 6 (Generator)
Agility: Draw 2 (Average)
Fighting: Hulk 6 (Warrior)
Energy: Lex Luthor 4 (Arsenal)

The Math: Hulk

The Year in Review...
Oh, now we're getting our hands dirty!
Bouncing off of the Superman/Hulk rivalry, we spin the bottle to the man whose genius and technology has allowed him to go toe-to-toe with the Man of Steel! Why? Because during the year both Hulk and Luthor found themselves in similar predicaments!

New Krypton saw the release of thousands of Kryptonian supermen from the bottled city of Kandor, leaving them to influence the world however they please in the boundless realm of Earth! Powered by the yellow sun, those who would choose evil, such as the Zod fanatics, would become a dangerous threat! Thus, another release was made, this time of the incarcerated Lex Luthor, who is now to be used as a weapon against these would-be destroyers!

Flip the page to the Marvel Universe where a new rampaging red goliath has emerged and a post-WWH Bruce Banner is lying in a cell! Banner was released, revealing a new, less cagey incarnations of the Hulk, and used as a weapon against the Red Hulk -- or so it seemed. "Rulk" actually turned out to be the weapon, sponsored mysteriously by Thunderbolt Ross and Doc Samson. Who he is, remains unknown, but the need to stop him outweighed that of Hulk.

Despite the fact that Lex Luthor has been known to go head-to-head with Superman, and Hulk was previously defeated by Superman, you still saw fit to declare Hulk the winner. It was a suitably close vote, though, which seems to at least acknowledge Luthor's potential to herd the rampaging beast into bondage.

Winner: Hulk (57%)

[#367] :2008
[#696] :RANKING

2008: [#205]
RANKING: [#403]
Morally Ambiguous Manipulators...
Strength: Norman Osborn 4 (Enhanced)
Intelligence: Norman Osborn 5 (Professor)
Speed: Norman Osborn 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Norman Osborn 5 (Marathon)
Agility: Norman Osborn 2 (Acrobat)
Fighting: Amanda Waller 4 (Trained)
Energy: Norman Osborn 4 (Arsenal)

The Math: Norman Osborn

The Year in Review...
Here you have a pair of characters who have a power most of the superhuman counterparts can't even touch. Both Waller and Osborn have been in bed with a team of villains - the Suicide Squad and Thunderbolts - but both have managed to maneuver through events to hold significant political powers within their respective universes!

Norman Osborn's stock within the Marvel Universe has continued to rise since retiring his Green Goblin mask. Now he joins Dr. Doom, Sub-Mariner, The Hood, and several others in a secret cabal observing global events as a Dark Illuminati. More publicly, he's become the name in which the public trust, dethroning Tony Stark as Director of SHIELD, to become the new leading power in intelligence within the Marvel Universe. He was also in the right place to fire a decisive shot to secure victory against the Skrull Invasion!

Waller's year began with her stabbing her Suicide Squad underlings in the back, only to jettison them into space along with the other villains of the DCU, in Salvation Run. Her previous role as White Queen within Checkmate is comparable with the clout amassed by Osborn, and she maintains a similar power, even if her activities outside of the International organization saw her demoted.

Recently Waller was implanted with nanotechnology allowing her to control Chemo, but if push came to shove in an all-out one-on-one, I'd agree with the final outcome favouring a Goblin Osborn. If, however, the struggle between the two positioned them as Generals commanding their respective forces, I'm not sure it would be quite as clear a scenario.

Winner: Norman Osborn (57%)

[#323] :2008
[#58] :RANKING

2008: [NR]
Time Travellers...
Strength: Booster Gold 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Dr. Doom 6 (Genius)
Speed: Booster Gold 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Dr. Doom 6 (Generator)
Agility: Draw 2 (Average)
Fighting: Draw 3 (Street Wise)
Energy: Dr. Doom 5 (Lasers)

The Math: Dr. Doom

The Year in Review...
2008 has proved to be something of a coming of age for Booster Gold.
His journies through time have forced him to review certain ideals and pieces of his life in a different perspective, maturing a once egocentric personality. Now he has taken it upon himself to be something of a guardian of time, intervening when necessary to ensure the protection of the fluid, but fragile scope of history and existence.

Dr. Doom is smart enough to have a healthy respect for time and the, (at least for that accursed Richards), unpredictable laws of causality. When one of his secret weapons - a symbiote bomb - was detonated over New York City, it resulted in an inevitable clash between he and one of the most powerful men in the Marvel Universe - Iron Man. The resulting showdown accidentally threw the pair, along with the Sentry, into time.

Doom is no stranger to time travel. In another universe where they might co-exist the pair might meet, fight, or even work together, making this a fairly obvious clash of thematic peers. When it boils down to it, however, Dr. Doom is in a whole other stratusphere. The two suited opponents might find varying results in a fisticuff scrap, but no matter how much maturing Booster's done, he might still have a ways to go before

Winner: Dr. Doom (100%)

[#49] :2008
[#16] :RANKING

2008: [#227]
RANKING: [#14]
Warriors Without Kingdoms...
Strength: Black Adam 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Draw 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Black Adam 5 (Superhuman)
Stamina: Black Adam 6 (Generator)
Agility: Draw 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting: Black Adam 7 (Instinctive)
Energy: Black Adam 3 (Explosives)

The Math: Black Adam

The Year in Review...
The past few years for these old war horses have been tough. As it stands in 2008, they are each fiercely proud warrior-monarchs without a kingdom to rule over, or protect. Consequently, it seems their decisions will again make them hated by those heroic few they sometimes call allies.

Geoff Johns' well documented work with Black Adam has effectively elevated him to a status easily compared to, but far beyond, what Namor once was. While Adam becomes the fiery unstoppable force, Namor has become pacified in modern times, exhibiting a calmer wisdom in his old age. Both, however, have come into league with other forces that may once again lead them astray; Adam, for the love of the deceased Isis, and Namor, his lost Atlantean kingdom.

Both scenarios should make for an exciting year in 2009!

Sub-Mariner is sometimes overlooked as one of the most powerful men in the Marvel Universe, but the powers of Shazam dwarf even Namor's undying passion, posessing none of the weaknesses that sometimes ail the Atlantean mutant. It would surely be an epic fight of pointy-eared proportions, but for now, I'm inclined to agree once more with your votes.

Winner: Black Adam (100%)

[#193] :2008
[#305] :RANKING

2008: [#7]
RANKING: [#15]
One Against the Gods...
Strength: Wonder Woman 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Wonder Woman 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Wonder Woman 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Draw 5 (Marathon)
Agility: Draw 2 (Average)
Fighting: Wonder Woman 6 (Warrior)
Energy: Draw 1 (None)

The Math: Wonder Woman

The Year in Review...
Alright, from a publishing standpoint, they're actually polar opposites. She-Hulk recently suffered cancellation, while Wonder Woman is contractually obliged to remain in print so long as DC wish to do business with the brand. It might be a shame for Shulkamania, but as we observed last month, it's a fact of print life.

During the year, both powerful women stood against gods, of sort!
She-Hulk had the (bad) luck of the Irish as she delt with the likes of Bran the Blessed. Wonder Woman's gods of choice were those commanded by Mary Marvel and the descending influence of the New Gods! Her trials against the young Shazam brought Wonder Woman into forced membership with a new team of Female Furies under the control of the Anti-Life Equation (along with Giganta, Catwoman, and Batwoman). She-Hulk joined a team of her own, willingly forming a new quartet of Lady Liberators (with Thundra, Valkyrie, and others).

They are arguably the most powerful female identitys in their respective universes. Once again, I'm not inclined to make any kind of argument against the voting, largely agreeing with Wonder Woman's superiority against a less versatile opponent. We could get into a whole thing about how far She-Hulk's super-strength traditionally goes, but if you haven't noticed, I'm trying to finish...

Winner: Wonder Woman (80%)

[#37] :2008
[#88] :RANKING

2008: [#2]
Archetypal Heroes...
Strength: Draw 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Superman 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Draw 6 (Mach Speeds)
Stamina: Draw 6 (Generator)
Agility: Draw 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting: Draw 3 (Street Wise)
Energy: Sentry 7 (Cosmic)

The Math: Draw

The Year in Review...
Like Part 1's Todd/Barnes rematch; this was a fight I felt held enough relevance to weigh-up with your vote for a second time. Actually, in 2007, this was the only battle we held a vote on, but as results will suggest, things have changed!

The Sentry began as an imaginary character in 2000, allegedly discovered in archives as a lost Stan Lee creation from the Silver Age. A collection of mini-series revealed his secret (mis)adventures in the Marvel Universe which became part of the canon when the Sentry was fully introduced as part of the development of the original New Avengers team. Since, he's held questionable weight as Marvel's mentally fragile parable of the Man of Steel.

For some, the character still seems to represent an innocent idea of fun, but across the internet fans have called for Sentry's head. Whether it's the constant crying in battle, the iconic DC ideals he represents, or the misconception that he's somehow "too powerful" for Marvel: the character is just not well liked.

In 2007 one could say a Marvel bias existed within the site, but that balance has tipped well and truly in favour of DC amidst a 2008 filled with site reviews and praises for the company. That, combined with the afforemenioned growing unpopularity the character is experiencing, might have been what reversed last year's decision.

The boundaries of Sentry's abilities remain so ill defined, I'd struggle, as I did last year, to make any unimpeachable ruling, but I'd look to that mental instability as the breaking point of Sentry's argument. Few heroes represent an awe inspiring stature the scale of Superman, so in a Fantasy Fight, that's good enough for me.

I can't say I have any strong feelings one way, or the other, on whether or not the Sentry should be allowed to exist in Marvel Comics. As a fan of both brands and someone who considers himself something of a student of the medium, I can appreciate the potential of this analagous character in a world supposedly defined by it's human problems and mental frailties. The Sentry presents a discussion of differentiation, but I think, also, goes much farther than that, exploring more general ideas than the company ethic, or popular belief. Ideals that were well touched upon, I think, in a story like World War Hulk. Like Superman, I feel the Sentry has the capability to reflect different meaning upon different characters, but it remains to be seen whether or not fans will allow the character the space to reveal that. The hate is awfully loud!

Winner: Superman (75%)

[#43] :2008
[#289] :RANKING

2008: [#64]
RANKING: [#137]
Gods Against God-Killers...
Strength: Draw 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Orion 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Orion 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Orion 6 (Generator)
Agility: Hercules 2 (Average)
Fighting: Draw 6 (Warrior)
Energy: Orion 5 (Lasers)

The Math: Orion

The Year in Review...
For me, one of the greatest moments of 2008 was the fight to the death between Orion and Darkseid [Countdown #2]! Fitting, then, that Orion should be pitted against a character who starred in one of the most enjoyable series of '08!

Hercules was forced to contend with a variety of opponents this year as his series got down to some good old fashioned superhero slugfests! When Secret Invasion came to the pages of the series, it proved to be just another roadblock to be knocked down, this time pitting Herc' against the Skrull gods and their plot to erase the pantheons of Earth's gods!

Orion, as already mentioned, was forced to clash with his father in a supposed final battle. Theirs was not only a fight that began the Final Crisis, but was also the last page in the parallel epic of The Death of the New Gods. Orion's legacy has been one of mystery since his murder with the unique device of a time travelling bullet! Though far less successful than Hercules, the power than Orion represents was well documented in his victory over Darkseid. A victory that inadvertently unleashed doom upon humanity, but a victory, none the less.

Hercules is truly the prince of power, but his feats of strength are physical in nature. Orion represents a raw energy arguably beyond anything Hercules himself can produce. Fight bravely though he would, I'm not sure even Hercules' might could quell the rages of Orion.

Winner: Orion (70%)

[#238] :2008
[#24] :RANKING

2008: [#163]
RANKING: [#293]
Resurrected Gods on Earth...
Strength: Draw 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Darkseid 5 (Professor)
Speed: Thor 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Darkseid 7 (Unstoppable)
Agility: Draw 2 (Average)
Fighting: Thor 6 (Warrior)
Energy: Darkseid 6 (UWMD)

The Math: Darkseid

The Year in Review...
Rivalled only by the hype of the Joker [RE: The Dark Knight], I would have to say Darkseid has been the villain of 2008! His crossmedia exposure came from being part of the merged villain in Mortal Kombat versus DC Universe, but the real acclaim comes from the comics. Final Crisis, at it's heart, is a story about Darkseid, and those acting in his name, achieving the unthinkable: the destruction of Earth and the fall of the world's greatest superheroes.

The catalyst for Final Crisis: Darkseid's prophecized death at the hands of Orion, which sent him hurtling from the existential plane of New Gods, into the ether of the universe. His fall ruptured time and space, and began the reemergence of the darkest of the dead New Gods, as his agents on Earth. It was here that Darkseid himself was eventually reborn among us.

Thor too fell to a mythic prophecy several years ago.
He and his Norse gods were wiped out as the events of Ragnarok destroyed them and their heavenly realm of Asgard. Eventually, however, he too was reborn on the Earth, under far less grim circumstances. His mission has been one of reestablishing and discovering his Norse brethren, which has largely kept him away from the superhero spotlight, at least until Secret Invasion!

As two of comics' most amazing powers; a collision between Darkseid and Thor would truly be something to behold! In the heirarchy that defines so much of the fiction, it's undeniable that Darkseid sits somewhere above the likes of Thor, even though we've seen it possible for Superman, or even Batman, to engage Darkseid in mortal combat. With that in mind, I wouldn't call a clash between gods as trivial as a one-sided affair, but, from a hypothetical of ideals, Darkseid does seem the more likely victor.

Winner: Darkseid (66%)

[#3] :2008

2008: [#1]
Self-Made Movie Heavyweights...
Strength: Iron Man 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Draw 5 (Professor)
Speed: Batman 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Iron Man 6 (Generator)
Agility: Batman 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting: Batman 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy: Iron Man 5 (Lasers)

The Math: Iron Man

The Year in Review...
No two characters defined 2008 quite as much as Batman and Iron Man.

Sponsored largely by multi-million dollar feature films, the pair came to iconic prominence the world over, this year. Iron Man put forward a very positive idea of what was visually and conceptually possible in a modern superhero film, while The Dark Knight took that one step further, embodying the spirit of comics like no other movie, and racking up a host of records in it's wake -- including a Golden Globe award for Heath Ledger's supporting role as Joker!

In the comics, Iron Man spent most of the year in the most prominent role in the Marvel Universe. Bouncing off of his ascension in Civil War, he continued a career as Director of SHIELD, touching on every conceivable corner of the Marvel U!
Batman's prominence in the comics wasn't quite as obvious. His role in the major crossovers has been minimal in comparison to Iron Man's post-baring presence in Secret Invasion, but that's not to say the Dark Knight was quiet. RIP made headlines around the world for it's proposal that the Batman might have died! His true fate remains unknown, pending the conclusion of Final Crisis, which might yet ascend him to a higher level than ever before, or simply whisk him away to a dark corner from whence he may spring again.

Making this an even more perfect match-up: the comparable strengths of the characters are brilliant men who used their fortune to recreate themselves as self-made supermen. Neither had any inherent right to stand beside gods, but through their dedication a genius, they surpassed them.

Batman is traditionally regarded as the superhero who can beat them all, but I can only assume a series of events conspired to hand him this conclusive victory, not the least of which would be the success of his film. While Batman possesses a notable penchant for out-strategizing his opponents, Tony Stark isn't exactly a schlub. The Extremis tech might actually have made him more vulnerable to a Batman strategic assault, but to pander to the Fantasy Fight side of things, there's no way this would be a clean fight.

Winner: Batman (70%)

That concludes our slightly rushed review of the events (and characters) that defined 2008. This is also the last post for the Infinite Wars Season!

Many thanks to those of you who voted in the Fantasy Fights!
No doubt we'll be back to do it all again next year, hopefully with a few more voters, and maybe even readers. With any luck 2009 will run a bit more smoothly, but still produce some of the same fun we had in 2008!

Be sure to share any objections and/or opinions in the comments, and hey, why not tell a friend about your outrage, too? Cheers!

15 versus 6
(DC wins!)

No comments: