Thursday, January 01, 2009

MONTHLY PUNCH-UP #37 (January 2009)
Well -- that happened!

2008 was another big year for the Infinite Wars, and I believe, one of the biggest years for superhero comics in general. With all that has occurred in and around the industry, I do believe 2008 will be a year looked back upon for decades to come. A big part of that is undoubtedly the influence of franchise players like Iron Man and The Dark Knight; but I'm also thinking about the arrival of concepts that came to fruition in 2008. For Marvel, and particularly DC, it feels like a lot of things have really come together!

Admittedly, I'm thinking particularly of Final Crisis when I say that; which is a series I'm sure we'll talk more about in the new year. I'm using "new year" pretty loose here, given that we're still running with that ol' two-week deficit in the dating of entries. It's been a busy 2008, and as much as I'd like to run on time, I'd also like to be a bit busier with things like the more consistent practise of creating of comics. It's not like I'm getting paid for this blog stuff (hint hint).

After testing the waters in 2005; the Infinite Wars began to gestate in '06.
It was a chance to look at the idea of a comics discussion site revolving around the popular trend of superhero fisticuffs -- not something typically associated with intelligent conversation, or insight.

For much of that year we probably lived up to the assumption, spending brief posts inducting the usual suspects into a growing ranking system.
To be fair -- it was a period that gave us one of the more sought after entries in the Infinite Wars: DC vs Marvel/Marvel vs DC. The uncelebrated tenth anniversary of the intercompany crossover was certainly a driving force for finally acting on a very old idea. It was also one of the first opportunities to fullfil the hope to provide a concise and reliable source of information for interested fanboys. A resouce with slightly more inflection than the oft misleading Wikipedia.

In 2007 the process was refined as we learnt from the year before, added further to the competition/rankings aspect of the site, and looked a little closer at what the medium's characters represent. Which, in my estimation, led to an even better year in 2008, where we were really able to focus on providing information and discussing different ideas about various mediums including crossovers with film and video games; the latter of which became a big part of the site during the (slightly anti-climactic) countdown to Mortal Kombat versus DC Universe, and our interviews with those involved.

So, where does the site go in 2009; our fourth year?
An improved version of the same approach that makes the site unique, I hope.
It may even be time for the Infinite Wars to start to be more responsive to general news subjects that arise, branching out of framing every point around our traditional structure of fight/review, to cover popular topics. We shall see.

In establishing traditions for the site, January's proceedings will feature characters from the 2008 Year End Top Ten rankings, giving them, (and their opponents), first opportunity to enter Season 2009 at the top. This worked reasonably well in '08 and minimizes gimped Top Fives early in the year!
To find out who's on the overdue card, stay tuned for our year-end wrap-up, and brace yourself for a whole new year of superhero smackdown!

NA (-) The Home Team
#1 (+3) The Corps
#2 (-1) The People's Team
#3 (+5) The Ghost Walkers
#4 (-3) The Legends
#5 (-) Makin' it w/Cap'n
#6 (+6) The Revolution
#7 (-5) The X League
#8 (-2) The Black Death
#9 (-2) The DC Illuminati
#10 (new) Blackfish Lineup
#11 (-4) Divine Judgment
#12 (-2) The Knights of Right
#13 (-4) X-Party
#14 (-1) The Elite Fleet
2008 Fantasy League...
Well, this it folks! It was a fun experiment while it lasted, but as I'm sure those at the bottom of the ranks can attest, it was a deeply flawed one. Sorry about that.

The Corps take final round honors, stealing the final monthly round away from the year's dominator; Rokk. A team of Green Lanterns isn't such a crazy idea in the current landscape as Geoff Johns and his collaborators steer the property toward what might be justly described as the greatest era of the Green Lantern books!

As one of the few thematicaly unified Fantasy League teams, the Corps will live-on in 2009 as we subject a catalogue of in-fiction teams to the erratic wiles of the Infinite Wars Fantasy League. It's my assumption that fictional characters will be less miffed by monthly crushing defeats. Unfortunately, without some kind of sponsor, it just isn't feasible to adequately reflect the week's comics.

#1 The People's Team
#2 The Corps
#3 The Legends
#4 The Ghost Walkers
NA The Home Team
#5 Divine Judgment
#6 The DC Illuminati
#7 The X League
#8 The Black Death
#9 The Knights of Right
#10 Makin' it w/Cap'n
#11 The Revolution
#12 X-Party
#13 The Elite Fleet
#14 Blackfish Lineup
Despite missing out on the last round victory, The People's Team was just too strong throughout the year to miss out on championship victory.
2008's rankings shift proved favourable to anyone investing in DC characters, but in a year that gave us the biggest comic book film in history - The Dark Knight - it's little wonder the teaming of Wonder Woman, Flash, Deathstroke, Superboy-Prime, and Batman, came out on top.

Despite plenty of Iron Man love in May, The Revolution was victim of multiple Infinite Wars blindspots as bottom ranking Magneto dragged down a team including Punisher, Bucky Barnes, and Robin, who all headed up moments of note during the year. As brief as some of their moments might have been, this team really brings home how inefficient the Fantasy League was on a site that really wants to be at least picking from the week's best releases, but doesn't.

The Ghost Walkers did show it was possible to turn fortunes around, however.
After languishing at the bottom of the list in a year of Spider-man abstinence, a late charge was made, funded particularly by low ranking picks. Ms. Marvel provided massive boost in the last month, dragging Dr. Strange, Galactus, and the Phantom with her. With the Spider-Boycott lifting this year, Dr. Strange in the spotlight with his Sorcerer Supreme tag stripped, and a Phantom movie on the fast track, this was actually probably a team on the rise. Alas...

No team was more wronged than The Elite Fleet!
Part of the intent behind the Fantasy League was to get the Infinite Wars more in touch with the surrounding blogosphere. While few took us up on that olive branch, it's been a pleasure being part of the top twenty blogs listed on Comic Blog Elite -- a fun listing doing what we set out to, much much better!
We might not have come through for a team boasting Silver Surfer, Dr. Doom, Nova, Super-Skrull, and Taskmaster, but it's been a joy to associate with, and hopefully forward some of you, to the great blog listing.

The DC Illuminati deserves points for going that extra mile with a concept behind the first round drafts! By the end of the year, Steel, Aquaman, Dr. Fate, Red Hood, and Elongated Man probably did better off than their Marvel counterparts, who'll be succeeded in our in-fiction League by the Dark Illuminati!

Expect a few more teams to fill out this version of the Fantasy League when it debuts in the February Punch-Up! The points system will continue in much the same way, simply putting the soul-crushing agony of defeat on people (writers and editors) who probably don't read the site. And if they do, they should feel encouraged to bribe their team to the top by giving me free review fodder!

Teams of five fashioned after groups from various companies and comics have been formed, but, as is the way of the ever-changing landscape, some might already be out of date. If you're like me and enjoy obscure lists based on useless statistics, you might like to use the comments section to suggest potential trades to keep the listings contemporary! In that respect, without dealing with the burden of a bullshit currency system, it might become more interactive!

We'll reveal the combinations at a later date, but rest assured that you can expect teams representing the Green Lanterns, X-Men, JSA, FF, and many more!

Wall Street War Journal: Market Analysis...
Amazing Sales Fig.
#545 124481 (+24.11%)
#546 136109 (+9.34)
#547 108485 (-20.29)
#548 105122 (-3.1%)
#549 101112 (-3.81%)
#550 90874 (-10.12%)
#551 88084 (-3.07%)
#552 89835 (+1.99%)
#553 82648 (-8.00%)
#554 81072 (-1.91%)
#555 86902 (+7.19%)
#556 78458 (-9.72%)
#557 77057 (-1.79%)
#558 76966 (-0.12%)
#559 74206 (-3.59%)
#560 74012 (-0.26%)
#561 72372 (-2.22%)
#562 71409 (-1.33%)
#563 70792 (-0.86%)
#564 68882 (-2.7%)
#565 69182 (+0.44%)
#566 68912 (-0.39%)
#567 68130 (-0.13%)
#568 93395 (+37.08%)
#569 77950 (-16.54%)
#570 82479 (+5.81%)
#571 73682 (-10.67%)
#572 75164 (+2.01%)
#573 82550 (+9.83%)
#574 69069 (-16.33%)
#575 68913 (-0.23%)
November 2008:
#576 68956 (+0.06%)
#577 76625 (+11.12%)
#578 66564 (-13.13%)
Adjustment: (-3.41%)
For eleven months we've been watching sales figures for Marvel's three-times weekly Amazing Spider-man, keen to observe the statistical effects of Spidey's faustian pact (which extended Aunt May's veritable immortality, for the existence of Peter Parker's marriage to Mary-Jane.)
The long threatened brainchild of current Editor-in-Chief, Joe Quesada, had questionable creative merits from the beginning, but if it worked, Quesada would surely own a place in history for reviving Marvel's poster icon.

If you can say nothing of the Infinite Wars, I hope it is that you expect unfiltered honesty, no matter how impulsive it may seem, or how much you disagree. It was this ethic that drove us to make a very specific decision for 2008 in response to the creative decisions to reset Spider-man to something blending the sixties comics with a modern persona. How they did this? By erasing chunks of Spider-History through a faustian deal with Mephisto.

To respond to One More Day in a fashion as specific as a "boycott" could and might have been perceived as juvenile and/or silly. In making such a specific decision, I hope we attracted as many readers as we lost. Admittedly, all this did was put a formality to a disinterest that would've kept current issues of Amazing Spider-man off the site.

Each month as we've added to the sales chart [right], I hope you've seen that this was not an unfounded attempt to decry Marvel and those involved with the project. Yes, we received it as a sloppy creative effort, but as the series has progressed, we've also found positives along the way.
The buying public have, too, evidenced by sales spikes in response to very specific directions the book has gone in. That said, on the whole, one might interpret a steady monthly decline as similar disapproval from readers.

Despite sales halving since the boost of the Brand New Day revival; it seems highly unlikely EIC Joe Quesada and the House of Ideas will be persuaded to reverse their now (purposefully) forgotten blunder. This is probably a conviction to be commended, even if it was founded in a deeply flawed concept.

I don't know if our Boycott was ever really meant to do much more than remove the necessity to discuss Spider-man throughout the year, and attract hits from those likeminded. Regardless, we can now consider it officially over! Spider-man, in some form, will return to the Infinite Wars with welcome arms in 2009.
I'm not sure that anyone should expect current issues of Amazing to dominate the year's entry, but they certainly aren't out of the question any longer.

Given that the character is the only one to knock Batman to second spot (at the end of Season 2007), it should be very interesting to see what re-opening the floodgates does in a post-RIP world. That, however, is discussion for the next section of our Punch-Up Annual. On the subject of sales analysis, we look forward to the conclusion of Final Crisis, so we can make a comparison with Marvel's less than impressive Secret Invasion. Based on our creative assessment, the uninitiated (and agreeing) might be surprised by the almost inevitable result.

The 2008 Year End Top Ten...
In 2008 heroes lived and died in the pages of the major events driving the "Big Two" publishers, but nothing in comics could match-up to their exploits on the big screen!

Punisher, Hulk, Hellboy, and other more obscure heroes and villains, played second fiddle to the revolution of Iron Man and The Dark Knight, both of which brought significant evolution to the growing super-genre of mainstream superhero films. Both movies grossed massive financial gains, but creatively, set a new standard for an indulging design and conceptual accuracy that captures everything fans of comics know, love, and expect.

2008 was always going to be a year that belonged to Batman and Iron Man, but there were other forces at work, influencing the Season on the Infinite Wars!
Despite being tethered more than any previous year, strong entries from the 2008 publishing schedule made bold references to the on-going scene, while back issues provided a diverse range of contenders. The first step forward for Mortal Kombat this generation also provided a major influence, sponsored by a crossover with the DC Universe that made their inclusion all the more acceptable!

The congregation of these flavours finally brought a reflection of a DC bias in review to the Super Stock rankings of our superhero smackdown. Batman was no longer alone to champion the company, joined by a host of icons whose admission was made all the easier by a broad scope of subjects. Who were the fateful few to finish Season 2008 above their contemporaries? Read on!

ARTWORK: Ed McGuinness#1 Batman (-) (34) (DC)
Class: [Meta] Last Opponent: [Joker]
Win Percentage: [72.5%] Features: [40]
2006: [#1] 2007: [#2] Cumulative: [#1]

There was never any doubting it: 2008 belonged to the Batman!
After three years of dominating the Infinite Wars, the mere knowledge of a cinematic follow-up to Batman Begins was all it took to assure victory for DC's resident Dark Knight detective.

It seems highly unlikely that there'd ever be an Infinite Wars Season without the Batman running for the top, but then, it also seemed unlikely Batman could ever die. Grant Morrison's RIP raised questions about the mightiest mortal's mortality, but it was Final Crisis #6 that made the unthinkable seem a reality! As of Jan 14, we do not know the true fate of the Batman, but we have seen a horrible vision of his potential frailty, cradled as a withered corpse in Superman's arms.

His 2007 death greatly dimished Captain America's presence on the Infinite Wars, but is the same likely to occur to the Batman? Probably not. Bias, if nothing else, should keep Batman's memory alive, but that's not all! The mantle of the seventy year-old Dark Knight seems to cast a much longer shadow than his iconic jingoist counterpart. While would-be successors keep the name alive by battling for the cowl, other Bruce Wayne-centric projects continue to simmer, including the hotly rumored third Batman film, to potentially star Catwoman, alongside possibly returning characters from the record setting The Dark Knight.

However it happens, we can be sure Season 2009 will begin in the shadow of the bat - particularly as we catch-up on all the action of storiess like Final Crisis. With the Spider-Boycott over, however, the most intriguing aspect of competition might be the renewed rivalry between the only two characters to finish the year in the #1 position. Spidey's return might have come at the best possible time!

ARTWORK: Jim Lee#2 Superman (-) (12) (DC)
Class: [Super] Last Opponent: [Sinestro Corps]
Win Percentage: [60.71%] Features: [28]
2006: [#7] 2007: [#13] Cumulative: [#4]

In a year so specifically defined by cinematic triumph; the Man of Steel emerges as a surprising number two! The sheer relevance of DC's most recognised icon was apparently too much to see a third year go by without Superman making a top three appearance.

MK vs DC provided a major boost for DC in 2008, to say nothing of a favourtism we've felt for the last few years. A youth dedicated to Marvel comics probably gave them the edge in the Infinite Wars' formative years, but with a strong editorial direction and amazing writers, that resistance could only last so long.

While their weekly series failed to command the excitement of event-driven concepts, it's fitting that members of DC's iconic Trinity have led the charge for a successful year in the Infinite Wars. They are some of the most potent cultural figures in the mainstream Western consciousness, if not the entire world.
While misconceptions and a general malaise has plagued the character's persona; Geoff Johns was able to reinvigorate the Man of Steel with a classic-contemporary approach to the hero and concepts surrounding him. Also contributing in a similar fashion, Grant Morrison, whose work skirted the periphery in All-Star Superman, as well as Final Crisis, which included the exciting spin-offs from both writers mentioned in, Superman Beyond 3D and Legiond of 3 Worlds.

While a post-Crisis restructuring sees Superman flying off into space; Johns looks set to tackle one of the most labored aspects of the Superman mythos: the origin story! Like Batman; despite a relative absence from the line-up, DC/WB will enter the next few years with a newly evaluated approach to cinema, promising a shot at a stronger addition to the franchise than Bryan Singer's forgettable love letter to Richard Donner, Superman Returns.

ARTWORK: Adi Granov#3 Iron Man (+1) (16) (Marvel)
Class: [Meta] Last Opponent: [The Ten Rings]
Win Percentage: [66.67%] Features: [27]
2006: [#3] 2007: [#11] Cumulative: [#3]

Cheated out of the second-spot, Tony Stark takes concession in ending the year with a deserved leap to third! This cool exec does so as a dream run in the comics seemingly comes to an end, and the Robert Downey Jr flick becomes a faint memory in anticipation of sequels, and universe-evolving expansions.

Iron Man didn't impress us to the extent described by audiences, but it's place in history is undenied. The combined efforts of Jon Favreau, Adi Granov, Downey, and others involved in the design and creation process, reinforced the visual aesthetic of the superhero, reminding us that we needn't fear embracing bold design and colour in an era where these are the films leading the box office.
It was a refreshing fact that seems to represent a true sense of progress, signifying an evolution well beyond the compromise of the X-Men films, and the potential disappointment of ill conceived Batman-imitators.

The cinematic future looks quite bright for Iron Man!
In taking an increased involvement in production of their properties, Marvel has reinforced their inclination to get on board the gravy train. A 2010 Iron Man sequel is but part of a bigger picture for Marvel's films, including a much anticipated meeting between figures as part of an eventual Avengers movie.

Attached first to join Robert Downey in the first sequel, however, are a host of stars to rival even the acclaimed cast granted to the respected Bat-films!
Don Cheadel replaces Terrence Howard as Jim Rhodes, while Sam Rockwell looks secured to mirror Stark as Justin Hammer, and Academy Award contender, Mickey Rourke, might be the surprise pick for a big screen Crimson Dynamo!
Also in the mix; beauteous British actress, Emily Blunt, for the Black Widow, and Samuel L. Jackson as a better paid Nick Fury of SHIELD.

Back on the page, where the same brand of politics that made Iron Man the lynchpin of the Marvel Universe have been his downfall. In the wake of the Secret Invasion, Norman Osborn has maneuvered his way to the top of the food chain, ousting Iron Man as top dog. SHIELD has also been shut down to be replaced by HAMMER as a new organization free from Skrull corruption. Worse for Iron Man is his status as fugitive after Osborn manipulates public opinion to deem Stark the man responsible for the Invasion, branding him a coward and criminal fugitive.

So, does this start an exciting new chapter for the tarnished hero, or will his campaign on the Infinite Wars take a hit as a result of a fall from grace? That 2010 film date might just warrant a year off, but anything can happen!

ARTWORK: Midway#4 Shang Tsung (-1) (2) (Midway)
Class: [Meta] Last Opponent: [Earthrealm Warriors]
Win Percentage: [62.5%] Features: [8]
2006: [NR] 2007: [NR] Cumulative: [#19]

It was actually back in 2006 that we first touched upon Mortal Kombat, but the characters would remain barely an obscure blip on the rankings before the MKvsDC explosion of Season 2008!

Unfortunately, the game proved a bit of a disappointment, seemingly putting a nail in the coffin of MK license holder, Midway Entertainment. As it is, the company seems to be holding on to small hopes with more lingering licensed properties, including the slightly silly Vin Diesel project, Wheelman.

As a surviving giant of the early nineties arcade fighters, MK has struggled to maintain the critical acclaim and attention of it's rivals. Dwarfed by the likes of Street Fighter in both creative and market shares; the brand was second from the leading four fighters to enter this console generation (behind Soul Calibur).

Technologically the series has always struggled to match it's rivals, relying more upon gimmicks to establish itself against Street Fighter II, before finally entering a respectable fighter with 2002's reboot, Deadly Alliance. This game boasted a variety of fighting styles, fluid gameplay, and a renewed creative direction.

Behind the silliness, it has always been concept and plot that has shakily maintained any legitimate value in the MK brand. For those willing to go deep enough, characters like Shang Tsung embue this world with it's own unique mythology. Like any superhero universe worth it's salt, MK has it's iconic heroes and villains, all with enough character to create interesting and specific interactions amongst the differing combinations.

A unique trope of the MK universe has been a playing field that quite often allows victory for the villains. This makes it all the more appropriate that Shang Tsung would achieve the rare feat of entering the Infinite Wars Top Five -- something Street Fighter wasn't able to do when we gave them the final quarter to pledge their best [Ryu; who finished a very competitive 2007, at #12].

ARTWORK: Ed McGuinness#5 Hulk (-) (13) (Marvel)
Class: [Meta] Last Opponent: [Zombies]
Win Percentage: [57.69%] Features: [26]
2006: [#6] 2007: [#10] Cumulative: [#5]

Though of a substantially lower grade of significance, it cannot go without note that Hulk too starred in a well received 2008 feature film. Distanced from the Ang Lee flop, Hulk tittilated fanboys with a crossover appearance by Robert Downey as Tony Stark, fuelling the now confirmed rumor of a series of features building toward an Avengers movie.

As a fan of large aspects of the Lee psycho-drama, I was admittedly somewhat underwhelmed by the smashing prospects of a revamped pseudo-sequel. While the Edward Norton vehicle promised to fulfil the iconic carnage of the character, it seemed likely to do so at the cost of a substance Hulk brought with violence.
Thankfully, Incredible Hulk proved to be a satisfactory experience, even if it wasn't anything spectacular (or, incredible). Much better than I'd expected.

Similar sentiments could be said of the comics, headed chiefly by Jeph Loeb in a spin-off series that left the Incredible monikker to Hercules, who joined the title as an ally during the immensly enjoyable mini-event, World War Hulk.
Like the film; Loeb's new Hulk plodded into the arena with the purpose to live up to the famous hero's penchant for smashing things. To this extent it succeeded, even if unleashing Bruce Banner's green goliath against a new 'Red Hulk' came at the cost of completely undercutting the impact of WWH's ending.

Unashamedly stupid; the series began life with a long overdue return to the character for silky smooth penciler, Ed McGuinness. His bold figures and skill for superhero action makes him one of the most fitting men to ever reinvent the gamma irradiated Hulk, and as glum as Loeb's action-packed scripts might be, they willfully sacrifice Loeb's acclaim to tailor to McGuinness' strengths!
The clean duplo-figure visuals have been missed beyond the first arc, but the real crime is a failure to live up to promises of an adequate reveal for an infuriatingly sub-par mystery (the identity of Rulk). Even so, tasted in small portions, the parade of guest combatants is just too much to pass up for any fan of action.

2009 doesn't seem to be promising anything special for the Hulk, but given how World War Hulk was so badly stunted by an abrupt follow-up, that might be for the best. We can only hope prospects improve by the time the character returns to the big screen, although, given how accomdating Marvel was to fans looking for a mindless scrap, I have my doubts.

ARTWORK: Doug Mahnke#6 Martian Manhunter (+4) (DC)
Class: [Super] Last Opponent: [Sinestro Corps]
Win Percentage: [57.14%] Features: [7]
2006: [NR] 2007: [#222] Cumulative: [#32]

He was once lovingly described as the Oreo-munching soul of the Justice League. Is it any wonder, then, that he was the first hero to fall before the day evil won?

They say it's wrong to speak ill of the dead, but in the years leading up to J'onn J'onnz' death, one couldn't say it had been a fun ride. Martian Manhunter might be one of the most beloved heroes in the DC pantheon, but various projects led by the character failed to find an audience, most significantly, the mini-series that accompanied a visual change to something more overtly alien. Was this the real reason he was offered up to the deadpool, or was it simply his time?

In the pages of Final Crisis, the heroes eulogised the hero on his native Mars.
In a world where so many, good and bad, have returned from death, they pray for a resurrection. In 2009 the heroes may come to regret their words when, in July, the dead rise as part of the introductiong of Black Lanterns in Blackest Night!

ARTWORK: Terry Dodson#7 Wonder Woman (+4) (DC)
Class: [Meta] Last Opponent: [Sinestro Corps]
Win Percentage: [54.55%] Features: [11]
2006: [#115] 2007: [#43] Cumulative: [#15]

We draw from a fairly humble library here on the Infinite Wars. One particularly (and ashamedly) lacking in DC back matter, so, even for an icon like Wonder Woman, no matter how shakey her sources might be, making the top ranks is no mean feat!

It feels right - nay, overdue - for Wonder Woman to appear in the upper echelon of the Infinite Wars rankings! It's taken a good few years, but finally, if only by association, the Amazon warrior finally has her due. I choose to see this as a compliment, because, as vital as the character might be, her stories and series have always been a bit... eh. Thus, but sheer significance, she fights her way beyond our hearts - into our minds - as a respected and well ranked heroine!

It seems 2009 will see each of the Trinity struck by tragedy, presumably one that isn't written by Kurt Busiek, weekly. [Ouch! Sorry, K-man!] Thus, Wonder Woman's fighting fate remains uncertain on the site, given the liklihood of an absence that will see her join Batman dead/missing, and Kal-El in space.
That question of New Godhood can't help but creep up here, or even in terms of the Martian Manhunter's fate, to be honest. I don't know if we really will see mortal heroes ascend to a higher plane, but if they do, surely a Wonder Woman would be welcome among them. One that fought the MK Universe, just as an additional footnote.

ARTWORK: John Cassaday#8 Phantom (-2) (King Features Syndicate)
Class: [Meta] Last Opponent: [Jungle Thieves]
Win Percentage: [100%] Features: [4]
2006: [NR] 2007: [NR] Cumulative: [#29]

One of the many mantras of the site is to examine and appreciate comics as an education of fiction. No syllabus is truly complete without the creations of Lee Falk, led populary by The Phantom!

As one of the most immediate precursors to costumed superheroes as we know them today, the Phantom isn't as out of place as it he might seem. The uninitiated will largely know the character through less than flattering mediums, such as the 1996 evil slamming feature film, or the King Features pile-on cartoon of the 1980's, Defenders of the Earth.

The Phantom is a character steeped in some of the richest mythology in all of comicdom, leading to a fiercely dedicated fanbase throughout the world, famously in Sweden, Australia, and India. His influence is felt throughout comics history, as well, notably including in the later creation of Batman by Bob Kane!
Saw Frank Miller's The Spirit in cinemas and learnt more about the influence of Will Eisner through posing fanboy message boarders? The Falk creation predates The Spirit by a good four years -- quite a lot of time in the newspaper strip era that gave way to the dawn of direct market superheroes!

The Phantom is a personal favourite of mine, and a hero apparently set to find his way back to the big screen through a new Australian production. The hero has been set for a follow-up to the Billy Zane cult-favourite for many years, so actual results remain to be seen, but they aren't the only news surrounding the Ghost Who Walks!

Dynamite Entertainment looks set to unveil a new version of the Phantom sometime in the near future, overseen by comics legend, Alex Ross!
Apparently to be simultaneously pitted against Moonstone Books, who have had the US license for original material for several years; this new version might very well be inline with the modern reinvention forecast by Ross and the growing indie publisher, Dynamite. No doubt we'll se more Phantom in 2009 on the Infinite Wars, even if it isn't from these most recent examples.

ARTWORK: Midway#9 Shao Kahn (-2) (Midway)
Class: [Super] Last Opponent: [Earthrealm Warriors]
Win Percentage: [66.67%] Features: [6]
2006: [NR] 2007: [NR] Cumulative: [#31]

Waved steadily from March to November; the Mortal Kombat flag shot an armada of warriors from Outworld and beyond into the rankings! Suitably leading the charge (behind his freelance lacky), the Emperor!

Shao Kahn followed Shang Tsung as the second final boss in the early nineties digitized versions of the games, becoming instantly memorable for his taunts, commentary, samurai-esque war armor, and superhuman attacks! Part-sorcerer, part-conquerer; the Outworld Emperor is all warrior!

Front and centre in Mortal Kombat versus DC Universe as part of the less-than-subtle boss, Dark Kahn; the Emperor arguably shined much brighter in his individual form. A blemish on his return to a playable role, however, misleading info in his character bio, introducing potential new fans to details borrowed from the extremely unpopular 1997 film sequel, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation.
Somewhere in our multitude of MK spotlights we informed you that, at least in the central canon, Shao Kahn is not at all related to Earth's protectoral god, Raiden, but just in case you missed it, here it is again! [Uh, back there...]

With a future deeply uncertain, we can only hope, even in the event of disaster for Midway, that the Mortal Kombat brand can find a way to prevail. While largely mocked by outside audiences, MK characters like Shao Kahn deserve their place beside the comic book icons that inspired co-creators, John Tobias and Ed Boon! We can only hope a medium - if not video games - can once again embrace the potential to deliver Kahn and co. to glory! [Lord knows NLT would love to!]

ARTWORK: Midway#10 Goro (-2) (Midway)
Class: [Meta] Last Opponent: [Earthrealm Warriors]
Win Percentage: [50%] Features: [6]
2006: [NR] 2007: [NR] Cumulative: [#37]

Finally, rounding out our year-end top list, the iconic four-armed Shokan Prince who somehow missed out on even a cameo in the clash between Mortal Kombat and the DC Universe!

After overshadowing his sprite-swapping master as sub-boss of the first MK in 1992; Goro disappeared from the series, but not from the minds of fans. Despite his villainous stature - or perhaps because of it - Goro remains one of the lasting icons of the series, joining franchise characters, like Sub-Zero and Scorpion!

The character was arguably one of the most glaring omissions from a game that had immense pressure on it amidst financial woes for Midway. Absent even from sequences in the story mode, one can only assume the four-armed fighter was left-out due to technical requirements not conducive to the basic build.

Interviews with MK "head honcho," Ed Boon, had many fans hoping for the prospects of downloadable characters prior to Christmas. Alas, they did not emerge, and the odds of seeing Goro or his fellows in the relatively under staffed crossover game seems increasingly unlikely. Fortunately for Prince Goro, he lives on, however, in the impaled hearts of bloodlusting fans, and here, as a surprise entrant into the 2008 Infinite Wars Top Ten!

Goro narrowly beats out some deserving contenders; Sonya Blade, Hawkgirl, Black Canary, Flash, Luke Cage, and Green Lantern, among the most narrow of omissions. Hal Jordan and Reed Richards; two visitors to the top five in 2008 that failed to maintain the pace as the year went on. For more on who missed out, and how everyone finished Season 2008, read on, oh wise one!

Super Stock: Season 2008 Closing
For those coming in late: the Infinite Wars was founded on a concept of reviewing superhero comics through the battles displayed within. Results are tallied to form both annual rankings, and a cumulative tally. These rankings bare no concrete value, but provide fun with lists and statistics on the site.
The following is the final tally for 2008 reviews.

#1 Batman
#2 Superman
#3 Iron Man
#4 Shang Tsung
#5 Hulk
#6 Martian Manhunter
#7 Wonder Woman
#8 The Phantom
#9 Shao Kahn
#10 Goro
#11 Sonya Blade
#12 Hawkgirl
#13 Black Canary
#14 Flash
#15 Luke Cage
#16 Green Lantern
#17 Johnny Cage
#18 Sheeva
#19 Spider-man
#20 Wolverine
#21 Invisible Woman
#22 Mr. Fantastic
#23 Green Lantern
#24 Human Torch
#25 Tara

#76 Hellboy
#77 The Blonde
#78 Jin Kazama
#79 Rose
#80 Hurricane
#81 Slam Bradley
#82 Spoiler
#83 Steel Phoenix
#84 Ken Masters
#85 Dr. Fate
#86 Fury
#87 Brainwave
#88 Cobalt Man
#89 Two-Face
#90 Night Ranger
#91 Randal
#92 Guardian
#93 Eradicator
#94 Mirror Master
#95 Onslaught
#96 Apocalypse
#97 Mariko Yashida
#98 Vindicator
#99 Morph
#100 Johnny Thunder

#151 Yellowjacket
#152 USAgent
#153 Kenshi
#154 Sandman
#155 Archangel
#156 Bo' Rai Cho
#157 Sub-Zero
#158 Vixen
#159 Lex Luthor
#160 Poison Ivy
#161 Captain America
#162 Dr. Light
#163 Darkseid
#164 Kung Lao
#165 Baraka
#166 Birdie
#167 Lei Wulong
#168 Bryan Fury
#169 Yoshimitsu
#170 Nightcrawler
#171 Kitty Pryde
#172 Rachel van Helsing
#173 Lilith Dracula
#174 Werewolf by Night
#176 Morbius

#226 Kryptonite Man
#227 Black Adam
#228 Thanos
#229 Moondragon
#230 Sinestro
#231 Gruagach
#232 Ganryu
#233 Bruce Irvin
#234 Ryu
#235 Jack Staff
#236 Ord
#237 Solomon Grundy
#238 Thor
#239 Spider-Woman
#240 Vision
#241 Jocasta
#242 Stone God
#243 Mercury Monster
#244 Mr. Zsasz
#245 Glass Man
#246 Golden Roc
#247 Clay
#248 Slade
#249 Little Marcello
#250 Tigers B'ful Daughter

#301 Dark Beast
#302 Bey
#303 Baldy
#304 Quicksilver
#305 Bran the Blessed
#306 Warpath
#307 Elixir
#308 X-23
#309 L'Ok D'Saad
#310 Surtur
#311 Ymir
#312 Kalibak
#313 Mangog
#314 Falcon
#315 Polaris
#316 Morgauth
#317 Super-Skrull
#318 Rhino
#319 Juggernaut
#320 Dr. Octopus
#321 Stilt-Man
#322 Lizard
#323 Dr. Doom
#324 Baroness Blood
#325 Li Mei
#26 Superboy-Prime
#27 Aquaman
#28 Union Jack
#29 Spitfire
#30 Daredevil
#31 Firestorm
#32 Black Lightning
#33 Red Arrow
#34 Nightwing
#35 Noob Saibot
#36 Thing
#37 Sentry
#38 Wonder Man
#39 Catwoman
#40 Stryker
#41 Kano
#42 Raiden
#43 Hercules
#44 Human Torch
#45 Chun-Li
#46 Kintaro
#47 Flash
#48 Green Lantern
#49 Sub-Mariner
#50 Stargirl

#101 Dragon King
#102 Geo-Force
#103 Ares
#104 Ms. Marvel
#105 Black Widow
#106 Green Lantern
#107 Green Lantern
#108 Green Lantern
#109 Green Lantern
#110 Green Lantern
#111 Green Lantern
#112 Green Lantern
#113 Green Lantern
#114 Green Lantern
#115 Green Lantern
#116 Green Lantern
#117 Green Lantern
#118 Alpha Lantern
#119 Green Lantern
#120 Green Lantern
#121 Alpha Lantern
#122 Alpha Lantern
#123 Green Lantern
#124 Green Lantern
#125 Green Lantern

#176 Reptile
#177 Bo
#178 Smoke
#179 Jade
#180 Commisioner Gordon
#181 Robot
#182 Dr. Mid-Nite
#183 Mr. Terrific
#184 Mrs. Arbogast
#185 Clea
#186 Starlight
#187 Squire
#188 Warmaker One
#189 Casey
#190 Scout
#191 Toro
#192 Colonel Karpov
#193 She-Hulk
#194 Dr. Fate
#195 Starman
#196 Spectre
#197 Jim Corrigan
#198 Sandman
#199 Atom
#200 Dr. Occult

#251 Dan Hibiki
#252 Major Talbot
#253 Whirlwind
#254 Brute
#255 Glob
#256 Egghead
#257 Valkyrie
#258 Nighthawk
#259 Goraiko
#260 Knight
#261 Flow
#262 Olympian
#263 Jack O'Lantern
#264 Tasmanian Devil
#265 Fleur-de-Lis
#266 Kid Impala
#267 Pulse 8
#268 Neh-Buh-Loh
#269 Fire Giant
#270 Crystal Creature
#271 Justice Peace
#272 Harold Allnut
#273 Phantom Dread
#274 Trouble
#275 Krimson Klaw

#326 Shinnok
#327 Reiko
#328 Darrius
#329 Kabal
#330 Cyrax
#331 Nightwolf
#332 Ermac
#333 Sindel
#334 Dairou
#335 Tanya
#336 Rain
#337 Shujinko
#338 Fatality
#339 Volcano Man
#340 Giganta
#341 Killer Frost
#342 Cheshire
#343 Shadow Thief
#344 Shaggy Man
#345 Deathstroke
#346 Mr. Freeze
#347 Punisher
#348 Dr. Strange
#349 Iron Fist
#350 Echo
#51 Wildcat
#52 Powergirl
#53 Hawkman
#54 Red Tornado
#55 Thorion
#56 Rogue
#57 Captain America
#58 Destroyer
#59 Gorgon
#60 Blazing Skull
#61 Drax
#62 Thin Man
#63 Flash
#64 Orion
#65 Blade
#66 Mimic
#67 Magik
#68 Nocturne
#69 Thunderbolt
#70 Hotaru
#71 Crossbones
#72 Riley
#73 Grant
#74 Stanford
#75 Green Lantern

#126 Green Lantern
#127 Green Lantern
#128 Green Lantern
#129 Green Lantern
#130 Green Lantern
#131 Metamorpho
#132 Wonder Girl
#133 Raven
#134 Captain Marvel
#135 Starman
#136 Supergirl
#137 Plastic Man
#138 Starfire
#139 Bulleteer
#140 S.T.R.I.P.E.
#141 Firehawk
#142 Miss Martian
#143 Creeper
#144 Cyborg
#145 Green Arrow
#146 Robin
#147 Steel
#148 Colossus
#149 Kitana
#150 Quan Chi

#201 Dr. Mid-Nite
#202 Mr. Terrific
#203 Hourman
#204 Star-Spangled Kid
#205 Amanda Waller
#206 Bane
#207 Deadshot
#208 Blockbuster
#209 Plastique
#210 Count Vertigo
#211 Bronze Tiger
#212 Multiplex
#213 Captain Boomerang
#214 Bekka
#215 Dr. Yinsen
#216 Liu Kang
#217 Hydro
#218 Cyclops
#219 Dracula
#220 Jax
#221 Sing
#222 Sang
#223 Anti-Monitor
#224 Grom
#225 Hush

#276 Voodoo Guru
#277 Massacre
#278 Lieutenant Lance
#279 Grum
#280 Ghost Rider
#281 War Machine
#282 Wong-Chu
#283 Sparx
#284 Empress
#285 Más
#286 Menos
#287 Crypto-Man
#288 Jarella
#289 Fatman
#290 Little Boy
#291 Penguin
#292 Girder
#293 Double Down
#294 Master Man
#295 Harley Quinn
#296 Queen Aynos
#297 Jean Grey
#298 Bishop
#299 Gambit
#300 Cannonball

#351 Karu-Sil
#352 Cyborg Superman
#353 Yellow Lantern
#354 Haasp the Hunter
#355 Snap Trap
#356 Despotellis
#357 Raza
#358 Scorpion
#359 Mileena
#360 Red Skull
#361 Masked Marvel
#362 General Ross
#363 Storm
#364 Beast
#365 Iceman
#366 Moleman
#367 Norman Osborn
#368 Anti-Venom
#369 Venom
#370 Kobra
#371 Gorilla Grodd
#372 Wasp
#373 Cheetah
#374 Ronin
#375 Joker

(On-Going) Cumulative Super Stock...
1. Batman (-) (DC)
2. Spider-man (-) (M)
3. Iron Man (-) (M)
4. Superman (-) (DC)
5. Hulk (-) (M)
6. Wolverine (-) (M)
7. Captain America (-) (M)
8. Mr. Fantastic (-) (M)
9. Daredevil (+2) (M)

The Sentry rockets his
way toward the top of the
rankings alongside the Avengers!
[New Avengers #36]
10. Thing (-1) (M)
13. Luke Cage (+1) (M)
14. Black Adam (-1) (DC)
15. Wonder Woman (+5) (DC)
17. Ryu (-1) (C)
19. Shang Tsung (-1) (Mid)
21. Steel (+3) (DC)
22. Green Arrow (+4) (DC)
25. Hawkman (+9) (DC)
26. Hawkgirl (+9) (DC)
27. Green Lantern (-4) (DC)
28. Nightwing (+10) (DC)
29. Phantom (-4) (KFS)
30. Green Lantern (+15) (DC)
31. Shao Kahn (-4) (Mid)
32. Martian Manhunter (+17) (DC)
37. Goro (-5) (Mid)
39. Robin (+20) (DC)
40. Black Canary (+21) (DC)
45. Flash (-4) (DC)
48. Dhalsim (-4) (C)
50. Johnny Cage (-3) (Mid)
52. Wonder Man (+27) (M)
54. Red Hood (-3) (DC)
57. Wasp (-3) (M)
59. Wasp (-3) (M)
67. Green Lantern (+29) (DC)
68. Black Widow (+20) (M)
72. Powergirl (+34) (DC)
73. Superboy-Prime (+96) (DC)
80. Firestorm (+115) (DC)
81. Black Lightning (+117) (DC)
82. Red Arrow (+114) (DC)
88. Sentry (+150) (M)
91. Dr. Strange (-14) (M)
93. War Machine (-8) (M)
100. Ronin (-9) (M)

Black Lightning zaps
into the upper sector for 2008,
aiding against Anti-Montior!
[Green Lantern #25]
105. Flash (+186) (DC)
107. Green Lantern (+191) (DC)
119. Ms. Marvel (+189) (M)
120. Red Tornado (+243) (DC)
150. Doppelganger (-9) (M)
181. Hellboy (-8) (DH)
183. Jin Kazama (-8) (N)
184. Rose (-8) (C)
200. Morph (-8) (M)
204. Ares (new) (M)
205. Kilowog (new) (DC)
229. Metamorpho (new) (DC)
230. Wonder Girl (new) (DC)
231. Raven (new) (DC)
232. Starman (new) (DC)
233. Supergirl (new) (DC)
234. Plastic Man (new) (DC)
235. Starfire (new) (DC)
236. Bulleteer (new) (DC)
237. STRIPE (new) (DC)
238. Firehawk (new) (DC)
239. Miss Martian (new) (DC)
240. Creeper (new) (DC)
241. Cyborg (new) (DC)

Welcome back, Frank;
to the losing circle, I mean.
DD punishes The Punisher!
[Daredevil #65]
242. Queen Veranke (ammend) (M)
244. Chun-Li (-44) (C)
250. Quan Chi (-44) (Mid)
288. Captain Marvel (+238) (DC)
289. Hercules (-43) (M)
293. Darkseid (-43) (DC)
300. Baron Zemo (-42) (M)
303. Two-Face (-42) (DC)
307. Punisher (-52) (M)
310. Cheetah (-43) (DC)
312. Joker (-43) (DC)
350. Joystick (-40) (M)
400. Mr. Terrific (-40) (DC)
410. Dr. Yinsen (new) (M)
425. Anti-Monitor (new) (DC)
432. Hush (-41) (DC)
450. Nimrod (-41) (M)
500. Dragon Man (-40) (M)
550. Dai Loe (-40) (U)
600. Nebula Man (-39) (DC)
650. Tanya (-39) (Mid)
661. Cyborg Superman (new) (DC)
666. Raza (new) (M)
667. Spider-Woman (-431) (M)
693. Echo (-253) (M)
699. Zangief (-48) (C)
700. Quicksilver (-48) (M)
701. Magneto (-48) (M)
702. Dan Hibiki (-48) (C)
703. Lizard (-48) (M)

The Hammer...
Wow! Another big ol' Punch-Up, another month, another year!

As always, many thanks to those of you who continue to stick around and enjoy all things comics, with us. Be encouraged to spread the word of the site! Share links to our information, famous fights, or eerily accurate predictions, like our feature on potential Black Lanterns that has already garnered a result courtesy of a premature solicitation for action figures (featuring one of our outsider picks)!

The dates might be a bit behind schedule, but we've got a host of great content lined up for you, already! The top rating heroes and villains of 2008 will be on show as we kick off a new season of Infinite Wars rankings -- PLUS: we dive in to some interesting little side articles, as well! Fun!

If you wish to support the site - which is greatly appreciated - be sure to pass through the Infinite Wars gift shoppe, or one of the many Amazon purchase links provided in our catalogue of reviews. By making your purchases this way, you help sponsor future content. For double karma -- follow the links below to purchase my first venture into creating superhero comics! A true product of an education in this wonderful medium we all know and love!


- Mike Haseloff; War Monger-in-Chief
Mike Haseloff, watches the watchmen!

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