Sunday, February 01, 2009

MONTHLY PUNCH-UP #38 (February 2009)
Folks, this is where the Infinite Wars as a concept really gets exciting! Having finally completed our look at the characters that led Season 2008, we get a chance to unfold into a month free of prediliction.

Way back in December 2005, the site was founded on a simple concept: review and discuss superhero comics, using the fights contained within as the glue that holds everything together. A Comic Book Fight Club through which we could cast a new light on the combative element of super-heroes, whilst still engaging in the usual fare of topic and thought.

As much as February offers an opportunity to open up the forum to a diverse cast of characters, we simply cannot escape certain scenarios of interest.
While the hype might've lost some of it's lustre in the lead-up, February spiritually remains the property of Street Fighter!

The already acclaimed arcade hit, Street Fighter IV, brings the brand home once again, hitting consoles worldwide through February. Coinciding with the game's home release will be a brand new four-issue SFIV mini-series from UDON comics, as well as a cinematic return through the January 27 release of the Kristen Kreuk-headed martial arts pic, Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li.

The renewed freestyle approach to content on the Infinite Wars will no doubt come to include a brief glance at Street Fighter, as well as topics hanging over from the end of last year, such as the hotfire of debate that is - Final Crisis!

#1 Justice League
#2 Green Lantern Corps
#3 Dark Illuminati
#4 Secret Avengers
#5 Secret Six
#6 Interpol
#7 Shadaloo
#8 Fantastic Four
#9 Guardians of the Galaxy
#10 Birds of Prey
#11 Justice Society
#12 MI:13
#13 Shadow Cabinet
#14 Shadowpact
#15 Thunderbolts
#16 Outsiders
#17 Super Young Team
#18 Dark Avengers
#19 Astonishing X-Men
#20 X-Force
#21 Earthrealm Defenders
#22 Sinestro Corps
#23 Uncanny X-Men
#24 Mighty Avengers
#25 Special Forces
#26 Lady Liberators
2009 Fantasy League...
Last year we introduced a Fantasy League designed to make use of the cumulative rankings sustained by the site, while also drawing influence from the weekly spotlight, and sources of inspiration, to create a currency surrounding the movements of characters.

After inviting bloggers and readers to sponsor teams of their own selection, we spent the year tallying points and declaring winners.
Ultimately, the Infinite Wars, for all intents and purposes, is a flawed machine. As much as we drift to reflect issues of topical concern, the site remains an objective exercise in personal interests. Those playing at home, with no efficient method of trading, could ever hope to utilize an understanding of rules to win. Long story short: the playing field felt less than even.

To avoid dashing the hopes of the enthusiastic few who took us up on our wacky competition, this year we put the screws to the companys. Instead of pitting personally drafted groups against one and other, our month-to-month numericals now intend to cast a skewed reflection of the performances of teams currently in publication.

What do we hope to achieve from such an exercise?
Hey, what is with you and objectives, man?! Can't you just have fun?!?

Okay, so maybe this isn't the section to win over the comics intelligencia, finally boosting our frankly pathetic, and inaccurate, Technorati authority rating. That's okay! I like to think we can pride ourselves on maintaining a healthy balance of intelligent critique and old fashioned, schoolyard fun.

This year, the basic set-up is a little different.
Teams start with an allowance of 3515 points; five times value of the top ranked character. Five characters suitable to the team are drafted at a cost derived from their cumulative ranking at the end of Season 2008. 703 characters, means #1 is worth 703pts, working downward to #703, valued at 1pt. This new rule not only offers an immediate reflection of value, but handicaps league leaders.
This year, unranked characters will cost 355pts, a fraction over mid-range.

Subsequent points are awarded based on results throughout the month.
25pts for a win, 7pts for an assist, 5pts for a loss, and 10pts for a draw.
Additional bonuses of 5pts are awarded for spotlights in the shipping list, and other articles sporradically featured throughout the site. As with last year; the final contributor to monthly scores is the cumulative super stock, which will provide literal additions and substractions to reflect the movement in ranking.

The teams are:
Astonishing X-Men: Cyclops, Emma Frost, Beast, Armor, Storm
Birds of Prey: Oracle, Huntress, Misfit, Lady Blackhawk, Manhunter
Dark Avengers: Spider-man, Ms. Marvel, Hawkeye, Wolverine, Ares
Dark Illuminati: Norman Osborn, Dr. Doom, Sub-Mariner, The Hood, Loki
Earthrealm Warriors: Raiden, Liu Kang, Kung Lao, Sub-Zero, Johnny Cage
Fantastic Four: Mr. Fantastic, Invisible Woman, Human Torch, Thing, Franklin
Green Lantern Corps: Hal Jordan, John Stewart, Kyle Rayner, Guy Gardner, Kilowog
Guardians of the Galaxy: Star-Lord, Adam Warlock, Drax, Rocket Raccoon, Quasar
Interpol: Chun-Li, Guile, Charlie, Cammy White, Thunderhawk
Justice League: Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Black Canary, Hawkgirl
Justice Society: Flash, Powergirl, Green Lantern, Wildcat, Stargirl
Lady Liberators: She-Hulk, Valkyrie, Thundra, Tigra, Hellcat
MI-13: Captain Britain, Spitfire, Pete Wisdom, Blade, Black Knight
Mighty Avengers: Wasp, Hercules, USAgent, Scarlet Witch, Jocasta
Outsiders: Owlman, Geo-Force, Black Lightning, Creeper, Metamorpho
Secret Avengers: Luke Cage, Spider-man, Wolverine, Iron Fist, Ronin
Secret Six: Catman, Deadshot, Scandal, Ragdoll, Bane
Shadaloo: M.Bison, Sagat, Vega, Balrog, Seth
Shadow Cabinet: Icon, Hardware, Blitzen, Donner, Iota
Shadowpact: Blue Devil, Zauriel, Detective Chimp, Enchantress, Nightshade
Sinestro Corps: Sinestro, Mongul, Fatality, Kryb, Yellow Lantern
Special Forces: Jax, Sonya Blade, Cyrax, Kenshi, Stryker
Super Young Team: Most Excellent Superbat, Big Atomic Lantern Boy, Shy Crazy Lolita Canary, Shiny Happy Amazon, Well-Spoken Sonic Lightning Flash
Thunderbolts: Paladin, The Ghost, Black Widow, Ant-Man, Mr. X
Uncanny X-Men: Cannonball, Colossus, Dazzler, Nightcrawler, Karma
X-Force: Warpath, Archangel, X-23, Wolfsbane, Domino

Due to the ever changing landscape of superheroics, and characters who hold membership with multiple groups, we will attempt to maintain a delicate balance between accuracy and suitability. Again encouraging some sense of interactivity, it is strongly encouraged for readers to use the comments section to suggest appropriate trades, and/or the inclusion of new teams.

To make the Fantasy League more managable, there may be a culling process in the future months, that eliminates some teams. Once again, be encouraged to make your thoughts on the subject known in the comments section.

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%)
#576 68956 (+0.06%)
#577 76625 (+11.12%)
#578 66564 (-13.13%)
December 2008:
#579 69784 (+4.84%)
#580 62979 (-9.75%)
#581 64961 (+3.15%)
Adjustment: (-2.41%)
A new year of Infinite Wars presents a brand new day!
Our year-long Spider-Boycott is officially at an end, but the ebb and flow of sales on Amazing Spider-man remain a topic of interest. Particularly now that we have a year's worth of sales statistics from which we can draw conclusions.

Turning to the month-end adjustment, we see a continued decline in sales, dropping two percent on the final issue shipped during December. Worried readers can take some bittersweet comfort in the knowledge that this sort of minor decline isn't unusual for any comic book in the modern era.

Promising, in fact, is the isolated rise in sales for #581, which begins a Dan Slott/Mike McKone Harry Osborn story. Granted, after the success of the films, this recently resurrected character is surely of interest to many readers, but I wouldn't have expected a two-parter to enjoy that kind of boost based purely on the character and creative team.

To that end, the (web-)swinging pendulum of sales might be further indication of the title finding it's readership.
That kind of stability is sure to be read as a positive, particularly with evidence shown that the right story can provide a solid boost. We saw this most prominently through New Ways to Die, boosted by the return of Eddie Brock and Spidey's first confrontation with Norman Osborn and the Thunderbolts since his government promotion.

Likely as a result of this, Marvel have announced intentions to bring back the pantheon of classic villains to the pages of Amazing in 2009. First on the slate, nd sure to draw a crowd, is Dr. Octopus, who follows welcome late '08 headliners, like; Scorpion, Shocker, and Molten Man.

To be reflected in next month's sales data, the Obama issue of Amazing Spider-man, which continues Marvel's latest trend of capitalizing on the meteoric rise of the new US President as a pop culture icon. President Obama has appeared as a character in several issues of Marvel's major line-ups, even finding himself at odds with the recently appointed head of HAMMER, (SHIELD's replacement), Norman Osborn.

In financial news; amidst a well publicized financial ordeal, Midway Entertainment finally filed for bankrupcy. Though dramatic, the move actually ensures Midway's ability to continue on with slated projects, including the next core instalment of the Mortal Kombat franchise. Despite being met with mixed critical response, Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe was a moderate sales success for the company.

Downloadable content for the shallow versus DC game seems increasingly unlikely, guaranteeing increased scrutiny of any future projects. Unflattering speculation could suggest a quick cash-in on the way, but given the direction of the series, a more invested approach would likely prove wise. No doubt it is a subject that will be of interest as the gaming season rolls on to major events.

Next month: the final figures for Final Crisis roll in.

Season 2009: January Top Five...
2008 has cast a long shadow over this year's comics. The approach of the major two publishers sees heavy flow-on from recent years, extending their headlining events across the line. Marvel's Dark Reign spinning out of Secret Invasion promises a villainous shake-up in the heirarchy of the Marvel Universe. Elsewhere, DC grapples with a world in which their heroes were taken to the brink of defeat [in Final Crisis], challenging the future to not only come up with new heroes, but also face the dark twisted return of the old!

Season 2009 offers up a mixture of the old and new as we head into our first Top Five ranking session of the year. An old faithful provides the double-header to kick the year off, but with so much uncertainty in both the DC and Marvel camp, who knows what lies ahead?

For the Infinite Wars, it seems DC are primed for another strong year, bouncing off the highly controversial creative success of Final Crisis, to line-up another strongly influencial year of editorial storytelling. The organic progression of radical plotlines in the DCU seems to contrast against Marvel's awkward shift into the Dark Reign conceit, but, despite it's unfortunate origins, the House of Ideas puts forward a strong case for reinvention in '09.

ARTWORK: Ed McGuinness#1 Batman (-) (35) (DC)
Features: [42] Last Opponent: [Superman]
Win Percentage: [73.8%] Cumulative: [#1]
2006: [#1] 2007: [#2] 2008: [#1]

The true fate of the Dark Knight remains subject to speculation as his adventures navigate aspects of the surreal, and reactions to his absence. Batman RIP presented a harrowing tale of psychological warfare perpetrated by the Black Glove organization, that brought Batman close to death, but was this the case, or simply a result of his Final Crisis end, which concluded with a zap from Darkseid's Omega Sanction: the death that is life!

As per the mythology, it seems Batman has been trapped in another life, sent through time and space. While he dwells in a cave in the past (and/or Earth-51), it seems unlikely the character's dominance on the Infinite Wars will be at all interrupted. The characters long shadow has set into motion events that will define a large portion of DC's 2009 headlining titles. The question of how the Batman will involve himself in future affairs - such as The Blackest Night - remains a subject of intrigue.

Upon reading the recent first issue of "Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?," I continue to wonder if this, and the initial Batman RIP tale, weren't actually symptoms of the Omega Sanction, or alternatively, Batman's strange incarceration during the earlier portions of Final Crisis (in the Evil Factory).

In other mediums, Batman remains a hot property.
2009 will no doubt be a year of speculation, as Heath Ledger contends for a post-humous Academy Award, and people eagerly anticipate a possible sequel to 2008's, The Dark Knight. Much like the film; the upcoming action-adventure game, Arkham Asylum, promises to be an exercise in breaking ground with the character, pushing the expectations of comics properties in video games. Also enjoying plenty of interest in the latest animated series, Batman: Brave and the Bold, which teams Batman with heroes from across the DCU in a series informed by a wide variety of influences. Tongue-in-cheek in it's humor, the show might harken back to the silly old days, but in it's way, the show is not without charm.

ARTWORK: Ethan Van Sciver#2 Flash (new) (DC)
Features: [4] Last Opponent: [Wood King]
Win Percentage: [100%] Cumulative: [#29]
2006: [DNR] 2007: [#38] 2008: [#63]

His second-issue return in the pages of Final Crisis sent a shockwave through the DC Nation, but with minimal impact to follow, the true resurrection of Barry Allen seems to lie ahead in Rebirth!

Though a surprise entrant into the Top Five this month; Geoff Johns' anticipated return to the speed force makes a Flash ranking suitably topical, as Flash: Rebirth promises to be one of the major events coming from DC in 2009!
Serving a similar purpose to the franchise re-calibration as Green Lantern: Rebirth, this new series promises to assign a much needed, iconic new status quo to the world of the Flash. This comes after the bungle of key characters in the aftermath of Infinite Crisis, which ultimately left Wally West in the lurch, and Kid-Flash Bart Allen a big money return in the deadpool.

Unfortunately, despite being an icon in those all important early days of reading, very little of Barry Allen remains accessible in the Infinite Wars Secret Library. Which means it's unlikely the speedster will maintain his position, at least not until later in the year, when "Rebirth" might find it's way to the site.

ARTWORK: Charles Marshall#3 Kung Lao (new) (Midway)
Features: [1] Last Opponent: [Shang Tsung]
Win Percentage: [100%] Cumulative: [#243]
2006: [DNR] 2007: [DNR] 2008: [DNR]

Given the fact the character died five hundred years before present Mortal Kombat mythology, it's a highly unexpected entrance into the top five by one of the series' greatest legends!

Neither of the two Kung Laos logged an appearance in either mid-nineties Mortal Kombat film, save for an obscure reference to the lineage of series hero, Liu Kang. This "Great" Kung Lao was famously introduced through the backstory of Mortal Kombat, where he reigned briefly as Earth's champion, before being ousted by series big-bad, Goro.

Kung Lao's reign as champion became the subject of live-action series, Conquest, which managed to squeeze an inordinant amount of MK lore and Playboy models into forty-five minute flip-fests. As tempting as it might be to make some effort to map these appearances, I think readers got more than enough of the franchise during our extensive coverage of MKvsDC in 2008. While unlikely to get the same treatment, it seems reasonable to assume this year belongs to Street Fighter.

ARTWORK: Ed McGuinness#4 Hulk (+1) (14) (Marvel)
Features: [27] Last Opponent: [Rulk]
Win Percentage: [59.3%] Cumulative: [#5]
2006: [#6] 2007: [#10] 2008: [#5]

Hulk Vs propels the jolly jade giant into Season 2009, but it's the slightly less admirable storytelling of Jeph Loeb's Hulk that secures his place in the Infinite Wars Top Five -- for now...

An apparent stint with the Mighty Avengers aside, there seems to be little of note in Hulk's immediate future. The momentum the character gained in his return to Earth in World War Hulk is all but lost, squandered as his rampage becomes confined to a series shared with an overgrown meme (Rulk).

ARTWORK: Ed McGuinness#5 Iron Man (-2) (17) (Marvel)
Features: [28] Last Opponent: [Dr. Doom]
Win Percentage: [64.29%] Cumulative: [#3]
2006: [#3] 2007: [#11] 2008: [#3]

Even more deliberately discarded than Hulk; Iron Man becomes a victim of a specific changing of the guard. Having flown the flag for Marvel since the 2006 Civil War, it's now Iron Man's time to suffer the indignity of his perceived crimes. This kind of turmoil traditionally gives a hero a great opportunity to shine, but with a feature sequel still a year away, it might be a chance for Tony Stark to take some time off in the Infinite Wars.

Like the DC counterpart he's been measured against so much in the past year [Batman]; Iron Man has a new animated series in his future. Armored Adventures rolls out a parade of classic Iron Man villains, many of which were introduced to cartoon viewers in the early nineties. Prominent additions include, not surprisingly, a movie-inspired entry for Obadiah Stane, aka; Iron Monger.

Super Stock: Cumulative Rankings...
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 reflects the months changes in the cumulative ranks.

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 (-) (M)

Flash enjoys a burst,
jumping into the 2009 top five!
[Secret Origins #32]
10. Thing (-) (M)
13. Luke Cage (-) (M)
14. Black Adam (-) (DC)
15. Wonder Woman (-) (DC)
16. Sub-Mariner (-) (M)
17. Ryu (-) (C)
19. Flash (+1) (DC)
21. Shang Tsung (-2) (Mid)
23. Catwoman (-) (DC)
24. Thor (-) (M)
25. Hawkman (-) (DC)
27. Green Lantern (-) (DC)
28. Nightwing (-) (DC)
29. Flash (+16) (DC)
30. Phantom (-1) (KFS)
40. Robin (-1) (DC)
48. Dhalsim (-) (C)
49. Ken Masters (-) (C)
50. Johnny Cage (-) (Mid)
52. Aquaman (+1) (DC)
54. Red Hood (-) (DC)
58. Dr. Doom (-) (M)
67. Green Lantern (-) (DC)
78. Guile (-) (C)
83. Green Lantern (-) (DC)
96. Sagat (-) (C)
98. Hawkeye (-) (M)
100. Ronin (-) (M)
103. Fei Long (-) (C)
132. Akuma (-) (C)
134. Ganthet (-) (DC)
135. Sayd (-) (DC)
150. Doppelganger (-) (M)
151. Sakura Kusagano (-) (C)
174. Superman (-) (DC)
176. The Hood (-) (M)
184. Rose (-) (C)
200. Morph (-) (M)
229. Metamorpho (-) (DC)
243. Kung Lao (new) (Mid)
245. Chun-Li (-1) (C)
246. Ms. Marvel (-1) (M)
250. Gambit (-1) (M)
259. Sinestro (-1) (DC)
261. Superboy (-1) (DC)
278. Vega (-1) (C)
283. Harley Quinn (-1) (DC)
288. Poison Ivy (-1) (DC)
290. Hercules (-1) (M)
293. Spider-man (-1) (M)

Hush tastes defeat,
only to plummet down the rankings!
[Detective Comics #850]
300. Wingless Wizard (-1) (M)
304. Two-Face (-1) (DC)
305. Lex Luthor (-1) (DC)
311. Cheetah (-1) (DC)
313. Joker (-1) (DC)
335. Alfred Pennyworth (+47) (DC)
341. Com. Jim Gordon (-2) (DC)
350. Bucky (-2) (M)
400. Dr. Mid-Nite (-1) (DC)
412. Scar (ammend) (DC)
413. A-Bomb (new) (M)
416. Dracula (-3) (M)
441. Balrog (-2) (C)
450. Lobo (-2) (DC)
455. Kingpin (-2) (M)
456. Lady Deathstrike (-2) (M)
500. Giganto (-2) (M)
501. Harry Osborn (-2) (M)
527. Loki (-2) (M)
540. Mongul (-2) (DC)
550. Saviour (-2) (DC)
555. Gouken (-2) (C)
556. Black Hand (-2) (DC)
600. Kid Impala (-2) (DC)
650. Sindel (-2) (Mid)
659. Shadow Thief (-2) (DC)
670. Rulk (new) (M)
671. Wood King (new) (DC)
672. Sabretooth (-4) (M)
683. Hush (-251) (DC)
689. Solomon Grundy (-5) (DC)
700. Rhino (-5) (M)
701. Iron Patriot (-5) (M)
704. Zangief (-5) (C)
705. Quicksilver (-5) (M)
706. Magneto (-5) (M)
707. Dan Hibiki (-5) (C)
708. Lizard (-5) (M)

The Hammer...
The catch-up continues as the Infinite Wars endeavours to maintain a standard quantity of content, while also reaching for real-time posting again. It's been several months that we've been dated a couple of weeks off the pace, but I would ask that you take note of the presence of regular updates, regardless of their post date.

February offers a chance to take a look at some of the stories of 2008 that we otherwise didn't talk about. Among the vital inclusions in the coming months will be Final Crisis -- a controversial story that split the readership between it's status as a defining moment in modern comics, and an allegedly "confusing" romp through a DC Universe gripped by armageddon.

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!

January Hit Count: [10245/187102]* (+1.9%)
* Hitcount reflects some content dated December.

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