Monday, June 01, 2009

MONTHLY PUNCH-UP #42 (June 2009)
Future generations stumbling across this Punch-Up entry should know the truth: I'm writing this at the very end of July. An unfortunate combination of events and technical difficulties have conspired to cripple site updates and severely beat my energy levels to dust. Although we're a disgraceful two months behind on the schedule, I remain stubbornly dedicated to working slowly through the pile of comics that's built up over the past few months.

Though lacking in energy, I'm not quite ready to pack it in, which is unfortunately what I learned to be the case of our good friends at the Fortress of Fortitude.

In the years I've been running the Infinite Wars, I can't say I've felt particularly welcomed by, or involved with, the comics blogosphere at large. Fortress of Fortitude and Infinite Wars updates may have had a minimal of overlap, but I was always very fond of the style and dedication of the Fortress Keeper, and through my readership and our occasional comments, felt it was one of the few blogs we had some connection with (which led to a review of my comic).

His perspective was of a healthy mix of modern and retro comics nostalgia, informed and informative in ways that are so often absent in comics blogs.
I enjoyed the early years of comics review and topical discussion, but was no less impressed by his later shift toward spotlighting some of the forgotten comics of the Golden and Silver Age. I hope it is still possible that archives might be added back to the now dormant site, because I feel there was a lot for people to get out of them at their own leisure. With or without those archives, it's a shame to see one of the more unique voices disappear from the landscape.

Before we get on with the show, there's the little matter of a new tradition of monthly polls! If you can flash back to May, you might remember a little event called the Eurovision Song Contest. It was in homage to the legendary "talent" show that we put our own Infinite Wars spin on it to crown the hero for all Europe in our 2009 Eurohero Contest!

Twelve heroes (and villains) of fictional European descent were pitted against one and other in an effort to crown the greatest European hero in comics.
Despite the thousands of people who passed through the site, only a modest thirty-eight of you saw fit to vote in the poll. The low numbers kept competition close, eventually presenting a hard-fought two horse race that ended with who I think was a fitting winner! The results at the final count were:

(26%) Wonder Woman (Themyscira)
(21%) Dr. Doom (Latveria)
(10%) Vega (Spain)
(10%) Union Jack (United Kingdom)
(7%) Batroc the Leaper (France)
(7%) Lilith Dracula (Romania)
(5%) Morbius the Living Vampire (Greece)
(2%) Baron Zemo (Germany)
(2%) Jack O'Lantern (Rep. of Ireland)
(2%) Rose (Italy)
(2%) Black Widow (Russia)
(0%) Count Vertigo (Vlatava)

Representatives for each European nation were selected based upon the highest ranked characters in our Infinite Wars Cumulative Rankings. I was quite surprised by some of the poll results, particularly the late charge from Dr. Doom, which I thought would've come much sooner, and been more thorough.

No doubt we'll be back in 2010 to do it all again, minus this year's winner.
It will be very interesting to see what other characters can sneak in through our rankings, and how a passing year will change people's votes. I would suspect Black Widow might poll better after Scarlet Johansson takes the role to the mainstream in next year's Iron Man 2 film. I wonder if Street Figher will have subsided enough by then to bump Vega down the list, or if Batroc can pick up a few more joke votes.

Eurohero will be an annual tradition, but to try to get some interactivity and direction into these monthly opening monologues, we'll be doing polls monthly now. Rising prices have been a regular point of topic in the Shipping Lists and in the comics reading community in general, so we're going to put the question to you in June: what is your price limit for a single issue?

I'm sure the results will shock and amaze me.
Voting will end sometime within the month and does not require registration.

Wall Street War Journal: Market Analysis...
"Amazing" Sales Fig.
November 2007:
#545 124481 (-1.2%)
December 2008:
#581 64961 (-47.81%)
January 2009:
#582 59932 (-7.74%)
#583 352953 (+588.92%)
#584 63754 (-81.954%)
February 2009:
[#583 148805 #1/300]
#585 60286 (-5.44%)
#586 59521 (-1.27%)
#587 60118 (+1.00%)
March 2009:
[#583 20073 #96/300]
#588 61334 (+2.02%)
#589 58832 (-4.08%)
April 2009:
#590 66415 (+12.89%)
#591 60508 (-8.89%)
#592 65940 (+8.98%)
Month End: (+12.08%)
Being the middle of the year, I couldn't help but start looking back over some of the stories we've featured in 2009. After dropping Amazing Spider-man last year due to the dragging weight of Brand New Day, it's been difficult to deny that the series has well and truly moved on.

This, in turn, means my interest in the subject has moved on, which makes this section a bit of a drag to update. In the coming months we might have to find a new subject to tackle, if not a whole new way of looking at the Wall Street War Journal.

Spidey is racing toward a milestone six hundredth issue with April sales indicating that the baseline might've been found. Factor in the sure to be heavily promoted anniversary issue, as well as the promise of returning classic headlining villains like Dr. Octopus, and you almost certainly have the makings of a massive boost. I would guess sales will then trickle quickly back down to the numbers we're seeing at April-end. It's a fairly predictable dance maintained by a predictable (and fickle) audience.

I've been pleased to see Spider-man back on the Infinite Wars [#585, #589], but don't expect to learn anything more from watching sales stats. It's recently come out that there's a contingency plan to reinstate the Spider-Marriage should sales dip too far. Could Mary-Jane's return in July be a part of that plan? Perhaps a year-end cliff hanger suggesting the marriage? Honestly, I'm not sure I care either way. It's a farce that is almost irrelevant to the very best aspects of the current run of Amazing. 'Nuff said?

... More MK updates?
Unfortunately, I had (another) run-in with the Blogger auto-save feature, which means a series of newsbytes I'd written throughout the month were unfortunately lost. About the only thing I really feel compelled to remember is the unfolding announcements of Warner Brother's purchase of Midway Entertainment. This, of course, includes the Mortal Kombat franchise that DC comics crossed over with in a fighting game last year. WB will absorb the property along with the development team, which hasn't had a lot of effect on the creation of the next core sequel in the MK series, it would seem.

[In July] Ed Boon has been on Twitter offering occasional references to development on "MK9" and we'll hopefully start to see something concrete in 2010. DC Comics Executive Editor was asked by Newsarama whether or not the MK franchise might be folded into the DC Multiverse, which he listed as a vague possibility. This would likely invovle internal licensing similar to the use of properties like Bugs Bunny or Ben 10, as opposed to various company properties DC themselves have taken ownership of, like Static [Shock] or Captain Marvel.

As a fan of the sometimes misunderstood MK franchise, I've long viewed the opportunity to adapt the series to comics as a bit of a dream gig. As much as I would've loved to have snagged the license for myself (one day), it'd be great to see DC comics give the franchise a good whirl. As much as it seems to enrage the "unique" perspective of MK fans, I would even get a kick out of seeing MK join the DC Multiverse as a standard fixture.

Season 2009: Top Five Update...
Here on the Infinite Wars we like to play a little game of rank and review.
At the heart of the site is a series of reviews that recap the battles that embody the superhero universes as we know them. By tallying these results, we shuffle stats in the pursuit of the knowledge of who truly is the greatest hero of all.

Breaking up the cumulative grind are our yearly rankings, which give us the opportunity to observe the success of characters each year. Season 2009 is now well under way, and unlike previous years, has shown particular reflection on the grind of weekly releases. Feature fights have been diverse and intriguing!

ARTWORK: Ethan Van Sciver#1 Flash (-) (5) (DC)
Battles: [6] Last Opponent: [Lady Flash]
Win Percentage: [100%] Cumulative: [#15]
2006: [DNR] 2007: [#38] 2008: [#63]

He may have made his first official return-from-the-dead in the pages of Final Crisis, but it's the more personal story of his return to life, Flash: Rebirth, that's thrust Barry Allen back into the spotlight of the DC Universe, and maintained his position at the top of the 2009 rankings!

This month, the mini-event produced a second victory over speed-cultists, this time Savitar's loyal lackey, Lady Flash. Much like the return itself, the victory came at the cost of Wally West, who successfully held the mantle of Flash for two decades, before the character was brought back by Grant Morrison (and Geoff Johns). I find it difficult to say whether or not this is a bad thing, but have certainly been surprised by how natural Allen's transition back has felt.

Rebirth #2 sees Barry Allen transformed into the personification of death for those in tune with the Speed Force -- the Black Flash. We know with certainty that this won't threaten the character's chances of sticking around, but it does raise questions about what role Barry Allen will have to play when the dead rise in July for the beginning of Blackest Night. Rebirth, in some ways, has been DC's jab at event comics before the summer Black Lantern spectacular kicks off. Will this put an end to Barry Allen's rankings prospects, or be the 2009 clincher?

ARTWORK: Leinil Yu#2 Wolverine (RE) (14) (Marvel)
Battles: [34] Last Opponent: [The Professor]
Win Percentage: [50%] Cumulative: [#4]
2006: [#4] 2007: [#6] 2008: [#20]

A return to the big screen in X-Men Origins: Wolverine sponsors a return to the top five season rankings for the franchise mutant. Low numbers in 2009 remind us that quality isn't everything this season, allowing the hero to slide up the charts off the back of what was a fairly mediocre showing for the first X-Men spin-off to grace cinemas.

Origins pretty much burnt up any solo goodwill for the character who enjoyed a brief spark from the Mark Millar/Steve McNiven storyline, Old Man Logan, but has largely fizzled out in the comics. Gratuitous cameos remain part of the MO for Wolverine, even if they've been reduced to a few fights in X-Force and his on-going role as a starring character in New Avengers (RE: Dark Reign). It seems unlikely that Wolvie's significance is about to improve, but you never really know what to expect from the event-season at the big two!

ARTWORK: Ivan Reis#3 Alpha Lantern Kraken (-1) (4) (DC)
Battles: [3] Last Opponent: [Batman]
Win Percentage: [100%] Cumulative: [#49]
2006: [DNR] 2007: [DNR] 2008: [#121]

To the best of my knowledge, we still haven't seen Kraken in the action since she was compromised by Granny Goodness during Final Crisis. Even with the action heating up in the Green Lantern titles, the Prelude to Blackest Night hasn't yet produced an appearance. Could it be the Guardians took care of their little indescretion, and she's waiting in the wings to bite them in the ass as a powered-up Black Lantern?

Wild speculation won't keep Kraken in the 2009 top five, but with the action taking place across such a wide range of titles this year, all it would take is a significant return like those coming in Blackest Night, to bump the Alpha Lantern back up the list! Then again, there's sure to be plenty of competition in DC's 2009 major event, both among the living, and the dead!

ARTWORK: Tim Bradstreet#4 Punisher (RE) (3) (Marvel)
Features: [6] Last Opponent: [The Hood's Syndicate]
Win Percentage: [50%] Cumulative: [#62]
2006: [DNR] 2007: [#163] 2008: [#347]

The 2007 relaunch of Punisher War Journal had a lot of steam behind it, bringing the murderous vigilante back to the core Marvel Universe on the back of a brief starring role in Civil War. In 2009, Marvel have attempted to recapture the magic, relaunching the Marvel Universe escapades as a Dark Reign tie-in titled simply "Punisher," while the mature readers MAX series is forced to be retitled as, Punisher: Frank Castle.

As already mentioned, the broad scope of interests demonstrated in this year's reviews and battles has meant the bar is much lower on the top five. Even so, it isn't completely unreasonable for Punisher to join the ranks in these early goings, even if heroes like Green Lantern and Batman are more likely to usurp the throne as the significant stories of the year take over. Fun, but short lived.

ARTWORK: Terry Dodson#5 Wonder Woman (new) (DC)
Battles: [13] Last Opponent: [Genocide]
Win Percentage: [61.54%] Cumulative: [#13]
2006: [#115] 2007: [#43] 2008: [#7]

You can look at Wonder Woman's entry into the top five rankings one of two ways. Either the status of the character warrants describing this as a long overdue ascension, or, alternatively, you recognise that the character is enjoying a unique burst of strength and character under the team of Gail Simone (writer) and Aaron Lopresti (artist). Either way, it's very nice to finally see DC's iconic Amazon represented at the top of our humble stats.

It seems unlikely, as the summer season sets in, that Wonder Woman will have any significant plotlines to drive her forward, but that might be speaking too soon. Her status as one of DC's Trinity has long been under attack, but with Batman MIA (presumed dead) and Superman off in space, being under the radar might be a blessing for the Infinite Wars competition, and for the stock value of Wonder Woman.

#1 (+8) Super Young Team
#2 (+3) Secret Avengers
#3 (+18) Astonishing X-Men
#4 (+8) Justice League
#5 (-1) Green Lantern Corps
#6 (+1) Shadow Cabinet
#7 (+1) Thunderbolts
#8 (new) Bat-Family
#9 (+4) Shadowpact
#10 (+1) Guardians of the Galaxy
#11 (+3) Fantastic Four
#12 (-2) MI:13
#13 (+4) Outsiders
#14 (-11) The Titans
#15 (+3) Justice Society
#16 (--) Interpol
#17 (-2) Teen Titans
#18 (-12) The Network
#19 (+3) Legion of Superheroes
#20 (+4) Shadaloo
#21 (-20) Dark Avengers
#22 (new) Black Lantern Corps
#23 (+4) X-Force
#24 (-1) Uncanny X-Men
#25 (+1) Earthrealm Defenders
#26 (-1) Secret Six
#27 (-7) Sinestro Corps
#28 (-2) MK Special Forces
#29 (-10) Mighty Avengers
#30 (-1) Lady Liberators
#31 (-29) The Cabal
2009 Fantasy League...
For those who came in late: last year various readers drafted characters into a fanatsy league team which accumulated points based on features on the site, and spotlights in the weekly shipping list.

This year, rather than subject actual human beings to the soul crushing inconsistency of our statistics, we're using teams inspired by the comics themselves! The company's print groups battle it out for our amusement month to month in this highly pointless game.

Strength of unity boosts Super Young Team to the top of the Fantasy League off the back of their first solo series, Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance!

Competition in 2009 remains modest, forcing the pressure of losses on most teams. Only the strongest prospects have been able to resist the flow, justifying the high cost of their characters with rare profits in May.

The Secret Avengers are arguably the big winners of this month, continuing their tenure in the top ten with all-star recruits like Hollywood's Wolverine providing a major boost. New Avengers is shaping up to be one of the better books coming from Marvel right now, maybe we'll see more. It's hard to imagine the Green Lantern Corps or Black Lanterns missing out on big points in the coming months, however, as the long awaited Blackest Night event finally arrives! Hard luck for The Cabal (via The Hood).

Substitutions & Additions:
Green Lantern Corps: Hal Jordan (out) Soranik Natu (in) [Ttl: 639]
Justice League: Black Canary, Superman, Wonder Woman, Dr. Light, Vixen (out) Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Atom, Captain Marvel, Congorilla (in) [Ttl: 971]
Secret Avengers: Iron Fist (out) Captain America (in) [Ttl: 260]

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. 760 characters, means #1 is worth 760pts, working downward to #760, 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.

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.

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.

Year One: [1940]
Season 2009: [#52]
Last Opponent: [Hush]
Dick Grayson officially steps into the mantle of Batman this month supported by a major relaunch of DC's entire line of Bat-titles. The Dark Knight has been one of the most enduring icons of the Infinite Wars rankings, but will the glory carry over to the much less prominent former-Robin? It's going to be very interesting to see how it unfolds! The student becomes the master in what has the potential to be the story of the 2009!

Year One: [2006]
Season 2009: [NR]
Last Opponent: [NA]
The "Batman: Reborn" relaunch won't just feature Dick Grayson. The entire peripheral cast of characters look likely to benefit, not the least of which is Batwoman, who rises from recent obscurity to take over one of DC's longest running flagship titles -- Detective Comics. Writer, Greg Rucka, will have the fatherly opportunity to make up for a less than admirable entry into comics that begun with mainstream press circulation of the fact that the new Batwoman is gay. After very few significant appearances since her debut in 52, this will be the make-or-break of the hero.

Year One: [1940]
Season 2009: [#92]
Last Opponent: [Red Hood]
Paul Dini will continue his work on Batman with both Streets of Gotham, and the all-girl series, Gotham City Sirens. The all-girl series will fill the void of the long since cancelled Catwoman series; co-starring fan-favourite anti-heroines from Dini's days on the animated series, Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn. As the reliable centre of the book, Catwoman is sure to benefit, no doubt starting with follow-up plot to her clash with Hush.

Year One: [1989]
Season 2009: [#74]
Last Opponent: [Red Hood]
Tim Drake might not be the one wearing the Batman cape and cowl, but he'll grow-up no less than his big brother, taking up the role of Red Robin in yet another of the many series launching out of the "Batman: Reborn" phenomenon. His story might be the most tangential, but if Tim Drake comes at all close to uncovering clues to the true fate of Bruce Wayne in Final Crisis, his corner might just be the most significant of all the series!

Year One: [1972]
Season 2009: [#26]
Last Opponent: [Night Shift]
The seventies horror icons are back, not just in Marvel Zombies 4, but also in the pages of New Avengers, where Brother Voodoo will receive the mantle of Sorceror Supreme! Werewolf by Night bounces off the Midnight Sons' zombie battles to claw his way over two hundred ranks!

Year One: [1973]
Season 2009: [NR]
Last Opponent: [NA]
He's been tagged as Earth's new Sorcerer Supreme, so it's only a matter of time before Brother Voodoo steps into the spotlight with the Eye of the Agamotto to prove why he was chosen. His career might be finite and might not hit it's highest notes until 2010, but you can be sure Brother Voodoo will have something noteworthy coming up in New Avengers and probably afterward, as well!
1. Batman (-) (DC)
2. Spider-man (-) (M)
3. Iron Man (-) (M)
4. Wolverine (+2) (M)
5. Superman (-1) (DC)
6. Hulk (-1) (M)
7. Captain America (-) (M)
8. Mr. Fantastic (-) (M)
9. Daredevil (-) (M)
10. Thing (-) (M)
13. Wonder Woman (-) (DC)
15. Flash (+6) (DC)
18. Ryu (-1) (C)
19. Sub-Mariner (-1) (M)
24. Catwoman (-) (DC)
28. Green Lantern (-) (DC)
29. Nightwing (-) (DC)
30. Phantom (-) (KFS)
32. Red Hood (+23) (DC)
33. Green Lantern (-1) (DC)
35. Martian Manhunter (-1) (DC)
42. Morbius (+22) (M)
49. Alpha Lantern (-1) (DC)
50. Ken Masters (-1) (C)
53. Robin (-1) (DC)
54. Aquaman (-1) (DC)
56. Deadpool (-14) (M)
61. Cyclops (+36) (M)
62. Punisher (+255) (M)
63. Dr. Doom (-3) (M)
71. Green Lantern (-2) (DC)
87. Green Lantern (-2) (DC)
100. Hawkeye (-1) (M)
109. Werewolf by Night (+229) (M)
130. Black Mask (-2) (DC)
150. Phantom Stranger (-2) (DC)
161. General Zod (-2) (DC)
187. Hellboy (-1) (DH)
189. Jin Kazama (-1) (N)
200. Eradicator (-1) (IDW)
210. Green Lantern (-1) (DC)
250. Abel (-1) (C)
253. Son of Satan (new) (M)
254. Jennifer Kale (new) (M)
255. Mike Haggar (new) (C)
256. M. Excellent Superbat (new) (DC)
257. B. A. Lantern Boy (new) (DC)
258. S. C. Lolita Canary (new) (DC)
259. W.S.S. Lightning Flash (new) (DC)
265. Gambit (-8) (M)
274. Sinestro (-8) (DC)
276. Superboy (-8) (DC)
296. Harley Quinn (-7) (DC)
300. Vixen (-7) (DC)
301. Poison Ivy (-7) (DC)
303. Mongul II (-7) (DC)
304. The Hood (-123) (M)
319. Two-Face (-8) (DC)
320. Solomon Grundy (-8) (DC)
322. Mr. Hyde (-46) (M)
327. Tombstone (-8) (M)
350. Spot (-7) (M)
356. Wolverine (-7) (M)
360. Alfred Pennyworth (-7) (DC)
366. Com. Jim Gordon (-7) (DC)
400. Fader (-7) (M)
446. Z-Pool (ammend) (M)
447. S. Happy Aquazon (new) (DC)
448. Nemesis (new) (DC)
449. T.O. Morrow (new) (DC)
450. Liu Kang (-11) (Mid)
500. Patriot (-11) (M)
550. Deluge (-11) (M)
590. Black Hand (-11) (DC)
600. Matador (-11) (M)
609. Jack Staff (-11) (DEP)
613. Zsasz (-11) (M)
650. Empress (-11) (DC)
700. Snap Trap (-11) (DC)
712. Dansen Macabre (new) (M)
713. Digger (new) (M)
714. Needle (new) (M)
715. Tatterdemalion (new) (M)
716. Lady Flash (new) (DC)
717. Brothers Grimm (new) (M)
718. Brothers Grimm (new) (M)
719. Microchip (new) (M)
720. Razor Fist (new) (M)
721. Grizzly (new) (M)
722. Razzle (new) (DC)
723. Genocide (new) (DC)
743. Penguin (-23) (DC)
749. Sabretooth (-49) (M)
750. Iron Patriot (-24) (M)
756. Quicksilver (-23) (M)
757. Magneto (-23) (M)
758. Dan Hibiki (-23) (C)
759. Lizard (-23) (M)
760. Zangief (-28) (C)

- Mike Haseloff; War Monger-in-Chief
You can also find Mike on, blogging tangents about gaming!

May Hit Count: [12272/234203]* (+7.5%)
* Hitcount reflects some content dated May.

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