Saturday, February 28, 2009

JUSTICE LEAGUE PART 4: FRANCHISE INTERNATIONAL!
Since their 1960 inception, the Justice League have been the premiere organized crime-fighting unit. Offering selections of some of the DC Universe's finest heroes, the JL's recruitment philosophy has varied to include; regional concern, covert operations, villain-centric obstacles, and the goal to assemble the cream of the crop. The latter arguably makes up the most famous incarnation of the League, constructed to represent versions of the leading corner posts of the DCU, and colloquially known as "the big seven."

Despite their eclectic origins, the Justice League remains popularly associated with it's foundations in the United States. Last year we paused to consider what might be possible if the team were to reinstate the now defunct International branch. Since; Final Crisis has plunged the entire DC multiverse into chaos and forced the many factions of heroes and villains to unite their powers as a single force! Each struggle provided the basis for a potential tangent in the Justice League brand.

Previously we speculated on potential teams representing ideals of; America, Resistance, and Task Force.
In light of developments in Final Crisis, it seemed fitting to go back to the concept of a truly international League, and incorporate some of the characters from the story.

It's no secret that Final Crisis writer, Grant Morrison, hails from Scotland; a fact that has quite probably given him unique vision for utilizing the international heroes of the DC Universe.
Unlike previous attempts by Darkseid to create chaos upon the Earth, his latest attempts to create the Fifth World of men as gods truly came to encompass a global threat. It was the day that evil supposedly won, and while the iconic American heroes were prominently on display, many lesser known characters were given the chance to shine in a way characteristic to Morrison's approach.

As superhero films enjoy growing success, the relevance of their creation to the global zeitgeist becomes increasingly obvious. Often on the Infinite Wars we have discussed the curious fascination of the Phantom's persistent successes in Australia and Europe, making him one of the most significant US creations to be forgotten by American audiences. A fact that again reminds us just how universal the concepts of even severely jingoistic characters, like; Captain America, Iron Man, or Wonder Woman; can be to international audiences.

DC boasts a particularly bouyant cast of world heroes, many of which have been brought to the fore by Morrison himself. In reevaluating the "JLI" concept, we do our bit to remind you of these heroes, and the potential they offer the League.

Aquaman (Orin)
Nation of Origin: [Atlantis]
Alt. Affiliation: [Atlantis]
First Appearance: [More Fun Comics #73]
Year One: [1941] JLA Year: [1960]
Cumulative Rank: [#53] Win Percentage: [60%]
2006: [#34] 2007: [#308] 2008: [#27] 2009: [#22]

As with all the groups we've suggested, there is a reasonable assumption that commercial success rests on some element of familiarity. Unfortunately, the meandering career of Aquaman led to his untimely death in the 2006 publishing cycle, putting to bed a modern history of ridicule and sales driven infamy.

Aquaman's slightly unglamorous powers did little to help the character age in a time where fascination with the mysteries of the deep has dissipated. This sense of parody unfortunately cost DC one of it's most enduring and iconic creations -- one that needn't be as useless as he has sometimes been depicted, in the modern era. One can only assume Morrison, and/or other DC writers, recognised this fact before granting the character two brief and inconclusive cameos in the pages of Final Crisis. Morrison described it as an overdue attempt to bring back an Aquaman we can all understand, leaving elaboration to any subsequent writer who should find themselves charged. This seems in keeping with DC's strategum of reinforcing the classic versions of characters (ie; Hal Jordan and Barry Allen).

For our purposes, it reinstates Aquaman as a character of familiarity to Justice League readers, with a relevance to the world stage. Afterall, is he not a seasoned adventurer and monarch of an entirely different nation?

Honestly, I regard any writer who is given the chance to reshape Aquaman after his reintroduction, with extreme envy. This surely is an opportunity of rare calibre comparable to the exciting reinventions of the eighties. I feel strongly about the potential of the character, and might not be inclined to attach that to a League quite so immediately, but for the purposes of our article series, consider him an experienced and worthy leader. Albeit, one of potential suspicion, given his bizarre adventures as the "creature of the deep" and his supposed death.

Powergirl (Kara Zor-L)
Nation of Origin: [United States]
Alt. Affiliation: [Justice Society of America]
First Appearance: [All Star Comics #58]
Year One: [1976] JLA Year: [1989]
Cumulative Rank: [#73] Win Percentage: [66.67%]
2006: [DNR] 2007: [#123] 2008: [#52] 2009: [DNR]

Few characters embody "foreign" quite to the extent of Powergirl!
As both a hero of Krypton and an alternate dimension (Earth-2), she is arguably the most removed character of the entire group. That said, she represents once again the ideal of incorporating the familiar to not only make a comic series seem more palatable, but also offer the in-fiction grouping a sense of experience.

Powergirl was mostly absent from Final Crisis, but is set to receive a major push from the publisher with her own solo series, spinning out of her adventures in JSA. What better way to solidify her significance than with a return to a senior role within the Justice League?

Observing the group as an international assembly, of sorts, she not only packs a wallop as a super strong heroine, but also offers representation to the interests of United States whose scrutiny would seem inevitable.

The Knight (Cyril Sheldrake)
Nation of Origin: [Britain]
Alt. Affiliation: [Ultramarine Corps]
First Appearance: [Batman #62]
Year One: [1950] JLA Year: [NA]
Cumulative Rank: [#600] Win Percentage: [0%]
2006: [DNR] 2007: [DNR] 2008: [#260] 2009: [DNR]

An obvious stand-in for Batman; the Knight brings much more than a mere British perspective to this assembly of heroes. Having served originally as the sidekick Squire to the original Knight, Cyril Sheldrake is as much inspired by the original Dark Knight, as his mentor. Like all members in the Club of Heroes, he is superbly trained in facets of combat and skill similar to Batman himself.

In a group comprised of big personalities representing equally big countries, it's difficult not to see the Knight as a discending voice of reason. A hero, like his Bat-counterpart, of strong enough character to do what's necessary to further the team's greater objectives, beneath any squabble or diplomacy issues. He's a little taste of the Task Force concept, added to the team for practical concerns that don't include appeasing certain world interests.

Though absent from Final Crisis itself; Knight played a prominent role alongside his fellow Batmen of all nations during one of Grant Morrison's Silver Age inspired arcs. After Batman's apparent death, he also arrived to lend a hand in Gotham City in the early stages of Battle for the Cowl.

August General in Iron (Fang Zhifu)
Nation of Origin: [China]
Alt. Affiliation: [Great Ten]
First Appearance: [52 #6]
Year One: [2006] JLA Year: [NA]
Cumulative Rank: [NA] Win Percentage: [NA]
2006: [DNR] 2007: [DNR] 2008: [DNR] 2009: [DNR]

Originally part of the same pitch that included Grant Morrison's J-pop culture shocked poseurs, the Super Young Team; August General in Iron and the Chinese group of superpowers, Great Ten, were given the chance to get out of the gates much sooner than their relegated Japanese counterparts. This may have resulted in an absence from Final Crisis, but in no way restricted the character's expansion into the DCU, which indluded a brief tenure with Checkmate as a Bishop.

As one of the looming super-powers of the world, it stands to reason that China's interests would do well to be represented. Since their introduction, Great Ten have been shown to be part of a much bigger network of Chinese presence than imagined prior to their development in 52 (and World War III).

As a seasoned veteran in the role of "super-functionary," the General's metallic hide and mastery over an advanced cutting staff grants the team plenty of muscle in the field. If only the political and ego-driven disagreements the team would inevitably have could be cut as easily by his staff as metal.

Tasmanian Devil (Hugh Dawkins)
Nation of Origin: [Australia]
Alt. Affiliation: [Ultramarine Corps]
First Appearance: [Super Friends #7]
Year One: [1977] JLA Year: [1991]
Cumulative Rank: [#604] Win Percentage: [0%]
2006: [DNR] 2007: [DNR] 2008: [#264] 2009: [DNR]

Tas might have been absent from the pages of Final Crisis, but this is one wildman whose credentials cannot be questioned! Holding membership with the Global Guardians, JLA, and Ultramarine Corps, he's a far more relevant voice than his representation might otherwise suggest, with a bite to match his bark, too!

Though Australia's interests in the global economy of superheroes has been relatively minor, their traditional everyman spirit for good humor offers the team a filter of grounding -- an invaluable reminder of the mere mortals they are supposed to protect. As one of the few prominent homosexual characters in mainstream comics, Tasmanian Devil might also be a cypher through which many serious issues of equality and acceptance might be chanelled.

Sonny Sumo
Nation of Origin: [Japan]
Alt. Affiliation: [Forever People]
First Appearance: [Forever People #4]
Year One: [1971] JLA Year: [NA]
Cumulative Rank: [#145] Win Percentage: [100%]
2006: [DNR] 2007: [DNR] 2008: [DNR] 2009: [#4]

After appearing in only four issues of Jack Kirby's Forever People, the heroic underground fighter found his way through a crack in his life, returning from the damnation of the Omega Sanction to once again battle the forces of Darkseid!
Final Crisis saw the hero take on a quiet role as surrogate mentor for the already mentioned Japanese pop-heroes of Super Young Team. Now ready to expand out into their own adventures, Sonny is again without a grandiose purpose.

Japan might otherwise be better represented by another hero briefly featured in Final Crisis - Rising Sun - but in the interest of keeping this delightful character alive, why not let him represent his country in this assembly of world heroes?
Not unlike the cast of internationals in the Street Fighter II franchise; Sonny's qualifications really only include strong moral fibre, a quiet dignity, and the ability to harness a portion of the Anti-Life Equation to channel his chi in fashion that grants him increased strength, durability, and unique resistance to elements of Kirby's Fourth World universe.

His tenure seems thoroughly in keeping with a morality that saw him become a great champion of the people in the ancient times he was trapped in. Now, in the modern age, he again has an opportunity to fight the good fight. Besides, I like the idea of he, Tasmanian Devil, and maybe Knight, palling around as slightly less politicized heroes.

Vixen (Mari Jiwe McCabe)
Nation of Origin: [M'Changa]
Alt. Affiliation: [Suicide Squad]
First Appearance: [Action Comics #521]
Year One: [1981] JLA Year: [1988]
Cumulative Rank: [#290] Win Percentage: [50%]
2006: [DNR] 2007: [DNR] 2008: [#158] 2009: [DNR]

Another who managed to miss out on most of the action in Final Crisis; Vixen has recently enjoyed a regular spotlight in the latest incarnation of JLA. The animal-powered heroine has proven in her most recent outing with the group that she is more than capable of matching up with the great evils that plague the world.

Africa is a vast continent containing just as many of it's own troubles as the rest of the world. Vixen is a mature character with the potential to confront some of these complex situations that have often gone overlooked by major American superhero divisions. Like all the heroes on our list, she's a competent hero in her own right, bringing not only her mystic powers of animal mimickery, but also extensive training in hand-to-hand combat. Above all else, she is a vital channel to communicate the concerns and ideas of the corner of the world she represents.

Rocket Red 01 (Capt. Maks Chazov)
Nation of Origin: [Russia]
Alt. Affiliation: [Rocket Red Brigade]
First Appearance: [Checkmate #22]
Year One: [2008] JLA Year: [NA]
Cumulative Rank: [NA] Win Percentage: [NA]
2006: [DNR] 2007: [DNR] 2008: [DNR] 2009: [DNR]

Another corner of the world that must inevitably receive representation, if only to allow for an eventual appearance of antiquated Soviet villains, is Russia! While the cold country wasn't spotlighted in Final Crisis, the Rocket Red Brigade have an extensive history within the DCU that includes interactions with the Justice League International branch in the prologue and aftermath of the Cold War.

Captain Maks Chazov; current ranked Rocket Red #1, recently held tenure with Checkmate, granting an immediate relevance to a group already possessing many ties with the UN organization. His suit of hi-tech armor grants a variety of powers, while his dipolmacy as a Russian dignitary offers a positive example for relations between the nation and others, including the United States. Few countries are as well represented in American comics as Russia, and believe me, there's plenty to make up for!

Iman (Diego Irigoyen)
Nation of Origin: [Mexico]
Alt. Affiliation: [NA]
First Appearance: [Superman Annual #12]
Year One: [2000] JLA Year: [NA]
Cumulative Rank: [NA] Win Percentage: [NA]
2006: [DNR] 2007: [DNR] 2008: [DNR] 2009: [DNR]

Lastly, a character who did appear in Final Crisis, albeit as an untranslated soldier in the army of heroes who united their powers to repell Darkseid's Purifiers. Another armored hero; Diego Irigoyen is a scientific super-genius who earned the attentions of various US agencys, including STAR Labs, where he served as an astronaut.

Possessing an advanced suit of armor of his own design, and courageous moral fibre, he is yet another valued presence of international descent proposed by one of Grant Morrison's projects. Granted, there weren't as many linked to Final Crisis as our other proposed franchise expansions, but that does not diminish the presence of obscure heroes like this.

NEXT: And at the end of a rushed and labored period, we leave our proposition of Justice League expansion behind, anticipating the release of a new Justice League project written by James Robinson. "Justice League" has been downgraded to mini-series status since it's announcement, but looks set to draw upon similar influences from Final Crisis that were focused here. Robinson's team, as first announced, is set to include; Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Atom, Supergirl, Batwoman, Captain Marvel, and other. It should be interesting!

Friday, February 27, 2009

CHUN-LI versus VEGA
Battle 08: Warrior (Tokuma Comics)
Where:
Street Fighter II #6 When: September 1994
Why: Masaomi Kanzaki How: Masaomi Kanzaki

The Story So Far...
On the lawless urban island of Shad, fighters from around the globe are congregating to prove their mettle, and collide in a martial arts tournament held by criminal underworld figure and boss of Shadaloo -- M. Bison!

Joining the tournament, along with many others, is a timid Interpol agent from China named Chun-Li. Her motive for entry proves personal as she tracks the man responsible for murdering her father, a high ranking officer himself. Her journey proves to be one of self-discovery when she meets a Japanese fighter by the name of Ryu. Immediately struck by his power and confidence, Chun-Li finds a martial arts warrior to which she can aspire.

With a string of victories under her belt, Chun-Li quickly finds her wishes granted, as the tournament presents her with the challenge of entering the confines of an iron cage wherein waits the vainglorious Spanish assassin, Vega. Handed a list of data by the American soldier, Guile, Chun-Li learns a horrible truth about her clawed opponent. He is the man who killed her father, and if she cannot find maturity in the heat of battle, he will also be the man who kills her!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Vega 3 (Athlete)
Intelligence: Chun-Li 3 (Straight A)
Speed: Draw 4 (Athlete)
Stamina: Draw 4 (Athlete)
Agility: Draw 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting Ability: Chun-Li 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy Power: Chun-Li 3 (Explosive)


- A skilled student of the Tai Chi style, Chun-Li trained under the martial arts master, Gen, before becoming the Chinese fighting-dynamo of the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol).

After her father's death, Chun-Li is motivated to hunt and destroy the international crime syndicate, Shadaloo, when she learns it's leader, Bison, may have been responsible for the murder. Her pursuit for justice brings her into the company of US Air Force soldier, Guile, who is also seeking justice for Bison's murder of his best friend, and undercover agent, Charlie.

Chun-Li is an incredibly fast and agile fighter, whose greatest asset are her powerful legs. Trademark attacks in her offensive arsenal include the Kikouken chi fireball, spinning side kick aerial attack, and Hyakuretsu Kyaku; better known as the flurrying combo, lightning kicks!

- The street fighting arena provides convenient abandon for the blood lusting Spaniard called Vega. Harboring homicidal tendencies, the narcissistic psychopath in the protective mask made a name for himself as a matador.
Turning his natural swift and speed to the martial arts, Vega values nothing more than the source of his vanity - his beautiful features - and protects them as best he can, while exacting brutal violence with the aid of his clawed gauntlet.

Vega's speed and agility were particularly complimented by the underground practise of cage fighting. In this domain, few can challenge the matador, and many have tasted bitter defeat at the end of his blades. It was this killing instinct that made him the perfect assassin for M.Bison's Shadaloo operations.

Math: Chun-Li Ranking: Chun-Li (#249)

What Went Down...
Shaken by the confronting news that Vega was responsible for her father's assassination, the impetuous Chun-Li becomes blind with rage. The fire within her offers a strong start to the fight as she launches immediately into a charging fist that sends Vega sliding across the mat into the iron embrace of the cage!

Vega, a seasoned killer, fails to recognise the girl's claims of murder, but is more than happy to oblige her in an emotionally charged battle. The masked matador quickly turns the tables as the physical and mental struggle shifts. Springing with lightning speed off the cage wall, Vega slashes at Chun-Li's chest.

The blow strikes as mentally deep as it does physically, rattling Chun-Li enough to render her a sitting duck. Vega's next swipe is far less forgiving, plunging his claw deep into the young woman's vulnerable gut.

The experienced Spaniard takes time to enjoy his obvious psychological advantage. He mocks Chun-Li as she clutches her stomach, drawing aspersions about her suitability to the masculine art of fighting. Her claims of cheap cowardice do little to engender chivalry in the elegantly sadistic matador.

With Honda and Dhalsim watching helplessly from the crowd, Chun-Li is savaged by another wild attack from the claw of Vega! The yoga master recognises the moment as a crucial milestone in Chun-Li's journey from fighter, to warrior.
Desperate to succeed, Chun-Li pulls herself from the void of defeat, recalling the voice of the wandering warrior, Ryu. He compells her to focus on who it is she's fighting and it inspires her to resist.

Skidding to a halt, Chun-Li again pauses, face-to-face with the masked matador. The crowd takes no more seriously than he, offering only disrespect. Heckling and wolf whistles. As if feulled by the challenge of humilation, Chun-Li bursts with energy, and just as Vega flips to bounce off the cage for a finishing blow, the Interpol agent from China discovers a power within herself.

With her chi focused into a singular wave Chun-Li unleashes the kikoken!
The energy sends Vega hurtling back into the cage from which he'd sprung. The scarred warrior bleeds for all to see, unobscured by his mask. Though Chun-Li herself collapses from the effort, it is Vega who is unconscious. Defeated.

The Hammer...
The winner of this bout, Chun-Li!

In conjunction with the release of the already infamous Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, in cinemas, this was to be a comparison post against one of the most revered fight scenes in the Street Fighter canon. I am, of course, talking about the epic battle between Chun-Li and Vega, as depicted in the animated movie.

Unfortunately, after much delay, I was forced to admit defeat in the face of a DVD too stubborn to facilitate screen capture. Perhaps at a later date we will have an opportunity to "revisit" the milestone film, which is still regarded by many fans as the most triumphant adaptation of the Street Fighter II legacy.

Top 20 World Warriors
#1 Ryu (Japan)
#2 Dhalsim (India)
#3 Ken (USA)
#4 Guile (USA)
#5 R. Mika (Japan)
#6 Sagat (Thailand)
#7 Fei Long (Hong Kong)
#8 Akuma (Japan)
#9 Sakura (Japan)
#10 T. Hawk (USA)
#11 Rose (Italy)
#12 Abel (France)
#13 Chun-Li (China)
#14 Vega (Spain)
#15 Birdie (England)
#16 Balrog (USA)
#17 Gouken (Japan)
#18 Sodom (USA)
#19 Zangief (Russia)
#20 Dan (Japan)
Adaptaing the tradition of one-on-one martial arts video games has proven a difficult one for many within the Hollywood fraternity. The trend hasn't restricted itself to the fighting genre, however. The Legend of Chun-Li joins a string of live-action feature releases that have garnered less than admiral review from mainstream outlets.

Mortal Kombat was the first video game franchise to really find success in cinemas with it's 1995 film directed by Paul Anderson. It followed the financial and critical failures of big screen versions of Super Mario Brothers, Double Dragon, and Street Fighter, all of which strayed considerably from the canon of their source material. MK was far from invincible, however, as was proven by the rushed 1997 sequel, Annihilation, which boasted considerably cheaper production values, a bloated cast, and key roles that did not feature reprisal from their earlier actors.

Like many of the superheroes that have found success in recent years; video game franchises house time tested plot and characters, sharing much with their four-colour counterparts.
Fighting games in particular have traditionally reached deep to quickly establish casts built of vivid characters. Often derived from a particular theme or concept, these characters are as colourful and bold as any Batman or Iron Man, sharing historic events in their story that build a larger universe around them.

The inherent situation of one-on-one fighting typically leaves little room for exposition. Street Fighter has particularly struggled to take ownership of it's canon, relying moreso on the imagination of gamers, and the complicated incorporation of interpretive storylines spun by the likes of Gisaburo Sugii, Masahiko Nakahira, and Masaomi Kanzaki.

Kanzaki's plot in the Street Fighter II serialized manga created a base for the canon that deviated wildly from what little was established in the franchise, whilst exploring basic elements of character and plot. The writer-artist introduced prevelant plot elements that included the brainwashing activities of Shadaloo, the introduction of Ken and Ryu's martial arts master (the now playable, Gouken), and also his subsequent murder (albeit, at the hands of Bison).

It seems reasonable to assume some level of cross-inspiration might have occurred during the development of the Street Fighter II animé, which was originally to have been featured today. Both feature prominent battles between Chun-Li and Vega, who, otherwise, possess little in common. No doubt this subsequently featured a similar battle in the feature film, where Taboo of the Black Eyed Peas takes on the role of the otherwise beauteous Spaniard.

Unfortunately, the purveying influence of these many different sources failed to galvanize a single canon within the Street Fighter source material. In the lead-up to the release of Street Fighter IV, Capcom faced heavy scrutiny for their decision to include certain characters and designs, seemingly positioning the fourth numerical instalment somewhere between SFII and the much maligned, SFIII.

Despite early announcements of fully animated sequences in the game itself, it was left to cross promotional animé and comic releases to further flesh out the plot surrounding SFIV. Thankfully, The Ties That Bind, the animated release included with Collector's Editions of the game, does quite a lot with it's meagre sixty-five minutes to flesh out the SFIV story. Set, it seems, prior to the events of Street Fighter IV, it introduces brand new antagonists, Crimson Viper and Seth, while also bringing back classic heroes like Chun-Li, Cammy, Sakura, Guile, Ken, and of course, Ryu. As with the SFII and Alpha animé features, one could arguably call this a better version of a Chun-Li film than Legend.

Though disappointing that more could not be included in the games to establish the narrative of the franchise as specifically as Mortal Kombat, it is still with confidence that these alternate products paint a universe of strong characters and key events. It takes very little imagination to spin an exciting tale out of these established sources, which could only be supported by a confident visual design akin to the manga reviewed today, or any other of the number of sources previously reviewed in the Infinite Wars.

The fact that Legend of Chun-Li, which was released the same day as the date of this post, completely strips the characters of their iconic visuals and distinct character, is a travesty. I constantly find myself returning to Iron Man, which, although somewhat unadventurous with it's narrative structure, makes a confident leap forward for the incorporation of comic book visuals in cinema.

Having spent such a long time in the dark, it now feels as though this post-9/11 world of film is begging for bursts of colour. Speed Racer might not have set critics aflame with passion for it's CG-heavy stylized visuals, but it makes a similarly stunning argument for the adaptation of bold colour and concept, just like the financially better, Iron Man. Street Fighter, actually arguably more understated than either of those examples, really deserved that grade of treatment and confidence in it's brand.

Springing from a relatively obscure 1987 arcade game, the adventures of Ryu and all who occupy this world of martial arts adventure, have become video game legend. In the canon of the industry, it is one of the most significant series to ever be released, defining a genre through production that has rarely been matched. Why it has thus far been so difficult to realise in live-action, I do not know. Let us hope, however, that if anyone should get a chance to revisit the brand on the silver screen, they show more bravery when they do so.

Tekken will be the next franchise to face the perilous journey to the big screen, mimicking Street Fighter with a double-whammy accompanying the August film release with Tekken 6 on home consoles. Alas, all early indications suggest yet another souless escapade into the world of martial arts, displayed by a less than significant cast who will fill out a variety of roles plucked from the games.

Let us hope, if nothing else, the gears of promotion give opportunity to a Tekken manga, comic, or animé. Something to rival the quality of the fine products we have referred to today.

The Fight: 4 The Issue: 4

Street Fighter II was originally presented as a black and white manga serialized in the Japanese magazine, Family Computer Magazine, in 1993. Tokuma Shoten later collected the series, and translated it for US audiences with colour and rearranged panels under their Tokuma Comics branch. The US printing has since become defunct, but UDON have snapped up the rights, translating uncensored and unedited art for English-reading audiences. Keep this in mind as you follow purchase links to Amazon, each of which helps sponsor future entries in the Infinite Wars! You'll find plenty more Street Fighter, and other books on sale, by exploring the depths of the Secret Archives!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

SHIPPING LIST: FEBRUARY 25, 2009
You can probably find complete shipping list updates on most major comics sites. Consider this an opportunity to either do all your info-shopping in the one place, or get a speculative perspective on what might be worth checking out. These are untested reads. Secret Wars on Infinite Earths can offer no guarantee or endorsement of quality. These are simply titles that may be of potential interest. Some items may ship late.

The Infinite Wars now has a gift shop!
Now you'll find Amazon purchase links to hardcovers, trade paperbacks, and other collections, not only on regular entries -- but also new releases at the bottom of the Shipping List, and now a whole catalogue of potential purchases via the Infinite Wars: Amazonian Gift Shop. [Men are also welcome!] By shopping with Amazon via our purchase links, you not only find yourself a great deal, but also sponsor future entries on the Infinite Wars.

Advertise here! Contact for more!

The Independents...
DEC082256 ASTOUNDING WOLF-MAN #13 $2.99
DEC084219 ATOMIC ROBO TP VOL 02 $19.95
DEC084084 DOCTOR WHO WHISPERING GALLERY (ONE SHOT) $3.99
DEC082258 DYNAMO 5 #20 $3.50
DEC084399 PHANTOM DETECTIVE AUG 1938 REPLICA ED $14.95
DEC082232 SAVAGE DRAGON #145 CVR A $3.50
DEC082239 SPAWN #189 $2.95
DEC084299 STREET FIGHTER II TURBO #4 CRUZ CVR A $3.95
JAN094360 TINTIN IN THE CONGO HC (RES) $24.95
DEC080046 UMBRELLA ACADEMY DALLAS #4 (OF 6) $2.99
DEC080045 USAGI YOJIMBO #118 $3.50
DEC084183 WASTELAND #24 (MR) $3.50

The Corporates...
DEC080171 BATMAN THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #2 $2.50
DEC082361 CAPTAIN AMERICA #47 $2.99
DEC082365 DR DOOM MASTERS OF EVIL #2 (OF 4) $2.99
DEC082374 INCREDIBLE HERCULES #126 $3.99
DEC082376 MARVEL ADVENTURES FANTASTIC FOUR #45 $2.99
DEC082323 MIGHTY AVENGERS #22 DKR $2.99
DEC080187 PUSH #6 (OF 6) $3.50
DEC080140 REIGN IN HELL #8 (OF 8) $3.50
DEC080109 SUPERMAN #685 (ORIGINS) $2.99
DEC082319 THUNDERBOLTS #129 DKR $2.99
DEC082318 WAR MACHINE #3 DKR $2.99
DEC082401 X-FORCE #12 $2.99

The Spotlight...
- DEC082325 DARK REIGN FILES DKR $4.99
Let's be honest, profile books are next to obselete in the internet age.
It was while reading the back-up supplementals in Punisher #1 that it dawned on me that not only are these kinds of things antiquated, but often, better written and more informative on blogs. Admittedly, there's still some lure to the ol' handbook formula, for a one-stop information resource and it's archival value, but at that price...? I'll settle for horrible Wikipedia articles!

- NOV080161 GREEN LANTERN #38 (ORIGINS) $2.99
Y'know, ten years from now, we'll be looking back on the '05-'10 period with nostalgic wanderlust, remembering just how good an era it was from Green Lantern comics! The action builds as Hal Jordan starts to see red (wink, wink), and the horrible prophecy of the Blackest Night draws nearer! What is Sinestro's part to play? Is he the hero, or villain, in this world of warring colours? I think we're all expecting Jordan to 'White Ranger' his way into a unique position of power, but as frustrating as the anticipation might be, the GL book(s) continue to throw up surprises!

- DEC082373 HULK #10 $3.99
Hulk continues to be one of the absolute stupidest books being printed monthly, which only makes it all the more frustrating when a half tempting concept crops up! This time around Hulk's charged with drafting himself a team of time travelling Defenders (Silver Surfer, Dr. Strange, & Namor) to go head-to-head with his raging red counterpart, Rulk, and his new group, the Offenders (Baron Mordo, Tigershark, & Terrax)! Folks, this is purile unadulterated junk comics that will only rot your brain and your teeth. Still, that doesn't mean you can't enjoy it while it's there!

- DEC080133 JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #24 (ORIGINS) $2.99
Black Adam's back in action, but if you thought that was the lure of this title, then you might be mistaken. Geoff Johns departs the title that made him famous, leaving not only with the big bang of a fan-favourite character he breathed new life into, but also the first tangible consequences of Final Crisis to be seen in the DCU-proper! The Justice Society of America head for the Rock of Eternity to protect it from being controlled by the sinister Black Adam and his darkly resurrected bride, Isis.

- DEC082390 SHE-HULK 2 #38 $3.99
In 2004 it began as the sleeper hit of the year, but now we say goodbye to She-Hulk. Honestly, as much as I'd love to see the book stick around to be salvaged, it'd gotten pretty run down under the seemingly astute guardianship of Peter David. Humdrum stories otherwise sparkled with the destined-for-bigger-things pseudo-manga stylings of recent artist, Vincenzo Cucca. I can only hope the otherwise just cancellation does not interrupt his rise as a force for Marvel (or other) comics. The mantle gets passed in the coming months as Lyra - son of Hulk and Thundra from an alternate future - launches in an all-new Savage series.

- DEC080150 WONDER WOMAN #29 $2.99
While one of comics' few female leads departs, another appears to be finding new strengths! Wonder Woman, arguably the one who should be leading the way, looks to be gradually improving under the guidance of much-hyped writer, Gail Simone. Periodically we pop in on Wonder Woman with distant interest, and as Rise of the Olympian continues, I find myself increasingly convinced by the "new" creative team. Cheetah, Genocide, and Zeus lend the book a much needed sense of conventional superhero familiarity, while the artwork maintains a sense of dynamism that is there in the writing, as well.

READ THE PREVIEW - VISIT THE SITE - BUY THE COMIC

Know Your Trade...
DEC084219 ATOMIC ROBO TP VOL 02 $19.95
DEC082456 CAPTAIN AMERICA TP VOL 03 DEATH OF CAPTAIN AMERICA $14.99
DEC082431 INCREDIBLE HERCULES PREM HC LOVE & WAR $19.99
DEC082424 MIGHTY AVENGERS HC BAGLEY CVR DM ED $34.99
OCT082493 MMW ATLAS ERA STRANGE TALES HC VOL 02 $59.99
DEC082413 MMW FANTASTIC FOUR TP VOL 01 $24.99
OCT082495 MMW MIGHTY THOR HC VOL 08 $54.99
NOV080180 SHOWCASE PRESENTS SUPERMAN FAMILY TP VOL 03 $16.99
OCT080178 STARMAN OMNIBUS HC VOL 02 $49.99
NOV080181 SUPERMAN CAMELOT FALLS TP VOL 02 $12.99
NOV080187 TALES OF THE GREEN LANTERN CORPS TP VOL 01 $19.99
JAN094360 TINTIN IN THE CONGO HC (RES) $24.95



Hero of the Week #1: Wolverine

WOLVERINE (Marvel)  
Real Name: James "Logan" Howlett
First Appearance: Incredible Hulk #181 (November, 1974)
Group Affiliation: Secret Avengers, X-Men, X-Force
Gaming Credentials: Wolverine (1991); X-Men (1993); Wolverine: Adamantium Rage (1994); X-Men 2: Clone Wars (1995); Marvel Superheroes in War of the Gems (1996); Marvel vs Capcom 2 (2000)X2: Wolverine's Revenge (2003); X-Men Legends (2004)X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009); Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 (TBA)
Infinite Wars Cumulative Ranking: #6

When I'm hanging around here blowing off steam, you might not know that I'm actually neglecting a much longer running blog called, Secret Wars on Infinite Earths. In a nutshell, that's the place where I indulge in the lows and highs of comics culture, featuring superhero fights like a big weird pseudo-sports league. Like a lot of great comics themselves; I like to think it's a lowbrow vehicle with highbrow ideals.

In an effort to reconcile the gap between the two blogs, I generally use my own references when linking to details of relevance. Fortunately for me, superheroes are inexorably linked with video games, and while it might seem slightly obtuse for the uninitiated, it's not really that much of a stretch to spotlight a superhero each week. Wolverine's a great example of that!

Wolverine has a long and sordid past in video games, but his most recent outings have all shown just how at home the character is in the gaming arena.

Early appearances famously hindered trademark attacks as the conventions of 8-bit gaming struggled to reconcile the capabilities of a claw slashing, brute sniffing, always healing mutant into the conventions of the time. While some suffered on a fundamental level that forced the usually agile hero into clumsy platforming, others succeeded at failing on more deliberate levels, like the various games that penalized players for popping a blob of white pixels representing his famous adamantium-laced claws.

The revolution of 3D gaming brought with it many challenges to be navigated in order to unlock the massive potential of the added plane. Through the last few generations we've seen in-game logics gradually let go of the boxed-in fundamentals that constrained early games, adapting the rules to represent a heightened state of hyper-realism.
The introduction of stealth elements, 360 directional environments, diverse enemy AI, adaptable visual displays, and designs that minimized the importance of life-and-death scenarios, all played directly in to the hands of a character like Wolverine.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine, like the film it was based on, had it's creative issues as a result of contemporary influences ("IMO"), but it made the next vital step toward realising superheroes (and Wolverine in particular) in all their visceral glory.

The most prominent feature unique to Wolverine was the graphical impetus for ramping up the violence.

Despite being a custom-designed killing machine with knives sticking out of his hands; it's been a struggle to ever see that adequately represented in any satisfying form, let alone put in the hands of gamers. Raven Software's graphical impetus for ramping up levels of blood and violence might not have put forward an argument for superheroes as chin-rubbing philosophical cyphers, but it seems safe to say that it announced the guilty visceral extent the character and games are capable of reaching far better than the film.
Of course, as much as Origins pushed a version of realism to some success, that does nothing to discount the classic almost literal version of the character that will return in 2009's rereleased downloadable version of Marvel vs Capcom 2!

Despite being best known for their free-flowing superpowered melees in comics, developers have made regular efforts to capture the energy of superhero fisticuffs under the ceremonial restrictions of single-plane 2D fighters. Results have ranged from the average to downright mediocre, but unsurprisingly, the seasoned masters at Capcom found a way to make it work.
Vital to their success was the graphical fidelity and artistry that made this 2D fighter an enduring staple of the 3D era, defying contemporaries like Tekken and Virtua Fighter with it's bold and accurate representations of characters from the comics, and fluid, fever-pitched combat. Wolverine never once lopped an opponent's limb off, or suffered a career threatening impalement, but still felt beautifully accurate in his various movements before the inevitable berzerker barrage.

Over in the comics, the Wolvster's still wrapped up in all the universe-spanning guest-appearing action that made him infamous. Today, however, let the record show that our Hero of the Week isn't just a secret avenging X-man, but a gaming super-stud, as well.

Secret Wars on Infinite Earths: The Comic Book Fight Club is updated with varying consistency, promising a feature fight for every Friday on the calendar (even if sometimes they're late). The site acts as an information resource, discussion site, review blog, and general good time.

<< Hero of the Week: Batman (06/08)       [Home]

Originally posted: http://www.1up.com/do/blogEntry?bId=8992180

Sunday, February 22, 2009

COVER TO COVER: THE LEGEND OF STREET FIGHTER!

February 27 will forever be remembered in the Street Fighter calendar as a day of infamy for it marked the cinematic release of Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li. Starring (if you could call it that) Kristen Kreuk, Chris Klein, and Neal McDonough; the film garnered unlikely acclaim for achieving some of the lowest review scores ever tallied by aggregate website, Rotten Tomatoes, amounting for a long time to a total approval rating of 0%.

Fans of the 90's juggernaut no doubt regard it's filmic conversions with mixed feelings. Legend of Chun-Li has already suffered the indiginity of comparisons to both the mid-1994 animated feature, regarded by many as a great translation of the brand, as well as those of the Jean Claude Van Damme vehicle, which was released the same year.

Street Fighter, as if to ominously forecast the quality of the Chun-Li movie, was released on Bluray DVD for the first time, with a new "special" edition.

Though unashamedly hokey, the Van Damme picture has suddenly become the lesser of two evils. Despite mangling many of the game's popular characters, the 1994 film finds itself recreating the iconic visuals of the series with colourful glee. This quality arguably contributes to undermining the film with an overall aesthetic of cheap, but when measured against 2009's efforts, it suddenly glows with character and a charming reckless abandon.

Despite Hollywood's failure to capitalize on video game properties, it is safe to say that this is the responsibility not of any inherent curse upon the source material, but rather, the people creating these adaptations. Legend cinematographer-turned-director, Andrzej Bartkowiak, now owns directorial credits for two uninspired video game adaptations, coming off of the fun, but bland, 2005 version of Doom. Similarly to his Street Fighter film, anything iconic about that particular series is absent. Washed out to incorporate an aesthetically archaic wasteland of barren blacks and similar urban tones.

The animated features, while not quite cinematic masterpieces, allude far better to the potential locked within these characters. Unfortunately, much of this remains untapped in any medium, as Capcom continually fails to take ownership of it's canon. Similar to the film, the recently released Street Fighter IV home version, has failed to live up to it's narrative promises. Despite the introduction of fully animated video sequences, the game relegates most plot to a seperate animated feature, as well as tie-in properties produced by UDON comics.

While largely unimpressed by 2008's Iron Man, it is impossible to deny it's contribution to an indulgent sensibility of design and colour that is befitting these modern films. Zack Snyder's much talked about Watchmen adaptation straddles the line, but also puts forward an argument for colour and visual accuracy in a film genre no longer foreign to movie audiences.

Ultimately, Legend of Chun-Li appears cowardly and archaic in it's approach to hyper-stylized fiction. For that, it has been shunned far worse than any of the mistakes of the past. We can only hope as these mistakes continue to reoccur, that the influences of more profitable, and better made films, begin to spread that sense of investment further.

Street Fighter (December 1994)
"Revenge Match" Steven E. deSouza

For con-men Ken Masters and Ryu Hoshi, things quickly go from bad to worse when they travel to the Thai rebel state of Shadaloo. Looking to take advantage of an arms race between UN Peace Troopers and the soldiers of would-be warlord, General M. Bison; the pair of swindlers import phony weapons with the intent to get in, and get out.

Ken and Ryu make a powerful enemy in Thai underworld crime boss, Victor Sagat, who captures the pair to parade as fodder for his champion Spanish cage fighter - Vega! The con-men avoid lethal combat, finding themselves apprehended along with their enemies, by UN forces led by Guile.

Colonel Guile convinces the pair to use their connections to stage a fake breakout and assassination, using the scenario to earn the goodwill of Sagat.
Though Ken and Ryu are successful in embedding themselves in Bison's operation, the ultimate battle nears, and they are soon uncovered for the spies they are. With Bison's fortress crumbling under UN incursion, Ken and Ryu go their seperate ways, leaving the Japanese fighter to walk alone into a trap...

Street Fighter II V Ep.2 (April 1995)
"The King of the Air Force" Gisaburo Sugii

When billionaire heir Ken Masters contacts his martial arts training partner, Ryu, by letter, Ryu makes the long trek from Japan to San Francisco to reunite with his friend.

Brought together again, the two are impressed with the development of their martial arts skills, and challenge each other as they propel themselves into mischief with the help of their tour guide, Chun-Li.

To spark their quest to develop their martial arts, an encounter with US Air Force thugs in a bar called Mt. Fuji. Though the skillful Ken and Ryu are able to defeat the thugs with ease, their commanding officer Guile may prove more sport.


Street Fighter Alpha (1999)
"The Tournament Begins" Yamauchi/Yoshida

Having returned to Japan for a major street fighting tournament; Ken Masters, wealthy United States champion, reunites with his fighting rival and best friend, Ryu. Together they mourn the death of their master, Gouken, and together face the threat of the dark hadou energy that threatens Ryu.

In an effort to curb the dark energy rising in Ryu, he limits all fighting activity, opting only to accompany Ken to the tournament, along with a young Brazilian orphan claiming to be Ryu's half-brother.

Though Ken would ultimately be side-tracked and miss registration, the young Brazilian boy, Shun, would go on to enter and pitted against overwhelming odds. Emerging from the opposition cage the Russian man-mountain: Zangief!

Street Fighter #1 (September 2003)
"Stage 01" Siu-Chong/Lee

His name is Bison, and he is the megalomaniacal leader of the world's most vile criminal organization -- Shadaloo.
Involved in every facet of criminality, Shadaloo funds Bison's desires for world conquest, and his interests in fostering the martial arts and his psycho power.

It was during an investigation into Shadaloo that Bison uncovered and brutally murdered Charlie, partner of Interpol agent, Guile. Ever since, Guile has had the burning desire to personally put an end to the Shadaloo empire, and the evil M. Bison.

Patiently working his way through the various branches of Shadaloo, Guile and agents like him pick apart the pieces of the puzzle, working their way closer to the source. Wannabe street toughs, like the English street fighter, Birdie, represent the lower rungs, all useful for tracking back to Bison.

Street Fighter Alpha Vol.1 (April 2007)
"Round. 5" Masahiko Nakahira

The legend of Ryu's defeat over the Muay Thai champion Sagat has spread across the globe, but for the wandering world warrior the victory has come at a terrible cost.

Working as a bodyguard for drug smugglers; Ryu finds himself despondent after the glory of defeating one of the world's most popular fighters. However, unbenknownst to the world, Ryu is also plagued with doubt, having resorted to a power forbidden by his master, Gouken.

Working in Thailand with fellow street fighter and British thug, Birdie; Ryu is about to become the subject of an anti-narcotics sting launched by Interpol. Over zealous intervention inevitably escalates to violence, and when the battle is done, this night of fighting is destined to change Ryu's life forever...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

JUSTICE LEAGUE PART 3: FRANCHISE TASK FORCE!
Since their 1960 inception, the Justice League have been the premiere organized crime-fighting unit. Offering selections of some of the DC Universe's finest heroes, the JL's recruitment philosophy has varied to include; regional concern, covert operations, villain-centric obstacles, and the goal to assemble the cream of the crop. The latter arguably makes up the most famous incarnation of the League, constructed to represent versions of the leading corner posts of the DCU, and colloquially known as "the big seven."

Despite their eclectic origins, the Justice League remains popularly associated with it's foundations in the United States. Last year we paused to consider what might be possible if the team were to reinstate the now defunct International branch.
Since; Final Crisis has plunged the entire DC multiverse into chaos and forced the many factions of heroes and villains to unite their powers as a single force! Each struggle provided the basis for a potential tangent in the Justice League brand. Previously we speculated on potential teams dubbed America and Resistance.

With global peril looming on a day when evil won, it's reasonable to expect the world's foremost counter-superhero agency to be prepared for the worst.
Though Checkmate as an organization was to inevitably succumb to the proliferation of Darkseid's Anti-Life Purifiers, Michael Holt was able to lead a ragtag group of survivors against overwhelming numerical superiority, utilizing a brilliant tactical mind to map the last ditch efforts to save humanity.

Today's team sets out to marry the political superheroic experience and brilliance possessed of Mr. Terrific, channeled toward missions that require a sense of tactical delicacy and discretion. With the practical implementation of heroes (and villains) who aided in the epic battle against the fallen New Gods, this patrol of heroes who faced the end become uniquely equipped to face even the most impossible odds posed by the world's super-powers with superpowers.
They are a special Task Force, coiled to spring silently into action!

Mr. Terrific (Michael Holt)
Alt. Affiliation: [Justice Society]
First Appearance: [The Spectre #54]
Year One: [1997] JLA Year: [NA]
Cumulative Rank: [#393] Win Percentage: [0%]
2006: [DNR] 2007: [DNR] 2008: [#183] 2009: [DNR]

With a decade of publication under his belt, the inheritor of the Mr. Terrific legacy continues to rack up the adventuring accolades in fast succession. As a former Chairman of the JSA and serving White King of Checkmate during Final Crisis; Holt's qualifications span far beyond his own self-made origins as a brilliant scientist and engineer. These skills proved vital in resisting the plague-like spread of the Anti-Life Equation throughout the UN organization, which left Terrific and a select few agents trapped within the bowels of Checkmate HQ.

Holt proved unwavering gaul in the face of apocalypse, dedicated enough to doom his lover, Sasha Bordeaux, in the interest of activating an army of OMAC soldiers through the techno-infection housed within her body. While this maneuver might very well have galvanized the value of Checkmate in a world of super-powers, it might also force Mr. Terrific to finally concede his senior role.

Should that happen, Holt might dedicate himself to an independent task force uniquely suited to tackling problems without the heavy lifting of political negotiation that dictated his Checkmate obligations. A team comprised of those who were there to aid him during the Final Crisis, and others, who championed the cause of humanity under their own inclinations.

The Question (Renee Montoya)
Alt. Affiliation: [Gotham City Police Department]
First Appearance: [Batman #475]
Year One: [1992] JLA Year: [NA]
Cumulative Rank: [DNR] Win Percentage: [NA]
2006: [DNR] 2007: [DNR] 2008: [DNR] 2009: [DNR]

Since her transformation from seasoned Detective with the GCPD, into Vic Sage's successor as the faceless and elusive Question; Renee Montoya has become a uniquely human force for good in a world of gods and monsters.
So valued is her experience that, in the face of destruction, Checkmate's Black Gambit to penetrate the multiverse led them to seek her out as the template of a new Global Peace Agency designed to secure an alternate world. She is the basis upon which the evolution of the OMAC is derived.

With a final solution provided by Superman, it seems unlikely that Montoya's presence in any inter-dimensional activity would be required, allowing her to return to life on Earth. Far too ingrained in The Question's way of thinking, joining Checkmate would seem unlikely, but Terrific would have every reason to trust Montoya in forming a new force suited to the Question's way of operating.

Frankenstein
Alt. Affiliation: [Seven Soldiers]
First Appearance: [Detective Comics #135]
Year One: [1948] JLA Year: [NA]
Cumulative Rank: [DNR] Win Percentage: [NA]
2006: [DNR] 2007: [DNR] 2008: [DNR] 2009: [DNR]

Rendered immune to the Anti-Life Equation by his make-up as a pastiche creature built from reanimated corpse parts; the monster called "Frankenstein" proved to be an invaluable powerhouse in the battle against Darkseid and his Purifiers. Hardly a first for a creature who has lived for more than a century, and amassed a wealth of experience and knowledge as a result of his many adventures across the entire globe.

Frankenstein abandoned his pursuit of Renee Montoya to fight on the frontlines with the last superhuman resistance. Standing along side some of the DCU's most powerful heroes, he was vital in defeating the Female Furies and liberating Wonder Woman of the veil of evil. If that isn't an act deserving of the League's respect, I do not know what is!

Atom (Ryan Choi)
Alt. Affiliation: [NA]
First Appearance: [DCU: Brave New World #1]
Year One: [2006] JLA Year: [NA]
Cumulative Rank: [DNR] Win Percentage: [NA]
2006: [DNR] 2007: [DNR] 2008: [DNR] 2009: [DNR]

A brilliant scientist from Hong Kong -- Ryan Choi arrived in America to replace Ray Palmer in his position as a staff member for Ivy University. Having worked alongside Palmer, Choi was already well versed in the fantastic realms of science, but was only brought into the fold of superheroics upon his mentor's disappearance into the multiverse. Believing himself to have been recruited by Palmer himself as his shrinking successor, Choi spent a brief career within the superhero fraternity, only to discover it all a plot conceived by Chronos.

Upon his return home, Palmer comes to accept Choi in the legacy role, but continues to adventure himself. The pair united during the Final Crisis under direction from Checkmate, using their shared knowledge of atomic physics to enable a contingency of mass interdimensional relocation.

Choi brings specialist knowledge to complement Mr. Terrific's engineering genius, while also presenting skills perfectly suited to field work in a cover capacity with this JL Task Force.

Cheetah (Dr. Barbara Ann Minerva)
Alt. Affiliation: [The Society]
First Appearance: [Wonder Woman #6]
Year One: [1987] JLA Year: [NA]
Cumulative Rank: [#316] Win Percentage: [25%]
2006: [DNR] 2007: [#98] 2008: [#373] 2009: [DNR]

Despite inheriting a role as Wonder Woman's arch-nemesis and developing a sparring rival with sometimes-hero, Catwoman, the feline villainess known as Cheetah proved to be one of the few who managed to avoid forced assimilation into the latest incarnation of the Society she had once championed.

Keen animal senses and enhanced speed obtained under the tutelage of Hunter Zolomon grant Cheetah the necessary guile to evade capture. Allowing her mystic-given skills to guide her, Cheetah acted alone during the Final Crisis, avoiding marching Purifiers during bursts around the abandoned cityscape. It was a brief series of chance encounters with Checkmate's teleporter, Snapper Carr, that brought her into the fold of humanity's last stand. The pair shared a brief liason before Cheetah was inducted temporarily into the rebellion, tasting heroism as a result of a common evil.

No doubt Barbara Ann Minerva would be a controversial inclusion into any team, but the landscape of the modern DCU has proven to be less than black and white, where terms of morality and allegiance are concerned.

Flash (Wally West)
Alt. Affiliation: [Teen Titans]
First Appearance: [Flash #110]
Year One: [1959] JLA Year: [1989]
Cumulative Rank: [#19] Win Percentage: [71.43%]
2006: [#18] 2007: [#111] 2008: [#14] 2009: [DNR]

Life's been tough for the scarlet speedster, of late.
After disappearing into uncertainty at the close of Infinite Crisis, Wally West found himself expanding his responsibilities to include a family. This, coupled with a year of displacement, left the character floating in limbo to eventually lead quality concerns in the hero's return to Flash to emerge in the fiction as a reflection of his quality of heroics.

In Final Crisis, those in touch with the speed force were positioned to escape the reality-crunching grasp of Darkseid and the fallen New Gods. West, joined by his Golden Age senior, Jay Garrick, was there to witness the long awaited return of Barry Allen; the much celebrated hero who sacrificed himself during the Crisis of Infinite Earths in the battle to save the multiverse from Anti-Monitor! The trio were ultimately vital to launching a reborn Darkseid toward a new death, validating the evil New Gods' fear of their ominous powers.

With Allen back in a senior role, and Wally West still tending to a young family, it stands to reason he might want to avoid the spotlight a little. His superhuman speed and ability to avoid detection (and conventional time and space) make him the perfect addition to a covert Task Force, and with Allen back with the JLA, time in the B-leagues could help West earn the trust of his fellows back.

Snapper (Lucas Carr)
Alt. Affiliation: [Checkmate]
First Appearance: [Brave and the Bold #28]
Year One: [1960] JLA Year: [1960]
Cumulative Rank: [DNR] Win Percentage: [NA]
2006: [DNR] 2007: [DNR] 2008: [DNR] 2009: [DNR]

The finger snapping Justice League mascot got a promotion into the big leagues himself when, amidst the crisis of Project OMAC, Snapper was brought into the fold as a deep cover agent for the international intelligence agency, Checkmate.

When the spread of the Anti-Life Equation dominated the ranks of Checkmate, Snapper Carr was among the few to escape conversion. Utilizing his teleporting skills, Carr actively pursues strategic targets of sabotage, chipping away at the organized efforts of Darkseid and his Purifiers, while evading capture. These adventures bring him into chance encounters with a free roaming Cheetah, with whom he eventually enjoys a brief affair in the field, acting as Checkmate's only contact with the outside from their last stand bunker.

Like many others on this, and other lists, Carr quickly proved his worth in the face of total domination. Already trained and versed in Mr. Terrific's methods having worked under him as a Checkmate Pawn, the inclusion of Carr into any covert Task Force is bound to be made in a snap.

Friday, February 20, 2009

ABEL versus BIRDIE
(UDON/Capcom)
Where:
Street Fighter IV #1 When: February 2009
Why: Ken Siu-Chong How: Joe Ng

The Story So Far...
With his past shrouded in a fog of uncertainty, the French mixed martial artist cum mercenary called Abel relies on a single certainty to give him purpose. Having been found in his amnesiac state in a Shadaloo cell, and rescued from the demolition of the facility by the USAF Lieutenant Charlie Nash; Abel seeks answers and retribution by launching a one-man assault on the international criminal empire responsible for Charlie's death!

Following a lead to London; Abel finds the pro-wrestler turned small time crook, Birdie, running a bungled weapons smuggling operation for Shadaloo's arms dealing branch, S.I.N! Things turn from bad, to worse, as the French fighter seeks information from the hoods about this organization rising from the ashes of Bison's apparent defeat, but Birdie is no slouch in the fighting department!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Birdie 4 (Enhanced)
Intelligence: Abel 3 (Straight-A)
Speed: Draw 2 (Average)
Stamina: Draw 4 (Athlete)
Agility: Draw 2 (Average)
Fighting Ability: Abel 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy Power: Birdie 2 (Projectile)


- With his past shrouded in mystery, Abel made for himself a new life as a mixed martial arts mecenary hailing from France. Abel was discovered by US Air Force Lieutenant, Charlie Nash, whilst scouting a Shadaloo SIN weapons facility before it's destruction. It was Charlie who placed the scarred and confused fighter in the care of the mercenary he came to know as his father.

Devestating in his proficiency with the fighting style learnt from his adpotive father, Abel is a capable grappler and striker. He uses these skills in his pursuit of any vestige of Shadaloo's operations he is able to track.

- Hailing from England, the former pro-wrestler turned punk rocker, Birdie, is an undisciplined fighter with aspirations of joining the international crime syndicate, Shadaloo. In an effort to get noticed, this wannabe thug partakes in petty crime on the streets, while using his trademark chain as a weapon in street fights.

Birdie eventually used his reputation to reach the ranks of Shadaloo, but when the temptation of power leads Birdie to devise a plan to use M. Bison's psycho-drive as a means of overthrowing him, a subsequent team-up with Balrog leads to Birdie's undoing, and the alleged collapse of Shadaloo.

Math: Abel Ranking: Birdie (#299)

What Went Down...
Just as Birdie berates his gang for confusing shipments of dolls containing armor-piercing ammunition, the French dynamo enters to learn more about the weapons specialist division of Shadaloo called S.I.N!

Abel puts Birdie's goons out quick with a palm strike and toss, but leaves himself open to the Brit's deadly chain. It wraps up around his neck from behind, but the Frenchman shows incredible strength, using the length to drag Birdie into his clutches for a punk-shaped hammer toss that levels the rest of the gang, before dumping their leader on his head!

Birdie shows considerably more resilience than his gang buddies, laughing at Abel's confidence as he launches into his own unique attack, a rising headbutt the Frenchman didn't see coming!

With unlikely agility for a man so large, Birdie springs to his feet, whipping his chains in trademark style in the same motion. Abel dives beneath the stinging stream of metal, getting into close quarters that return to him the advantage.

Like a raging bull, the grappler charges with Birdie in his unbreakable clutches!
The Brit becomes a human battering ram as his giant frame smashes through wooden crates before colliding with the back wall of their warehouse!

Abel unloads with a three-string combination of punches, before launching into a flipping throw that vaults Birdie's enormous frame overhead to provide a landing pad for the leaping Frenchman! The blow puts an end to Birdie's rebellion, leaving him helpless against the wall once more, with no choice but to divulge the secrets Abel seeks to continue his battle with Shadaloo and his past.

The Hammer...
Let us welcome Abel into the annals of Street Fighter and Infinite Wars history as we declare him the undisputed winner! Yay!

Flash back to the end of February and there's every possibility you were a part of a movement that spread across home consoles worldwide -- Street Fighter IV for PS3 and Xbox 360!

Those who've splashed out to pick up the obscenely priced collector's edition will have already familiarized themselves with the peripheral source of story for the game, which relegates depth of narrative to an hour long animé feature on DVD.
In this respect, the coindiciding release of UDON's most recent expansion of the Capcom/Street Fighter license agreement plays a role as part of a cross medium promotion. To the initial benefit of the work, the series hasn't really been marketted as that kind of a tie-in, but it certainly seems to fit quite nicely!

While the animé provides context for the clash between the heroes of Street Fighter and the looming threat of SIN, the comic dives a little further back, elaborating on the backstory of Crimson Viper and Seth, while also turning attentions to fellow new inclusion, Abel, and overlooked old favourite, Birdie.

Top 25 Game Fighters
#1 Ryu (Capcom)
#2 Shang Tsung (Midway)
#3 Shao Kahn (Midway)
#4 Goro (Midway)
#5 Sonya Blade (Midway)
#6 Dhalsim (Capcom)
#7 Ken Masters (Capcom)
#8 Johnny Cage (Midway)
#9 Noob Saibot (Midway)
#10 Sheeva (Midway)
#11 Raiden (Midway)
#12 Guile (Capcom)
#13 R. Mika (Capcom)
#14 Stryker (Midway)
#15 Sagat (Capcom)
#16 Kano (Midway)
#17 Fei Long (Capcom)
#18 Kintaro (Midway)
#19 Akuma (Capcom)
#20 Hotaru (Midway)
#21 Sakura (Capcom)
#22 T.Hawk (Capcom)
#23 Jin Kazama (Namco)
#24 Rose (Capcom)
#25 Dragon King (Midway)
The British punk rocker from the original game, (later revamped for the Alpha series), seems to be a favourite for writer Ken Siu-Chong, who appears slightly less out of his depth in this latest incarnation of the comic. While not entirely out of the ordinary, the character's appearance does have the negative sting of a series of repetitions that have plagued UDON's releases. If their comics are anything to go by, you certainly don't want to spend time in any kind of restaurant in the land of World Warriors!

Street Fighter IV recovers slightly from a steady decline in quality that culminated in the latest of UDON's sequentially relevant series, Street Fighter II Turbo.
One can't help but wonder if the writer is the sole person to blame, given that the issues really do read very much like something coming from an art studio. The writing, in a traditional sense, is at fault, but I wonder how much of these issues are a collaborative effort, spreading the blame as evenly for the bad, as the good, such as the regular use of visual cues familiar to gamers.

Joe Ng's art style returns to the comics a visual flair more familiar to the Capcom properties than the radically different departure by Turbo's Jeffrey Cruz. Most notable is the difference in pacing, which returns to an evocative flow reminiscent of Alvin Lee's glory days on earlier issues of the license.

One gets the sense that Capcom's presence was more felt on Street Fighter IV, giving it the direction the other series have lacked. This first issue delivers a sense of purpose that seems potentially fitted between the cracks of the animé and game. It has a sense of contributing deliberately to the larger picture, which rarely, if ever, was as present during previous series, Turbo included. Minor discrepencys leave doubt over whether or not it will fit seemlessly into the saga of SFIV, but only time can confirm or deny that.

The team could never be accused of dishonoring the spirit of the property.
The inclusion of Birdie, who was sorely missed from the cast of characters included in the game, highlight this. Afterall, even if his inclusion is a way of avoiding to committing to characters without interrupting their predestined paths, at least they chose to utilize one of the beloved B-listers of the universe!

Walking a precarious line between the classic mould of mixed martial arts and nationalism, Abel might be my favourite of the new inclusions. I can't say I'm especially fond of his amnesia plot line, which appears unresolved in his game conclusion, and has a nervous twitch of Cammy about it, but I like him.

As a sense of story unfolds, I've ever found myself looking upon Crimson Viper with a more positive light. She certainly shines in the feature, but looks set to accept a greater sense of humanity than the role of antagonist allows during her animated pursuit of Ken, and Ryu. Seth too will hopefully grow beyond the boss role expressed in the animé, without losing the associated presence.

As you can no doubt tell, I continually find myself looking upon the sole writer with scepticism. At only four issues, one would hope SFIV can maintain the course suggested by a fairly solid first issue. UDON are certainly tapped into the culture of these characters, who so often suffer interpretations that do not do them the service of their twenty year history. Such strong and vibrant characters deserve a story that can reflect their adventures and story to the fullest, in all of it's philosophical, political, and action-packed glory.

And hey, for those with the issue, I'm sure little nods like the Mortal Kombat hybrid ninja (baring the colours of Sub-Zero, Scorpion, and Reptile), doesn't go too far, either. Like I said; these guys really are steeped in the culture. I just wish they could more consistently use that knowledge for more involving ends.

The Fight: 5 The Issue: 4.5

Street Fighter IV hit PS3 and 360 this week, and it's the collector's edition you'll have to grab to get a hold of all the extra goodies, including the explosive animated adventure that brings Chun-Li, Guile, Cammy, Ken, Ryu, and Sakura together again to fight the forces of evil! You can pick that up, or any of the UDON collections featuring previously reviewed issues, via Amazon links provided in posts, and the Gift Shoppe! By doing so, you help sponsor future entries of the Infinite Wars! You can also stay up to date on the monthly release of Street Fighter IV from UDON!