Friday, October 30, 2015

Born On A Monday (DC)
Solomon Grundy #1 When: May 2009

Why: Scott Kolins How: Scott Kolins

The Story So Far...
Cyrus Gold lived a wicked life as a citizen of late 19th Century Gotham City. Cursed in death to forever rise from his unmarked grave within Slaughter Swamp - he becomes the mindless, shambling behemoth known as Solomon Grundy!

Born on a Monday some fifty years after his demise the undead Grundy emerged from the muck composed of its rotting contents for the very first time. The zombie-like Grundy was drawn to a new life of evil time and again, possessing super-human strength in his many deaths and rebirths. He is inevitably drawn into conflict with emerging heroes like The Green Lantern, whose magic might could not grapple with Grundy's grim, wood infused corpse!

It was fitting that the ring-wielding hero should be there to bare witness to the return not of Solomon Grundy - but Cyrus Gold - decades later! Something has intervened in the endless cycle, granting Gold a final 7 days to put his soul to rest! Summoned by The Phantom Stranger, Alan Scott must aid Cyrus in his quest to end the vicious curse of Solomon Grundy before The Darkest Night - but the Stranger isn't the only force taking an interest in this weird twist of fate...

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Solomon Grundy 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: The Demon 2 (Average)
Speed: The Demon 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Solomon Grundy 6 (Generator)
Agility: The Demon 3 (Average)
Fighting: Draw 3 (Street Wise)
Energy: The Demon 3 (Explosive)

What an interesting match-up! Perfectly themed for Halloween, and a preview for the coming resurrection of Secret Wars on Infinite Earths: The Comic Book Fight Club! It's the first of many curious confrontations to come from Scott Kolins' now forgotten 2009 mini-series - a book I hoped to re-visit on the site since it was originally released!

It actually began with Faces of Evil: Solomon Grundy #1 - a gimmicky prelude issue that I did feature, which gives us a great example of Solomon Grundy's overwhelming strength! In that issue he does a number on Killer Croc like you wouldn't believe! It's the perfect example of what Grundy's fighting style is all about - raw power! Croc may be his only recorded win in the "Infinite Wars", but Grundy's relied on brute strength to hold his own against The Justice Society, as well as the combined might of Hawkman, Hawkgirl & Monolith! Not too shabby!

"The Demon" Etrigan brings a certain amount of muscle to the table, but I'm reluctant to consider his encounters with the likes of Wonder Woman [eg; The Demon #17] or Superman the standard. Perhaps that's my limited exposure talking, but I tend to think of him as scaling down. While he'll certainly be able to withstand the physical assault, I see his speed and agility as a means to out manoeuvre and counter strike against the raw power of Grundy. Throw in a little hellfire, sadomasochism, and those demonic claws - and you've got a recipe for one helluva fight! (Literally!)

For a more impartial measure, we always end this section with a comparison of Tape Measure stats and cumulative rankings. To my own surprise, The Demon far and away outranks Solomon Grundy - who only registers a paltry #333. When you consider there are 796 characters ranked, that's not so bad, but Grundy's such a personal favourite, I thought he'd rate better! Will he improve his standing? We find out next in What Went Down!

The Tape: The Demon Ranking: The Demon (#70)

What Went Down...
Left alone while The Green Lantern searches for the knife that killed him: Cyrus Gold is again the victim of Slaughter Swamp! Helpless, he's torn apart by alligators - only to reassemble himself as the mindless beast Solomon Grundy!

Who was it that taunted poor Cyrus with rhymes of fancy while he died an ignominious death? The Demon - Etrigan! Working in the commission of an infernal master, he slashes at Grundy from side to side with burning claws, issuing a painful reminder! "... I'm here to remind thee... the deal you struck -- was for -- ETERNITY!"


Regrouping, Grundy literally and figuratively smoulders as he sets eyes on his flaming foe. The mindless brute establishes his dislike for "fire face" and his intent to kill. A hulking right hand backs it up - sending The Demon hurtling through no less than three swamp trees!

Inspired, or simply opportunistic? Grundy rips another of the mighty woods from its nearby root, and brings it crushing down upon the charging Demon!

Etrigan is unphased by the blunt trauma! Cackling, he propels himself through the tree with a stream of hellfire - directly at his dumb-founded opponent! Rather than colliding, the pair become airborne, where The Demon is in total control. Clutching his prey, Etrigan steers them toward their destiny - a nearby bridge. "Your redemption will be denied! It matters not how Cyrus died!"

The pair make ground in the middle of traffic with a flaming explosion! Grundy recovers, tossing the wreckage aside and promising again to kill. Etrigan laughs wildly at the threat, blasting the twisted metal that flies toward him. Then, opening his fangs wide, he vomits the fury of the inferno directly at Solomon!

The monster lets loose a primal roar as he's engulfed in flame. Somewhere deep within, the spirit of Cyrus Gold grimly anticipates the inevitable end. The fuel soaked bridge explodes! Etrigan laughs all the way as he rides the flames down with all the rest - into the murky waters below...

The Hammer...
It was a battle straight out of Hell - but who won it?!

This is the section traditionally reserved for calling the winner, but there's no obvious victor in this one! The two combatants disappear somewhat ambiguously after Etrigan causes the bridge to collapse. It was a combative gambit, but it showed no clear advantage before issue's end. The Demon's laughing - but he laughs at agony!

Prior knowledge lets me know the fight resumes in the next issue -- but "Infinite Wars" bylaws demand a decision based on this issue's content alone!

There's a strong conservative argument for an "inconclusive" finish, but I think there's enough here to call a winner based on "Round 1" philosophy. As he douses Grundy with scorching hellfire - Etrigan is clearly ahead on points, and looking like the sure winner. Cyrus Gold's "No! No! No!" internal monologue even suggests another Solomon Grundy death - a premature call - but a resignation of defeat, none the less!

With formalities out of the way, we can use this section for its other purpose: general conversation, review and tangential thought! What am I thinking about right now? This time of year's always been fun for horror themed battles between demons and zombies, but this resurrection is actually a taste of what's to come in December! If you're a returning visitor - you might know the end of the year marks the 10th Anniversary of Secret Wars on Infinite Earths!

It's been a long time between drinks, but I'm ready to gulp down a big serve of superhero smackdown! I've already begun preparing some classic selections to celebrate the milestone -- pulling from a couple of the most requested fights of the past 10 years to make it extra special!

Beyond December, I have no plans - but I foresee more fun with big fights, back issues, and some of my favourite characters. Case in point: Solomon Grundy!

The entirety of the 2009 Solomon Grundy mini-series is told through fights like this one. In "The Tape", I already mentioned his Faces of Evil prelude clash with Killer Croc. It's a fairly simplistic romp throughout, but fans of unusual character combinations and conflicts have a lot to enjoy. It was also another interesting facet of the Blackest Night mega crossover: approaching it from a long trajectory, with a character whose ties with death created uncertainty, and anticipation. Once you know Black Lanterns are the reanimated dead - you can't help but wonder where an undead swamp-zombie will fall!

Scott Kolins is sole credit as writer-artist. Given its proximity to the Blackest Night event, and his involvement in the Faces of Evil issue, it's hard to shake a sense that Geoff Johns may've been a guiding light. That said, it's a very visual series, thrust forward by Kolins' big action, and a classic horror comic aesthetic. Kolins inks himself, which is always something I'm interested to see change, but he far exceeds some of the work that's led me to be very critical in the past!

In very recent years it's become en vogue to add colorists to the list of headline credits. Michael Atiyeh contributes a lot in Grundy - a book rich with mood and atmosphere. His colors may be a tad simple, but they never compete with the art's abundant blacks, and pop when they need to - such as Green Lantern's glowing ring energy, or Etrigan's hellfire!

The presence of true-blue Alan Scott (the golden age Green Lantern) is always a pleasure -- one we no longer have in today's DC Comics. Newer readers know Grundy for his battles with Batman, Superman, or various teams - but he's a Green Lantern original and it's fitting (and thrilling) for Scott to be here!

Etrigan is a fun choice for the first monster mash opponent, as well -- a suggestion by editor Alan Schlagman, according to a March 2009 Comics Bulletin interview. I'd love to know who Kolins' originally scripted "villain" was, but I haven't yet found out. Etrigan's here in service of infernal masters, so one assumes another demonic character was on the cards. The series frames Cyrus Gold's curse as a Faustian pact, tying it to the primordial battle between avatars of good and evil - heaven and earth. That also explains The Phantom Stranger's presence as an observer and quest master. They're the tips of big, broad strokes, but when you layer it over monster fights, the foreboding of Blackest Night, and the confusion of Cyrus Gold's murder - it's a series with layers!

Update: I thought I'd ask Mr. Kolins about his original plans for the issue, and he was kind enough to tell me the first opponent was going to be: Plasmus! An old 'voodoo lady' also had a part to play. That could've been a lot of fun, but I think Etrigan made for a great first issue marquee - especially on Halloween!

At the end of the day, the most joyous thing about the series is its existence! Whole could ever conceive of a 7 issue Solomon Grundy series, let alone a ten issue run (with tie-ins)?! Like the character itself, the book defies belief with its sheer will to endure! And endure - it will! Given the opportunity, I'm quite sure we'll return to the series sometime in the a future feature! Not in December, though!

December is the 10th Anniversary of Secret Wars on Infinite Earths and I'll be coming back for more blockbuster, main event super hero super fight action! I hope you'll be back to join me to celebrate the occasion! Happy Halloween, everybody!

Winner: The Demon