Friday, December 04, 2015

He'll Never Make Me Cry (Marvel)
Uncanny X-Men #183 When: July 1984
Why: Chris Claremont How: John Romita Jr & Dan Green

The Story So Far...
Returned from the violent ordeal of The Beyonder's "Secret Wars": Colossus is a changed man! He was badly injured in battle with The Wrecking Crew, but the wounds that hurt him most are of the heart and soul!

While on Battleworld, Colossus had found himself deeply in love with one of the planet's native inhabitants -- a healer named Zsaji! She was a vital ally to the besieged heroes, sustaining them with her incredible powers. Alas; it was her powers that inspired The Beyonder to hatch a plot made reality by the power-stealing Dr. Doom! The heroes were helpless as Zsaji's life-force was sacrificed a final time so that they may live.

Carrying Zsaji's memory back to Earth, Colossus confronts his greatest love: Kitty Pryde. Intent on honouring both, the mighty mutant confesses his feelings for the deceased healer. The truth breaks poor Kitty's heart, and raises the ire of fellow X-Man Wolverine! He intends to give Colossus a good talking to - maybe worse - but when Nightcrawler joins them on their trip to a Manhattan bar, they're all in for a lesson in the dangers of barroom brawling...

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Juggernaut 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Colossus 2 (Average)
Speed: Draw 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Juggernaut 7 (Unstoppable)
Agility: Colossus 2 (Average)
Fighting: Colossus 4 (Trained)
Energy: Draw 1 (None)

Let's cut straight to it: Juggernaut's mystically endowed strength is the very inspiration behind our Infinite Wars Tape rating for 7 stamina. "Unstoppable" is in the name - but if he's such a world beater, why is the W column empty?

Juggernaut - aka; Cain Marko - may be one of Marvel Comics' most famous amoral bruisers, but he's never had the benefit of a full feature here on The Comic Book Fight Club. A harsh ruling in 2006 for Uncanny X-Men #194 saw Juggy play second fiddle to a powered up Rogue - only earning an assist to the win. When it came to going toe-to-toe in a passing crossover moment with DC Comics' Superman - you can bet there wasn't much opportunity for Juggernaut to pick up a win there, either. The circumstances of each story didn't do him a lot of favours, but those are the risks when you use the power of the Crimson Gem of Cyttorak for evil!

Of course, the mercurial muscle of Colossus is nothing to sneeze at either! A traditionally beloved member of the X-Men, he's the merry mutants' resident strong man, and when he activates his ability to transform into cold Russian steel - you better watch out!

In the 1980s, Colossus was always a young fighter with incredible heart, but was shown to lack the raw strength of benchmark heroes like Thing and Hulk. In more recent times he's been pretty comfortable mixing it up in their weight bracket, an equal 6 for strength by our measure, even if we give the edge to his opponent. He played an assist role in the aforementioned Uncanny fight reviewed in '06, but demonstrated his modern muscle in an emotional return seen in Amazing X-Men #5! His victory over alien Ord is a prime example of his uncaged rage, and 90s physicality against Apocalypse in Uncanny X-Men #295 shows how his brawn evolved.

What does it all boil down to? It means any time you get these two characters together you're going to have one helluva slugfest! The story of Colossus' super-human strength is told through fights like these, earned over years of struggles with opponents greater than he is. Theirs is one of comics' best remembered rivalries, and it wouldn't be so fondly regarded if it wasn't about struggle. By every definition, Juggernaut was Colossus' superior going into this fight - the benefit of unnatural, magical strength.

The Tape: Draw Ranking: Colossus (#273)

What Went Down...
A West Village neighbourhood bar: Monahan's. A broken hearted farm boy. A grumpy old man who thinks farm boy needs a trip to the woodshed... When the X-Man Wolverine suggested he and Colossus go for a drink and a chat, there was always going to be trouble. Not even voice-of-reason tagalong Nightcrawler could've foreseen the large man at the bar with the pretty young lady, though.

Wolverine spots him first. The smell of Juggernaut is hard to miss when you've got keen mutant senses! He tried for a discreet exit, but when Colossus drunkenly resists, he stumbles backward - spilling his beer all over the off-duty super-villain! A polite offer to buy the next one doesn't save Colossus. Cain Marko has other means of getting money. He wants payback!

A one-handed shove from the magically enhanced powerhouse sends Colossus flying through the premises! The fall could've killed him - had he not had the mutant ability to transform himself into a steel-skinned giant!

Colossus doesn't take kindly to the act of aggression! He charges back into the fray, ducking a cross to deliver his own uppercut! The fight is on and the patrons aren't planning to interfere -- Wolverine and Nightcrawler included!

Juggernaut, of course, recognizes his Russian sparring partner, but Colossus is slow on the uptake. Is it the alcohol in his system, or just the obscurity of seeing Cain Marko in civilian attire? Perhaps he just has other things on his mind as a giant fist comes crashing down from above - narrowly missing Colossus as he shoves out of the way, condemning the bar to splinters!

Severed by the clubbing blow - the bar becomes an overgrown weapon for the Juggernaut. Enraged - he swings the entire structure into Colossus!

Fortunately, the owner has superhero battle insurance, but that doesn't stop a terrified mob fleeing the scene -- including Juggernaut's date! With no signs of movement beneath the wreckage, Juggernaut decides to call it quits -- but Colossus is just getting started! He bursts out, tackling Juggernaut from behind!

They square off. Juggernaut likes the boy's willingness to take punishment. Colossus doesn't like being called a boy. Trash talk advantage: Juggernaut! He sends the metal mutant airborne - head-first through a wall with a "Sunday" punch! "An' this is what my partner Black Tom Cassidy'd call..."

The "Coup de Grace" brings the house down - literally! Several storeys of plunder collapse in upon Monahan's bar -- and on top of Colossus! KO!

The Hammer...
In case there was any doubt - don't worry! Colossus can take it! Juggernaut may have won the battle, but the war between the X-Men and Charles Xavier's invincible step-brother was destined to be long and winding feud far beyond this famous issue!
This is, of course, the first fight of December 2015, celebrating the 10th Anniversary of Secret Wars on Infinite Earths! It is also one of the most suggested fights for feature in the blog's history - so I hope you'll be pleased to finally see its famous fisticuffs added to the running tally!
The battle is actually a make-good in a couple of interesting ways!
As mentioned above in "The Tape"; despite being one of Marvel Comics' most renowned super-heavyweight brawlers - Juggernaut hasn't had the most stellar representation here on The Comic Book Fight Club! In fact, with no prior victories recorded [3 assists], he ranks a lowly #761 prior to this result! Colossus is a bit better off at #273, but it's fair to say both have plenty more features ahead of them before an accurate measure can be recorded!
There's also a little editorial make-good at work, as well! In another famous face-off: Juggernaut had lost a surprise fight with Spider-man just a couple years prior [Amazing Spider-man #230]! It's referenced in the issue as a reason for Juggernaut drowning his night away in the bar, and it makes the win here all the more shrewd. After all, if you beat you bad guys too often, they start to lose their lustre - and even a mega power like Juggernaut needs to keep his heat!
Actually, there's a lot to like about this deceptively simple issue and the many masters it serves. On the surface, it's a simple stand-alone superfight issue - but scratch a little deeper and you quickly realize its varied connections.
The fight itself refers to the '82 Spidey battle, and draws upon Juggernaut's many confrontations since his 1965 debut. He's played against type in casual setting, but the cover gives clear indication of the marquee scuffle. At the time of the issue, Colossus was into his tenth year in print. Still a relatively young character - in and out of the story - developing into the legendary X-Man we know today. The issue adds another twist in the soap opera love affair between he and Kitty Pryde, and at the same time deals with fallout from the original Secret Wars maxi-series. Oh, and Juggy's date? Selene - a relatively new, relatively deadly life-sucking villainess who left with another of the bar's patrons, to return in an upcoming issue!

As a sporadic reader at best, I don't have a strong affection for this period of X-Men, but what I do have a great appreciation for is the shaping of its published issues. Claremont's stories have a wonderful way of using monthly issues to weave in and out of the lives of characters, splitting them off for small groups or individual spotlights - like this issue - before inevitably weaving them back together. Focusing on big action is bringing levity back to a book soaked in heavy, team and event dramas. It isn't abandoning them, just keeping it fresh. Good in isolation, fresh in sequence. A wonderful approach that slipped away from superhero comics as time went on.
Thus, a relatively simple issue - remembered for the fight on the cover - connects directly to many varied strands and goals! It's a relatively light read, but these layers of complexity are there if you want to purse them. It's a fine way to do superhero comics, and maybe even a metaphor for this blog, which has always put the fight front and centre, but aimed to juggle more than just combos.
What are we juggling in December? Well, to celebrate the 10th Anniversary, it had to be some of comics' biggest fights - but not necessarily the most obvious! At the end of the year we'll finish big with another of the most requested fights from the blog's history -- but up next we're going with a legendary hero/villain combo who are yet to appear! Be here next week for this famous first!
Winner: Juggernaut

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