Friday, March 25, 2016

No Time Like The Present! (Marvel/DC)
Unlimited Access #1 When: December 1997
Why: Karl Kesel How: Pat Olliffe

The Story So Far...
New York City native Axel Asher had enough trouble holding his own life together before he was confronted with a destiny to protect two parallel universes! Drawn into an inter-dimensional conflict between warring cosmic brothers and the denizens of their respective universes, Axel became the hero of two worlds: Access!
Having undone a merging of universes, and averted cosmic annihilation, Axel learns to adjust to the challenges of keeping both worlds separate, while also living a normal life. Crossovers continue to draw him deeper into the DC and Marvel Universes, but his powers help maintain the balance of reality.
What happens when it isn't just space that's starting to bleed from one universe into the other? When Mantis shows up in the Marvel Universe with a plan to kill Axel's girlfriend, he's forced to use his powers to recruit heroic allies from each universe once more. Only this time he's crossing over through time, as well!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Juggernaut 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Spider-man 5 (Professor)
Speed: Wonder Woman 5 (Superhuman)
Stamina: Juggernaut 7 (Unstoppable)
Agility: Spider-man 5 (Cat-like)
Fighting: Wonder Woman 6 (Warrior)
Energy: Mantis 5 (Lasers)

Not a hoax! Not a dream! Heroes of two worlds uniting against the threat of an unexpected, villainous alliance!

Spider-man is Peter Parker of the Marvel Universe, joined by Wonder Woman of the DC Universe. They had a brief encounter during a previous crossover in 1981's Marvel Treasury Edition #28, and are aware of each other during this inter-dimensional team-up -- which has to be a good thing!

A year prior, an alliance would've been much trickier. During Marvel versus DC [#3], a cosmic contest of champions pitted Wonder Woman against Storm, while briefly in possession of Thor's hammer Mjolnir. The true-blue amazing Spider-man missed out on the showdown of that particular century, but has contended with the likes of Superman, Lex Luthor, Joker, and others, in other universe shattering encounters.

The villains of today's crossover are Mantis of the DC Universe's New Genesis, and the unstoppable Juggernaut. Mantis is a newcomer to The Comic Book Fight Club, but Juggernaut we know well. He too has infamously faced the might of Superman [DC versus Marvel #1], and has the only history recorded on site between our tag team tusslers, mostly unphased in his clash with Spidey [Amazing Spider-man #230].

There's a nice thematic symmetry to the two sides. Spidey & Mantis are super-powered bug-men, Wonder Woman & Juggernaut are magical powerhouses. How does this shake down in combat? Not exactly evenly.

We've seen Wonder Woman take on her share of magical bruisers: A mythic Minotaur [DC Universe 0], the monstrous Genocide [Wonder Woman #32], a corrupt Mary Marvel [Final Crisis #3]. Two outta three ain't bad! She had Mongul dead to rights in Infinite Crisis #1, and gave Superman some grief that same issue. Given Juggernaut's sketchy win/loss record, we can at least call that a stalemate.

Mantis, on the other hand, possesses a range of standard New God super-human abilities: Strength, speed, agility, flight. The real catch is his ability to siphon power from attacks and even individuals, which could render Spidey and WW both at a serious disadvantage! How will they handle it? Let's find out...

The Tape: Spider-man & Wonder Woman Ranking: Spider-man (#2)

What Went Down...
Inner city calm turns to panic when Empire State University comes under fire from the New God Mantis! How he came to be in a universe not his own is a mystery of meagre importance, paling in significance to his intent: To destroy the girlfriend of man of two worlds - Axel Asher!

As Access, Asher uses his ability to create inter-dimensional doorways to pull his girlfriend Ming out of harm's way -- right before explosive beams of energy blast from Mantis' hands to her location! Mantis glowers at the narrow escape, failing to notice the friendly neighbourhood Spider-man coming at him from behind with a flykick to the back!

The advantage is momentarily lost when Mantis uses his physical might to pin Spider-man to the ground and begins drinking in his life-force!

A spray from mechanical web-shooters covers Mantis' face in a blinding weave - prompting him to relinquish the hold and start blasting energy! Fortunately, the proportionate leap and agility of a spider makes light work of dodging the blind shots -- which find the invincible chest of the Juggernaut!

The mystically endowed menace isn't taking a swing at Mantis, though. He's unharmed and in cahoots! Instead rampaging against Spider-man - who leaps out of the path of Juggernaut and into a blast of energy!

Juggernaut clutches the hero's head in his giant hand and invites his accomplice to grab the other end to finish the job properly. It doesn't look good for the human-spider wishbone - until a streaking Amazon delivers a torpedo-like right across the face of Juggernaut!

Spider-man delivers an uppercut to Mantis, who's swiftly caught by the golden lasso of Wonder Woman! Spidey offers to take the load, but finds he's fresh out of web-fluid. The distraction gives Juggernaut the time he needs to sneak up behind and viciously smash Wonder Woman's face into the Earth!

The Amazon warrior recovers and instantly fires back with a left cross that staggers the hulking villain - but doesn't topple him! Juggernaut dares to be amused by the powerful attack, which "almost hurt". The world shakes from the impact of two titans colliding at full charge!

Meanwhile, Mantis is flying wild -- driven mad by the rapidfire banter of his webless opponent! Spidey dodges those deadly hands and snags the gleaming lasso still wrapped around Mantis' neck! It makes a fine substitute for web, as Spidey swings the magic rope around Mantis' wrists and mounts his back!

Access returns to the scene - informing Spidey he's having trouble figuring out exactly where in the DC Universe Mantis came from. That makes a return delivery tricky, but it hardly matters when Mantis goes aerial - dragging Spider-man helplessly behind him!

Across the battlefield, Wonder Woman fares a bit better. Perceiving Juggernaut's armor to indicate an innate weakness, she hones in on his helmet. A two-fisted uppercut rocks Juggernaut and sends his metallic dome flying!

Alas; Juggernaut's helmet is designed to protect against a weakness to mental attack -- something neither Spider-man nor Wonder Woman can render. With confidence he snatches Wonder Woman and runs her through a nearby faculty building at devastating speed!

Still flying above, a frustrated Mantis prepares an anti-matter charge to try to free himself from the cuff of Wonder Woman's enchanted lariat. He isn't paying attention when Spidey tosses the loose end around a lamp post -- sending Mantis into a high-speed downward spiral!

Spotting Wonder Woman and Juggernaut again brawling in the open, Spider-man calls his ally's attention to the "irresistible force" swinging wildly above. She sends an "unmoveable object" heading its way with an uppercut!

Add insect-men from New Genesis to things that can stop the Juggernaut. KO!

The Hammer...
The winners of this titanic tag team encounter are quite definitively Wonder Woman & Spider-man! As a matter of formality we also need to acknowledge the assist from Access, since he did recruit Wonder Woman to even the odds in the Marvel Universe.

Those in the know will remember there was a lot going on in the world of Wonder Woman around this time. She teetered on the brink of death in '97, resurrected for a spell as the Goddess of Truth. These strange twists were obliquely referenced in Unlimited Access, which, as it turns out, is actually a crossover between space and time -- making this a Wonder Woman plucked from some time in her past!

When you consider the inconsistency major superheroes faced throughout the nineteen nineties, playing in time doesn't seem like such a bad idea. Topical reference had meant the Spider-Clone participated in Marvel versus DC #3 the year prior, instead of the genuine article. Wonder Woman got to dodge that bullet thanks to time travel shenanigans, much the same as Hal Jordan, who appears a solid seven years before DC fashionably recommitted to its mistakenly discarded Silver Age icons [see; Green Lantern: Rebirth].

The disappointing fact of Marvel's four issue Unlimited Access mini-series is that it quickly breaks from the benefits of selecting characters at their iconic best, opting to get lost in mash-ups of alternate futures, and significantly dated pasts.

Even with a prior dozen or so DC/Marvel crossovers in the nineties, the desire to see comics' biggest contemporary icons together was still strong. Much more so than meetings with the sixties Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, or the Days of Future Past X-Men. Too many major players were still unused, and intriguing competitive match-ups unexplored. Wonderful as those stories are unto their own publication, nobody wants to feel the fight is just a meaningless What If...?

That may sound particularly absurd for an inter-company crossover, but one of the remarkable things about DC & Marvel's collaborations of the nineties was their willingness to play fair. Nothing illustrates the eerie d├ętente as well as an editor's note advertising a recent issue of Green Lantern in the pages of Marvel published Unlimited Access. Concocting mutually owned Amalgams seemed like a nice way to keep things even, but now we're casually incorporating business as usual. Spooky!

The companies would become spiteful nemeses anew just a few years later, but in the late nineties, everybody seemed fine playing relatively nice! Impactful stories were an available option. The battles, with some notable compromises, could be presented with more than a dismissive denial. Fans might debate their outcomes, but whether you like it or not, Storm beat Wonder Woman, and Wonder Woman got the better of Juggernaut. For real.

Depending on your perspective, you may say Wonder Woman has also got the better of Batman & Superman. Throughout March, we've been taking inspiration from the unprecedented cinematic experience of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. In mass theatrical release today - the movie includes the first feature film appearances of: The Batman v Superman rivalry, the DC Trinity, aspects of a cinematic Justice League, and Wonder Woman herself!
Starting now, and continuing into the month of April, we'll be featuring the 20th Anniversary of another unprecedented pop cultural showdown event: DC versus Marvel/Marvel versus DC!
It's been ten years since we first ran through the classic crossover contest. In April we'll continue to explore the two follow-up series and some of the inter-company crossover battles that you may have forgotten! So don't miss it!
Winners: Wonder Woman & Spider-man
(--) #2 Spider-man
(+3) #12 Wonder Woman
(+29) #138 Access [+1 Assist]
(-18) #341 Juggernaut
(new) #772 Mantis

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