Friday, April 15, 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. Attempting to juggle his responsibilities he decides to stop off in the DC Universe to get a special gift for his girlfriend -- only to find himself caught in the crossfire between the Incredible Hulk and Green Lantern! Zoinks!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Hulk 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Green Lantern 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Hulk 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Hulk 6 (Generator)
Agility: Draw 2 (Average)
Fighting: Hulk 6 (Warrior)
Energy: Green Lantern 7 (Cosmic)

The DC universe's most powerful weapon against the "strongest one there is" in Marvel's! One is fuelled by bravery and indomitable willpower -- the other is indomitable willpower! On the surface, this is another odd pairing. When you break it down in terms of themes: it's one heck of an interesting encounter!

Hulk is the raging alter-ego of brilliant Dr. Bruce Banner, who was bombarded by gamma radiation while saving a boy from his own bomb test. The radiation mutated his body so that any time the timid scientist grows agitated, he runs the risk of transforming into a rampaging, musclebound, dimwitted powerhouse!

Through his various incarnations Hulk has performed unfathomable feats of strength while locking up with: Superman [Marvel versus DC #3], Iron Man [Iron Man #2], Thor [Avengers #5], The Sentry [World War Hulk #5], Hercules [Tales to Astonish #79], Red Hulk [Hulk #6] and the Silver Surfer [Incredible Hulk #95]! All physical powerhouses, but only Silver Surfer is comparable to the cosmic energies of DC's emerald ring-slinger!

Hal Jordan was a daredevil test pilot before being chosen to wield the ring of the Green Lantern! Inducted into the GL Corps as a replacement for a dying alien who crash landed on Earth; he was cosmically selected for his fearlessness and proximity to the crash site. Trained by Sinestro to be the Green Lantern of Sector 2814, Jordan surpassed his mentor to become one of the greatest ring wielders of all time! He controls his ring's charge with a blend of whimsy and determination, summoning sometimes absurd hard-light constructs in the pursuit of serious justice!

We've primarily seen Hal Jordan combat other ring wielders in previous feaured fights. He's locked constructs with Parallax Kyle Rayner [Green Lantern #24], Sinestro [Green Lantern #25] and Larfleeze [Green Lantern #44]. For a more literal example of the ring against brute strength we look to his role in pinning down power suited Lex Luthor [Justice League of America #15], Black Lantern Martian Manhunter [Green Lantern #44], and to a lesser extent the Appelaxian Golden Roc [Secret Origins #32].

The Golden Roc gave him trouble because of the yellow weakness in the Green Lantern power rings (later revealed to be Parallax). Against the jade giant that is the Hulk that's mildly relevant. He might throw a school bus, for example. My real reason for raising it is because the weakness was eventually removed, but this is Hal Jordan operating in a very particular point in the past - just prior to the destruction of Coast City and his succumbing to Parallax. Which means he's well into his pro years and really should be plenty experienced with super-strong monsters.

This is also a Hulk plucked from quite early in his existence. Significant if you want to break down fluctuations in his strength and intellect. Here on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths we generally adhere to a couple of basic Hulk principles: His strength has a finite limit, and measuring it in any particular year is usually splitting hairs.

Early Hulk is double tough, but not real bright. That means the ball is really in Green Lantern's court. He's going to want to try to get the drop on Hulk as soon as possible and play the distance game. A physical fight is a mistake, but there could be some benefit to a preliminary offensive to try to subdue him enough to make containment an option. That's a big ask, but he could definitely try some old tricks like an oxygen depriving bubble and restraints. Anything structural is gonna be in for an absolute pounding, and Hulk's offensive is strength is going to be very taxing on the ring depending on charge.

That's a potential match loser! This one definitely has potential to go both ways, but I lean towards the Hulk for an advantage in the spread. Raw power, yellow cabs on tap, with power and endurance to spare. Let's see how it went...

The Tape:
Green Lantern Ranking: Hulk (#5)

What Went Down...
Cross dimensional souvenir shopping in Coast City goes awry when tremors signify the arrival of the Hulk! Access isn't worried - he met the genius scientist during the battle between worlds. Alas; all is not as it seems. This isn't the super-intelligent powerhouse he knows he can reason with. It's the rage fuelled Hulk of old - disoriented, displaced, and tearing up the street!

Access manages to calm the raging beast with the promise to return him home, but his nerves are getting the better of him in the shadow of the towering green goliath. He can't open the doorway between worlds fast enough, and Coast City's own green guardian is about intervene!

It's not often the Hulk finds himself dwarfed or overpowered - but a giant green fist achieves just that! A construct formed by the power ring of Green Lantern!

Access can't believe his eyes. The Green Lantern he knows is Kyle Rayner, but before him stands the commanding presence of Hal Jordan - fallen Lantern who, as far as he knows, is dead. Access isn't just between worlds - he's lost in time!

Not wanting trouble: Hulk attempts to jump free of the city with a vertical leap that impresses even the wile space cop. Still perceiving the beast as a threat, Green Lantern makes pursuit. Even in the air, Hulk won't go without a fight.

A streak of green light falls to the Earth - making a crater out of street with its impact! Hulk clearly didn't take kindly to GL's interference. From within the hole he delivers an uppercut to the authority of Space Sector 2814. Apparently he doesn't recognize the Green Lantern Corps' jurisdiction.

A cushion of ring energy protects Green Lantern as he crashes into the glass of a nearby building. The fearless hero takes exception to being told to leave his own city. He attempts to contain the situation and his target by forming a giant-size chain around the Hulk!

The bonds don't last long before Hulk shatters them into shards of hard-light energy! Again the Green Lantern is stunned by his foe's feats! He's not sure exactly what he's dealing with, but he's happy to fight mean green like for like!

A giant, non-denominational movie monster is Hal Jordan's instrument of just destruction! His ring-formed big green monster stomps on the Hulk with a giant lizard-like foot!

With his opponent subdued; Green Lantern quizzes Access for some intelligence on the situation. Access has done some investigating of his own, determining the present as the anniversary of Barry Allen's death - the past. He ponders the impending doom of Hal Jordan and Coast City with foreknowledge, but can offer no prophecy, nor enlightenment to how the time and space of two universes has begun to overlap. Even if he could - there's no opportunity!

Hulk has summoned the rage-fuelled strength to lift the giant lizard monster! Before it can cause any collateral damage the ring-slinger deletes his construct. While he does, Hulk takes possession of Access with the intent of following through on his earlier promise to return him home.

Green Lantern takes chase once more, but Access assures him he has the situation under control. This time he manages to open a doorway to the exact point in time and space where the Hulk was plucked from. They pass through in mid-flight, making landing in the desert of South-West America. Home.

The Hammer...
Just when it looked like Green Lantern was on top of things, Hulk takes the fight into another round! Who knows how it might have ended if they'd gone the distance. With the result we have here, we can only call it a draw!

As regular readers know, we're looking back at some of the forgotten DC/Marvel crossovers to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of DC versus Marvel/Marvel versus DC! It's been ten years since we ran down that particular showdown, which has remained one of the most popular series of fights featured on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths: The Comic Book Fight Club!

The evergreen intrigue of inter-company crossovers may have kept the 1996 event mini-series fresh in people's minds, but it's always interesting to dig through the outlying collaborations people tend to forget. I didn't set out to dwell on the two Versus sequels: DC/Marvel: All Access and Unlimited Access, but curios like Green Lantern v Hulk and Batman v Scorpion are just too good to ignore! Weird, unlikely, and all kinds of fun!

Admittedly, the importance of these stories to the larger comics tapestry is not overwhelming. Their greatest impact may be as time capsules for a very rare moment when DC and Marvel were able to work so extensively together, they produced dozens of crossover issues. Cultural spectacle that's likely a boon to the big two superhero universes to this day. The eternal talking point for fans.

Was it too much? Not enough? Probably just right.

Revisiting the comics landscape of 1996 through G. Kendall's "The Guide to the Guide to Comics" on Comic Book Resources; I'm reminded of the particularly unique fascination with the Amalgam Comics experiment. It topped Wizard's list of most wanted action figures not in existence. Not only do I remember its place on that list, but I was one of many fans already thinking it! Different times...

The megamix universe unfolded in two waves of a vast series of #1 one-shots that introduced pretty memorable mash-ups of both company's characters. If you love Batman and Wolverine - you're gonna go cross-eyed for Dark Claw!

The one thing all of this quantity didn't quite deliver was an integral on-going series. I was cross-eyed for that first wave Dark Claw, and I probably would've like to read more adventures with that character, and others.

There were also the great many original DC and Marvel characters who hadn't really been able to participate in the crossover fun. Martian Manhunter and the Fantastic Four may have graced the cover of Marvel versus DC #2, but it wasn't until Unlimited Access and '99s Superman/Fantastic Four that those characters made any significant appearance. Iron Man: another notable omission (yes, even then) picked up by Unlimited Access and its pre-JLA/Avengers throwdown.

While Unlimited Access certainly offers some of the most diverse hero meet-ups, I can now say I tend to prefer the DC published All Access a little more. It has much more of the whiff of the adolescent nineties on it, but the finish of Jackson Guice's pencils have a sheen of quality, and the use of characters, while limited, balances the interests of the time with the story being told. Given the timing, Venom and the X-Men are arguably the two big cheques picked-up in that one. Guaranteed future entries, to be sure.

Pat Olllife's a fine comic artist in the modern classic sense, but I tend to find the inks really don't do enough to elevate his work. Inconsistent lines and lack of detail sometimes leaves the work looking unloved, or unfinished. I'm sure he and Al Williamson were on a rough schedule to get the series done, but its not an isolated case for Olliffe's work. I'm not crazy about the dry colors often applied to his work, either.

I am crazy about superheroes fighting and we will have one more blockbuster Marvel versus DC encounter in April! There'll be more characters than you can poke a stick at, and even a couple of noteworthy debuts for the site! If you can't wait for that, be sure to jump into the Secret Archive for past crossover clashes as featured this week's Old Comics Wednesday: DC versus Marvel portal!

Winner: Draw
#5 (--) Hulk
#25 (+1) Green Lantern (Hal Jordan)
#122 (+17) Access [+1 Assist]

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