Friday, April 01, 2016

The Crossing! (DC/Marvel)
DC/Marvel: All Access #1 When: December 1996 Why: Ron Marz How: Jackson Guice & Josef Rubinstein

The Story So Far...
Dashing from one back alley shortcut to the next - that's the life of Axel Asher. One minute he's on the city street, the next he's rushing to meet his girlfriend Ming Kuo-Fan. There's just one problem: The uncontrollable visions of two worlds once locked in cosmic battle!
See, one time when Axel was running through an alley he got stopped by this bum, who showed him a glowing cardboard box. It was an avatar for the fragile reality he maintained between two universe. When these universes became aware of each other through awakening cosmic twins - Axel learned his true fate as a man between worlds: the inter-dimensional guardian Access!
Now, just as things are starting to get to normal, it seems the universes are starting to bleed together again -- threatening the whole of existence! A dude called Venom has found himself in the wrong universe and he's getting freaked. If Access can't put Venom back where he belongs before he and Superman tear down Metropolis it could spell The End for reality and his relationship!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Superman 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Superman 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Superman 6 (Mach Speed)
Stamina: Superman 6 (Generator)
Agility: Venom 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting: Draw 3 (Street Wise)
Energy: Superman 5 (Lasers)

Don't be fooled! It may be April 1st, but this is no joke! Throughout the month of April we'll be celebrating the 20th anniversary of DC versus Marvel, and we're diving in on this slightly peculiar match-up, which very much occurred!

I say peculiar... It's not that it's inconceivable these two characters might meet in a crossover scenario. Quite the contrary! Any collision between DC and Marvel owes at least a small debt to the 1976 meeting of Superman and Spider-man!

In that first crossover story, the pop culture icons combined to take down arch-villains: Lex Luthor and Dr. Doom. Twenty years later, it only made sense the heroes would meet again. What better way to put a fresh spin on their seminal encounter than with a face-off between Superman and Spidey's hugely popular dark shadow of the day?

In '96, the alien costume introduced in Secret Wars was permanently bonded to ex-reporter Eddie Brock. Together they made Venom: villain turned "lethal protector" and all around anti-hero hater of Spider-man!

Thanks to the symbiotic relationship the costume once shared with Peter Parker; Venom possessed enhanced spider-like abilities of speed, agility, organically produced webbing, and even  greater super-strength. Not that you'd know any of this from his brief appearance in DC versus Marvel #4, where the oozing costume could be seen menacing speedsters The Flash and Quicksilver like a living tar pit.

The sticky encumberance faced by fast runners is a natural enough threat, and while it wasn't followed up in any meaningful way, it presents a scenario where the heroes have something to overcome. The peculiarity of Venom v Superman is in the symbiote's natural weaknesses: high sonic frequency and intense heat.

Heat vision being one of Superman's most famous powers, you can just about wrap the fight up on that note alone. He doesn't know Venom very well, though, so assuming heat doesn't come up in the natural course of fighting, there's the issue of raw strength. Venom may be a cut above Spidey in the brawn department, but we rate Superman a full class above Venom's standard.

Granted, we've seen Venom stand up to Iron Man [Iron Man #302], and the story itself will call out Venom's battles with Juggernaut in future feature and dubious '93 mini-series - Venom: The Madness. Superman replies, rightfully, with his own Juggernaut victory in DC versus Marvel #1. Which really ends the speculation phase and brings us to the point of finding out what actually happened...

The Tape: Superman Ranking: Superman (#4)

What Went Down...
Materializing in the wrong universe isn't sitting well with the dual being known as Venom. Lashing out at his unfamiliar surroundings, he destroys a Superman statue and starts asking the terrified locals for directions. Never one to ignore the cries of a woman ensnared in alien tendrils - Superman races to the scene!

Faster than a speeding bullet - Superman swoops in to separate Venom from harassed Caitlin Fitzgerald and introduce him to Metropolis bricks and mortar!

While Venom recovers from being smashed through a wall at high speed, Superman gets a good look at his opponent. The spider insignia reminds him of a hero he once met from another universe: Spider-man!

The invocation is enough to send Venom into a blind rage! He shares his pain by suddenly blasting Superman's face with a spray of symbiote generated organic webbing! The unprepared Man of Steel is momentarily stunned!

Venom is upon Superman in seconds! His fury is channelled into a punch that manages to knock the stunned superhero onto the back foot! It sets him up for a combo finish with extreme environmental impact: Venom catches Superman's cape and uses it to launch him like an Olympic hammer!

The assault sends Superman hurtling out of control - crash landing into a stationary bus parked outside a church! "Superman, huh? Not much of a protector if you ask us." Don't worry: the bus was empty!

By the time The Man of Steel collects himself, Venom has already re-collected unwilling "tour guide" Caitlin and left the scene.

Superman removes the remaining webbing from his face with a burst of heat vision when he's confronted by the cross-dimensional hero Access. Unfamiliar with the friend, Superman brushes him off and prepares for Round 2...

The Hammer...
After careful deliberation, we're filing this one under the Round 1 rule. Superman takes chase for more fighting right after this, but there's a clear break in the action before he hunts his opponent down elsewhere in Metropolis.

With that information in mind, we unexpectedly declare Venom the winner by majority decision!

Superman may live to fight another day, but he clearly got overwhelmed in this initial encounter.

If you've read the recap above, you know the concessions we're giving the action to presume the fight works. I think this characterization adequately represents the material, but there's definitely an eyebrow raising element.

It's somewhat surprising that Venom would physically best Superman as well as he does. The conceit of rage fuelling Venom's strength isn't an unreasonable ask, and it should be noted he doesn't knock Superman off his feet. He does throw him, though. Quite far. The issue of Venom's strength will become a bigger problem in the rematch. For now, it's slightly questionable.

If you've got a problem with this fight, I suspect the nebulous role of webbing will be another nagging issue. Was Superman blinded and disoriented, therefore unable to control his flight path? Was he caught by surprise and breathing the web in, denied valuable oxygen? X-ray vision and super breath have a way of challenging both notions, but acceptance really comes down to interpretation.

If you assume the webbing is easily seen through, and no impediment for a Superman who fights in airless space [eg; Superman/Batman #4], it arguably reads better. If you really like your Superman fallible, you might decide he was blinded, choking, and careening out of control simply because he didn't have time to compose himself. Fair enough. The benefit of this strange period of peace between the big two publishers is that they had time to spend on their stories. For better or worse, this is just Act 1 of Issue #1. There's time to recover.
My impulse is to think Superman may've been under written here, but I'm soft on the idea of leaving the door open to "5" strength characters to rough him up a little. I don't want my Man of Tomorrow to be an idiot who forgets his powers, or an impotent punching bag, but leaving the door open for the Killer Crocs of the world to try their luck has always tickled my fancy.

You'll have to make up your own mind about which moment was more hilarious: Venom driving a truck in the nineties cartoon, or trying on a scared bystander's glasses in DC/Marvel: All Access #1 [pictured above]. Those odds are even.

Either way, we have our first DC/Marvel crossover battle of April in the books! Not a hoax! Not a dream! Not an April Fool! If you missed last week's crossover feature from Unlimited Access #1, be sure to check it out! You'll find even more like those in the Issue Index Archive under "Crossovers", and a fresh crop in the coming weeks! So don't miss it!
Winner: Venom
(--) #4 Superman
(+3) #16 Venom Symbiote
(+223) #101 Venom (Eddie Brock)

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