Monday, June 27, 2016

Real Name: Nathan Summers
First Appearance: New Mutants #87 (March, 1990)
Fight Club Ranking: #99

Featured Fights:
- vs AHAB: X-Men Annual #14 (1990)
- vs BARON ZEMO & MODOK: Captain America #6 (Apr 1997)
- vs THE AVENGERS: Civil War #3 (Sep 2006)

After a couple of big weeks in the world of comic books, the moving image is pulling focus back with news a Deadpool sequel is on track to start filming early next year! Comic Book Resources ended the week with a report via Collider, where X-Producer Simon Kinberg spoke positively about progress at the script level in an expansive interview.

Speculating how FOX will follow-up their surprise 2016 mega-hit has been a fun pastime, in part due to the overwhelming uncertainty of where they'll go next. After an all around disappointing outing with Bryan Singer's X-Men: Apocalypse last month, the sense that a change could do everyone good is strong. The question is - can FOX make that change without damaging their new cash cow?

Deadpool was every bit the breath of fresh air it purported to be, even if it was an imperfect exercise in a basic variation of the superhero formula. A sequel demands a fresh angle, if not outright improvement. The potential for connecting to the next phase of X-Men cinema - a temptation that should be handled with extreme caution.

All of this is to say: developing the next piece of the puzzle isn't such a bad idea!

A Ferris Bueller parody isn't exactly a contract, but by promising classic frenemy Cable at the end of the last movie, they've already created natural connective tissue between Deadpool and several rumored projects!

Cable, like Deadpool, made his first appearance in New Mutants: a comic series about a new class of young mutants, reportedly in pre-production for a feature film adaptation. In the comics, Cable introduces a military sensibility that eventually leads to a rebranding as X-Force. That name has been floated as a potential project for a couple of years now, and with modern influences, could be a way to refresh the X-Men formula with new and existing characters (and actors), including Deadpool.

Actors have been the biggest question when it comes to the cinematic debut of Cable. Who do you get to play the musclebound, cyborg soldier of the future? It seems every actor in Hollywood over fifty has an interest in the role!

Dolph Lundgren (The Punisher, Rocky IV) responded to the jokes with a promise he'd kick butt in the role. Stephen Lang (Avatar) has been lobbying for the part. Ron Perlman (Alien: Resurrection, Blade II, Hellboy) has thrown his credentials into the ring. Some are even pointing to wrestler/actor Kevin Nash as another option with a connection to movie versions of Punisher (he was The Russian).

Casting Cable will rest heavily on how the character's to be portrayed - not just in Deadpool 2 - but in any possible subsequent projects. Someone with gravitas to go with their muscle will help, but an understanding of the rat-a-tat-tat of the Deadpool motor-mouth they'll be scowling at, could help.

For a different approach, I'm gonna throw out a suggestion of someone already a friend to the X-Men movies: Eric Dane. As TV's Captain Tom Chandler in The Last Ship [pictured below], Dane bucked his Dr. McSteamy rep to play a military man making touch decisions as the world crumbles around him. It may not have had the weight of the apocalyptic future in Cable's past, but it got me seriously thinking about the potential for Dane to physically embody the role.

Just as Ryan Reynolds and a romantic sub-plot was pitched to bring a female demographic to the first Deadpool; Dane's past as a Grey's Anatomy heartthrob -- (shout out to the Charmed fans, as well) -- could help pitch the sequel to the mass audience who aren't ordinarily be the target, but showed up in droves to make Deadpool a $500 million dollar hit.

What ever happens - Deadpool himself was undoubtedly the thing that made the first movie work. That could be incredibly liberating as they attempt to catch lightning in a bottle once again and move the character, and their time with the X-Men license, forward.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Time and Time Again! (DC)
Crisis on Infinite Earths #2 When: May 1985 Why: Marv Wolfman How: George Perez

The Story So Far...
As the barriers of time and space blur into insignificance and cosmic forces conspire to shape reality; a night in crime ridden Gotham City appears like any other...

A spate of murders have Batman on the hunt for a brazen killer. The last victim's appointment book: containing a vital clue that points to Plymouth Films and their next big production - Captain's Hill.

The movie title points to the resting place of one Miles Standish, whose last descendent holds the multi-million dollar rights to silent comedy films. As death lingers in the air, Batman races to stop The Joker from claiming his murderous prize -- unware he's a step closer to solving an even bigger mystery!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Batman 3 (Athlete)
Intelligence: Batman 5 (Professor)
Speed: Batman 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Draw 5 (Marathon)
Agility: Batman 4 (Gymnastic)
Fighting: Batman 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy: Batman 4 (Arsenal)

It's a story called "Time and Time Again" and it perfectly encapsulates the battle we have before us! There are over 820 ranked characters from ten years of Secret Wars on Infinite Earths -- and no two of them have met more frequently in featured fights than The Batman and The Joker!

The two most famous encounters come from The Dark Knight Returns #3 and Batman #614. Both stories show Batman overwhelmingly triumphant in the physical domain, but compromised by the Joker's unrelenting assault on the psychology and morals of The Dark Knight Detective. The hypothetical future of Dark Knight Returns frees the story to end in Joker's self-inflicted death, while the canon plot of Hush sees a Batman contemplating the finishing blow - but ultimately saved from his own anger by Commissioner Gordon.

More frivolous examples come from Detective Comics #781 and Justice League of America #15. The stakes of these stories are less dire, the themes less bold. These are the passing encounters of the superhero and super-villain: arch-nemeses destined to meet episodically ad infinitum. The Detective Comics fight is a personal favourite - a snow covered prison brawl between inmate Joker and his looming interrogator.

The JLA issue is more about The League fighting their Unjust counterparts. Batman appears as a monolithic shadow over an unconscious Joker. An off-panel reprisal of the same old story, flippantly punctuating the action with the benefit of a common understanding -- Joker is no match for Batman.

Of the seven fights featured in the past, Batman has won all seven.

In the animated series episode Christmas With The Joker, and in the Academy Award winning performance by Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight, multimedia canonizes the mismatch on film.

In the cartoon, Batman's adventures have alluded to his life's training in the martial arts under the great masters of Japan. His past haunts him in battle with deadly ninja. In 2005's Batman Begins, the determination of a young Bruce Wayne again leads him far East, where he is indoctrinated into The League of Assassins, and again demonstrates intense learning of deadly martial arts.

The competitive match-up of the modern super-ninja and his clownish lightweight nemesis isn't especially compelling, but the dynamic of their seventy year arch-rivalry is evergreen! It's steeped in psychology and circumstance, and has been interpreted a great many ways over the decades.

Joker has relied on weapons, traps, musclebound henchmen, chemistry, anarchy, misdirection, and Batman's capacity for selflessness to elude capture, or eke out occasional victories. Batman is always triumphant in the end. Who would win? The real question is - what went down? Let's find out!

History: Batman (7-0-0)
The Math: Batman Ranking: Batman (#1)

What Went Down...
As cosmic dominoes topple beyond, a dark night falls over a solitary mansion on a secluded hill. The night air is cut by the sound of murder! The grinning victim's provocation: Estate inheritance of comedy rights possessed by millionaire silent film owner, Harold J. Standish III. The Joker is getting into the movie business!

The plot comes with a killer twist in the Third Act: A heroic entrance for a Dark Knight Detective whose dogged analysis of clues has led him to Joker's final victim! The Batman smashes through a nearby mansion window - launching himself at the unsuspecting Clown Prince of Crime!

A gloved fist collides with Joker's ghastly grin, sending him to the ground with a single right hand! Surprised, but not unprepared, Joker compliments The Batman for his unwavering abductive reasoning -- dousing him in adhesive sprayed from a novelty flower gag!

Covered cape to cowl in copious amounts of the restrictive goop; Batman drops to his knees and struggles to reach for solvent stored in his trusty utility belt!

As he does, the cackling clown twirls the .45 caliber pistol he already used to kill Mr. Standish, promising a remedy for Batman's stiffening joints. Things look dire for The Dark Knight -- but then something very unexpected happens!..

Without warning - The Flash appears!

Arm out stretched, the Scarlet Speedster cries out for help! His apocalyptic plea falls on deaf ears as The Joker, panicked, points his gun and begs for clemency.

The crime clown sees conspiracy between the Central City Speedster and his usual Gotham City sparring partner. Looking for a way out, he fires wildly with his pistol - and then goes for the super-adhesive. A batarang cuts him off!

Batman looms over The Joker as the chemical reaction between solvent and glue surrounds him in smoke. It seems the day is won, but again, the ghostly vision of The Flash speaks desperately of the world dying around him!

Distracted by the bizarre re-appearance of The Flash after he'd been missing for some time, The Batman allows Joker to make a mad dash for the exit! There are forces far greater than crime and law at play. A crisis on infinite earths!

The Hammer...
What started as just another battle between hero and villain ends as something very different! Batman had the upper hand, but The Joker got away. They both got a few good licks in. For the purposes of The Comic Book Fight Club we're calling this one a draw -- but the fight is only part of the story.

Playground lore always had it that Batman was remarkably uninvolved in the cosmic reorganizing of the Crisis on Infinite Earths. It's certainly a far cry from the stories that came in the years and decades that followed!

By the time of Final Crisis (2009), major plot points were revolving around a Batman whose tactical and fighting brilliance made him equal with gods! Ironically, it's through the similar vision of controversial Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, that many fans are waking to Batman's brush with the Crisis.

The foreshadowing of Flash's ultimate fate is a classic comic book moment!

Even read with foreknowledge of the series; the way the initial Flash vision intrudes upon a familiar status quo is sudden, unexpected, and drenched in apocalyptic foreboding! With any luck, you may have even been stunned by The Flash's sudden appearance while making your way through this very article.

The Flash's story is certainly one of the strongest in a maxi-series defined by its chaos. The future echo of unclear significance, but it sets a suitably ominous tone for the epic that unfolds. The true horror of Flash's ghostly appearance won't become certain for another six issues. Crisis on Infinite Earths #8 closes the loop, confirming every earlier dread with spectacular results!

In Dawn of Justice, Ben Affleck's Batman experiences "knightmare" visions of a dream world in ruin. Flash appears in the dream to warn of what seems to be an apocalyptic future influenced by Darkseid and an evil Superman. Its function of foreboding is effectively the same, but its position is the opposite -- a threat to a cinematic universe yet to be assembled. A much simpler preposition than the end of multiple universes created over several decades.

It was thanks to Crisis on Infinite Earths that we, the modern readers, had the luxury of a densely populated singular DC Universe. Acting as a deconstruction and construction of superhero existence, the series is undoubtedly significant, but it's also unruly and unfocused throughout. Sifting through dense pages of the end of the world can be a lot of fun, but may not make the best first impression for a movie-going audience conditioned to expect streamlined tales.

It helps that the "pre-Crisis" multiverse was essentially defined by the dispersal of characters across different worlds. This isn't a series inundated with repeating counterpart versions of one or two characters. The worlds may not be in sharp focus, but their peril is clear, told through the scrambling of dozens upon dozens of individually familiar heroes.

The scattershot nature of the action isn't especially favourable for a blogsite built on quantifying superhero exhibition bouts, but I'm excited about going beyond the concise for future installments. Superhero comics have always been at their best, I think, when they can be read and dissected in different ways.

Those future feature fights can be found by following the Crisis on Infinite Earths tag, or by scrolling alphabetically through the Issue Index Archive! There you'll find hundreds of other featured fights from Infinite Earths! This past Monday's Hero of the Week also concerned the legacy of Crisis on Infinite Earths and may be of interest!

If you've had enough of reading about the seminal maxi-series and finally want to take the plunge, you can do so by using the Amazon purchase link provided for your convenience [right]. Doing so helps keep the secret wars infinite. You can also help by sharing relevant links around the web!

All willing, The Comic Book Fight Club will continue in July with a special focus on what happened some of the other times DC Comics decided it was time for a rebirth. Some of the results may surprise!

Winner: Draw
#1 (--) Batman
#359 (--) Joker [+1 kill]
#14 (--) Flash (Barry Allen) [+1 Assist]

Monday, June 20, 2016

Real Name: Wally West
First Appearance: Flash #110 (January, 1959)
Fight Club Ranking: #22

Featured Fights:
- vs DEADSHOT: Legends #1 (Nov 1986)
- vs QUICKSILVER: Marvel versus DC #2 (Mar 1996)
- vs VENOM: DC versus Marvel #4 (Apr 1996)
- vs SUPERMAN: Flash #209 (Jun 2004)
- vs PENGUIN, GIRDER & DOUBLE DOWN: Flash #210 (Jul 2004)
- vs DEATHSTROKE: Identity Crisis #3 (Oct 2004)
- vs ULTRAMARINE CORPS: JLA: Classified #3 (Mar 2005)
- vs LADY FLASH: Flash: Rebirth #2 (Jul 2009)

After more than half a decade in reboot oblivion: Wally West is making a comeback!

Modern readers may remember Wally West best as The Flash -- heir apparent to the speedster's mantle after the iconic sacrifice made by Barry Allen in Crisis on Infinite Earths #8!

For the twenty-three (or so) years that followed, Wally West served successfully as a pioneering force for the DC Universe's third generation heroes. He fulfilled a great majority of Barry Allen's roles, all the while establishing wrinkles unique to a hero who matured alongside the legends of the superhero Silver Age! He was welcomed into the ranks of the Justice League as Flash, but maintained ties with the young heroes of The Titans, with whom he'd served as Kid Flash.

It was all going remarkably well until 2009, when Barry Allen made a surprise return from death in Final Crisis and Flash: Rebirth (the first one)! From there, things became a red and gold blur - the result of two Scarlet Speedsters running at full speed. Something had to give, and with full support behind resurrecting the senior icon - Wally West began his unfortunate descent into obscurity. A short-lived, unconvincing costume change later, and it was bye-bye Wally for 2010's New 52 reboot.

Barry Allen isn't going anywhere, but one of Rebirth's most admirable qualities will be the restoration of the first and third generation heroes! This return, perhaps inevitably, means another shot at trying to resolve Wally West's costume woes -- made all the more complicated by the New 52 introduction of a new, racially divergent Wally West. Never the less, Newsarama have showed off the original's new red and silver digs drawn dramatically by artist Brett Booth [above].

Like much of Rebirth itself, the new costume is serviceable, but not entirely convincing. It borrows the open cowl of his Kid Flash days, with the abbreviated bolt logo, and silver lightning we've seen many times before, notably in the new design he received after Barry Allen's return. It certainly solves the problem of easy identification. Will it solve all the other problems? We shall see...

I'm pleased to have a classic character restored and decades of fiction back in play. The "big two", DC in particular, are in dire need of stability to go with their variety. Here's hoping the cycle of arbitrary upheaval and starting over ends here.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Moving Day (Marvel)
Excalibur #3 When: December 1988
Why: Chris Claremont How: Alan Davis

The Story So Far...
Juggernaut's time in Great Britain hasn't gone according to plan. Defeated by the X-Men and incarcerated in Her Majesty's Ultra Maximum Security Prison, Crossmoor, he has finally been stopped -- held by a stasis cage!

When the villainous Vixen leads an attack on the prison in order to stage a break-out: Juggernaut finally has the chance to stretch his powerful limbs free from bondage!

During the escape, Juggernaut engages in a little light tank destruction, delighting in demonstrating his unstoppable nature to the local military. An act that can only bring forth the United Kingdom's greatest defenders - Captain Britain & Excalibur!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Juggernaut 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Captain Britain 5 (Professor)
Speed: Captain Britain 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Juggernaut 7 (Unstoppable)
Agility: Draw 2 (Average)
Fighting: Captain Britain 4 (Training)
Energy: Captain Britain 2 (Projectiles)

Last month we finally inducted Betsy Braddock into the fighting ranks of the Secret Wars on Infinite Earths. This time around we're welcoming her big brother Brian into the fold -- better known to the world as Captain Britain!

Brian Braddock was once a meek physicist who found himself out of his depth when the nuclear research facility he was interning with was attacked! A desperate search for aid brought him into a chance encounter with the magician Merlyn, and his daughter Roma. They bestowed upon him the gift of The Amulet of Right - an artefact that fulfilled his destiny to become Captain Britain!

Over the years Captain Britain's powers have been adapted, altered and increased. The definitive modern Captain Britain is endowed with super-human strength, speed, endurance, stamina and the power of flight. His abilities may be at their strongest whilst in special costume, or at close proximity to Britain itself. Note: These provisos have been lifted in many modern incarnations.

Given the mythic, magical nature of Captain Britain's uncanny strength -- he's a perfect challenger for the unstoppable Juggernaut!

Cain Marko's powers come from the Crimson Gem of Cyttorak and render him nigh invulnerable to physical assault! That could make things tricky for Captain Britain, whose greatest asset is his phenomenal super-strength! That said, the Juggernaut can be physically bested in some rare instances.

Time travelling super-robot Nimrod was able to take Juggernaut down, prompting a team-up with the X-Men [Uncanny X-Men #194]. DC icon Superman knocked him off his feet in a surprise encounter [DC versus Marvel #1]. Even Wonder Woman managed to stop the unstoppable with a little help from Spider-man, and the villainous New God: Mantis [Unlimited Access #1]! Encouraging examples -- especially given the home ground advantage Captain Britain takes into today's feature fight!

Of course, for every tough guy (or gal) who succeeds in going toe-to-toe with the Juggernaut, there are those who live to regret it! Colossus [Uncanny X-Men #183], Captain Marvel Jr [Unlimited Access #3], and Magneto [What If...? #94] are but a sampling of previous opponents who've felt his irresistible force!

For Britannia to rule this day, Braddock would do well to draw upon his book smarts as a physicist. Juggernaut's been known to be contained or slowed by turning environmental circumstance against him. Captain Britain has the muscle to enact any plans that might use Juggernaut's momentum to advantage.

The Math: Captain Britain Ranking: Juggernaut (#111)

What Went Down...
Freed from bondage, Juggernaut goes on the warpath! Military tanks and soldiers are no match for the unstoppable villain! He tears through war machine metal like it were paper - until a Great British fist pierces the carnage!

Unfazed, the Juggernaut gets a standing face-to-face introduction with the hero adorned in Union Jack red, white and blue -- Captain Britain! Relatively unimpressed by the obligatory local superhero, he shrugs off the order to cease and desist. In his own words, he's got places to go and things to do.

Captain Britain finds himself dismissed with extreme prejudice! The Juggernaut sends him hurtling across the surrounding British countryside, to a grinding halt in the dirt some miles away!

The impact draws the attention of an airborne Phoenix, who comes to check if her Excalibur teammate is in need of assistance. He rejects her telepathic offer - springing out of the crater at mach speeds to fly back into the thick of it!

While the rest of Excalibur pursues other inmates freed from the Crossmoor Ultra Maximum Security Prison -- Captain Britain meets Juggernaut head-on! His valor is met with unforgiving, unstoppable strikes! His superhuman strength only good for keeping him alive beneath the brutal blows!

A devastating uppercut to the stomach lifts Captain Britain off his feet and draws the attention of his sweetheart & teammate - Meggan. She watches in horror as a stiff right cross sends the Captain to the ground. A finishing blow!

The Hammer...
It started with a one-on-one marquee fight and it ended with a one-on-one result: Juggernaut victorious over Captain Britain!

As you may have surmised, Excalibur still have several other heroes left in the fight. Captain Britain will recover, but won't re-engage in the subsequent battle unfolding under Meggan's lead. It's a follow-up I'm sure we'll be interested to revisit sometime in The Comic Book Fight Club's future!

Meanwhile; the mind boggles that Excalibur #3 is an issue nearly thirty years old at the time of this writing! There are things that date it, obviously, but the dynamic artistry of Alan Davis isn't one of them. At times his page layouts give it all the language of modern comic books coming years later.

Admittedly, some of my favourite panels are the simplest, like Captain Britain rising from the dirt [above]. Heavy blacks, including the background of the night sky, give it a hard edge I love. The simple symmetrical design of his costume lends strength to the anatomy of the character. It's a nice moment that visually highlights Captain Britain, but also sells the conceptual awe of Juggernaut.

This is the first time we've featured Captain Britain. Fans in-the-know will remember his earlier design, later used by Lionheart. I prefer this incarnation. The sweeping, multi-dimensional mythos of the Captain Britain Corps tends to get a bit much, but the big chested superhero costume really clicks for me. It's such a shame a British super-team never seems to last long. There's a lot of hand wringing about diversity in comics, but it usually begins and ends with Americans shouting about Americans. Much of the world still waits.

Ironically, the basic structural element of the issue that may seem the most out of date is the prize fight feel.

As much as we have Batman v Superman in theatres, or Injustice in video games; the popular superhero fight of today always seems to be predicated on some grander, invalidating convolution or complication. The simple appeal of two independently established powerhouses meeting for a showdown seems to be approaching the domain of a lost art. It's rarely as simple as wondering what would happen if X fought X. A proposition that, admittedly, gets harder as time goes on.

I have to give Chris Claremont a lot of credit for his respect for the power of a good superhero fight. It's a quality that isn't just about plotting a break in a usually wordy on-going series. It speaks to his long term perspective and respect for maintaining characters. As an unstoppable powerhouse - Juggernaut always runs the risk of being a fall guy. Someone by which the strength and heroism of others can be proven. Claremont himself uses this, but he always seems to be keeping an eye on balancing those books.

Juggernaut had been around for about twenty-three years in 1988. He'd already suffered some of his most famous defeats. He even starts this issue incarcerated in the UK -- antithetical consequence of his Muir Island defeat in 1987's Uncanny X-Men #218. Claremont isn't just continuing the Juggernaut's story -- nice in itself, but also topping up the tank. Captain Britain will have many opportunities to prove himself as the star of Excalibur, but first he gives a little credibility back through today's feature defeat.

We saw Claremont doing similar rehab in Uncanny X-Men #183, where Colossus took the fall in a massive 1984 showdown that was concerned with Juggernaut's famous loss to Spider-man two years earlier [see; Amazing Spider-man #230 for more].

Was a professional wrestling mentality always what steered Chris Claremont's writing? I'm sure many readers will have examples where a character was let down. I'm happy to give credit where it's due, though. The primary concern of The Comic Book Fight Club is what's put in print, and I really enjoy these examples of fighting cred maintenance.

It's another win in the books for Juggernaut and a welcome induction for another classic hero - Captain Britain! An unfortunate defeat that in no way comments on the state of the United Kingdom's current Brexit politics.

Looking to get ahead of the fight and away from European turmoil? Use the Amazon purchase link provided [right] to find this issue and others in collected edition. Doing so helps the fight remain infinite!

You can also help out by finding more classic and obscure battles in the Secret Archive and by sharing links with friends!

Winner: Juggernaut
#66 (+45) Juggernaut
#789 (new) Captain Britain

Monday, June 13, 2016

Real Name: Dr. Johnathan Osterman
First Appearance: Watchmen #1 (September, 1986)
Fight Club Ranking: #DNR

Featured Fights:
- Has Not Yet Been Featured on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths.

If the 2009 feature film release of Watchmen proved nothing else, it's that Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' story can find a mainstream audience on the strength of visuals alone. DC Comics knows this and apparently they're ready to reach a bold new agreement with the seminal work...

Watchmen is one of the most celebrated and best selling "graphic novels" of all time. It's been as absorbed into educational syllabus and literary notoriety as it has been celebrated for its more visceral charms and base super-heroics. Somewhere between the two - a healthy assessment lies.

For roughly twenty-five years, DC Comics was content to profit on the prestige of the twelve issue mini-series. Collected editions have long flirted with best selling lists, reaching new heights thanks to the pop cultural loudhailer of a feature film release. A cinematic adaptation seemed to be a reasonable compromise. An opportunity to celebrate the work and inform the masses, all the while increasing profit, with notable exception of Alan Moore himself, who's famously refused compensation for what he typically deems lesser approximations of his work.

The real shots were fired in 2012, when DC and Warner Brothers were no longer content to merely direct interested readers to what they can read "After Watchmen...". The time had come to bring these characters back to print -- the controversial, expansive line of Before Watchmen prequel comics.

I've never been one to kneel at the altar of Alan Moore. I often times wonder if his greatest creation wasn't the persona that precedes him, and perpetuates interest in his work. Watchmen certainly doesn't strike me as the be all, end all of superhero comics. In fact, I read it as a very loving tribute and participation in sub-culture phenomenon, of which superhero comics occupy a sizeable portion. Containing a cracking yarn about murder and political manipulation, but ultimately a superhero comic by any other name.

Yet -- even as a heretic in the church of Moore, Before Watchmen raised questions I never expected to try to answer. On a basic level, I actually think more Watchmen comics makes a lot of sense. The characters are wholly conceived as part of the serial world of the superhero. There's nothing overly precious about them or their world. They've had adventures in the past, stretching back to the Golden Age of 1940s comics. The implication of Watchmen's memorable ending -- more stories to come.

Before Watchmen makes a lot of sense, yet under threat of new comics without the input of Alan Moore, I find myself questioning the wisdom of it all. On a basic level, I know the value of Watchmen must have diminished with such frequent sales. The basic economics of getting more out of this popular property make sense - but the creative risks don't strike me as worth it. Maybe the power of Watchmen really is that it's a contained extract from a world that should never go on. The power of its ending is certainly stronger without answering questions about the future. At least they got that much right. For a little while, any way.

We now know the Watchmen universe is going to continue. Like so many other DC Comics properties, it seems it will officially be folded into the sprawling multiverse as the catalytic influence on Rebirth -- pseudo-reboot that rejiggers the dour New 52, even if it doesn't completely correct it.

The premise seems to be that Doctor Manhattan's machinations have had a cosmic influence. It was his influence that robbed the DC Universe is several years of its history. Batman examines the iconic blood spattered smiley face button worn by The Comedian in The Flash: Rebirth #1 [via Comic Book Resources]. Like Before Watchmen - I can begrudgingly see some merit.

There's a post-modern idea at work that's really appealing to think about, even as it creates friction. If Watchmen truly has been so influential to modern comic books, perhaps even more so than the event that defined the modern DC Universe [Crisis on Infinite Earths], then it's intriguing to consider it as an in-fiction cosmic force. Why not shape the New DCU on the back of its most influential tomes? Why not fulfill the requests of the unwashed masses who want to see more?

There are, of course, reasons not to.

Hard reboots to the DC pantheon have arguably been the source of some of their biggest problems over the past few years. Overwrought world building, waterlogged inter-connected stories, and a sense that everything is so much less have made DC a bitter taste throughout the decade.

The New 52 and subsequent reboots have been the ultimate realization of short term thinking that's plagued Big 2 comic books throughout the internet age. A quick fix, short term mentality that indulged always misguided impressions that DC's history was uniquely problematic -- selling reasons not to read, instead of the unique wonder of their sprawling universe.

DC found some of their biggest successes in the mid to late 2000s with the explosion of the Green Lantern universe and stories like Sinestro Corps War and Blackest Night. Stories that dug deep into the canon and made the most of it. The antithesis of The New 52 and even Rebirth, which seems content to only paper over some of the cracks and return what was lost. Brand building that should've encouraged similar tact with more characters, including the ones who inspired the Watchmen heroes. Who really needs Rorschach when you've got The Question? What does Nite Owl do in a superhero universe that Blue Beetle can't do better?

The short answer is that the Watchmen characters provide notoriety and familiarity. Which is sad, because if Watchmen encouraged anything, it was arguably to strive for better in this world. The psychotic in the squidgy mask was never meant to be the one to aspire to. None of them were meant to be part of the DCU. We'll have to wait and see what happens once they are. Maybe it actually makes perfect sense.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Savage Dragon #22 When: September 1995
Why: Erik Larsen How: Erik Larsen

The Story So Far...
When a construction worker violated sacred ground, he was destined to become part of a cosmic struggle of good and evil. Transformed into the demon Complete Carnage, he was a being of total evil until finally slain by his pure counterpart Radical and The Ninja Turtles.

Two years later, a new version of Complete Carnage has emerged to wreak havoc on the modern marvels he draws strength from! His existence: the product of scientific experimentation on a severed limb by the Whelan-Freas Research Centre! The product: an even more savage clone!

Radical is forbidden to intervene, forcing The Ninja Turtles to catch the train to Chicago alone. They won't have to look far for an ally in the fight with Complete Carnage, though. Officer Dragon is reporting for duty!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Dragon 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Donatello 5 (Professor)
Speed: Turtles 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Dragon 7 (Unstoppable)
Agility: Turtles 4 (Gymnastic)
Fighting: Draw 6 (Warrior)
Energy: Turtles 2 (Projectiles)

Just when you thought it was safe to crawl out of the sewers -- we've got an inter-company crossover on our hands!

The Turtles are: Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael & Michaelangelo.

We join the teenaged ninja-ones in the midst of a good old fashioned superhero team-up with none other than Chicago PD's finest: Officer Dragon!

You may remember him from his epic showdown with evil armored arch-nemesis Overlord, way back in Savage Dragon #7! Kinda appropriate, given, when last we left The Turtles on The Comic Book Fight Club, they were taking out their own notorious, evil armored nemesis: The Shredder - in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1!

As if that wasn't enough in common: these heroes are all mutually mean, green and good for your environment -- provided you don't mind a little collateral damage with your thwarting of evil-doers!

The bad guy in question is Complete Carnage: A humble construction worker who violated sacred ground, placing a curse that manifested when he was struck by lightning whilst repairing a concrete wall. The event mutated him into the evil demon Carnage, whose mastery over cement and steel allows him to control both substances, draw strength from them, and even pass through them!

To combat the specialist demon The Turtles usually rely on specialist help - namely Radical, who was struck by the same lightning as the construction worker, and possesses powers of pure good. She was instrumental in destroying Complete Carnage once and for all, by trapping him in a liquefied road.

This particular Complete Carnage is a clone derived from a dismembered arm. Radical was ordered not to intervene by her spiritual guides due to the creature's illegitimate existence. That means The Turtles can only rely on Dragon when the creature goes on a rampage in concrete jungle of Chicago!

Officer Dragon certainly has the muscle to stand toe-to-toe with a jacked up, construction powered demon clone. Power reserves supplied by the cityscape could pose a problem in fighting and/or containing Complete Carnage, but The Turtles are there to supply invaluable tactical knowledge!

The Math: Dragon & The Turtles Ranking: Donatello (#169)

What Went Down...
Police Officer Dragon and The Ninja Turtles tumble into the Chicago streets as a building collapses behind them! Still trapped inside: the hulking demon known as Complete Carnage - alive again after two years through scientific tampering!

Drawing strength from man-made objects of concrete and metal, the creature is super-charged by the bricks and mortar that rain down on him! A giant purple fist punches through the wreckage before the demon explodes free!

Michaelangelo attacks first - leaping into the fray with his nunchaku leading the way! They smash against the bridge of Carnage's nose. The demon returns the favor, swinging a giant purple right hand that clobbers the bashful turtle!

The rest of the brothers aren't far behind - Leonardo leading as they take the fight to the cloned monster. Donatello recognizes extreme differences in the creature cloned from Complete Carnage's arm. This version lacks "the finesse of his predecessor" and shows a greater savagery!

Michaelangelo is pinned beneath the beast as he brothers attack, but the ground soon gives way beneath them - sending all five plummeting into the dark void of the underground sewers below! Reluctantly - The Dragon dives in after them!

Shrouded in darkness, falling uncontrollably - the ninjas strike! Nunchaku smash, blood sprays, a sai stabs into the demon's neck - it lashes out! Raphael is swatted away. Then The Dragon arrives like a piledriver - fist-first into evil!

Raphael tries to use the opening to get another shot in, but is knock away by gigantic limbs. The Dragon is knocked away, too. He takes a straight shot to the nose with a krak! Ninja silhouettes dance all around. Donatello's staff extends like a limb to strike the demon in the side of the head. The demon goes wild!

Flailing limbs and confusion keep Complete Carnage from focusing enough to utilize his power over man's sewer tunnels. The Turtles try to use it to their advantage, but they're in Chicago. Officer Dragon has dibs on this beat!

The two powerhouses collide in the dark! Dragon's powerful fists are hammers of justice, but the collapsing building has kept Complete Carnage strong. He fires a punch that launches The Dragon into the sewer structure. The next one sends him exploding out of the sewer - into Lake Michigan!

The Turtles take charge, whomping on their nemesis' clone while Officer Dragon is forced to swim back to shore. Donatello does some damage with his wooden staff. When Dragon arrives he's soaking wet - and hopping mad! He snatches Complete Carnage from behind and tosses him into the air like a ragdoll!

The heroes watch on, waiting for the rampaging demon-clone to return - but he does not! Little do they realize - another demonic entity is lurking beneath the surface. A creature driven by pure hatred for Dragon: The Fiend - Bonnie Harris!

The Fiend's red hand clutches Complete Carnage by the skull. Bubbles froth into the water as the clone is confronted with its fate. While Carnage searches for breath, The Dragon springs into action from the shoreline, leaping into the lake!

When Dragon arrives - it's already too late. The Fiend has disappeared, leaving only the drowned corpse of the Complete Carnage clone.

Dragon hauls the remains back to the sewer exit, where The Turtles are stunned by the ease of its defeat. Clearly a pale shadow of the original Complete Carnage that caused them so much trouble! Officer Dragon is left to believe it was his actions that led to the death - an act he hoped to avoid.

The Hammer...
It was one helluva superhero team-up, but in the end, it was the surprise influence of a villain that gave us a victory shared by The Fiend & The Dragon! Take nothing away from The Ninja Turtles, though! They'll take away a well earned assist stat you can see in the rankings update at the bottom of this entry.

If you weren't paying attention, you may like it clarified that this is Bonnie Harris as The Fiend - the third incarnation of Dragon's infernal nemesis.

As noted throughout; this incarnation of Complete Carnage is a significantly discounted version of the deadly Ninja Turtles adversary. He was cloned by The Whelan-Freas Research Center in a twist that feels equal parts Terminator 2 and Aliens.

The fact that he was a clone doesn't ease the burden on Dragon as he and the Turtles leave the scene. It's an interesting contrast of morals. Even in 1995, the grim 'n' gritty red clad turtles of the comics aren't too fussed about slaying an enemy. Not that I typically think of Dragon as being one to pull his punches, either.

This the second outing of both independent creations on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths. In both cases, we've talked about the influence of Frank Miller. In the case of Eastman & Laird, I tend to think of the influence as conceptual, and a matter of content. Without the influx of ninja into Daredevil's New York City under early eighties Miller, we may not have four humanoid turtles in 1984 [see; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1].

In the case of Larsen and Savage Dragon, established in print eight years later, it seems to be the artwork of Miller that has the biggest impact. We saw that earlier in the series [Savage Dragon #7], and it's on display in this issue, again.

In both instances, Larsen seems to invoke the Frank Miller of Sin City, casting heroes in blood spattered silhouette in staccato action. You can see the effect in one of the panels featured above - half a page wide, with a grid of eight panels to its right. This goes on throughout the sewer fight - an effective tribute.

In both cases, the creators and their creations are part of a generation drawing direct influence from their predecessors. Once upon a time I would've thought of all concerned as contemporaries, but as we venture through mainstream comics of the 2010s, I'm spending more time thinking about the fractured narrative of generational comics creation, and less on the continuum of the whole.

Perhaps due to the slightly tongue-in-cheek nature of it all, or because of the youth behind their creation, there's an unmistakable sense of "independent comics" about TMNT. The characters have an enthusiasm for the same disjointed logic I remember thinking as a child, yet trying to fight. Irradiate anything and a gimmick is instantly justified. Reverse engineering the creation process from an idea one of the Big Two hasn't stamped their name all over yet. A concrete construction worker mutates, becomes evil, a purple demon, and can move through cement? Sure!

It's the rough sketch impression of comic books I remember existing among the uninitiated for a long time, yet never related to the comics that seemed to inspire it. A weird, toxic mutation rising from the muck of misspent youths ripping through comics long forgotten in front of B-movies on TV. A post-modern accident that gave the culture a whole new wing? What ever it is - I enjoy the enthusiasm and quirkiness it created.

I'm a lot less enthusiastic about the degrees of separation fuelling todays retro franchise fixation, but what can you do? Talk about old comics and the fights that bind them - I guess!

This entry was once again inspired by the theatrical release of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (June 3rd). A wonderful excuse to pick out a couple of now-classic Ninja Turtles comics and bring them back to the light. That's all the turtles we've got time for this month, though. If you're reading in the future, you can use labels and links throughout this post to find more, or log in to the Secret Issue Index for a full archive of reviews!

Want to read the comics for yourself? Use Amazon links provided for your convenience [like the one to your right] to check out the full collected editions of the comic reviewed! Next week: The Brexit?! Not quite...

Winners: The Fiend & The Dragon
#174 (new) The Fiend (Bonnie Harris) [+1 kill]
#332 (+443) Dragon
#128 (+41) Donatello [+1 assist]

#129 (+41) Leonardo [+1 assist]
#145 (+140) Raphael [+1 assist]
#146 (+140) Michaelangelo [+1 assist]

Monday, June 06, 2016

Real Name: Namor McKenzie
First Appearance: Motion Picture Funnies Weekly #1 (April, 1939)
Fight Club Ranking: #21

Featured Fights:
- vs X-MEN: X-Men #6 (Jul 1964)
- vs DR. DORCUS & TIGERSHARK: Marvel Team-Up #14 (Oct 1973)
- vs ATTUMA: What If? #41 (Oct 1983)
- vs AQUAMAN: Marvel versus DC #2 (Mar 1996)
- vs MR. FANTASTIC: Fantastic Four #412 (May 1996)
- vs AVENGERS: New Invaders #0 (Aug 2004)
- vs PTERRORISTS: New Invaders #1 (Oct 2004)
- vs WOLVERINE: New Invaders #6 (Mar 2005)
- vs RED SKULL & MASTERMAN: Captain America #5 (Mar 2005)
- vs MIND GEM: New Avengers: Illuminati #2 (Mar 2007)
- vs IRON MAN: Invincible Iron Man #12 (Jun 2009)

A recurring piece of superhero movie trivia may have died last week, with reports film rights to Namor, The Sub-Mariner are believed to be squarely with Marvel Entertainment!

The bombshell was dropped by Marvel's "Convoluted Editorial Title" Joe Quesada during the Fatman on Batman podcast. If true, it signals the presumptive untangling of the character from Universal Pictures, and X-Men/Fantastic Four rights holders - FOX Studios.

Given Namor's long running, iconic association with the Fantastic Four - it's a slight shame. If FOX had been able to produce a single worthy Fantastic Four film, it would have been a wonderful premise to see Atlantis invade the surface world. Further; as the studio who owns the X-Men, the prospect of at least acknowledging his mutant status -- perhaps in a Reed Richards examination sequence -- could have been interesting. Even if overlapping the two franchises has never held a lot of appeal.

Sadly, FOX have not managed the Fantastic Four license well. The one-time hypothetical slam dunk of an FF movie has arguably been rendered completely toxic by a mediocre film version in the mid-2000s, and even more disastrous reception for their troubled, grimy 2015 reboot.

One studio's loss is another's gain, and the long, winding road of one of Marvel's oldest superhero characters has a lot to offer!

If news that Marvel Studios has Namor up their sleeve holds any appeal, it's the prospect of stitching authentic back matter into their Second World War history! As a big fan of the Golden Age of comics, I was pretty excited to see a WWII origin story in 2011 franchise-builder: Captain America: The First Avenger. Unfortunately, the film's CG buffed sheen reflected a haze of perfunctory adventure. It smacked of a get-it-in-the-can gamble riding high on the promise of a widely reported Avengers film, failing to capture the true grit and thrills of the heroes who fought the Nazis.

Whether or not The Invaders are ready to come to the screen is up for debate. The original Human Torch has a famous, nameless cameo in the first Captain America film, but usage of the character could invite unfavourable confusion amongst movie-goers, to say nothing of  cranky FOX lawyers.

If the combustible android is up for grabs, then the holy trinity of Marvel's World War II heroes could be a wonderful palate cleanser for Cap's paranoia charged clashes with Hydra infested SHIELD, and Iron Man's Civil War Avengers.

The Civil War rift even provides the perfect opportunity for Cap to reunite with his secret 1940s allies for an all new mission! The chance to see flashbacks to meatier moments of Captain America's WWII career could be a real breath of fresh air, even if they're anchored to a modern threat. You only need the big three, but I'm sure the world would welcome appearances by other Invaders, like; Union Jack, Spitfire, Blazing Skull, Thin Man, and Dyna-Mite. They could certainly add some much needed color should TV's Agent Carter ever need new adventures.

In the comics, Namor's also a charter member of The Avengers, with potential to transpose his return and/or invasion of the surface world to a future sequel. In more recent times, he also held membership with The Illuminati - a secret cabal of kingpin heroes that included; Iron Man, Mr. Fantastic, Dr. Strange, Professor X and Black Bolt.

Revealing Namor's existence through an already in-place Illuminati conspiracy could be a very unique and memorable beat for the ballooning cosmic spectacle of the long promised Avengers: Infinity War film. Black Bolt and The Inhumans have certainly been on Marvel's table for some time, with Dr. Strange arriving later this year. Mr. Fantastic and Professor X are easily replaced with the likes of movie versions of Black Panther and General "Red Hulk" Ross.

Boy... Getting carried away much? Hey! What ever happens, it's sure to be an interesting talking point! For now, it's the glint of what's possible that makes Namor the Hero of the Week!