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]

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