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

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