Friday, November 18, 2016

Of Monsters And Magicians (Marvel)
Marvel Adventures #14 When: May 1998
Why: Ralph Macchio How: Andy Kuhn

The Story So Far...
Cain Marko is best known to the world as the unstoppable Juggernaut -- but when his powers begin to fade, he finds himself in danger of losing his super-strong identity!

Juggernaut's only friend in the world is Black Tom Cassidy, and the Irish super-criminal has heard a rumor that just might help his shrinking friend!

The Crimson Gem of Cyttorak that first gave Marko his magical might is said to be in the hands of a magician living in Greenwich Village. When the pair strong arm his aid Wong, they gain entry into the Sanctum Sanctorum, and an audience with Earth's Sorcerer Supreme himself: Dr. Stephen Strange!

Strange is indeed in possession of the artefact that can recharge the Juggernaut, but little does the villain realize, there is another guest in the Sanctum whose phenomenal strength could match even his. He appears to be meek Dr. Bruce Banner, but when you make him mad, he becomes a Hulk!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Hulk 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Dr. Strange 5 (Professor)
Speed: Hulk 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Juggernaut 7 (Unstoppable)
Agility: Dr. Strange 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting: Hulk 6 (Warrior)
Energy: Dr. Strange 6 (Mass Destruction)

Throughout November we've been looking at the exploits of Earth's Sorcerer Supreme, but sometimes the key to being a good leader is knowing when to delegate! Good thing Dr. Strange has a very wide talent pool of secret allies to pull from!

Today's villain is a behemoth we're coming to know well on The Comic Book Fight Club! Juggernaut is a magically unstoppable powerhouse whose mystic strength has toppled Colossus [Uncanny X-Men #183], Captain Britain [Excalibur #3], Captain Marvel Jr [Unlimited Access #3], and as featured just a few weeks ago -- Dr. Strange, who lost his life in the reality of What If...? #24!

You could forgive the Doc for looking for a little assistance when tangling with a foe as powerful as this! Fortunately for him, his Sanctum Sanctorum attracts a wide array of friends and foes, luring this time the frail form of Dr. Bruce Banner, better known to the world as the incredible Hulk!

Hulk's unnatural super-human strength is biological in nature. Altered by the science of gamma radiation, Hulk is the raging monster that lurks within the mind and body of scientist Banner. He's one of the most powerful figures in the Marvel Universe, owning featured victories over Silver Surfer [Incredible Hulk #95], The Sentry [World War Hulk #5], The Avengers [Avengers #4], Thor [Avengers #5] and Red Hulk [Hulk #6]!

Popular conceit is that Hulk's strength increases the madder he gets - and nothing makes him madder than an opponent he can't beat! Some feel that implies limitless strength, but here on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths, we have always subscribed to the belief that Hulk's mortal body has a limit to the power it can produce, or contain. That's okay, though!

Unstoppable, though he may be, Juggernaut can at least be temporarily defeated! We've seen the likes of Nimrod [Uncanny X-Men #194], Superman [DC versus Marvel #1], Spider-man & Wonder Woman [Unlimited Access #1], and The Avengers [Thunderbolts #150] put him on his tin canned keister!

As evenly matched opponents go - Juggernaut and Hulk are a couple of the greats. Any fight could go either man's way! Let's not forget that Hulk has Dr. Strange in his corner, though -- and there's one special detail in this encounter that undoubtedly gives the heroes an edge!

Juggernaut has come to the Sanctum Sanctorum because his magical strength has been dwindling. He's literally wasting away -- needing to make fresh contact with the Crimson Gem of Cyttorak to recharge his powers! When the fight breaks out, he has done that, inadvertently spilling into the dimension of Cyttorak himself, but

It isn't a standard necessity for the character. Just one of those uncommon afflictions that introduces a little vulnerability. When the fight begins he has been recharged - and spilled into the dimension of Cyttorak, himself. However a shred of doubt about his power remains, and that's all Hulk and Dr. Strange should need! Let's check it out...

The Tape: Hulk Ranking: Hulk (#6)

What Went Down...
With Wong held hostage by Black Tom Cassidy, the unstoppable Juggernaut penetrates the inner chambers of The Sanctum Sanctorum. Responding to the shrinking villain's plea, Dr. Strange produces the crimson Gem of Cyttorak -- only to be swatted aside as Juggernaut greedily snatches it away!

Unassuming scientist Bruce Banner watches from the threshold as a beam of red energy escapes the gem above an unconscious Sorcerer Supreme. Seeing the emaciated Juggernaut for the villain he is - Banner dives into the fray!

The tackle sends Banner and Juggernaut plunging into a portal emitting from the ruby. Black Tom contemplates the error of their plan as his associate disappears into the void of another dimension!

Inside the other realm, Juggernaut's body swells as it bathes in the raw magic of Cyttorak! He revels in a power like he's never felt before! Standing large and super-charged, he fails to notice the ghostly presence looming behind him!

A blast of mystic energy gets the Juggernaut's attention! It seems Dr. Strange's unconscious state was not a result of physical harm -- but rather, a plan to open the interdimensional doorway and entrap the Juggernaut with his astral form!

The Juggernaut starts charging toward his ectoplasmic foe, but strange claps his hands together and fires a beam at the at his feet. The spell causes the very ground to rise up around the Juggernaut -- but his unstoppable strength is too great to be held for long!

Strange attempts a more direct approach, conjuring a gigantic medieval pincer -- but Juggernaut catches its pointed ends, and shatters the weapon with his phenomenal power! As he stalks toward the astral spectre, Strange realizes the powers Juggernaut receives from this realm could place him in mortal danger!

Seeing the man who helped him in peril, Bruce Banner gives in to his inner anxiety and rage. In an explosion of muscle and anger, he shatters the calm bestowed by the mystic and unleashes the incredible Hulk!

Believing the Hulk to be summoned by Strange's magic, Juggernaut accepts the challenge. A chance to prove who the strongest in the world really is!

The two behemoths collide -- the unstoppable force meeting the immovable monster! A green hook chin checks the Juggernaut. He fires back with an unstoppable uppercut! Hulk drives both fists down atop his foe. Juggernaut fires back with a left cross of his own. Hulk throws another punch back his way. Two evenly matched powerhouses locked in a call-and-reply conversation of combat!

Seeing no end in sight: Dr. Strange plants a suggestion in the simple mind of the Hulk, urging him to direct his blows in the direction of a distant temple. An almighty blow sends Juggernaut flying in the intended direction.

At the foot of the enormous idol is another gleaming gem of Cyttorak! Seeing a chance to boost his powers to even greater heights: Juggernaut reaches out for the ruby. At first, it has the intended effect - flooding his massive body with rippling waves of energy! Triumph turns to horror as Juggernaut is consumed by the unending raw power! He shrieks for help as his body bursts with light and he disappears!

In Juggernaut's place appears the visage of the entity Cyttorak! He chastises Earth's Sorcerer Supreme for trespassing upon his realm, but also expresses a begrudging gratitude for his prior role in dispensing with Mindless Ones. For that, Cyttorak agrees to return Stephen Strange and Bruce Banner to Earth.

Juggernaut, however, will not be so fortunate. He must be punished for meddling with primal forces beyond him!

The Hammer...
After careful deliberation: Hulk & Dr. Strange will share the victory, with an invaluable assist from Cyttorak! Hard times for Juggernaut, who quite clearly picks up another defeat.

Fans of The Comic Book Fight Club will be excited to know the result means Hulk rises from #6 in the rankings, to #4! He super-leaps new #5 Wolverine, and pushes Superman out of the Top 5, down to #6! Scroll to the bottom of this entry for the full character rankings update.

Despite its impact on our ranks, not all fans will be rushing enthusiastically to quote this particular example of the Hulk defeating the unstoppable Juggernaut.

Marvel Adventures, for those who may not know, was a consolidated out-of-canon series spinning out of the various comics inspired by Marvel's cartoons.

Throughout the early to mid nineties; X-Men, Spider-man, Fantastic Four, Iron Man and Hulk all graced the small screen in starring animated series. The quality of the animation varied, but for the most part, they were excellent, faithful introductions to the wonderful world of Marvel Comics.

Many episodes adapted famous stories from classic comics. On rare occasions, the cartoons even crossed over with one another! Dr. Strange was one such hero to go between series, appearing in a Spider-man episode in '96, before making his way into the second series of Incredible Hulk, in '97.

The whole phenomenon first closed the loop on itself in 1992, when Marvel published issue #1 of X-Men Adventures. Throughout its four year run, the series would adapt episodes of the cartoon to comics. It sounds a little silly, but it was a 90s commerce solution to an influx of cartoon viewers becoming comics readers. The barrier to entry was low, and familiarity bred the cool kids who skipped out-of-continuity stories, delving deeper into the on-going canon!

Convoluted production issues on the third series of animated X-Men saw episodes shuffled to meet deadlines, censorship and run time. Volume 3 of X-Men Adventures adapted The Phoenix storylines central to the cartoon, but left many stories unrepresented. Instead, a subsequent launch of Adventures of the X-Men began a new era of telling original stories only partially inspired by the world of the cartoons. Marvel Adventures continued this with a revolving cast of cartoon inspired heroes and villains, often in combination.

Considering the state of Marvel Comics from '96 to '98, these simplified and iconic versions of characters had a real place on racks. In Adventures, fans could get fun, done-in-one stories away from convoluted events like Ben Reilly as Spider-man, the Heroes Reborn reboot universe, and so on. I may have been enjoying those stories at the time, but I certainly appreciated these alternatives.

If classic heroes and villains weren't selling point enough - there was the wholly unique art style of Andy Kuhn! You may know him these days from series like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or Firebreather. In the mid to late nineties, his big, bold, exaggerated art style gave Marvel's characters a unique contemporary look, and helped define the identity of Adventures branded comics!

Of course, being so identified with the Adventures ghetto probably didn't do him a lot of favours in the dismissive eyes of regular Marvel readers. He's found his way into books like Secret Avengers in recent years, but in my opinion, Kuhn remains significantly underrated! An artist I'd love to see more of.

We may get to more Kuhn in the future, but for now, we conclude a month of celebrating Doctor Strange! The Sorcerer Supreme has been the subject of our November battles, and is in theatres now!

If you read this week's spoilerific Hero of the Week spotlight, you know the Doctor Strange movie has an intriguing surprise cameo. That's going to fuel our final feature fight - next week! It's a forgotten classic, so you won't want to miss it! If you have, be sure to dive into character tag links or the Issue Index Archive! You'll find hundreds of features if you do!

Winners: Hulk and Doctor Strange (w/ Cyttorak)
#4 (+2) Hulk
#22 (+10) Dr. Strange
#43 (--) Juggernaut
#504 (new) Cyttorak

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