Friday, December 30, 2016

Apokolips... Now (DC/Marvel)
Uncanny X-Men and The New Teen Titans #1 When: 1982 Why: Chris Claremont How: Walt Simonson

The Story So Far...
Nightmares plague the young heroes of the X-Men and Teen Titans. The memory of fallen comrade Phoenix haunts the mind and heart of those who loved her, while a universe away, her flaming visage inspires terror.

Across the gulf of space, Darkseid contemplates the means to penetrate and harness the supreme power of The Source Wall. His plan: to send his agents to collect the residual psychic energies left on Earth by the cosmic Phoenix entity.

Flanked by an army of Para-Demon soldiers, Deathstroke accepts the mission to lead them in a quest to accrue cosmic energy. A task that could only inevitably draw the attention of the Uncanny X-Men!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Colossus 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Deathstroke 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Nightcrawler 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Wolverine 6 (Generator)
Agility: Nightcrawler 5 (Cat-Like)
Fighting: Deathstroke 7 (Living Weapon)
Energy: Cyclops 5 (Lasers)

X-Men are: Cyclops, Storm, Colossus, Sprite, Nightcrawler & Wolverine.

The glaring issue here is an apparent mismatch in numbers, but we can pretty quickly address that. Deathstroke is working in the employ of Darkseid, which has given him access to an army of Para-Demon shock troops. Not that he necessarily needs them!

Deathstroke The terminator is Slade Wilson: A career soldier who was subjected to secret military experiments designed to create the ultimate super-soldier.

The result granted Wilson access to 90% of his brain capacity, unlocking significant cognitive abilities including; increased reaction time, reflexes, tactical brilliance, learning enhancement, memory retention, and more. These skills are best demonstrated by his supreme fighting ability. Deathstroke is versed in multiple hand-to-hand combat techniques, martial arts disciplines, and weapons training, including his weapon of choice: the sword.

We saw just how dangerous a combatant Deathstroke can be  in Identity Crisis #3, where he single-handedly fought the Justice League to a standstill! In that instance, speed and tactics were his deadliest weapons, as he systematically neutralized each hero. He anticipated and thwarted Flash, silenced Zatanna, clipped Hawkman's wings, bagged Black Canary, and so on.

There's an obvious comparison to made there for the challenge of the X-Men - a group who won't even have the benefit of familiarity with Deathstroke's tactics!

He possesses an increased healing ability, allowing him to recover from near fatal injuries much quicker than an ordinary human being. That's not only an obvious comparison to Wolverine, but a confidence builder against the mutant's adamantium laced claws. Can Deathstroke's sword withstand their legendary cutting power? It may not need to, having the advantage of reach over claws!

Nightcrawler could be an interesting fencing partner for Deathstroke, given his famed fondness for sword fights. He may be outclassed by the superior soldier, who would certainly be more ruthless, and able to anticipate his moves. Even if he were to incorporate his mutant gift of teleportation.

Organic steel skin and super-human strength mean Colossus has muscle and durability on his side, but Deathstroke's arsenal, speed, agility, and Parademon back-up are mitigating factors. Parademons are also Deathstroke's best option for neutralizing Storm's control of weather phenomena, and/or busying Cyclops.

At this point in X-Men history, Kitty Pryde was an inexperienced young teen, but her powers of intangibility arguably make her the biggest X-factor of this fight! The Terminator's 90% brain function may come up with a strategy to turn her abilities against her, or at least neutralize their offensive potential, but he can only do that if he identifies them before they make the difference!

We've seen one X-Man be the game changer many times over the years, tipping the scales in battles with: Nimrod [Uncanny X-Men #194], Magneto [X-Men #25], Xorn [New X-Men #150] and The Lizard [X-Men: First Class #2]!

We also saw Kitty Pryde play a major role in X-Men Annual #6, when this era's X-Men came close to getting the better of Count Dracula! The divided team only managed a draw in the '82 annual. Let's see how they did here...

The Tape: Wolverine Ranking: Wolverine (#5)

What Went Down...
On a very particular butte in New Mexico: Deathstroke commands an army of Parademons in the erection of a massive "Psi-Phon" tower. They're collecting the residual psychic energy left by The Phoenix - but they're about to get more than they bargain ford!

Wolverine manages to sneak up on an unsuspecting Deathstroke to ask if he's got a light. The Terminator answers with a swing of his sword, but Wolverine is prepared! He ducks the weapon and returns fire with the adamantium reinforced backside of his fist! Deathstroke is sent flying!

While Wolverine deals with their leader; Cyclops blasts the Parademons who're guarding the towering machine. The X-Man orders its destruction - a simple feat for the super-human strength of Colossus!

The steel-skinned Russian upends the gigantic machine, toppling several Para-demons in the process. Storm helps in the task, sweeping more Apokolips soldiers away with an uncanny gale-force wind!

Sprite does her part, emerging from the rocky desert in front of a gun-toting Parademon. The distraction allows Nightcrawler to teleport in for a surprise attack that disables the villain!

Across the battlefield, Deathstroke studies the X-Men in action - aware of their reputation. His keen reflexes allowed him to avoid a knock-out from Wolverine's earlier blow. He takes advantage of being the loose man, targeting airborne Storm with a rifle that fires a fear ray! The sudden onset of severe claustrophobia sends Storm hurtling earthbound!

The Parademons rally, catching Sprite, Nightcrawler and Wolverine with a noxious Toxi-Cloud Grenade! Relying upon superior numbers and technology, one of the soldiers takes out Cyclops with an energy disperser bolt gun!

Colossus is the last X-Man standing and sets his sights on Deathstroke. The mercenary braces for the charging mutant and goes low - turning his metallic momentum against him! Close to the edge of the butte - Colossus is sent tumbling over the side toward the desert below!

With victory in hand, Deathstroke and the Parademons take their opponents prisoner and open a boom tube for Darkseid's throne room in The Wall.

The Hammer...
We couldn't end 2016 without one final return to a battle between DC and Marvel Comics! After all, this was a year that marked the 40th anniversary of the character crossover that started them all: 1976's Superman versus The Amazing Spider-man!

It took five years for the two publishers to arrange a sequel issue, once again pitting their mascots Superman and Spider-man against corroborating villains. Doctor Doom and Parasite were the offending bad guys, but this time Wonder Woman and Hulk were along for the ride, too.

Hulk would return later in '81 to headline another crossover special - head-to-head with Batman in a mismatch of television and comics icons. The original three oversized issues offered a fair spread of characters from both unvierses, but no single special had the scope of the inter-company crossover published in 1982: Uncanny X-Men and The New Teen Titans!

The ambition of Chris Claremont and Walt Simonson's teen team crossover went far beyond the cosmic trappings of its own set-up. The threat posed by Darkseid is arguably the biggest of any of these stories, but it was its function as a sequel to The Dark Phoenix Saga that makes it more than any ordinary one-shot.

The New Mexico setting in today's featured battle recalls a specific tender moment shared between Cyclops and Jean Grey in Uncanny X-Men #132. Though only a couple of years removed, that's still a pretty deep cut for an inter-company crossover -- and it isn't the only one! The entire premise plays upon Darkseid's minions revisiting those key locations touched by Phoenix's power.

The X-Men and Teen Titans were obviously twin hot properties in 1982, but I think the choice of using significant canon probably helped make this the popular crossover it was. Superman/Spider-man had spectacle, Batman/Hulk a curiosity factor, but this one had both -- and a story that seemed to elevate its importance, even for me - a confessed teen hero hater from school age.

Of course, no inter-company crossover is complete without an interesting title fight. Learning from reactions to the '76 Versus title; DC and Marvel made the wise choice to replace their combative preposition with a more applicable conjunction: and.

The cover gives no reasonable expectation that the X-Men and Titans will fight -- but that doesn't mean they didn't have a perfect bout up their sleeve! Just a couple of years old, and a couple more away from the heights of The Judas Contract; Deathstroke The Terminator was already a pretty perfect opponent for morally conflicted mutant hardass - Wolverine!

If you followed the feature fight, you know Wolverine effectively got the drop on Deathstroke, but failed to finish the job. Does that sound like the best there is at what he does? Hey, it goes both ways. The Terminator -- as he was known almost four years before the movie -- may have toppled the X-Men, but there's a more physical rematch before issue's end. A battle we'll no doubt look closer at in the future.

It's a small wonder we didn't see a third decider when it came time for DC and Marvel to pit their characters against one another in a long awaited, all fighting crossover spectacular: DC versus Marvel/Marvel versus DC! It probably couldn't have been more controversial than the battle we got: Lobo versus Wolverine.

It speaks to the mystique of Deathstroke for the longest time, whose solo series was coming to an end in 96. It seems he didn't penetrate the DC Universe in any lasting, meaningful way until the mid-2000s. Even after sixty issues of mercenary escapades, he always seemed anchored to the Teen Titans. A factor that's fast fading, with the mainstream preparing for test footage to turn into a full fledged feature film appearance in DC's The Batman.

As we put 2016 behind us, Hollywood is telling tales of ascent and descent for these two comic book icons. With Logan, Hugh Jackman expects to retire his iconic performance as Wolverine after seventeen years on screen. On the flip side, Joe Manganiello has begun training to bring a new icon to screen. Will he inherit the mantle of big screen bad ass that Wolverine vacates?

We end the year celebrating the past whilst looking towards an uncertain future!

I hope we'll be together for more Secret Wars on Infinite Earths in 2017. If we aren't, you can relive all the featured fights from 2016, including our celebration of the 20th Anniversary of DC versus Marvel, back in April! To find even more classic battles and inter-company crossovers scroll down the Issue Index!

Winner: Deathstroke
#94 (+208) Deathstroke
#5 (--) Wolverine
#42 (--) Storm
#66 (-1) Cyclops
#91 (-21) Sprite (Kitty Pryde)
#357 (-13) Colossus
#508 (-134) Nightcrawler

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