Monday, January 30, 2017

Real Name: Eobard Thawne
First Appearance: The Flash #139 (September, 1963)
Fight Club Ranking: #294

Featured Fights:
- vs FLASH & MAX MERCURY: Flash: Rebirth #4 (Sep 2009)

Long time followers will know Hero of the Week has its original roots in video games. Begun when I was blogging regularly on (defunct) gaming site; it was a chance to bridge interests by exploring the exciting things going on in comics, video games, and movies at that time.

It feels like it's been a long time since gaming has seen the superhero highs of Batman: Arkham Asylum, or even the routine crapshoot of movie based tie-ins.. 2017 is gearing up to change all that with a console gaming resurgence, though! Marvel will return to a third sequel in Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite (announced last month), while long coming DC fighting game Injustice 2 arrives in May.

Injustice 2 isn't necessarily a welcome influence from a comic book perspective, but it has a few interesting things going for it. For one: the roster is in the process of adding playable gems, including: Supergirl, Blue Beetle, Deadshot, Damian Wayne, and perhaps my favourite - Gorilla Grodd!

They'll also bridge the divide of second-tier character similarities by adding recently revealed "Premier Skins". As reported on Mortal Kombat Online; the new feature will allow players who buy the game's Ultimate Edition alternate choices of Powergirl (Supergirl), John Stewart (Green Lantern), and Reverse-Flash (Flash)!

Each Premier Skin has their own designs, super moves, and voice acting, making them superior options to your standard, run of the mill alternate costumes! That's a great way to expand the cast and excite fans of the DC Universe -- at least in theory! Where NetherRealm Studios has come to excel in the technical arena, their conceptual and creative directions have left a lot to be desired.

2013 franchise starter Injustice: Gods Among Us introduced the high concept premise of Superman gone bad, and Batman's inevitable opposition. Backstory and explanation was largely delegated to tie-in comics, which had more room to explore characters, but didn't necessarily use it well.

Rather than develop a compelling narrative with knowing references to works like Kingdom Come or The Dark Knight Returns; Injustice plows ahead to its 'Superman Regime' with the unearned murders of Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen. The killer is The Joker, whose murderous trip to Metropolis is never given any kind of reason or motivation. He's merely there to start the violence.

That vital narrative conceit is a reverberating metaphor for the entire Injustice experience. It's shallow and trashy, saying and doing nothing new or interesting, but only expected to titillate a mostly uninitiated, pubescent demographic. It's cut from similar cloth to Warner Brothers' divisive DC Comics films, their New 52 comics, and bafflingly popular CW TV series. There's very little opportunity or acumen for honoring the characters, even though NetherRealm artists work earnestly to create a quality product. In the technical fields, these games are reaching many new heights. Creatively, it's just never going to be anything other than Injustice.

So while I'm thrilled by the prospect of playing Professor Zoom in a video game, it remains to be seen if the Injustice sequel can be good enough to reward the assumption of that existing fandom. I'm not convinced NetherRealm can deliver a satisfying DC Comics experience, but we will see.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Re-Enter: Reactron! (DC)
The Daring New Adventures of Supergirl #9 When: July 1983 Why: Paul Kupperberg How: Carmine Infantino

The Story So Far...
The heroic Doom Patrol are on the path of a nuclear powered villain who shares a troubling history with team leader Tempest. The villainous Reactron is a soldier with absolutely no regard for the people he harms, and a power suit that grants him mastery over radiation!

Having escaped Doom Patrol in their earlier skirmish; Reactron is lured to Lake Shore University by an experimental nuclear reactor capable of enhancing his powers! It's the same campus attended by Linda Danvers -- student alter-ego of Supergirl!

Having watched the action from afar using her Kryptonian enhanced vision, Supergirl is ready to jump into action to put a stop to Reactron's meltdown! Does she have what it takes to stop the radioactive villain alone? Doom Patrol races to the scene with the fight already under way!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Supergirl 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Draw 2 (Average)
Speed: Supergirl 5 (Super-Human)
Stamina: Reactron 6 (Generator)
Agility: Supergirl 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting: Reactron 4 (Trained)
Energy: Reactron 6 (Mass Destruction)

Every great superhero needs a rogues gallery to fight against, and today we're looking at one of the villains who's become a frequent foe for Supergirl!

If you know anything about the "Girl of Steel" it's that she escaped the grim fate of her home world Krypton to join cousin Kal-El on planet Earth. Enriched by the Milky Way's yellow sun, she possesses much the same powers and vulnerabilities as Superman: Flight, enhanced strength, speed, endurance, stamina, heat and x-ray vision, and super-breath.

We saw most of Supergirl's super-abilities on display when she battled a corrupt Mary Marvel in Final Crisis #6. We know she can hang with heavy-hitters like the Marvels - and she's going to have to, because her opponent is a fresh face brimming with newfound power in 1983!

Reactron was once Benjamin Krullen of the United States Army. An amoral soldier who gained an experimental hi-tech "StarSuit" that allows him to channel radioactive energy into concussive blasts. He would later be outfitted with a Gold Kryptonite heart, allowing him to sap the powers of Kryptonians, but that upgrade is a couple of decades away from our featured fight.

We're catching Reactron early in his villainous career -- just his second printed appearance! This is a pre-Crisis version whose design and powers are much less sophisticated -- but no less dangerous! He's double tough, can absorb and redirect radioactive energies, and has the potential to blow!

Strength and invulnerability give Supergirl a comfortable edge in this fight, but the exact effects of radiation on Kryptonians aren't always consistent.

We've seen Superman shrug off the routine nuclear energies of Atomic Skull [Superman/Batman #21], but in some stories, large doses of radiation have inflicted temporary ill effects on The Man of Steel.

We know the unique radiation signature of Kryptonite can sap Superman and Supergirl of their strength, and potentially even kill them. That's evident in the synthetic variety used by Batman [see: The Dark Knight Strikes Again #1, Justice League: The New Frontier Special #1], and the strange green glow emitted by the Kryptonite Man [see; Superman/Batman #23].

This early in his career, it might be too much to expect Reactron to be expert enough in his abilities to simulate Kryptonite. "The Living Reactor" can offensively direct large waves of radiation, though. Expelling as much radiation as possible might be his best key to victory, but Supergirl is the favourite here.

We find them in mid-battle. Let's see how it went down...

The Tape: Supergirl Ranking: Supergirl (#90)

What Went Down...
Supergirl clutches at Reactron's wrists as she flies at the irradiating menace! The living reactor is strong enough to break her hold, sending the girl of steel recoiling as he yanks his hands free!

This time it's Reactron's turn to recoil as Supergirl rockets back at him like a Kryptonian missile -- smacking him right in the mouth with a devastating left!

The villain can't help but be impressed by Supergirl's strength, but he survives the rough treatment with a smile on his face. She attempts to wipe it off by slipping behind him and locking in a Kryptonian bear hug!

As he did before, Reactron summons his nuclear powered strength and throws his arms open with explosive force! The radioactive counter once again throws Supergirl from her opponent! The experience sharpens her mind toward tactics.

While Supergirl ponders the advantage of taking the fight away from the cramped confines of their reactor arena -- Reactron turns up the heat with direct blasts of radiation!

Bathed in nuclear beams, Supergirl laughs off their effects as merely cleaning her costume. She makes a beeline for an improvised skylight and escapes the experimental reactor's control room, even as it begins to malfunction!

Reactron takes flight, pursuing his prey into the sky where she attempts to take advantage of maneuverability. She tries a ranged attack, firing X-ray vision in his direction, but Reactron's suit allows him to absorb the rays and redirect them as a concussive blast!

The dangers of the modern world begin to occur to Supergirl as she realizes Reactron's suit could convert everything from the sun's ultraviolet rays, to communication microwaves into an infinite power source! That's also when she remembers the perfect defense against such phenomena: lead!

While the Girl of Steel disappears a super-speed, Negative Woman and Tempest of The Doom Patrol arrive to keep Reactron company!

Reactron scoffs at Supergirl for seemingly fleeing, and laughs at the supposed threat of the arriving Doom Patrol. Tempest gives his former military chum a sobering jolt of kinetic energy, while Negative Woman attempts to short circuit him with her uncanny phasing powers!

The shock of being hurt sends Reactron heading for solid ground. His radiation blasts keep Negative Woman at arms length -- a threat that further provokes the ire of Tempest!

The former soldier keeps Reactron on the defensive with kinetic blasts as Supergirl returns overhead with a section of disused, lead sewage pipe!

She dumps the tube on top of Reactron and starts to reduce it to slag with intense heat vision when suddenly Tempest turns his kinetic blasts against her!

The Girl of Steel failed to realize encasing Reactron in lead just provokes him to turn up his powers -- creating an energy that eats through led with explosive results! Realizing her error, she snatches the lead encased villain and heads for the sky -- attempting to clear the populate college campus before he explodes!

The nuclear boom is big enough to shatter windows for miles around -- and knock Supergirl out cold! Her uncontrolled fall is stopped by the stretching energy form of Negative Woman, who carries her safely to the ground.

The rest of Doom Patrol arrive on the scene as Supergirl comes to, ready to learn the secret origin of her newest nemesis and prepare for round 2.

The Hammer...
It had thrills, spills, and special guests, and in the end the bad guy had to essentially blow himself up! The tactics weren't pretty, but the hammer falls in favour of villainous victor: Reactron!

As you can probably sense, the fight is far from finished. There's a follow-up confrontation within the pages of this very issue -- which also contains a Lois Lane back-up story! Wowee!

At some point in the future I'm sure we'll come back to see how the rematch went. Reactron may not be a first or second tier villain, but you know how I love those recurring bruisers. The kinds of bad guys with a simple gimmick, flashy costume, and deep seeded desire to do no good.

Reactron was actually one of the key inspirations for making this our final featured fight for January! I mentioned last month that I've been enjoying something of a Supergirl renaissance, thanks chiefly to the newish TV series.

One of the things I like most about Supergirl is its incorporation of comic book characters. It isn't completely faithful to the page, but it wields its references pretty well. The show reminds me of past efforts like Superboy, Lois & Clark, and maybe even the 1990 version of The Flash, but it combines its light entertainment disposition with much more frequent, heavy comic book content.

Case in point: Reactron was the first bona fide super-villain to appear in the series, making an enemy of Supergirl in the third episode.

It isn't the character from the comics. He presents more like a dark vision of Iron Man, clad in gun metal suit with a glowing red nuclear heart. This version of the character, an engineer named Ben Krull, is a smidge more sympathetic. He owes his powers (and deteriorating health) to a terrorist attack that was stopped by Superman, but not before it poisoned him, and killed his wife.

This Reactron leaves Metropolis to pursue Superman's newly revealed cousin, who's still finding her way as a hero in the early episodes. It's a quest for revenge - family for family. It nearly works, too! Supergirl gets her butt kicked in a hard hitting fight that ends with a silhouetted Man of Steel arriving just in time to rescue his kin as she falls unconscious!

Within the context of the show, the episode and its events are economic world building. I can't help but see the ties to the comic, though.

Reactron's first comic book appearance was the issue before the one we featured today [Daring New Adventures of Supergirl #8]. In the TV show, he's introduced as a pre-existing Superman villain, which functions a little bit like his shared backstory with Tempest. Who appears in our feature fight to rescue Supergirl with his greater knowledge of the threat -- kinda like Superman.

Just like the comic; TV's Supergirl figures she can beat the nuclear nemesis with lead. Things go a lot smoother in the show, though. Instead of encasing him in a lead pipe he explode out of, Melissa Benoist's character coats her hands in lead to prevent explosion when she rips the core out of Reactron's suit.

The comic book version only made it one issue further before his untimely demise. A death undone by the line-wide DC reboot of Crisis on Infinite Earths, which gave Reactron a second chance at life, and a role as recurring villain.

He appears much the same when he returns as a villain in Doom Patrol. I quite like the eventual suit revamp he gained, becoming a Supergirl villain once more after the character was reintroduced in the mid 2000s. With any luck we'll get to some of those chapters, as well.

In the mean time, we tick off a few more names on The Comic Book Fight Club "To Do" list! Last year I featured Robotman as one of our illustrious Heroes of the Week, inspired by the relaunch of Doom Patrol under DC's Young Animal imprint. I've been wanting to scratch the itch of DC's misfit surreal superheroes for quite some time. It's a modest start, but at least today's assist appearances by Negative Woman and Tempest have given us our first taste!

Looking for more obscurities from the DC Universe and beyond? Follow links throughout this post to find more on relevant topics, or dive in to the Secret Archive Index to browse past feature fights by publisher, series and issue!

Winner: Reactron
#302 (new) Reactron
#101 (-11) Supergirl
#510 (new) Tempest [+1 assist]
#511 (new) Negative Woman [+1 assist]

Monday, January 23, 2017

Real Name: Teth-Adam
First Appearance: Marvel Family #1 (December, 1945)
Fight Club Ranking: #19

Featured Fights:
- vs MARY MARVEL: Power of Shazam #11 (Jan 1996)
- vs KOBRA: JSA #51 (Oct 2003)
- vs CAPTAIN MARVEL: Hawkman #24 (Mar 2004)
- vs FREEDOM FIGHTERS: Infinite Crisis #1 (Dec 2005)
- vs PSYCHO-PIRATE: Infinite Crisis #6 (May 2006)
- vs SUPERBOY-PRIME: Infinite Crisis #6 (May 2006)
- vs MONSTER SOCIETY: 52 #44 (May 2007)
- vs AZRAEUZ: 52 #45 (May 2007)
- vs MARY MARVEL: Final Crisis #6 (Jan 2009)

It's been a slow start to 2017, but Warner Brothers finally made a significant move last week, negotiating a Black Adam feature film to star long-cast box office draw Dwayne Johnson.

It's a decision that redirects expectations away from the squinty-eyed heroics of an announced SHAZAM movie, honing in on the popular turmoil of Captain Marvel's corrupt counterpart, instead.

On the surface, it could be perceived as putting the cart before the horse. Just another example of WB fumbling toward a grim and miserable DC cinematic universe - whether anybody wants it or not.

On the other hand, this may prove to be a very shrewd decision. Exactly what's needed to earn back some much needed goodwill from a large, but souring audience.

Johnson doesn't just bring the advantage of proven "Franchise Viagra" to the DC Universe -- he's a widely embraced choice to play the fan-favourite character! That alone won't guarantee a good movie, but it does reverse a trend of negativity, and gives a film a strong pillar to build around.

While it may be conventional to expect an antagonist to appear subservient to the hero's journey; Black Adam predates Captain Marvel by thousands of years within the fiction itself. This offers interesting narrative potential in telling this story chronologically, so Black Adam's fall from grace is witnessed first-hand, rather than told to the audience when he appears in the modern era. If he later appears as a forsaken antagonist in a later Shazam movie, it could create the kind of uniquely nuanced villain these movies so often lack!

There's also the small matter of casting Captain Marvel.

A challenge posted by the big red cheese's iconic depiction as a barrel chested, square jawed titan, eyes asquint with innocence, and good nature. Hollywood used to have Captain Marvel types in abundance. Cary Grant's a popular reference, and it's said CC Beck modeled the original character on Fred MacMurray. Strong male leads that aren't so easy to find in today's Hollywood system. There's also the always difficult obstacle of finding a young actor to play Billy Batson without stinking up the screen.

By focusing their attention on a Black Adam film, casting has more time to consider the right choice for their Captain Marvel, who in turn will hopefully benefit from Johnson's established presence. Assuming, of course, Shazam goes ahead, and follows all the familiar plots. There's really no telling what will and won't happen after Justice League. I'd certainly vote for a faithful Captain Marvel movie. One that injects the wonder and colour of the comics -- a potentially unique vision for broad audiences to enjoy.

If I had to note one more positive, it would be that a Black Adam film can get ahead of any plans Disney might have for the Sub-Mariner: a similar character who was once attached to Dwayne Johnson!

Pointy ears, arched eyebrows, and widow's peak aside; the modern Black Adam has come to quite closely resemble Sub-Mariner in plot and tone. As conqueror of Khandaq, he acquired the monarch's burden shouldered by Atlantean Namor. A noble responsibility that underpins a fiery temper and penchant for vengeful action, especially of the war variety. Adam has had his issues with lost loves, but he doesn't tend to be the romantic that Sub-Mariner is. He certainly shares a lot of the pathos, arrogance, and physical power to back it all up, though.

We talked a bit about the unique screen choices Marvel could make for Sub-Mariner last year, knowing full well that Marvel films tend to rely on a simple formula that makes them all feel a little bit similar. A choice that arguably deserves more disdain than it gets, even if the worm is turning.

Black Adam should do what DC films have done best, putting forward a strong visual. It would be nice to get away from Zack Snyder's muddy nights of Dawn of Justice, to borrow more from the painterly palette of 300. It would be tempted to revert to something more naturalistic after the CG heavy films Snyder has already made, but they'll want to avoid applicable comparison to Johnson's early starring role of The Scorpion King.

I'm not entirely sure who Black Adam should be fighting in a big screen introduction, but I like the visual potential for The Deadly Sins of Man, or Azraeuz - the Horseman of Death who plagued Adam during his star-making appearances in 52. Both are stylized almost two-dimensionally, like black paintings that have leapt from ancient artefacts to attack the material world!

Establishing a threat like The Seven Deadly Sins of Man in Adam's ancient Egypt could do a lot for his return in any subsequent film. Because Adam will become corrupt and leave the ancient world behind, filmmakers could have free reign to demonstrate the danger of these villains. The loss of loved ones is obvious motivation for Adam to become corrupt. Any success he may have in stopping the threat - perfect reason to reintroduce him when The Sins return in modern Fawcett City.

It's been a SHAZAM sort of week all around. As noted Friday, I'd been hoping to talk about Power of Shazam #11 since the middle of last year, when Ibis was our Hero of the Week! It was pure coincidence that the Black Adam announcement coincided with our pre-ordained schedule! This Friday we have another battle inspired by a past Hero of the Week. Stay tuned for that!

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Seven Deadly Enemies of Man (DC)
Power of Shazam #11 When: January 1996
Why: Jerry Ordway How: Pete Krause

The Story So Far...
The Wizard Shazam has been taken captive in the depths of the Netherworld by his evil demon daughter Lady Blaze! Only a powerful magic can restore him to the Rock of Eternity -- and the talking tiger doll Tawky Tawny knows where to find it!

Mary Marvel and Uncle Dudley are in a desperate race beyond the wizard's secret subway entrance to find a hidden chamber within his lair. There, they will uncover the Tomb of Ibis -- where a special magic lies in wait to be resurrected by the reciting of a special incantation!

Unfortunately for the heroes, Blaze has ensured another Marvel will be waiting for them in the underground catacombs. An ancient champion whose mighty magic was corrupted in Egyptian times - and now waits to bring their doom!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Black Adam 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Black Adam 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Mary Marvel 5 (Super-Human)
Stamina: Black Adam 6 (Generator)
Agility: Mary Marvel 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting: Black Adam 7 (Living Weapon)
Energy: Ibis 7 (Cosmic)

What happens when the powers of Shazam are turned against themselves? We saw sparks fly when Captain Marvel battled his corrupt predecessor in Hawkman #24 -- but what about Cap's kid sister Mary Marvel?

Originally, Mary derived her powers from a separate set of her own patron deities: The grace of Selena, the strength of Hippolyta, the wiles of Artemis, the speed of Zephyrus, the beauty of Aphrodite, and the wisdom of Minerva.

The Power of Shazam series of the nineties recast the transformative powers as derived from a mutual source, shared by Captain Marvel himself. Essentially Mary Marvel is a chip off the old block (of big red cheese), just about as powerful and swift as any other Marvel!

We saw just how mighty Mary Marvel could be when her powers were corrupted by the evil New Gods during Final Crisis. She was powerful enough to ambush and fight Wonder Woman, defeating her with a chemical agent in Final Crisis #3. She had Supergirl on the ropes during Final Crisis #6, at least until the intervention of Captain Marvel Jr, and a weakened Black Adam!

Centuries before Billy Batson was blessed with the power to become Captain Marvel, the champion of Wizard Shazam was an Egyptian named Teth-Adam.

His powers were derived from the Egyptian pantheon: The stamina of Shu, the swiftness of Heru, the strength of Amon, the wisdom of Zehuti, power of Alon, and the courage of Mehen. Adam eventually allowed his powers to corrupt him and he turned to the side of darkness, becoming the Black Marvel.

Black Adam's conquests in the modern age have been swift and brutal. We've seen him effortlessly destroy: Kobra [JSA #51], Psycho-Pirate [Infinite Crisis #6], The Monster Society [52 #44], and Azraeuz [52 #45]. He defeated Uncle Sam while serving The Society [Infinite Crisis #1], but showed vulnerability when his strength was matched by Superboy-Prime during the same saga.

Ordinarily we'd probably consider Black Adam too powerful for Mary Marvel to defeat alone, but there's a third player in this equation! Today's feature fight takes place on the verge of the tomb of Ibis the Immortal! As possessor of the Ibis Stick, he commands near limitless magic, capable of achieving his merest whim!

If Mary Marvel can break the seal and summon Ibis to her aid, she no doubt stands a chance! Will she be so lucky? Let's see what happened...

History: Black Adam (1-0-0)
The Tape: Black Adam Ranking: Black Adam (#19)

What Went Down...
Mary Marvel bashes through a chamber wall to reveal an ominous sarcophagus marked with the symbol of the ibis bird. In the same chamber, Black Adam waits! The doll form of friend Tawky Tawny torn in twain in his mighty hands!

Lured by a pulsing energy emanating from the Egyptian funeral box, Adam grabs for its protruding ibis wand -- only to be dramatically repelled by its mysterious, awesome power!

Undeterred by Black Adam's wicked insinuations about Tawny's true loyalties, Mary continues on her quest to save the Wizard Shazam. She recites a spell before the sarcophagus: "Sibis eirsa ghitym... rulmseb royu morf..." The ibis wand emits waves of eerie light before the sarcophagus explodes open!

Surrounded by mist, a well dressed man emerges from the opened death box! He is Ibis -- possessor of the infinitely powerful Ibis-Stick! Bemused, he commands stunned Mary Marvel and her Uncle Dudley to explain their actions.

Informed of Shazam's dire predicament, Ibis immediately understands the significance of his magic slumber's end. Before the young Marvel can learn more about her strange new ally -- Black Adam revives!

Mary orders her friends to stay back while she handles the raging Black Marvel. Recovered from his earlier error, Adam now recognizes Ibis and no doubt has dark intentions. Mary blocks his looming fist with her forearm, impressing the villain with her fighting fearlessness!

She throws a mighty right hook, but Black Adam is unfazed by her brawn!

This time it's Ibis who orders Mary Marvel to fall back. Warned of Black Adam's treachery by the Wizard Shazam himself, Ibis knows he's not to be trifled with!

Ibis directs Black Adam to Hades -- his powerful Ibis-Stick able to fulfill his every whim! Beams of light shoot from its crest and strike the mighty villain!

In a haze of smoke and light, Black Adam dematerializes before their very eyes! A trivial feat for the incredible Ibis-Stick and its sighing master! Mary marvels at his banishment as Ibis begins the tale of his secret origins.

The Hammer...

By virtue of the passage of time alone, my tastes are becoming increasingly "retro". I don't really see it that way -- superheroes aren't exactly going out of style in 2017, and I'm a pretty young man -- but in the case of Ibis, there's no getting away from it!

I touched on the character briefly as a Hero of the Week last year, having just had a fun time reading this very issue (and others) during a power blackout. It was a fairly nostalgic experience unto itself, recalling youthful enthusiasm for reading comics by torchlight. These days you'd use a phone.

Power of Shazam doesn't really read like a comic from 1995 or '96. That's probably why, just a few years later, it was already being talked about with a hushed reverence. Just as fictional Fawcett City is placed under a spell that blankets its reality in a deep retro haze, so too does this comic embrace the power of nostalgia, with a few modern twists.

It's kind of hard to put a finger on eactly who this comic was targeted at. Golden Age retro would admittedly linger in comics right through to the 2000s, but it had mostly died out in mainstream pop culture by the mid 90s. I suspect the book was at least in part for readers old enough to miss the classic adventures of Captain Marvel and Family, who were thrust into the grittier predicaments of modern comics during Legends.

The acquisition of The Marvel Family by DC Comics in the seventies seems like it came with mixed fortunes. It finally allowed for bona fide battles between Captain Marvel and his court acknowledged inspiration: Superman. Fantasy fights that scratch an itch we all have, but seem to have ultimately doomed Captain Marvel to eventual obscurity, and a loss of identity.

Nostalgia's become a contorting beast in the 2010s. Mismanaged by exploitative corporate forces who don't quite understand what they're dealing with, or have misguided designs for updating an old brand with detached content. Hollywood have been at it for so long, some of the audience now demands this once reviled "reboot" approach to licensing. The infantalization of the audience, becoming its own negative force in a confused, stagnating market.

Most of the examples I'm alluding to come from the eighties and nineties, only occasionally impacted with the retro movements of those times, which infused the twenties through to the fifties with a neon chic. Much of the audience excited by Reagan era heroes probably won't dwell on, or even recognize, earlier cultural touchstones. Greasers and burger joints? 'OMG, so eighties'.

As much as I've learned to have deep misgivings about nostalgia and its potentially crippling effects -- I love a comic like Power of Shazam!

I'm a total sucker for the muted fantasy of a magicman in a suit and turban. An unabashed holdover from WWII era comics, which themselves were carrying over pulp ideas popular decades earlier!

I would argue American comics are always at their best when they're aware of, and in touch with, their history. I'm utterly repulsed by the modern predicament of constantly reliving (and retelling) the same stories, but I love the fantastic premise of a serialized character essentially unscathed by time.

In the case of Captain Marvel, I think a sustained squinty-eyed innocence must be viewed as the definitive characterization. He's a character who can be easily compared to Superman, and isn't burdened by the iconic status that demands The Man of Steel change with time.

As we've seen in Zack Snyder's movies, New 52 comics, and even popular spin-off properties like the Injustice video games -- there's tremendous pressure on Superman to be a bastard. Popular acceptance seems to demand an emotionally volatile, potentially dangerous mirror of our modern selves. A Superman prone to human weaknesses mistakenly ascribed as more "relatable". When did being "super" ever have anything to do with living down to us?

Even if Superman can still be a symbol for hope, goodness, and all that we should aspire to, he will always be a modern man. As long as he is modern - Captain Marvel doesn't have to be.

Captain Marvel can still squint and smile and be everything he always was -- not just as a hold over from the past, but as a point of difference. Characterization of a nice man in a nasty world, advancing without breaking.

Power of Shazam doesn't seem like a comic from 1995 or '96 -- but was! It was a part of the contemporary DC Universe. It occasionally crossed over with other characters and events that were going on in the DC Universe. A fun, good natured, "new reader friendly" comic told in a unique modern style. Hoo-ray!

Of course, variety is also the spice of comic book life. It takes all sorts to make a universe, and there's plenty to go around. Classic or contemporary, you can find more feature fights and musings in the Secret Archive Index! If you like what you see, be sure to hit the G+1 at the top of the page (or below this area), and share links via social media. Every bit helps keep the wars infinite!

Winner: Ibis (w/ Mary Marvel)
#301 (new) Ibis
#309 (+6) Mary Marvel [+1 assist]
#19 (--) Black Adam

Monday, January 16, 2017

Real Name: Jessica Jones-Cage
First Appearance: Alias #1 (November, 2001)
Fight Club Ranking: #91

Featured Fights:
- vs THE OWL: The Pulse #14 (May 2006)
- vs LUKE CAGE: New Avengers #2 (Sep 2010)

After Marvel Entertainment kicked the doors in on 2016, it's been surprising nobody has taken a real stranglehold of the start of 2017. Last year we had big reveals of Doctor Strange and Black Panther in movies, The Punisher in streaming television, and even the short-lived anniversary comeback of Captain America in comics! This year, the chips are mostly behind things we've already seen, with FOX's Logan making the most convincing noise ahead of its early March release.

Somewhere on the horizon lies a convergence of Netflix's various live-action series, coming together as The Defenders. This week Marvel announced the same will happen in print, as The Defenders relaunches with the Netflix characters starring in a Free Comic Book Day introduction, in May.

The new series will reunite writer Brian Michael Bendis with characters he's been associated with since 2002! Artist David Marquez is already making a great impression with previews of his artwork featured by CBR [pictured above]. It might not be the most surprising move from Marvel, but it ticks all the boxes of what you'd hope to see coming from the success of the beloved characters.

The challenge of the comic will be to make the most of the urban team-up, differentiating it from other recently launched series. It would be a real tragedy if Defenders were to negatively impact the run of Power Man & Iron Fist -- the 2016 relaunch with David Walker (writer) and Sanford Green (Artist) being one of the rare attention grabbers of the last year!

Iron Fist is, of course, set to make his Netflix debut this March, but since we discussed him last year, and likely will again, our Hero of the Week is the Defenders character we missed: Jessica Jones!

It's interesting to see how the Bendis creation is adapting to reflect Marvel's popular Netflix deal. Jones seemed created in a deliberately domestic mold, but statuesque actress Krysten Ritter has turned the brown haired everywoman into a punkish, raven haired icon. Much of the foul-mouthed spirit of the character remains intact, as do her relationships, which eventually led to the birth of a daughter to Luke Cage. It will be interesting to see if TV follows their journey quite that far.

Jessica Jones became a new on-going monthly series from Marvel last year, seeing the heroine tangle with The Spot in an issue that very nearly inspired another HOTW. It's those kinds of comic heavy references that I hope will differentiate The Defenders from its characters' solo (or duo) series.

Historically, Luke Cage is the only one of the characters I really associate with The Defenders. A counterpart brand to The Avengers originally defined as the "non-team" when it was founded by Doctor Strange, Sub-Mariner, Silver Surfer and Hulk.

The Defenders evolved into a more conventional revolving line-up, adding iconic billionaire leader Nighthawk, Valkyrie, Hellcat, Gargoyle, and eventually "New" members Beast, Iceman and Angel. Later still, the concept was repurposed in the nineties as the Secret Defenders: hodgepodge team-ups formed by Doctor Strange to address various occurring crises. It'd be nice to see elements of these creep in to the new Defenders series, further distinguishing it with a flavor akin to Marvel Knights.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Burning Desire (DC)
Green Lantern #127 When: August 2000
Why: Jay Faerber How: Ron Lim

The Story So Far...
Ever since she recreated the accident of science that turned her late friend into a super-villain -- Dr. Louise Lincoln has been known to the world as the second coming of Killer Frost!

Captured by the Department of Extranormal Operations, Killer Frost was put on ice for transport, but when the truck overturns on a dirt road, she's free to suck the warmth from the guards' bodies!

Aided in her rescue by passing hothead Effigy, Killer Frost finds the perfect source of heat to fuel her newest cold front of crime! So perfect is the dastardly duo, they strike up an instant romantic chemistry. Bad news for Green Lantern - who also happens to be passing by, and wants to bring them both in!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Killer Frost 3 (Athlete)
Intelligence: Killer Frost 5 (Professor)
Speed: Killer Frost 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Green Lantern 6 (Generator)
Agility: Draw 2 (Average)
Fighting: Draw 3 (Street Wise)
Energy: Green Lantern 7 (Cosmic)

It's a greenlight on a new year and the free for all is taking us wherever whim blows! What better way to shake off the Holiday frost than with a warm light?

When the Green Lantern Corps was slaughtered by a Parallax possessed Hal Jordan -- surviving Guardian, Ganthet, sought Kyle Rayner to be the bearer of a power ring as the last Green Lantern!

The young hero was thrust into a universe of Earthbound super-heroics and intergalactic responsibility! The learning curve of this cosmic legacy was a steep one. Rayner was quickly confronted by powerful forces from far-off galaxies -- even thrust into confrontations with the Marvel Universe in his early adventures!

We saw Green Lantern rescued by Thanos in a staged battle with Terrax during the Green Lantern/Silver Surfer crossover. GL later suffered defeat at the hands of Silver Surfer when friends were forced to fight for the survival of their respective universes in Marvel versus DC #3!

Surviving these encounters, and many more, Rayner would go on to gain valuable experience fighting alongside Golden Age mentor Alan Scott, Wonder Woman, Superman and the new Justice Leage of America, as well as his friend and studied generational peer Wally West - third generation hero: The Flash!

Of course, heroes aren't the only ones to inherit a legacy from predecessors...

In the case of Killer Frost: Dr. Louise Lincoln was confronted with the chilling transformation of her friend and colleague Crystal Frost. Held hostage; Lincoln was recruited to aid in curing the ailing super-villain, who was dying as a result of her unique physiology. In a spectacular final showdown with Firestorm, the original Killer Frost perished!

Lincoln recreated the experiment that altered her colleague, becoming the new Killer Frost in the process! She gained the same ability to project freezing cold and ice, whilst suffering the same insatiable desire to consume heat.

The only record of Killer Frost we have so far comes from Justice League of America #15, when she battled the new Firestorm as a part of the Injustice League. With help from Doctor Light, Frost had her nemesis pinned down, but the arrival of the JLA led to her being knocked out cold by Wonder Woman!

Similar circumstances to the Society team-up that introduced Effigy to the fighting ranks via Final Crisis: Requiem! In that battle, Effigy's fire powers were utilized by Libra to eliminate the Martian Manhunter!

Effigy is Martyn Van Wyck: A troubled youth whose miserable existence was turned upside down when he experienced an alien abduction. Taken by The Controllers, he was the subject of wanton experimentation that ultimately granted him the ability to project and control fire! Lashing out with his powers, Effigy would have frequent run-ins with Kyle Rayner and The Controllers.

Rayner hasn't had a whole lot of experience fighting Killer Frost, which puts him at more than a numbers disadvantage. Effigy's flame can power up Killer Frost in a snap -- bad news for Green Lantern! Worse - if the hard light constructs of his ring also give off enough heat for Killer Frost to suck them in!

We know Kyle's a tough customer. When he and Hal Jordan ran out of charge during the Sinestro Corps War, they resorted to fighting Sinestro in a down and dirty fist fight [Green Lantern #25]! So if things go south fighting Killer Frost, at least we know he isn't gonna quit!

One of the distinguishing traits of Kyle Rayner's use of the Green Lantern ring is his imagination. He's an artist by trade and can get pretty inventive with his use of, what was called at the time, the most powerful weapon in the universe!

Even if the ring itself can't be used offensively, Rayner should be able to protect himself from the extremes of cold and heat, and find some way to work with what he has to put the bad guys down! Let's see how he did...

The Tape:
Green Lantern Ranking: Green Lantern (#108)

What Went Down...

Green light bathes would-be lovebirds Effigy and Killer Frost, signaling the unwanted arrival of the Green Lantern!

He projects a spotlight construct from his cosmic ring, descending to address the nearby devastation of an overturned DEO truck, and burning forest. Effigy tries to talk his nemesis into leaving him alone, but Killer Frost isn't interested in words!

A sudden blast of ice encases the young Green Lantern, sending him plunging like a stone into the roaring waters of the Niagara! Frost keeps up the cold, turning the entire river into a giant frozen grave!

Effigy celebrates the swift actions of his new squeeze, and the pair take flight. Meanwhile, the frozen river they left behind begins to crack -- breached by a glowing green buzzsaw!

A tender, airborne moment between villains is rudely interrupted when a chain and anchor materializes around Effigy's ankle!

The sudden stop sends Killer Frost flinging from Effigy's arms -- but she's able to slow her fall to a stop, forming a massive ice column in the night air beneath her! At the same time, Effigy burns the anchor from his leg.

Looking to even the numbers, Lantern Rayner creates a gigantic hairdryer to melt his icy new foe -- surprised to find the beam of heat to Killer Frost's liking.

GL has no time to act on his observation -- spontaneously ensnared in a vice made of fire!

Rayner summons his willpower to prise himself loose and leaves a green streak across the night sky as he flies away from the fight!

Effigy collects Killer Frost and marvels at the hero's apparent cowardice. Having dealt with more than her fair share of superheroes, Killer knows Green Lantern won't be gone for long. Admonished -- Effigy flaunts his earlier rescue of the villainess. Their bickering distracts them from the looming shadow overhead!

Green Lantern returns with a massive deposit of ice collected from the thawing, frozen Niagara! His snow plow construct dumps the mass of snowy ice on top of the two villains -- but Effigy is able to melt his way through!

He charges the hero with a burning rage, but flies straight into a grand slam from a green baseball bat!

The blow sends Effigy hurtling back to the river bank! The trajectory gives him time to take Killer Frost's words into account. Knowing Green Lantern won't stop pursuing him, he abandons concern for his love interest and devises a new plot!

Reaching out to the nearby highway -- Effigy sends a focused inferno toward an unlucky motorist. The blaze threatens to reduce the car to slag, forcing Green Lantern to abandon chase and focus on rescuing the driver!

The distraction gives Effigy the opportunity he needs to escape!

The Hammer...
As ever we come to a conclusion in need of definition. Effigy may've made his escape, but he did so in defeat. Killer Frost never emerges from beneath the snow and ice. Green Lantern is victorious!

It seems I find myself spontaneously enjoying some unexpected corner of comics every Holiday/New Year. Last year, I was jiving on X-Men during X-Mas. This year it seems to be Green Lantern that's stoking the flickering flame of my love for American superheroes.

When I say Green Lantern -- I specifically mean the Kyle Rayner years. A time in GL history I mostly observed from a distance -- mildly interested, but not actively reading. My mid-nineties tended toward Marvel standards (Spider-man, Fantastic Four, X-Men, Iron Man), a helping of The Phantom, and more Steel than you could ever reasonably expect.

I'd grown up a fan of Hal Jordan, but wasn't compelled to start any forest fires over the prospect of his replacement. The now largely forgotten phenomenon of H.E.A.T. -- "Hal's Emerald Attack Team" -- seemed more than a little weird. Even if I understood where the petitioning fan club was coming from.

I certainly didn't particularly like or admire the idea of Hal Jordan going bad. I was just nonplussed. By this point, Superman had already died and returned, Batman had been broken, and it was all getting pretty passé.

The nineties weren't short of preoccupations. We weren't that far removed from the proliferation of Guy Gardner, not to mention the sprawling concurrent tales of The Corps. A lot of Green Lanterns had pulled focus over the decades since Hal and his peers replaced golden ager Alan Scott. The times seemed ripe for somebody new. Even if Jordan's continued appearances as Parallax made it seem the door was always open for an eventual return. (Even after he died).

Ironically, this actually was the one that stuck for a while. Sure, Green Lantern: Rebirth reset the status quo in 2005, but that was a good eleven years after Jordan went homicidal! Many of those in the non-stop nineties - no less!

Jordan had his flirtations with moral redemption, and a handful of years as The Spectre, but that only impacted the era of Kyle Rayner if you wanted it to. For all the sound and fury surrounding the handover - the new GL was a success.

As I revisit back issues now, I see first-hand how Ron Marz and his collaborators reinvigorated the whole concept. Pretty early on there were comparisons to Spider-man, but that shorthand only speaks to aspects of a broad template.

Yes, the new Green Lantern was a young hero living in a big city. He was dealing with rent, relationships, and the innate responsibilities of his newfound power. That responsibility, in and of itself, was a product of a continuum that wasn't abandoned in the way some felt, at that time.

The wholesale slaughter of The Green Lantern Corps was a shortsighted move, but stripping the mythos down to the important parts made some sense.

Viewed through the eyes of today's constant reboots and origin stories, it's actually a pretty straight forward, back to basics soft reboot. Rayner refurbished the character with a contemporary outlook & aesthetic, created an entry point for new readers, and made the journey of reinvention a part of the story.

Making one Green Lantern special again helped focus a series that spent the post-Crisis early nineties ballooning exponentially, instead of pruning. There was nothing wrong with The Corps, but being able to identify the Green Lantern as a single iconic hero had its upside. It'd been a while, and it paid off when Grant Morrison spearheaded an all-star, back-to-basics relaunch of the JLA.

Kyle Rayner standing on his own in early stories helped establish the character in a similar mold to Wally West as The Flash, but when JLA put him next to Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and the gang, in '96 -- it took the next step to sewing the new Green Lantern into the fabric of an iconic DC Universe.

I don't regret DC's shift in the 2000s toward reinstating and refining their most iconic versions of characters. The way things ended with Hal Jordan never sat well, and there's a status to classic characters that can never be recreated.

I do wonder what it would've been like had the third generation continued uninterrupted, though. Flash and Green Lantern showed it was still possible for corporate superheroes to advance successfully into a new age. An age that didn't require hard reboots like Crisis on Infinite Earths, or The New 52.

The choice to turn away from that advancement wasn't necessarily the wrong one, but it arguably demands that they focus all efforts on sustaining the icons. A deadlock that can never truly allow them to commit to advancing beyond a certain point. Which tends to result in awkward reboots and rejectable jumping off points like The New 52, and even the current second Rebirth era.

Of course, grousing about the current state of comics isn't what brought us to this entry. I'm pleased to be adding new data into our Comic Book Fight Club record for Rayner rogue Effigy, and Killer Frost. Don't ask me why, (I don't know the answer), but I've been on a little bit of a Killer Frost kick, as well!

Looking for more from any of the characters or series featured today? Follow links throughout this post, or dive in to the Secret Issue Index of past fights to search via publisher, series and issue number! If you like what you see, be sure to hit the G+1 button, or share the link via social media!

Winner: Green Lantern
#62 (+46) Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner)
#318 (-40) Effigy
#826 (-79) Killer Frost

Monday, January 09, 2017

Real Name: Wah Ying-hung
First Appearance: Golden Daily Magazine (May, 1980)
Fight Club Ranking: #DNR

Featured Fights:
- Yet To Be Featured on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths.

If I had any evidence of The KLF appearing in comic books, this Hero of the Week would've gone very differently. Rumors of the rabblerousing electronic duo's return have been the biggest and most exciting story in my world, bar none. I'm not entirely convinced any of it is true, but a long held desire for their return has me hoping for the best. Their myth-laden, stadium house and ambient adventures could certainly be at home with the "Infinite Earths" of comic books, but I digress...

As noted last week, I've been feeling a little burnt out on Marvel and DC. My Christmas and New Year was a reinvigorating return to heroes of manga and manhua, both on the page, and in live-action martial arts cinema.

I mentioned the 1999 film A Man Called Hero: one of my all-time favourite "comic book movies", if your definition extends far enough. Over the break, I finally replaced a well worn VHS copy with the convenience of DVD. An online sourced, "brand new" disc with a sticker on the cover that boasts playability on the Sony PlayStation 2. An anachronism that speaks to its limited local availability.

The film is loosely based on the Hong Kong manhua (comics) Chinese Hero and Blood Sword Dynasty. Just shy of two hours, it's a period martial arts epic that spans two generations, unfolding through a chain of narrated flashbacks, and concurrent events. So in love with every aspect of the film, I'm reluctant to call it complicated, but any time I find myself enthusiastically recounting scenes, I realize the sheer volume of characters and events I'm assaulting the uninitiated with.

Wah Ying-hung ("Chinese Hero", or Hero Hua, played by Ekin Cheng) is the central character whose exile to America sends his old friend Sheng across the sea from China twice: First with Jade, Hero's pregnant wife - second with Sword, Hero and Jade's sixteen year old son. Each trip to New York City sees Sheng working to reunite Hero with his family, even as sinister forces conspire to cast death upon them.

Plots intertwine as Sheng and Sword revisit the past through Hero's many friends and acquaintances, piecing together his elusive path. We witness his foul treatment on the boat to America, the hardship of working as a labourer at Steel Bull Canyon, his battles against a clan of elemental ninjas, and the disgrace of his master's martial arts rival Invincible.

Before film's end; Hero returns to defeat the racists who run Steel Bull Canyon, and Invincible - who has killed his family, blinded himself, and come to America to challenge Hero for the secret of his master's ultimate technique. Their battle to the death atop the Statue of Liberty is noteworthy for coming a year before Bryan Singer gained attention for his effects heavy climax in X-Men.

Summary hardly does justice to the sprawling film, which makes the most of its genre mashing wuxia. Similar to The Shadow in '94, I really enjoy the way the film distills its various source materials into a single, streamlined, effective movie. I'm reluctant to say it's better than the manhua -- its radically altered and simplified -- but it presents a very strong vision unto itself.

I haven't read as much of the comic as I'd like. Translated to English by DrMaster in 2006 as Chinese Hero: Tales of the Blood Sword, the reprint series starts on a sour note, skipping the earliest chapters in Ma Wing-shing's original opus.

Black & white panels and text are presented as an epilogue to get the reader up to speed, but it's impossible to ignore the frustration of Vol. 1 starting with the journey under way.

I'm given the impression the omissions were at least partly in favour of censoring racist content. Racial insensitivity is a hot button topic in Western culture right now. On the receiving end from afar, I'd much rather have the whole story. Imperial Westerners (and Japanese) often have unflattering roles to play in Wuxia stories, but I'm personally not terribly offended. Usually the content of the story is rooted in broad morality, and as invading forces, I can accept some demonization.

Txabier Etxeberri was able to enlighten me on some of the publishing history of the original publication, which began as a serial in Golden Daily Magazine in 1980, before it became its own printed series in 1982. I might guess that's roughly where DrMaster's version picks up, but detailed information is tough to come by on the web, at least in English searches.

Frustrating as it is to be missing pieces, you can pretty put that aside once the action begins. Mobsters and kung fu are a potent mix under Ma Wing-shing, as colorful characters explode into kinetic fights. Tight inks and painterly colours seem to blend Chinese and colonial techniques. Western influences aren't subtle in the characters, with memorable opponents resembling Mr. T and Apollo Creed.

If, like me, you're a fan of fighting game series like Street Fighter, Streets of Rage (Bareknuckle), Double Dragon, King of Fighters, etcetera -- you'll understand and enjoy what you see. With any luck, we'll get a chance to look more closely at the adventures of Wah Ying-hun, Lohan the monk, and the masked, armless Ghost Servant (Brother Shadow in translation of the film) in future entries. I didn't think we'd do it in HOTW, but here we are!

Friday, January 06, 2017

The Titanic Tournament (Rivals Standing Their Ground!) (Viz/Shueisha)
Dragon Ball Vol. 15 When: May 2004

Why: Akira Toriyama How: Akira Toriyama

The Story So Far...
The time has come for the latest Strongest Under the Heavens world martial arts tournament - the 23rd Tenkaichi Budokai!

Goku and his friends converge on the tournament for a reunion, where Chaozu manipulates the bracket to ensure they don't meet in competition until the final. Little does the diminutive fighter realizes he's sealing his own fate as dark forces conspire within the tournament!

Chaozu is the only hero who doesn't breeze through the preliminary rounds. Instead he suffers a brutal beating at the hands of the thought-dead mercenary Taopaipai! Now a cyborg, he is deadlier than ever before and intent on taking revenge against Goku! To get to him he'll have to go through Chaozu's best friend, Taopaipai's former student and defending champion: Tenshinhan!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Tenshinhan 5 (Super-Human)
Intelligence: Taopaipai 3 (Straight A)
Speed: Tenshinhan 5 (Super-Human)
Stamina: Tenshinhan 5 (Marathoner)
Agility: Draw 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting: Tenshinhan 6 (Warrior)
Energy: Tenshinhan 5 (Lasers)

A new year brings new territory to The Comic Book Fight Club! We've entered the world of martial arts many times before, but never have we ventured into the high-energy universe of Akira Toriyama's Dragon Ball!

Long have fans wondered how Son Goku would fare against a superhero counterpart like Superman. We begin our journey left of the middle, with a tournament battle pitting master against apprentice in a bitter grudge match!

Taopaipai is a deadly martial artist spurred to mastery by innate talent, and the rivalry of his elder brother: Tsurusen'in - The Crane Hermit. Soon surpassing his sibling; Taopaipai instructed at his brother's Crane School, but ultimately chose to apply his skills to the trade of killing for money.

Mercenary Tao was employed by the Red Ribbon Army to defeat young adventurer Son Goku, who'd stolen four dragon balls from the army. Taopaipai almost succeeded in killing Goku in their first encounter, but was defeated when the pair met again.

He was thought dead when his own sneaky grenade was deflected back at him by Goku, but the mercenary survived the explosion, and used his career fortune to have himself rebuilt as a cyborg! With his mechanical enhancements, Tao's deadly Dodon-pa ki attack, and other abilities, are enhanced. Just in time for a return to the 23rd Strongest Under the Heavens Martial Arts Tournament!

Tenshinhan was a promising student of the Crane School who trained under Taopaipai with aspirations of becoming a great assassin. The three-eyed fighter excelled in the school's techniques, surviving their brutal training regime to master the Dodon-pa, as well as many other signature attacks. These impressive skills led Crane Hermit to enter Tenshinhan into the 22nd Strongest Under the Heavens Martial Arts Tournament, where he claimed victory!

During the tournament Tenshinhan matched disguised former champion Master Muten Roshi (of Turtle School), viciously broke the leg of his student Yamcha, and narrowly defeated Son Goku in the final, via ring-out.

Though he had shown brutality in the earlier rounds, Tenshinhan found honor in the tournament final, inspired in part by the words of Turtle Hermit. He rejected Crane Hermit's order to kill Goku, beginning a new path as a great and virtuous martial artist. He left Crane School with his dear friend Chaozu.

Ten's signature techniques include: Flight, the Shiyoken four fist that spawns two extra arms from his back, Shishin no Ken splitting him into four versions of himself, blinding Taiyoken solar flare, and the deadly Kikoho tri-beam cannon. He was also seen to imitate the Kamehameha ki blast mastered by students of the Turtle Hermit!

Fans of the later "Dragon Ball Z" cartoon may not regard Tenshinhan as equal to Goku and the popular alien Saiya-jin fighters, but here we find him reaching the peak of his powers. Are they enough to withstand the vengeful onslaught of the man who trained him -- now a super-human cyborg?!

Tenshinhan must also grapple with worry for his best friend Chaozu, who was brutally beaten by Cyborg Taopaipai during the tournament preliminaries! While his dear friend fights for life in a hospital, Tenshinhan must confront this half-man, half-machine monster who aims to kill him too!

The Tape: Tenshinhan Ranking: Draw (Not Ranked)

What Went Down...
Even before the match officially begins, Cyborg Taopaipai begins his attack! As the two warriors make their way into the fighting arena, the spiteful master spits wicked threats at his former student. Tenshinhan resists the psychological tactic, accepting he has prepared himself for death if it truly comes to that!

When the fight officially begins, Taopaipai makes the first move -- charging toward his former student! Tenshinhan calmly anticipates the attack and side-steps it - driving his elbow into the mechanical skull of his one-time teacher!

Taopaipai spills across the battlefield to the shock of his watching brother, Crane Hermit. He rises with a sense of realization, that Tenshinhan has advanced considerably since they last met! The former student extends a merciful offer of forgiveness if the assassin will yield. He demonstrates his power -- moving faster than the eye can see to appear behind Taopaipai!

The cyborg admonishes his opponent for showing insolence, but Tenshinhan remains cool. He easily avoids a lunging strike, a dashing kick, and catches a robotic claw before it can connect with his face! Amazing feats of speed, precision and control!

Again, Tenshinhan compels his former master to avoid embarrassment and withdraw. He still has a few tricks up his sleeve, though. His captured hand detaches - revealing a large protruding blade from his cyborg wrist!

With a swing of his sword, Taopaipai slashes across the chest of a surprised Tenshinhan! The use of the weapon immediately results in disqualification -- but the murderous assassin no longer cares about winning the tournament! His only purpose now is killing his upstart former pupil!

Tenshinhan tears away his sliced tunic. He questions whether the cyborg still has pride as a martial artist. The mercenary scoffs and discards the other hand, bracing to reveal another mechanized secret weapon: The Super Dodon-pa!

The cyborg fiend charges his attack and uses weapons guiding systems to lock on to his target. Now no matter how fast Tenshinhan moves - he won't be able to avoid the super attack! A fate Tenshinhan stares down head-on, refusing offers of help from his disgusted Turtle House friends.

Upon request, Taopaipai unleashes the awesome energy of the Super Dodon-pa! He tells his former student to "nurse his regrets in Hell", but Tenshinhan is stoic in his determination.
Right as the beam is about to reach him he lets out an all mighty cry! "KAH!!!"

The Kiai Shout technique neutralizes the blast before it can even harm him!

Cyborg Taopaipai staggers back in disbelief to see such a display of power from his former student. Tenshinhan dashes at high speed to follow the shock with a devastating, deep gut punch!

The cyborg's mechanical eyes bulge, his mouth agape, uttering vague guttural gasps. His final acts before he topples over - defeated!

Tenshinhan effortlessly hoists his former trainer's limp body over one shoulder, carrying it to a stunned Crane Hermit. He tells his former master that the cyborg will awake in three days, and asks they never show themselves again.

The Hammer...
It's a stunning, comprehensive display of martial arts mastery! A changing of the guard, as teacher is surpassed by a new generation of combat skill: Tenshinhan!

Being that this is our first foray into the classic works of Akira Toriyama, some fans may consider this a curious place to start. Two volumes after this edition, the series is re-titled Dragon Ball Z: a popular delineation invented for the West that signals a turning point in the series mythology.

Dragon Ball Volume 17, or DBZ Volume 1, introduces the concept of an alien warrior race called Saiya-jins (or Saiyans). It's quickly revealed that series hero Son Goku was one of these aliens all along, beginning a transition away from classical Eastern martial arts myth, to spacefaring super-heroics more in keeping with Superman than Journey to the West.

As I'm a fan of the DBZ era, it certainly would've been a natural starting point. That said, I also really love some of the traditional characters who get relegated by the rise of the Saiya-jins. Most of my favourite characters fall away during that time, sacrificing themselves early in the initial arc. Starting with the final rounds of the 23rd Tenkaichi Budokai (tournament) means we get to see some of these characters in their best light, before Toriyama clears house.

Of course, the mortality of the heroes is actually something that first attracted me to the series. It was a shock to meet these interesting new characters, only to watch them die in serialized succession over morning breakfast. I speak, of course, of discovering the animated version in the late nineties, which was largely responsible for launching the phenomenon in America and The West.

I'd ignored or missed the preceding DB flavoured adventures of Goku's kid son, Gohan. They have their moments, but it comes as no shock that they aren't a part of the original manga (comics). Instead, I dropped blindly into the middle of a battle between colourful martial artists, and Earth threatening aliens.

Complete understanding of what I'd watched would come later, but the basics were a thrilling bolt from the blue. It had been several years since Robotech had traumatized a generation of kids with its teeth gnashing, breakfast TV dead pool. DBZ was bringing deadly back, uniting its heroes around the cause of a common enemy -- one they were hopelessly out-gunned by!

Once you get know the lay of the land, it's much less impressive. After all, even at that point, two of the characters had already been magically wished back to life! The danger of death never fully leaves DBZ, but the sting goes out of it. It's never to soon to make a joke about Yamcha dying, once it has.

Obsolescence becomes the far greater threat as the series goes on. Particularly in the animated version, where the adventures of young characters run longer than their manga counterparts. One of the interesting factors in Dragon Ball is the passage of time, which sees various eras come and go.

Just as Tenshinhan surpassed Taopaipai in today's feature fight, eventually the proliferation of the Saiya-jins renders him obselete, as well. Respected as one of the greatest fighters of Earth, but outclassed by friend and foe alike.

A disappointing fall, if, like me, you enjoy the character's textured journey from arch-villain to noble hero. It's a redemption theme that plays out multiple times in Dragon Ball, turning thwarted foes into friends and allies. Yamcha, Piccolo, Vegeta, and even Goku's best pal Kuririn all started out in adversarial roles.

Tenshinhan's path stays distinctly rooted in the martial arts, which sets him apart from the more drastic changes in Piccolo and Vegeta. They were lured to the side of good by circumstances, maintaining a certain amount of antagonism  during their change. Tenshinhan had a philosophical change of heart, striving to better himself as a man and fighter. He continues to train for the rest of the series.

I'm sure I could find new ways to gush about my appreciation for the purity of these simple tales, but there'll be plenty more time for that when we return to the tournament some time in the future. I'm sure we'll find time to talk more about the trademark style of Akira Toriyama's drawing, as well.

As a matter of formality I should note the English localization of the Viz release is by Gerard Jones and Mari Morimoto. I thought about crediting them in our "Why" writer spot, but it didn't seem to ring true with the format we've chosen. I favour some of these manga translations of names and such. If you're seeing terms or names you don't recognize -- that's why.

Dragon Ball Vol. 15 was originally published by Shueisha in December, 1988. It collects chapters 169 through 180, which were originally serialized in Weekly Shōnen Jump. The Viz reprint was published May, 2004.

If you'd like to get a look at all the original action as it existed on the page - take advantage of the Amazon link provided! If you do, it helps keep the wars infinite! Hit up the Issue Index for a complete reference of featured battles.

Winner: Tenshinhan
#301 (new) Tenshinhan
#817 (new) Taopaipai