Monday, February 27, 2017

HERO OF THE WEEK: WOLVERINE (Marvel)
Real Name: James "Logan" Howlett
First Appearance: Incredible Hulk #181 (November, 1974)
Fight Club Ranking: #4

Featured Fights:
- vs DONALD PIERCE & HARRY LELAND: X-Men #132 (Apr 1980)
- vs HELLFIRE CLUB: X-Men #133 (May 1980)
- vs DEATHSTROKE: Uncanny X-Men & New Teen Titans #1 (1982)
- vs NIMROD: Uncanny X-Men #194 (Jun 1985)
- vs LADY DEATHSTRIKE: Alpha Flight #34 (May 1986)
- vs LADY DEATHSTRIKE & REAVERS: Uncanny X-Men #205 (May 1986)
- vs DRACULA: What If...? #24 (Apr 1991)
- vs THE PROFESSOR: Marvel Comics Presents #83 (Aug 1991)
- vs CAPTAIN AMERICA: Captain America #405 (Aug 1992)
- vs MAGNETO: X-Men #25 (Oct 1993)
- vs LOBO: Marvel versus DC #3 (Apr 1996)
- vs ONSLAUGHT: Onslaught: X-Men #1 (Aug 1996)
- vs SABRETOOTH: X-Men (Jul 2000)
- vs DEATHSTRIKE: X-Men 2 (May 2003)
- vs XORN: New X-Men #150 (Feb 2004)
- vs THE HAND: Wolverine #20 (Dec 2004)
- vs DAREDEVIL: Wolverine #24 (Mar 2005)
- vs INVADERS: New Invaders #6 (Mar 2005)
- vs X-MEN: Wolverine #25 (Apr 2005)
- vs WINTER SOLDIER: Wolverine #39 (Apr 2006)
- vs BLADE: Blade #5 (Mar 2007)
- vs SABRETOOTH: Wolverine #50 (Mar 2007)
- vs THE HAND: New Avengers #27 (Apr 2007)
- vs ARCHANGEL: X-Force #5 (Sep 2008)
- vs THE HOOD & DORMAMMU: New Avengers #54 (Aug 2009)
- vs LUKE CAGE & AGAMOTTO: New Avengers #2 (Sep 2010)

It's somewhat inevitable that Wolverine would factor heavily into a comics blog dedicated to the art of superhero fighting. What is Wolverine if not an unstoppable killing machine? Well, funny you should ask. That seems to be an overriding facet of the hero's cinematic finale in Logan -- in wide theatrical release next week, March 3rd!

"Logan" will forego the testosterone soaked, guttural growl of Wolverine's greatest hits to tell a tale of the ageless mutant at the end of his world. Trailers paint a bleak picture of quiet desert, a world in decay, and a hero reduced to an aging drifter. It pulls its basic cues from Mark Millar's 2008 apocalyptic opus Old Man Logan, replacing blind Hawkeye with senile Professor X, and the madcap conquests of Red Skull et al with the looming mortality of Wolverine.

A pensive tone promises deep introspection on the character's fictional failings, but the biggest questions it raises may be of the cinematic legacy of Hugh Jackman. The Australia dynamo, who first took up the role 17 years ago in X-Men, says it's the last time he'll unsheathe the claws. As always, he affably sells it as their best effort to make a movie worthy of the character -- openly acknowledging they haven't quite hit the mark. Many expect this to be the best yet, but as trailers expose it as a more conventional film than first thought, I find myself reflecting more heavily on what might have been.

One of the questionable disappointments of Jackman's departure is the fact that we'll never get to him in the costume. 2013's The Wolverine seemed the time to do it. That movie took Wolverine into a world of deep tradition and ritual that would've allowed the flared mask the luxury of some samurai-styled significance. There actually is a deleted scene involving the mask, excised from the end of the movie. Tease, though it does, I would argue there were far more egregious omissions from the story of Wolverine's time in Japan.



The most frustrating moment was the fight with Shingen Yashida, where matters of the sword are solved with adamantium claws. The Wolverine of the comics strived to be worthy of a samurai code, choosing the sword as a matter of honor and discipline. In the movie, he remains an animal, taking far too little from his time in Japan. Though widely touted as the best outing for the character at the time, it was ultimately another under achiever, lacking the substance it promised, and the spectacle it justified. Villains Silver Samurai and Viper were especially misused, leading to another disappointing Third Act fight in a superhero movie, sorely lacking in gravitas and meaning.

It's difficult to tell if Logan will deliver on its ponderous proclivity. Donald Pierce is ultimately an odd choice for an arch-villain, and by its very nature, it sets out to be something other than the definitive experience with the Wolverine character.

If The Wolverine falls short of its potential as a definitive solo adventure, it may be left to X-Men 2 to be the best cinematic outing for the character. Bryan Singer never brought himself to approximate the joy of the comic book aesthetic, but with the siege of the X-Mansion, he unleashed a more ferocious Wolverine familiar to readers. The image of Jackman leaping from the mansion second floor, arms and claws extended, was classic Wolverine. Plot lines involving his mysterious past with Weapon X - another beat that kept him closer to the character on the page.

The bubbling molten metal and machines boring into his body. The naked man running into Canada's snowy wilderness, bloody claws extended. Expressions of confusion, anguish, rage. Short flashbacks told us everything we really needed to know about Wolverine's origin, yet the temptation of something like Barry Windsor-Smith's Weapon X was incredibly strong!

The fever dream of Wolverine's memories were one of the biggest hooks of X2, and some of the most memorable scenes of the first film. Acid visions of Jackman strapped down and sinking into a coffin-sized vat were undeniably compelling, but nothing killed the appeal of that story more than X-Men Origins: Wolverine. The first solo outing supplanted what should've been a lay-up for FOX, but turned into the hole every installment since has been trying to crawl out of! A brief, helmeted cameo in the otherwise uninspiring X-Men: Apocalypse proved for one fleeting moment than a 90 second Vine could be more enjoyable than a multi-million dollar blockbuster.



From a personal perspective, the brown costume of the eighties is the thing I would've most liked to see make it to the big screen. I still kinda hope it might bust out in the third act of Logan for his final stand, but that seems against the James Mangold sensibility, underscored by the meaning he was unwilling to give it in The Wolverine.

The biggest regret of the films will always be that they never delivered on the Weapon X movie they promised from the start. Jackman floating in an Empire style tube of water wearing that big crazy helmet. Eyes obscured by the full visor of an absurdly big piece of hardware! Giant rooms full of computers and scientists, explosions and terror as the test subject escapes. The inhuman personification of Wolverine's suffering: The Professor -- despicable until his final comeuppance.

This concludes our month long spotlight on Wolverine! The mutant hero sits poised on the verge of making the leap to the Top 3 in the Fight Club ranks! He jumped Hulk to take #4 earlier te month, and another win would've toppled Iron Man as well! With the shellhead hovering on the horizon in Spider-man: Homecoming, an injection of relevance could be on his way! We'll be looking at another iron willed hero in March. There's a special Wolverine connection in our next featured fight - so stay tuned for that!

Friday, February 24, 2017

LADY DEATHSTRIKE versus WOLVERINE
Wounded Wolf (Marvel)
Where:
Uncanny X-Men #205 When: May 1986
Why: Chris Claremont How: Barry Windsor-Smith

The Story So Far...
When Yuriko Oyama killed her father, she inherited more than the ample estate of his industrial fortune. The legacy of Lord Dark Wind passed to her as well, and although she hated her father, she was honor bound to defend the family name. This is how a burdened daughter became Lady Deathstrike!

Travelling to America to collect on her father's debts, she inadvertently discovered the mutant Wolverine. Her father's process had been used to fuse unbreakable adamantium metal to his mutant bones, but this was not done honorably. The unique method was stolen by Weapon X by Oyama!


So Lady Deathstrike fought the Wolverine, intent on cutting the ill gotten metal from his body. Even with an army and highly advanced katana, she could not defeat the skilled X-Man. So she went away to remake herself an augmented warrior like him. Now Deathstrike is deadlier than ever before - and her revenge will be a dish best served in the New York winter!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Lady Deathstrike 4 (Enhanced)
Intelligence: Wolverine 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Lady Deathstrike 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Wolverine 6 (Generator)
Agility: Lady Deathstrike 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting: Wolverine 6 (Warrior)
Energy: Reavers 4 (Arsenal)


At last we weave the strands of a tangled history! Wolverine has defeated each of today's opponents before, but the legacy of his brutal victories is their unlikely union -- and the extremes they'll undertake to have their revenge!

Lady Deathstrike used to be Yuriko Oyama: daughter of a fanatical Japanese industrialist who discovered a method for bonding adamantium to human bone. She hated her father, Lord Dark Wind, but after killing him, accepted the burden of his tainted honor, and personal army.

Honor should have led Deathstrike to a bloodfeud with her father's assassin Bullseye. Instead, attempts to track the stolen metal of his bones led to the mutant Wolverine. In Alpha Flight #34, Deathstrike recognized the X-Man's skeleton as a product of stolen knowledge. She attempted to reclaim Weapon X's handiwork, and her father's honor, by cutting it from Wolverine's living body! Heather Hudson helped ensure Deathstrike and her samurai army left unsatisfied, but the defeat only intensified Oyama's obsession.

Her father's hi-tech katana and samurai clan had failed, so Lady Deathstrike submitted herself to Spiral and The Body Shop. There, she was stripped of her humanity to be rebuilt with cyber-organic enhancements. Her fingers became long bladed talons as she was remade into a living weapon!

To go with her new metallic body, Deathstrike was connected with a new army of mercenaries who themselves are cyborgs. The Reavers are: Murray Reese, Wade Cole & Angelo Macon.

The trio were almost killed as Hellfire Club Guardsmen fighting Wolverine in X-Men #133. Their life threatening injuries made them perfect recipients for cybernetic enhancement supplied by Donald Pierce. They remained closely affiliated with The Inner Circle for a time, before joining other Reavers in Australia, under the command of Pierce and Lady Deathstrike.

History favors Wolverine in combat against these four foes, but this is the first time he's faced Lady Deathstrike as a cyborg! Will her transformation into a killing machine finally bring her revenge? Let's see what happened...

History: Wolverine (2-0-0)
The Tape: Wolverine Ranking: Wolverine (#4)

What Went Down...
Winter in Manhattan's Lower East Side becomes a blanket of snow as the street succumbs to a sudden blizzard. Lost in the downpour and gusting winds, a baby sitter could be forgiven for mistaking the zip of ammunition for the stinging cold.


The city is no place for a lost little girl - but Katie Power is no ordinary child! She staggers through the snow searching for her sitter, Miss Randolph, but comes upon another familiar face instead: "Mr. Logan" -- The Wolverine!

Already suffering wounds from an earlier beginning to the attack; Wolverine is reduced to a bleeding, shirtless savage. Words fail when concerned police arrive on the scene. He can only clutch the child and growl, unable to warn them of the danger stalking through the snow. He runs.


Frightened and confused by her adult friend's state, Katie uses the powers of Energizer to stop them in their tracks! Her energy ball blasts Wolverine onto his back, and  frees her from his grip. She takes the time to recharge her powers and figure out her next move. Afraid to lose him, she hoists Wolverine over her tiny shoulders, and searches for a phone to contact Power Pack or the X-Men.

A taxicab with an accommodating driver offers relief for the child's burden. A story about her uncle and some thugs falls short when a hail of high-powered gunfire rips through the cab!


The Reavers mean to bring death upon them all, but Wolverine has the wherewithal to hurl the driver and child clear before the car explodes! He keeps running, scooping the terrified little girl in his arms as fire engulfs the street!

Gunshots chase them as Wolverine vaults over a wooden fence. They fall wildly into a sunken, snow covered work yard. Katie feels blood at her nose and lashes out with angry words. She takes them back and is rewarded with Logan's first coherent speech of the siege. He recognizes the girl better than he does himself. She cannot understand his Japanese dialect, but his brain is almost healed.

The super-powered girl switches from uniform to warm clothes, offering Logan her choir robe. Broken English signals his returning faculties. They huddle together, but a shining light warns of the arrival of The Reavers!



The heroes run for cover. Wolverine orders his temporary ward to trust that he's healed enough to handle the fight. He dissuades her from a lethal path and orders her exit. Then he uses the terrain to his advantage and lies in wait.


Wade Cole closes in on Wolverine's proximity - unaware his target is lurking right beneath him! Obscured by the cover of slats, Wolverine thrusts his clawed arm into the unsuspecting torso of the cyborg above!

Lady Deathstrike orders the last mercenary standing to find Katie Power and take her hostage. Murray Reese has been at it long enough to know it's never that easy. Wolverine is on him in an instant, so he whips around an unloads his hi-tech weapon at point blank. Against the healing mutant - it's no good.



If radio silence didn't tell Lady Deathstrike of Reese's fate, Wolverine emerges to confirm it. In her soul, she knew it would end this way. A crossing of inhuman swords in one final bloody showdown. It begins.


The newly made cyborg slashes her claws across Wolverine's face! He questions the honor of continuing her father's legacy. She will accept no alternative.

They swing and stretch limbs like dancers. A lunge pushes Deathstrike's bundled claws across the outer edge of Wolverine's exposed torso. A swing of her other hand swats back across his waiting face. He jerks forward once again as claws bury in his gut. She takes full advantage - driving the other set into his back!



She boldly proclaims the end of Wolverine's life -- but he rejects it! He knocks her away, summoning the energy of his own choice to live or die!

This time adamantium claws cut through Deathstrike's gut. They slash at her chest and slice at thighs. Cutting and hacking at a complex network of wires and microchips, Wolverine unmakes what was recently made.


The warrior's fa├žade broken and tattered, Lady Deathstrike's soul is laid bare -- and even Wolverine is shocked by what he sees!

Adamantium bones, claws and a mutant healing factor were all thrust upon the man called Wolverine, but the inhuman monster before him was a creation of choice. In her obsession, Yuriko Oyama has truly succeeded Lord Dark Wind.

Defeated, Deathstrike asks her nemesis to complete her failure with death. Though tortured by her role in reducing him back to a savage state he thought he'd left behind -- Wolverine refuses. Neither man nor animal could justify such a kill. She begs for mercy. He tells her to earn it. The fight is over.


The Hammer...
I like to think Secret Wars on Infinite Earths has something to offer as an information resource, but the fact of the matter is, you're only getting a window into the complete reading experience. I'll always encourage an interested reader to pursue and seek out the complete story themselves.

That may never be more true than with Uncanny X-Men #205 -- an issue that mere panels & text cannot do justice!

The images featured in today's entry may hint at the basic blows in isolation, but it's the complete composition of page layouts by Barry Windsor-Smith that make this issue a bona fide X-Men Classic!

With the turn of every page comes the temptation to squint. Such is the effective way in which snow whips across the page in every panel!

Winter is only part of the story. It's not the cold that draws me in when I read this issue. It's the danger! The hazy silhouettes stalking on the periphery. The light flare of their gun barrels. The darkly determined forms marching through a veil of snow.

There's actually no real mystery to who these shadowy hunters are. We're given a full glimpse of Lady Deathstrike and her minions in the opening pages. It's the emergence of a freshly built cyborg. The human villain of Alpha Flight #34, driven by obsession to remake herself in Spiral's Body Shop.

Deathstrike seeks assurances that the procedure can be reversed, but Spiral knows it's a lie. This will become the definitive vision for Lady Deathstrike moving forward. A woman who discarded her humanity in order to become one of Wolverine's deadliest enemies.

The other cyborg mercenaries were well known to readers at the time, but it's the first time they teamed with Deathstrike. Collectively they'll come to be known as Reavers. That's a name you might recognize if you're seeing Logan in theatres - in wide release March 3rd.

Sadly, Lady Deathstrike doesn't seem to be among the cadre of cyborg villains (led by Donald Pierce) in the highly anticipated cinematic finale. A dash of arch-nemesis that might've been welcomed in the dusty ode to Old Man Logan.

We've already lamented the disappointment of Bryan Singer's vision for the character in X-Men 2. If your only frame of reference for the character is the pristine beauty of Kelly Hu as silent henchwoman - you're missing out.

In many ways, the film version was the antithesis of the villain: stripped of her passion, conflict, and the choice of self-inflicted bodyhorror it led her to. Lady Deathstrike is ultimately a very Japanese high-concept, channeled through an American aesthetic. More Tetsuo than Iron Man, but also more Christmas lights & plastic chips than the slick, cyberpunk futurism of manga's best in the '80s.

It strikes me that it's a little bit punk that the fight is already under way when it begins. If you were wondering where Angelo Macon was in the recap, he's already a casualty when we catch up to the action. That's also why Wolvie's in such rough shape when we first bump into him.

Our entry point -- Energizer (Katie Power) -- is one of the members of Power Pack: a rainbow swirl of super-powered tykes right out of the most bubblegum '80s Saturday mornings! Don't worry, though. Wolverine made her promise to cover her ears and eyes while he gutted the nasty cyborgs! (That's a little bit punk and a little bit manga!)

That's just about all we have time for this week, but it's worth noting that we're folding in the off-page action into a continuum. If you scroll to the bottom of the page you'll find rankings updates for Macon and the assist for Energizer.

I have to imagine we'll find our way back to Power Pack some time in the future. I certainly hope we'll be back to talk more Lady Deathstrike. In the mean time, if you want to discover more from those characters, or many other topics, be sure to follow links littered throughout this post!

You can also dive into the full Secret Archive to browse ever featured fight by publisher, series and issue number! If you're looking for a little spontaneity, be sure to follow on Facebook or Twitter to get daily links inspired by the day's topics! An easy-breezy like and share will help support the site!

If you want to go the extra mile, or are just looking to get a first-hand look at the issue featured today, take advantage of the Amazon purchase link provided [right]! Doing so helps keep the Wars Infinite at no extra charge! Mmm! That's good schpiel!

Winner: Wolverine (w/ Energizer)
#4 (--) Wolverine
#515 (new) Energizer [+1 assist]
#834 (-510) Murray Reese
#835 (-513) Wade Cole
#836 (-513) Angelo Macon
#859 (-23) Lady Deathstrike

Monday, February 20, 2017

HERO OF THE WEEK: CHEETAH (DC)
Real Name: Barbara Ann Minerva
First Appearance: Wonder Woman #7 (August, 1987)
Fight Club Ranking: #372

Featured Fights:
- vs CATWOMAN: Catwoman: When In Rome #4 (Mar 2005)
- vs FREEDOM FIGHTERS: Infinite Crisis #1 (Dec 2005)
- vs JUSTICE LEAGUE: Justice League of America #15 (Jan 2008)
- vs CATWOMAN: Catwoman #78 (Jun 2008)
- vs WONDER WOMAN: Wonder Woman #29 (Apr 2009)

The freight train of Injustice 2 is well and truly picking up speed on the track of an April release. The mystery of the playable game roster is quickly becoming solved with a slew of trailer reveals, most recently the Valentine's Day showcase of four femme fatales: Here Come The Girls!

Catwoman and Poison Ivy have finally stepped into view, alongside previous HOTW Black Canary, but the one I found myself most jazzed to see was: Cheetah!

The classic Wonder Woman villain isn't necessarily one of the most anticipated characters, but she comes as a harbinger for a lot of things I'm pleased to see. First and foremost: I'm pleased to see NetherRealm Studios resisting some of their lesser design impulses, offering up a faithful and tastefully understated incarnation of the character. The temptation to layer armor plates over the speedy villainess has been resisted -- at least until players choose their way through the Gear System.

The original Injustice had a solid DC Comics roster, but the game itself was pretty short on comic book reference. It's nice to see the sequel roster digging deeper into the pantheon for a more eclectic mix of playable characters. The fact that we already have the likes of Atrocitus and Supergirl, with Swamp Thing also revealed this week, paints a promising picture for a fun blend of characters.

It was fun to see Cheetah and Catwoman in the same gameplay footage. There'll be obvious appeal to throwing down with arch-nemesis Wonder Woman, but if you've seen Cheetah's more recent battles with Catwoman [see the list of links above] -- you know how that can be fun! I'd also get a kick out of testing Cheetah's quickness against The Flash, thinking of other more recent skirmishes.

I still can't call myself a total convert for Injustice, but they're building a case for what could be a very fun addition to the DC video game canon! That's enough to make Cheetah Hero of the Week!

Friday, February 17, 2017

LADY DEATHSTRIKE versus WOLVERINE & VINDICATOR
Honor (Marvel)
Where:
Alpha Flight #34 When: May 1986
Why: Bill Mantlo How: Sal Buscema & Gerry Talaoc

The Story So Far...
Things have never gone smoothly when Heather Hudson and the man called Logan have got together. It all goes back to their first encounter - when the Wolverine roamed the Canadian wilderness naked and savage.


Back then, Logan had just escaped the Weapon X Project that laced his bones with unbreakable metal -- and when Heather saw the pain his mutant claws caused while attacking -- she and her husband James chose to help him. Their kindness helped nurse him back to humanity, forging a complex, lifelong friendship.

With her husband now dead, Heather has inherited his mantle as the battle-suited super-heroine Vindicator: leader of Alpha Flight! Hoping her old friend can teach her a thing or two about being a leader, she flies to New York.The pair are quick to reminisce about old times, but the thing about the past is that sometimes it can come back to bite you! Weapon X may have been a long time ago, but its legacy is about to draw a deadly new threat their way!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Lady Deathstrike 4 (Enhanced)
Intelligence: Wolverine 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Lady Deathstrike 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Wolverine 6 (Generator)
Agility: Lady Deathstrike 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting: Wolverine 6 (Warrior)
Energy: Vindicator 5 (Lasers)


Unfinished business! It's what motivates todays feature fight within the context of the story -- and in our spotlight of it! Long ago we touched on a movie version of our feature villain. Now its finally time to examine the real deal!

Lady Deathstrike was once Yuriko Oyama: daughter to World War II kamikaze pilot-turned wealthy industrialist Kenji Oyama, aka; Lord Dark Wind.

For a time, Yuriko hated her father for his fanatical, shame-fuelled quest to restore honor to post-war Japan. His obsession had led him to ritualistically scar the faces of his three offspring, and ultimately cost the lives of Yuriko's two brothers - killed during a failed political assassination attempt.

When Lord Dark Wind discovered a process for bonding adamantium metal to the bones of soldiers, he used the technique to enhance renowned assassin Bullseye. To thwart her father's scheme, Yuriko betrayed her father by aiding Daredevil. When Lord Dark Wind threatened Daredevil's life in dishonorable combat, Yuriko was finally spurred to kill her father with a sword to the back. An act that also led her lover to commit suicide over the death of his master.

Surviving her family; Yuriko accepted the burden of her father's legacy. Her first task was to seek out Bullseye for failing to pay for his augmentation. When she sought to track his unique adamantium skeleton, Yuriko instead discovered Wolverine - mutant whose skeleton was laced with adamantium by Weapon X.

Believing Wolverine to be the recipient of her father's ill gotten procedure, she is honor bound to reclaim the metal at all cost! Thus, Yuriko begins a blood feud that would forever change her life - assuming the mantle of Lady Deathstrike!

Contrary to that movie version mentioned earlier [see; X-Men 2], Deathstrike is not a mutant. Her famed metal talons are a result of a cyborg implant process -- symbol of her dedication to fighting Wolverine. Today's feature fight finds Lady Deathstrike before her dramatic transformation.

She still commands an unbreakable electro-magnetically tempered sword, and an army of highly trained swordsmen. This means Deathstrike can match Wolverine's augmented metal claws - and his innate skills as a fighter! Good thing he has back-up!

Heather Hudson is the power-suited Canadian hero called Vindicator. Her battle suit grants increased strength, flight, concussive blasts, forcefield, and an array of nuanced abilities that make her a formidable ally!

The only data for Vindicator we have comes from an alternate reality where she succumbed to the Wendigo curse [Exiles #31]. Rest assured: she should help even the playing field against Deathstrike's samurai horde. Not that Wolverine hasn't faced his fair share of overwhelming odds!

In the past we've seen Wolverine slice up The Hellfire Club [X-Men #133], dice with the Shi'ar Imperial Guard [New X-Men #124], rip through The Hand [Wolverine #20, New Avengers #27], torture the Fantastic Four [Wolverine #22], and vex the X-Men [Wolverine #25]! He's even matched the martial skill of Daredevil [Wolverine #24], survived the sword of Blade [Blade #5], and cut the Silver Samurai down to size [Wolverine #37]! Good indications this fight is well in hand. That's our cue to stop speculating and see how it goes!


History:
Wolverine (1-0-0)
The Tape:
Wolverine Ranking: Wolverine (#4)

What Went Down...

In a Westchester County wood, an army of samurai assassins stand poised with swords drawn. They await the order of their fearless leader: Lady Deathstrike!


The Japanese warrior has come to New York to accuse Wolverine of obtaining his adamantium skeleton through ill gotten means. It's pure chance that he's flanked by Heather Hudson: the woman who discovered him naked and savage not long after escaping the Weapon X metal-bonding process!

A crash course in Deathstrike's personal history leads Hudson to realize the horrible truth -- the accusations are true! Not that it matters. Wolverine won't give up his bones without a fight - and Vindicator won't let anyone hurt him!


Electro-magnetic force-bursts beam from The Vindicator suit's gauntlets to the bodies of Oyama samurai! Deathstrike orders her horde kill the Canadian heroine on the way to their target. Her father's swordsmen leap to comply!

With a single wild swing - Wolverine disarms an attacking samurai and slashes his claws across his middle. The backhand could've easily disemboweled the samurai, but Wolverine is exercising restraint. Retracting his claws at the last moment enough to spare the soldier's life.


Vindicator takes her combat cues from the honorable X-Man, who suggests they take to the trees, rather than engage in a front assault. She flies skyward, while the clawed mutant blends in with the forest. A short-lived obscurity thanks to wristbands that detect his adamantium bones.

A samurai closes in on a tree, preparing to attack the mutant behind it -- but Wolverine is lost in the limbs above! He drops -- slashing at the back of his hunter's helmet and neck! A knock-out blow -- but still the shuriken fly!

With no one emerging from the forest, Vindicator realizes she's been led astray by her protective friend. She glides back across the canopy, firing blasts as the scattered swordsmen below. Their armor provides little defense.

Two more samurai happen upon Wolverine elsewhere in the wood. He swings his claws, shattering a projectile weapon with ease. Moving in to closer quarters, his adamantium claws make light work of their swords, too!



Lady Deathstrike bares witness to the impressive feat, but warns her opponent he'll find her sword is made of stronger metal. They cross blades -- an all mighty "ktlang" ringing out as sword collides with claw!

Deadly throwing stars and chain darts collide with Vindicator's hi-tech suit force-shield. She has little to fear from their antiquated weapons -- returning fire with her protected body acting as an airborne battering ram!


Across the wood, Lady Deathstrike demonstrates the strength of her sword -- an electro-magnetically tempered blade invented by her father. It collides with Wolverine's adamantium consequence free -- and effortlessly slices through tree bark in a single cut!

Wolverine contemplates the samurai code of an honorable kill versus the X-Men code of non-lethal violence. He wishes his mutant friends were there to help him. As he does, another ally comes into view in the skies above: Puck - behind the wheel of the Alpha Flight Omniship!

Searching for the electro-magnetic signature of Vindicator's suit, Puck zeroes in instead on Lady Deathstrike's sword! Spotting the clearing made by the weapon, he pilots the Omniship on collision course -- recognizing his former teammate Wolverine too late to avoid hitting him!


Deathstrike demonstrates the cutting power of her sword, dragging it through the underside of the aircraft! Puck ejects to safety, leaving it to careen into a crash landing -- the sound of which alerts Vindicator.

Lady Deathstrike looms over a toppled Wolverine, preparing to cut the bones from his living body. So focused - she doesn't notice the red and white human-missile coming for her!


The high velocity impact sends Lady Deathstrike flying across the battlefield into a nearby oak. Her armor absorbed the brunt of both blows, allowing her to immediately rise to challenge the battlesuit tech of Vindicator!

Wolverine and Puck recover in time to watch in horror the deadly swordswoman swing her electro-magnetized blade at Vindicator's body!


Fortunately, the electro-magnetic force-shield holds against Lord Dark Wind's electro-tempered blade! It shatters on impact -- along with Lady Deathstrike's plans to claim Wolverine's adamantium -- for now...

The Hammer...
Victory belongs to Vindicator and Wolverine who share the hard fought win! Vindicator had the honor of defeating the villainess, but Wolverine had his share of beating her samurai army, as well.

As a matter of housekeeping, I'm throwing an assist on Puck. Not for helping his Alpha Flight buddies, but for mistakenly helping Lady Deathstrike by driving an aircraft into the back of Wolverine's skull! In his defense: "It was dark." Yeah... Thanks heaps, bub.

It's been fun to cross the border to register an issue of Canada's premier super-team book, but as I made clear in The Tape [above] -- what I'm really excited about is finally delivering on Lady Deathstrike!

When it comes to arch-nemeses: Wolverine's bad guys are inevitably lining up behind Sabretooth. It's a tough ask to compete with the perfect match of mutant powered savagery, and inter-twined backstory. It's been personal for a very long time between those two, fuelling compelling tooth and nail battles rooted in character-centric hatreds.

There are a small handful of villains vying for second place in Wolverine's list of enemies. Matters of exclusivity and longevity will vary. I'd stop short of boldly declaring Lady Deathstrike #2, but you could reasonably make arguments for it.

Magneto may've actually stripped the metal from Wolverine's bones, but their rivalry was never as personal as it was with Lady Deathstrike. For her, that adamantium represents a deep psychic wound. A living reminder of a slight against her family's honor and legacy. An insult that cuts through her blood.

Admittedly, many of the things that make Lady Deathstrike a personal favourite are absent from this early appearance. You'll note from the mugshot used that there's an iconic transformation yet to be made in Alpha Flight #34. This issue merely stablishes the groundwork for the feud, but not the fight itself. Deathstrike would put down the sword shortly after this defeat -- becoming the sword herself through an extreme process. The transformation happens in an '86 issue of Uncanny X-Men that we'll look closer at some time soon.

Once Deathstrike has the claws and metal, she's every bit the physical threat of Sabretooth. Like Victor Creed, she also tugs at Wolverine's troubled history -- both his reluctant submission to the Weapon X program, and his ties to Japan.

These two factors are an intertwining conflict of the soul. Adamantium bones were something that was inflicted upon Wolverine, yet his time spent in Japan informs an understanding of the value system that Lady Deathstrike pursues. From a certain perspective, Deathstrike is acting as protagonist fighting to right a perceived wrong. In this respect, she's almost the inverse of Sabretooth.

Of course, the joy of Lady Deathstrike's obsessed blood feud with Wolverine falls away a little when you remember it came about completely by accident.

It's a little bit of a stretch to believe Yuriko would take up her father's cause after the resolution Daredevil story. If nothing else, there's at least a nice layer of pathos to becoming the thing she hates, and being beholden to Lord Dark Wind, even after his death. If only she ever remembered to go after the guy who actually stole adamantium from her family: Bullseye!

Granted, nobody wants to see Bullseye taken off the board. It's just a little silly that Deathstrike accidentally found Wolverine -- and completely forgot about the guy who deliberately dishonored her family in much the same way.

I'm not sure the Deathstrike/Bullseye rivalry has ever been fully explored in the years since. In 2015, Brian Cronin singled out the topic for his column on CBR, noting that they were teamed together with The Thunderbolts during Civil War!

In the absence of good references, we can assume there may have been unseen restitution and/or professional agreements between the two. It's still a wrinkle that could be very satisfying to see addressed if the opportunity arose, though. A crossfire for Daredevil to get caught between, should the opportunity for a few fun, easy to read issues ever arise.

That about brings us to the end of our entry. Before we go, I really must draw your attention to the cover of Alpha Flight #34. It's a pretty fantastic, early example of Mike Mignola before the heavy blacks and slumped poses have become trademark. You can see his strength for dramatic, epic staging, though. The pile of armored samurai look great - and the heroes look great on top of them! I still love that brown Wolverine costume!

We'll probably be talking a bit about the costume in Hero of the Week when we get the chance. February on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths has been all about Wolverine in honor of the theatrical release of Logan - March 3rd!

If you'd like to find more feature fights like this, follow-ups, or involving the same characters - be sure to follow links throughout the post, or search by series in the Issue Index Archive! Seen something you like? Be sure to tell a friend, like & share via Facebook and Twitter, and or leave a comment!

Winners: Vindicator & Wolverine
#4 (--) Wolverine
#91 (+145) Vindicator (Heather Hudson)
#514 (new) Puck [+1 assist]
#836 (-279) Lady Deathstrike

Monday, February 13, 2017

HERO OF THE WEEK: BLACK LIGHTNING (DC)
Real Name: Jefferson Pierce
First Appearance: Black Lightning #1 (April, 1977)
Fight Club Ranking: #87

Featured Fights:
- vs SINESTRO CORPS: Green Lantern #25 (Jan 2008)
- vs INJUSTICE LEAGUE: Justice League of America #14 (Jan 2008)

Is it a "Golden Age" of television, or just a golden shower of content? Abundance seems to be the most compelling argument for the present era of genre programming. Quality, a bit more scarce.

Superheroes and comic book adaptations have become a major part of the TV landscape, even as high profile licenses are stripped to barely resemble the comics that spawned them. It's an old tradition in Hollywood. One more easily excused at a time when budgets were tight, technology limited, and audiences less aware of these worlds. Entry-level problems that should've been left behind a decade ago, but inform the basics for new live-action incarnations.

FOX marshalled one of the more perplexing TV pitches of the current era, spearheading Gotham with an intent to strip the city of its most iconic characters. Saving Batman for the big screen is a fine idea, but turning back the clock to a time before the crime-ridden city was populated was always, for lack of a better term: stupid.

The absurdity couldn't last. The show inevitably populated itself with The Penguin, Riddler, and pint-sized Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle. All handicapped by commitment to a flawed premise that always should've looked more like Gotham City Central than bad fan-fiction. It's probably a good thing, then, that the network behind Gotham won't be honoring their production commitment to a show based on Black Lightning.

Deadline reports the show will instead retreat to the safety of The CW, where producer Greg Berlanti already has a universe of DC superheroes to surround it with. His score card includes the high of Supergirl, as well as middling-to-embarrassing lows of Arrow, The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow.

Black Lightning wasn't exactly a property demanding to be added to the list, but the possibility that low expectations might free the show up to break new ground is promising. The only problem -- a double-edged sword that could just as easily leave the character unrecognizable, and bogged in the episodic phony cosplay that typifies a lot of these shows.

If things go well, it could be another renaissance for a character who's flirted with more permanent residence in the DC Comics spotlight. My affection for the character grew in the mid to late 2000s, when he appeared as a supporting character in Green Arrow, and memorably became a hunted Anti-Life resistance fighter during Final Crisis. The latter seemed like particularly exciting grounds for what might've otherwise been an interesting reshuffling of the Justice League(s). Alas, the reach of Final Crisis only went so far, but Black Lightning did get a brief unrelated run with the League.

I won't be expecting a flair collar, but I'll be interested to see what compromises -- and potential improvements -- can be made to the Black Lightning design. It will also be interesting to see if the show can distinguish itself with a unique visual palette, or style. This would be one of the areas where superheroes on television have lacked the most. Luke Cage on Netflix providing an example for resolving the issue of visual and cultural panache -- even if it isn't perfect.

There's also the possibility that Black Lightning finds his way into Injustice 2. The DC fighting game is trundling along toward its inevitable release in April. With Premier Skins on the table, it could provide a base for young cartoon-watching fans who've also clamored for electrically charged Milestone acquisition Static. We'll be watching with interest for the first look. For now, Black Lightning is Hero of the Week!

Friday, February 10, 2017

WOLVERINE versus HELLFIRE CLUB
Wolverine: Alone! (Marvel)
Where:
X-Men #133 When: May 1980
Why: Chris Claremont & John Byrne How: John Byrne

The Story So Far...
While the X-Men are dealing with the re-manifestation of the Phoenix force in Jean Grey; the insidious Hellfire Club watches their every move -- plotting to turn the cosmic telepath into their very own Black Queen!

When the X-Men attempted to infiltrate a society event at the club, they were systematically dismantled by the prepared villains. For Wolverine and Nightcrawler, it meant a basement brawl with Inner Circle members Donald Pierce and Harry Leland!

Thanks to Leland's mass manipulation powers, Wolverine was sent plunging like a stone into the storm sewers beneath The Hellfire Club! Recovered, he now attempts covert re-entry of the elite establishment -- even as masked guards take a precautionary sweep of the building's lower levels...

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Wolverine 3 (Athlete)
Intelligence: Wolverine 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Wolverine 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Wolverine 6 (Generator)
Agility: Wolverine 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting: Wolverine 6 (Warrior)
Energy: Hellfire Club Guards 2 (Projectiles)


The Tale of The Tape appears to predict a fairly one-sided fight, but there are some statistics our patented system cannot account for! Wolverine may have any one of The Hellfire Club guard dead to rights -- but what about an army?

Over the years we've seen Wolverine develop into an unstoppable one-man corps, but there are limits to his amazing mutant abilities. That was never more true than the timeframe of today's feature fight, when the fledgling X-Man routinely showed vulnerability to the effects of overwhelming injury.

Wolverine's mutant healing factor ensures he can bounce back from just about any wound, but the rate at which he mends varies. Back in the eighties, if you gave his body enough damage to deal with, you could confidently expect to put him down for a while. We saw Nimrod produce enough force to kayo him with one blow in Uncanny X-Men #194. In the modern age, he tends to stitch back together pretty instantly. Somewhere between the two lies the best answer.

We cannot forget that a defeat brought Wolverine to this fight! In Uncanny X-Men #132, members of The Hellfire Club's Inner Circle ambushed he and Nightcrawler. The mass manipulating powers of Harry Leland were enough to send an unprepared Wolverine smashing through several floors - into the sewer.

If he's smart about it, Wolvie now knows to put distance between he and Leland, instead of trying to fight. His berserker rage and healing stamina tend to make him a little reckless, but he's no dummy. Of course, Leland thinks he was punked out by the last fight, so he should only have to deal with guards.

Hellfire Club Guards may be lightly armored and in possession of some pretty advanced weaponry (guns), but anonymous hordes don't tend to stack up too well against unbreakable adamantium claws!

We've seen Wolverine cut through the highly trained ranks of The Hand on more than one occasion. It was a gory graveyard slaughter in Wolverine #20, and a cleaner affair with the help of the Secret Avengers in New Avengers #27.

Though hidden by featureless masks, this iteration of The Hellfire Club guard has a few illustrious members: Wade Cole, Angelo Macon  and Murray Reese [pictured above] are among their number today. In the future, we'll come to know the trio as mercenary members of The Reavers.

Ordinarily they might be able to rely on Donald Pierce or Lady Deathstrike to help them out, but that won't be happening here. We'll talk more about the implications of all of that in the "Hammer" section.


When we last saw Wolverine he was the only X-Man standing and in an all mighty pissed off mood! They say he's the best there is at what he does, and I think we can expect to see exactly what that is.

The Tape: Wolverine Ranking: Wolverine (#5)

What Went Down...

In the bowels of The Hellfire Club establishment, masked guards inspect empty basements as a precaution ordered by The Inner Circle. Wolverine plunged to his apparent doom, but there's no being too careful. Just as the guardsmen begin to question their task -- dripping water alerts them to danger above!


Wolverine releases the tension in his arms and legs to drop from the basement ceiling -- claws extended! The Hellfire Guards scramble desperately to point their weapons skyward -- but it does them no good!


Adamantium claws rake through the chest of Angelo Macon. He will live to remember the scars for the rest of his life! He's one of the "lucky" ones.

Another guardsman opens fire. Wolverine vaults nimbly over the surrounding storage crates, avoiding the gunfire while seamlessly targeting another of their well armed number. A ballet of death!


A momentary lapse in concentration leaves Wolverine vulnerable to a blast to the gut! He falls backward into a pile of boxes. The two remaining Hellfire goons can't tell if he's down for the count, or just playing possum.

The man called Wade Cole thinks he hit his mark, but won't take any chances. He already knows Wolverine can come back from death-defying injury. That's the entire reason they're in this fight. So he kicks away at the rubble and moves in close for a kill shot. He was right to exercise caution.



Wolverine springs to life and slashes his claws across Cole's abdomen!

The X-Man counts his lucky stars that the gun shots didn't do more damage, and squares off with the last Hellfire guard standing. The one called "Rosen" nervously tells his target not to move. Wolverine is amused.

Borrowing from Dirty Harry, the Canadian mutant gives Rosen the score: "Hey, bub. I know what you're thinkin'. He's hurt, an' he's five meters away from me, an' I got a full clip of ammo in my rifle. Question is: Can I kill Wolverine before he can reach me an' cut me into shish-kebab with those freaky claws of his?"

Rosen shudders: "Well, bub. Wolverine is virtually unkillable. Wolverine's claws are adamantium, the strongest metal known -- capable of slicin' through vanadium steel like a hot knife through butter. An' five meters o' floor ain't much distance at all -- fer me."

The hard sell works. Rosen drops his gun and tries to surrender -- but Wolverine lunges at him any way! He begs for his life, and Wolverine thinks about the old days -- before the X-Men -- when he would've gone straight for the kill.



The mutant hoists his prey up in one arm, drawing his claws on the other, but he's a man of his word. He'll spare the henchman on one condition: he tells him all there is to know about The Inner Circle. Intel for the fight to come.

The Hammer...
It's one of his most iconic early battles, so it can come as no real shock that Wolverine is the victor!

His win is a comeback story after the fight in X-Men #132, and continues on as Wolverine further penetrates the inner sanctum of The Hellfire Club's exclusive establishment.

Given the mounting significance of The Phoenix Saga, I dare say we'll be back some time in the future to see how the X-Men's struggle progressed. In the mean time, it's a different follow-up I've been looking forward to talking about...

Most of the panels featured into today's entry are bathed in red, but it should be noted - these are artistic exceptions on the page, and not a reflection of the entire sequence. Colorist Glynis Wein uses these red flourishes to heighten and imply the violence of Wolverine's strikes. John Byrne frames his images fairly tastefully, leaving the gore out of sight. Red sells their impact.

I belabor the point both for its artistic effectiveness, and because it's unclear exactly how permanently Wolverine aims to disable the Hellfire guards.

Is he killing them? Merely maiming? The answer would come a year and a half later when Murray Reese, Wade Cole and Angelo Macon returned, seeking revenge alongside Harry Leland in Uncanny X-Men #151.

Their injuries were severe enough that their survival depended on cybernetic replacements and enhancement. Claremont may've scripted names for three of the faceless goons, but who could've expected their return, or even survival? It's one of those wonderful examples of a seemingly incidental event creating something new and interesting!

As The Reavers, the trio would serve Donald Pierce and Lady Deathstrike in their pursuits against Wolverine and the X-Men. Individually, the cyborgs weren't necessarily spectacular villains, but as a recurring collective (joined by other cyborg misfits) they became something more.

I have a soft spot for their appearances during the X-Men's Australia era in the late eighties, which lends it all a vaguely Mad Max quality. A flavor I imagine was the general idea, and enhances the group. Coming at the end of the decade, they're a reminder of how far reaching the influence of the Dark Phoenix legacy was. It wasn't all about Jean Grey!

We're talking about these stories because in February we're anticipating the theatrical release of Logan on March 3rd! The alleged final big screen turn of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine will pit him against Donald Pierce and his cyborg posse. An apocalyptic re-imagining of these classic villains!

We're moving on from The Dark Phoenix Saga in our next feature fight, but if you'd like to get the full experience, use the Amazon link provided [right] to pick yourself up a collected edition! Doing so helps support the site!

You can find more featured battles by following links throughout this post, diving in to the Secret Issue Index, or by following on Facebook and Twitter!

Winner: Wolverine
#4 (+1) Wolverine
#822 (new) Wade Cole
#823 (new) Angelo Macon
#824 (new) Murray Reese
#825 (new) Rosen (Hellfire Club Guard)

Monday, February 06, 2017

HERO OF THE WEEK: BLACK CANARY (DC)
Real Name: Dinah Lance
First Appearance: Justice League of America #75 (November, 1969)
Fight Club Ranking: #46

Featured Fights:
- vs GLASS MAN: Secret Origins #32 (Nov 1988)
- vs WOOD KING: Secret Origins #32 (Nov 1988)
- vs DEATHSTROKE: Identity Crisis #3 (Oct 2004)
- vs INJUSTICE LEAGUE: Justice League of America #15 (Jan 2008)
- vs SINESTRO CORPS: Green Lantern #25 (Jan 2008)

We know movies tend to dominate the superhero conversation these days, but it's fast looking like video games are going to stake their claim in 2017. Our last Hero of the Week already touched upon the looming release of Injustice 2. It seems Warner Brothers and NetherRealm Studios are gearing up to shatter their uncustomary silence -- unleashing a barrage of news ahead of their May release!

"Gearing up" will play a big role in the new game, which allows players to customize DC icons with stat altering trinkets, costumes and armors. We've already seen the likes of Batman, Superman, and Supergirl burdened by mid-nineties action figure accessories. Indeed, the words "armor" and "NetherRealm Studios" immediately sound aesthetic alarm bells. Which makes the newest trailer reveal for Black Canary all the more pleasing!


As reported on Mortal Kombat Online; the Canary was a near-miss in 2013's Injustice character line-up. A mixed bag of character designs revealed how the NetherRealm video game aesthetic could've taken the character down some dark design paths. It therefore comes as a pleasant surprise that four years (and a gear system) later - the character arrives unscathed in iconic leathers and fishnets!

The gear system likely means there will be plenty of armor plates and design subversions on offer, but you can't under estimate the power of a positive first impression. Simply knowing that the classic comic book design is available goes a long way to extending an olive branch to fans who may've been turned off by Injustice's deliberate detachments from the iconic DC Universe.

The trailer shows Black Canary to be a smooth martial artist, with her sonic canary cry and fancy boots and gloves giving some punch. There's a lack of visual dynamism in some of the moves, but the screen share will probably be better in the final game, where comparisons to Sonya Blade seem inevitable. (Am I the only person seeing some Tori Amos in that face?)

Injustice 2 still has a long way to go, but the shake-up of its playable roster is at least working to engender the game to this grumpy comic book fan. Not that I think long time comics readers are really a demographic Warner Brothers is especially concerned about pleasing. We shall see.