Monday, May 29, 2017

Real Name: Grodd
First Appearance: The Flash #106 (May, 1959)
Fight Club Ranking: #355

Featured Fights:
- vs SUPERGIRL: Supergirl #3 (Nov 1996)
- vs JUSTICE LEAGUE: JLA: Classified #3 (Mar 2005)
- vs JUSTICE LEAGUE: Justice League of America #15 (Jan 2008)
- vs MARTIAN MANHUNTER: Final Crisis: Requiem #1 (Sep 2008)

This month on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths we've been spotlighting comic book battles featuring heroes and villains found in Injustice 2!

The DC fighting game sequel has been a sporadic influence on this year's Hero of the Week, but one of the more exciting additions we never got around to acknowledging was Gorilla Grodd! With the game officially available for home consoles -- now seems to be the perfect time for a HOTW salute!

Generally speaking, I'm not the biggest fan of superheroes in the fighting game genre.

Fighting games -- especially in 2017's pseudo-sport, streaming world -- are all about mechanical parity and balance. Superheroes simply don't function that way. They leap around environments and clash with unique chemical reactions determined by story! Shuffling side-to-side with attacks that reach approximate equivalency simply isn't how you get the most out of the characters. I prefer hand-to-hand combatants and distinct martial arts in my fighting games [see; Street Fighter, Tekken].

If you're going to put superheroes in the fighting game arena -- you might as well try to get the most interesting functional and visual distinctions. That was why when Mortal Kombat Online was putting together a Top 10 Villains Wishlist for the first game, I was eager to see Grodd included.

Just as Solomon Grundy was a pleasant surprise in the initial line-up of 2012; Gorilla Grodd was a unique stand-out included very early in the sequel's character reveal cycle.

I'm not the biggest fan of a tubby or armored Grodd, but NetherRealm aesthetics can be pretty hit or miss, particularly in the superhero realm. The imposition of an RPG armor-unlock Gear system at least meant Grodd's accoutrement offered a functional purpose. At his core, he's a weird and wonderful villain to oppose the usual suspects of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and the gang.

I also really like the way they've created character for Grodd in his animations, expression and dialogue. Too much real-world gorilla reference always make Grodd a dull boy.

What I've seen of the Injustice 2 story mode doesn't exactly bowl me over. These modes have been widely praised since 2011's Mortal Kombat reboot, but the material is usually pretty weak. There isn't a strong sense of character, or the kind of textured storytelling long time comic book readers would be used to. There doesn't seem to be a huge amount of crossover between the dedicated fanbases, but I have to imagine Injustice functions as a decent enough introduction for new readers.

I thought it was fun that The Society found its way into the games. The basic premise of the Injustice universe is that Superman and a band of loyal heroes are themselves the villains. So to inject a faction of classic villainy pleases me -- even if they wind up somewhere in the grey puddle that a lot of the characters ultimately occupy. That Grodd is in charge of this version of The Society - also fun.

I have a tough time wholly embracing the experience of Injustice, in much the same way Injustice has a tough time wholly embracing the characters and comics it's loosely based upon. Unfortunately, that seems to be a consistent tone throughout many contemporary DC products -- including the current comics themselves.

The fundamental premise of bad guy Superman was so poorly realized, and is so thoroughly without flavor in 2017, there's just no joy there. Which, in a strange way, makes the relative simplicity of Gorilla Grodd and his villainous fellows that much more important.

The variety of the Injustice line-up is very much appreciated. The quality of the game experience - tough to argue with. These are generally pretty good games. Just frustrating if you have any existing attachments, or broader frames of reference.

If you're curious about some of the other Injustice characters who grabbed attention, be sure to flash back to Hero of the Week spotlights for: SupergirlReverse-Flash, Black Canary, Cheetah, Doctor Fate and Firestorm! You can also find plenty more of the comic book fighting perspective by diving in to the Secret Issue Index for a complete archive of past featured fights, or by subscribing to Twitter and Facebook for daily links!

Friday, May 26, 2017

Chapter Three: What Price Vengeance? (DC)
All-Star Squadron #4 When: December 1981
Why: Roy Thomas How: Rich Buckler

The Story So Far...
December 8, 1941: The combined powers of The All-Star Squadron race to the Hawaiian island of Oahu to witness the aftermath of a terrible attack! The decimation of Pearl Harbor shocks their senses, and strengthens America's resolve to answer the call to World War II.

The unprecedented assembly of heroes flights East to meet their attackers head-on, unaware that a conspiring force anticipates their arrival! The Dragon King lies on a small island somewhere between Hawaii and Japan, plotting to manipulate the super-powered All-Stars with methods of science and the super-natural!

What good will the Justice Society and their allies be when their most powerful members become dedicated agents of The Axis Powers?!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Doctor Fate 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Doctor Fate 5 (Professor)
Speed: Hawkman 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Doctor Fate 5 (Marathoner)
Agility: Draw 2 (Average)
Fighting: Hawkman 6 (Warrior)
Energy: Doctor Fate 7 (Cosmic Power)
Total: Doctor Fate 31 (Super Powered)

When it comes to super-powers in the DC Universe -- they don't often come much more powerful than Doctor Fate!

As the wearer of the Helmet of Fate; Kent Nelson is in commune with the very matter and energy of the universe! Guided by Nabu and the Lords of Order: he possesses phenomenal magical arsenals and acumen. He is nigh immortal, invulnerable, and capable of manipulating time, space & reality!

Hawkman certainly has his work cut out for him if he's going to beat his JSA team mate! Not that he's any stranger to fighting beyond his weight class!

In Justice League of America #200 we saw Hawkman go up against Superman in a similar scenario. He was outmatched, but when they met again many years later in Superman/Batman #4 -- The Claw of Horus gave him the physical might to knock Superman out with the force of an entire planet!

The Claw won't show up for twenty years after our featured fight, but the Nth metal its made of is a mainstay of Hawkman's arsenal. Originally "Ninth Metal", it allows him to fly, heal wounds, increases his strength and durability, and has even been known to have occult properties. Is that enough to help him?

Hawkman has the minerals to face down just about any foe, but his usual array of medieval weaponry won't mean much against Doctor Fate!

At the time of this battle, the mighty mystic wears his "half helm". This shortened version reduces the power of his magic in exchange for relieving the possessive nature of the Helmet of Fate. Despite this reduction, he remains super-humanly strong and durable!

If Hawkman's to give himself his best shot, he may need to hit his hexed friend hard and fast -- and hope the peculiarities of magic create a loophole that evens the playing field! We saw how that can work when Doctor Fate was unable to intervene against The Demon's Three in Justice League Unlimited #14.

The Dragon King's mind manipulation targets magically inclined heroes more than others, but who knows what that means! Let's find out!

The Tape: Doctor Fate Ranking: Hawkman (#32)

What Went Down...

Together America's greatest super-powers soar the skies as a single force: The All-Star Squadron! Leaving the battered shores of Pearl Harbor they fly across the Pacific Ocean -- unwittingly passing over a small, sinister outpost!

From the seemingly deserted tropical island: The Dragon King activates a machine powered by The Holy Grail, and designed to target the Justice Society's most magic sensitive heroes! The dynamo spews forth undetectable waves of energy that ripple through the All-Stars like a tingling shock of electricity!

Green Lantern is the first to act upon the impulse to turn against America, soon followed by Johnny Thunderbolt! As Hawkman swoops in to intervene with a voice of reason -- Doctor Fate glides in for a surprise attack!

The sudden uppercut connects with Hawkman's unsuspecting jaw -- but his aerial expertise allows the winged hero to recovery quickly!

He repositions himself to be facing his unlikely attacker, while the mad Doctor Fate orders Green Lantern to destroy the flightless heroes among them!

Hawkman has no choice but to pit his spiked mace against the Helmet of Fate!

Hawkman sends the spiked-ball of his chained weapon colliding into Fate's metallic half helm, but it barely stuns him! Though the mystic may have lost his magical mastery -- he remains an unnaturally strong physical opponent!

The sky becomes the scene of an uncanny chase as Doctor Fate relentlessly pursues Hawkman. His words aim to demoralize as he boasts equal speed and superior endurance to the winged hero. Hawkman listens!

His chained mace drags stubbornly against the wind as Hawkman carves a hard and sudden change in direction! It follows as he flies a path directly for Fate -- undeterred by the mind-altered hero's snide boasts of invulnerability!

The moment of collision arrives -- but Doctor Fate has had a change of heart!

Aerial maneuvers had inadvertently taken them beyond the field of The Dragon King's machine! Doctor Fate's mind returns to that of a great hero, no longer impelled to wage war against the Justice Society of America!

The Hammer...
Let the debate rage on: Who would have won had the fight continued?

It certainly seemed as if Doctor Fate's incredible invulnerability put him firmly in command, but Hawkman's never-say-die attitude is legendary! I'm sure most will come down on the side of Fate, but I like to think Hawkman's will still could've found a way. The Doctor certainly looked worse for wear at the end!

This month on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths we're spotlighting some of the heroes and villains featured in Injustice 2! The fighting game sequel is out now for home consoles, offering an eclectic mix of DCU icons in a universe where Superman has become a threat to truth, justice and freedom.

The exciting addition of Doctor Fate was the subject of Hero of the Week back in March, but alas, Hawkman is yet to make an appearance in the DC video game series! A fighting game without one of DC's greatest fighters?! I know!

Hawkgirl took up the slack with a lone playable appearance in 2013's Injustice: Gods Among Us. Better later than never: the sequel introduces a concept called "Premier Skins", which map all new character assets to existing gameplay. The perfect system for delivering both Hawks, should either ever appear again!

Think Professor Zoom using the moves of The Flash, or Hal Jordan's moves as a base to map John Stewart's voice and appearance into the game. An appropriate compromise to include characters who might otherwise be functionally similar in a video game setting. Imperfect, but a net positive.

Even Jay Garrick gets a run in the Premier Skin system! When you think about the tough times the Golden Age heroes have had of late, especially in comics - that's pretty nifty!

There's really no under estimating the simple "cool factor" at work with Golden Age heroes. Doctor Fate and Hawkman really only need to show up to spark an ember of interest. I've never been a big fan of the "half helm" seen in today's feature fight, but you get that full Helmet of Fate out, and it demands attention!

I can't help but think of the cover of Hawkman (Vol. 4) #24. A pretty cool action shot of Hawkman clubbing Doctor Fate - just like our featured fight! It doesn't actually reflect the contents of the issue, but it's the kind of cover that draws your eye. These characters are just so visually thrilling!

Such is the baffling quandary of publishers shuttling their classic characters out of continuity, or trying to disguise them. Tell readers the story exists in a cordoned off bubble and you might alleviate the "completist" anxieties of a few timid "new readers". Once that plays out, all that's achieved is further division of the audience, and a reinforcement of the idea that backstory is a problem.

In my experience; the uninitiated are often drawn to a visually striking character like Hawkman or Doctor Fate, and have a healthy appetite for learning more of 'the bits that matter' in their history. These "new readers" are willing and interested to engage in deep comics backstory, provided its in a no frills, easily digested format. A litany of reboots and reinventions can only discourage.

Good fiction is constructive, and needn't dwell on details that aren't immediately relevant. Our own lives are an example of the ways old relationships and details can be stirred to relevance, but we don't dwell on everything every time we enter into a situation. A good comic tells you what you need to know.

1981's All-Star Squadron roughly had a foot in both camps. I tend to think the division of Earth-1 and Earth-2 was more trouble than its worth, and freezing the characters in the 1940s is a trickier prospect now - another thirty years on from World War II. Not that its impossible. Retro visions like Sandman Mystery Theatre are, in my opinion, evergreen as a genre style. I also think Nazis deserve their place as the perennial bad guys asking for a kicking!

Ultimately, I prefer the consolidated, forward moving approach that made the mid-2000s a great run for JSA and Hawkman. For a while there, Geoff Johns was the master of striking a balance between the immovable qualities of Golden & Silver Age characters, and their intuitive placement in the modern age.

The more the entertainment world tries to forge hastily assembled histories and imitation shared universes -- the more it seems absurd that comics would ever do anything but promote the unique feature of their genuine back catalogue!

Do you think Hawkman and Doctor Fate are obviously awesome? Be sure to follow links throughout this post, or dive into the Secret Archive Index, to discover even more gems, rants, and superhero smackdown!

Follow along on Twitter and Facebook to get daily links to fights inspired by the topics of the day! A like, share, or retweet is a great way to support the site and spread the battle cry of The Comic Book Fight Club! You can also use the Amazon link provided to sponsor the site at no extra cost to your purchase!

Note: All-Star Squadron #1-#18 are collected in the Showcase reprint series [pictured right], which are a black and white publication. For Carl Gafford's vibrant colours you'll have to seek out original back issues, or digitally sold equivalents. For buyer satisfaction, always remember to research products before buying!

Winner: Draw (Inconclusive)
#31 (+1) Hawkman
#128 (+18) Doctor Fate (Kent Nelson)

Monday, May 22, 2017

Real Name: Unknown (Symbiote)
First Appearance: Amazing Spider-man #252 (May, 1984)
Fight Club Ranking: #18

Featured Fights:
- vs BLACKLASH: Marvel Team-Up #145 (Sep 1984)
- vs AVENGERS: What If...? #4 (Oct 1989)
- vs CARNAGE: Spider-man Unlimited #2 (Aug 1993)
- vs IRON MAN: Iron Man #302 (Mar 1994)
- vs SHOCKER: Spider-man Adventures #9 (Aug 1995)
- vs FLASH & QUICKSILVER: DC versus Marvel #4 (Apr 1996)
- vs SUPERMAN: DC/Marvel: All Access #1 (Dec 1996)
- vs AVENGERS: Marvel Knights: Spider-man #11 (Apr 2005)
- vs SPACE PHANTOM: Beyond! #1 (Sep 2006)
- vs JACK FLAG: Thunderbolts #111 (Apr 2007)
- vs SANDMAN: Spider-man Family #1 (Apr 2007)
- vs SPIDER-MAN: Spider-man Family #2 (Jun 2007)
- vs OLYMPUS GROUP: Incredible Hercules #128 (Jun 2009)

Holy moly! A live-action Venom spin-off is officially in the works -- and it'll star Tom Hardy!

It's no big shock that Sony would greenlight development of a Venom solo film -- a symbiote-centric adventure has been kicking around in Hollywood for a good couple of decades now. That they've managed to attract a star the caliber of Tom Hardy is where this goes from just another franchise superhero flick - to something much more intriguing!

The Hollywood Reporter expects Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer to direct, with Hardy signing on to play the title role of Eddie Brock.

Fans disappointed by Topher Grace's turn as a Peter Parker doppelganger in Spider-man 3 will no doubt look forward to a more faithful, physically imposing depiction of the classic Spidey villain.

Hardy's highlights paint a promising picture! He was a man of action in Inception, a lethal protector in Mad Max: Fury Road, and a physically intimidating Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. His 2008 star-making turn in Bronson offered another demonstration of range and moods -- all of which could come in handy in the schizophrenic journey from Eddie Brock to Venom!

Exactly how tangled the webs of Disney & Sony will be is the next big question. The imposing adult frame of Hardy seems an odd match for a pubescent Spider-man created by Tom Holland in Captain America: Civil War. Holland's Peter Parker will star in the official reboot of the Sony Spider-man universe in July, taking the character back to high school in Spider-man: Homecoming.

Will Homecoming drop the first hints of the bigger Spider-man picture? With Venom reportedly coming to screens as soon as October 5th, 2018, it may be the running start the film needs to stitch into a world that it may only tangentially occupy.

A limited role for Spider-man could provide a welcome deviation into slightly more adult fare, appeasing fans who aren't quite ready to pal around with a fifteen year old Spidey. Venom's history as a twisted anti-hero lends itself to a more challenging portrayal of superheroes on the screen, and could really diversify Sony's franchise in similar ways to FOX's Logan and Deadpool.

There's also potential to tell an inverted story. depicting Spider-man only in costume as a perceived antagonist to Venom's troubled title hero. The economy of working with stunt-men and CGI to create Spider-man would no doubt have its appeal. It could also allow Venom to remain indistinct with its connection to the world of Spider-man: Homecoming.

Sony have a deep bench of Spidey villains to pull from, which may mean the web-slinger need not get involved at all! At least in the short term. Emulating Marvel Studios' success with The Avengers could mean eventually building to a bigger Spider-franchise pay-off.

There are already rumors of a team-up film starring Black Cat and Silver Sable. Which would mean the Marvel Cinematic Universe (television included) would soon contain actors playing: Spider-man, Venom, Black Cat, Cloak, Dagger, Iron Fist, Deathlok and Captain America.

That roster is getting dangerously close to the classic line-up featured in Maximum Carnage! A story that isn't just a multimedia milestone of the early nineties, but also provides a natural convergence point for a lot of disparate properties. Lord knows we all want to see those Netflix characters find their way to the big screen!

With any luck we'll find out more in July, but until then, let the speculation run wild! Heck! With Marvel gearing up to go very cosmic in next year's Avengers: Infinity War -- how far off are we from a Venom origin that skews closer to the alien suit of Secret Wars fame? (Do we even want that?)

Friday, May 19, 2017

A Flash of Evil (DC)
Green Lantern #40 When: Late May 1993
Why: Gerard Jones & Joe Filice How: Claude St. Aubin

The Story So Far...
When the multiverse was gripped in a crisis of infinite Earths; The Flash disappeared in a race to save existence from the Anti-Monitor's cosmic weapons!

The only evidence of Barry Allen's brave sacrifice was an empty red and yellow costume, to be collected by his protégé Wally West. When the world was remade, Kid-Flash took up the mantle, filling the void left by Barry as the new Flash!

A sudden return of Barry Allen years later seems like a Christmas miracle, but all is not as it seems! The lingering mystery of his disappearance hides a sinister truth about his return. When Flash begins acting strange, best friend Green Lantern is reluctant to doubt him. His hesitance creates a deadly conflict with Darkstar -- forcing the Lantern to take-on his old friend in order to protect him!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Professor Zoom 3 (Athlete)
Intelligence: Professor Zoom 5 (Professor)
Speed: Professor Zoom 7 (Light Speed)
Stamina: Draw 6 (Generator)
Agility: Draw 2 (Average)
Fighting: Green Lantern 4 (Trained)
Energy: Green Lantern 7 (Cosmic Power)
Total: Professor Zoom 28 (Metahuman)

Ahhh! Not so fast! It's another classic case of mistaken identity as the Reverse-Flash masquerades in red to pose as his classic arch-nemesis: The Flash!

You and I know the scarlet speedster Barry Allen gave his life to stop the Anti-Monitor's schemes in Crisis on Infinite Earths #8! That was a little less than eight years earlier in publishing time, but for the DC Universe, the gap may not be so significant. Further: Flash's sacrifice was without witness and tinged in cosmic mystery, meaning his old pal can't be totally sure of who he's fighting!

Green Lantern is Hal Jordan: the Silver Age ring slinger who spent many decades fighting alongside The Flash in team-ups, and as part of the Justice League of America! We saw the post-Crisis version of their first JLA adventure in Secret Origins #32, where Flash figured heavily in the defeat of The Wood King!

Flash's connection to the Speed Force always makes him a formidable foe! Hal learned that first-hand when he was smacked around by his buddy years later in Green Lantern (Volume 4) #44! By then, it turned out Barry Allen wasn't dead after all, and the Black Lantern Martian Manhunter turned them against one another with telepathic deception. Not really what we're here to talk about...

So far we know a speedster can do some serious damage to Green Lantern. In that battle, GL was reluctant to harm his friend. That's a major factor in today's fight, because he's coming in under the impression Professor Zoom is Barry!

Eobard Thawne (aka; Reverse-Flash) is a sycophant gone bad from the future of the 25th Century. He knows all of The Flash's old moves and has perfected them through his own mastery of the Speed Force! We saw that put to chilling effect in Flash: Rebirth #4, when he kept ahead of Barry Allen and Max Mercury!

Green Lantern clearly has his work cut out for him, but he also wields a power ring capable of willing into reality just about anything he can conceive!

At the time of this fight, the Green Lantern energy ring is unable to enact upon anything yellow. In the future, this would come to be known as the Parallax impurity, which is excised with the removal of the fear-based entity from the central battery. If Reverse-Flash was in his own yellow costume - that could cause some serious trouble! Fortunately, Flash Red means no immediate threat!

We've seen Jordan handle the yellow weakness fighting Golden Roc [Secret Origin #32]. At super-human speeds it won't be quite so easy, but he also has a diverse environment at his disposal to mount a defense.

The Tape: Professor Zoom Ranking: Green Lantern (#30)

What Went Down...
Soaring over Central City; Hal Jordan spots the trademark scarlet streak left by the speedster he believes is his mysteriously returned best friend.

Flash darts into The Flash Museum, ordering its occupants to exit or face death!

Green Lantern investigates, finding "Flash" resting casually against a statue in the museum rotunda. He has nothing but contempt for the honored legacy of his heroic "misspent youth". It's baggage he plans to shed with extreme prejudice, taking one of his goody-goody superhero friends with it!

Lantern manifests a massive hand to catch his friend-turned-foe in mid-dash. He has no desire to fight, but Flash doesn't share the sentiment. The speedster thrusts his hands at speed to create a compressed air battering ram that sends the vulnerable ring-slinger hurtling across the rotunda!

Still a little confused by his old friend's sudden hostility -- Jordan dips into his old bag of tricks, throwing a giant green boxing glove. Flash knows it well, racing in circles to deflect the projectile and send it back to its source!

A towering bronze statue of the real Flash becomes a battering ram in the impostor's hands. He dares GL to contemplate if his ring's energy will work on bronze. Fortunately, it does -- breaking the statue apart against the hard-light energy bubble he manages to form at the last moment!

Jordan goes on the offensive, throwing up a complicated mechanical restraint to pin the speedster down against a nearby wall.

The device locks around The Flash's neck, wrists, torso, and legs -- but it hardly matters! Like Barry Allen himself, the impostor is much more powerful than his successor. He can vibrate his molecules at such intense speeds he passes right through solid matter!

Flash disappears backwards into the wall, cackling, before charging right back through the same way! Green Lantern knows he's coming from somewhere, but can hardly prepare for the immediate onrush!

Flash narrowly misses Green Lantern on the way to The Rogues Gallery weapons storage! He remembers the roll call of those legendary fiends, and delights at the thought of eliminating Barry Allen's best friend with their lethal arsenal!

The barrage of weapons forces Green Lantern to erect another energy shield and start reconsidering his tactics. As he does - the phony Flash ups the stakes by unleashing one of The Top's poisonous spinning tops!

The spread of noxious gas brings forth coughing from museum curator Dexter! Unwilling to abandon his post, the dutiful museum worker now faces imminent death, if not for the nearby gasmask of Mister Element! GL's ring filters the air around him, while he sends the mask to Dexter and makes chase.

Desperate to talk sense into the man he still believes is his old friend -- Jordan ensnares his target in a coffin sized prison cell.

It's meant to be too small for Flash to vibrate free, but the yellow of his costume is all he needs to break the bars. He dashes through the exhibit of adventures in time and space, jumping onto the time defying Cosmic Treadmill!

He broadcasts his plans to escape to an exotic moment in time, but in truth simply darts back a few minutes prior to their entering the room! The trick lets him catch Green Lantern completely unawares with a sucker punch! He grabs the stunned hero by the ankles and starts spinning at super-speed!

The intense forces threaten to black out even a hotshot test pilot turned space cop! Green Lantern desperately summons the will to create a grappling hook with his ring -- bringing the tilt-a-whirl of doom to a sudden stop!

The pair spill to the ground, but GL recovers first and vows to finish the fight if he has to bring the whole museum down on top of Flash! The speedster sarcastically laments the impending end of the great Flash Museum, whipping up debris with a super-fast wave of his hand! GL goes on the defensive!

The intense barrage of objects begins to pierce the Lantern's energy bubble, but also creates cover for him to escape through the floor to come back around for a sneak attack. Just as he does -- Darkstar attacks from above!

Green Lantern's ring intercepts the deadly surprise blast fired by Darkstar! He races to grapple with his rival space-cop, who has no regard for any past associations the scarlet speedster may, or may not, have established on Earth!

Jordan's attempts to protect Flash earn him a speeding yellow boot to the back of the head! A parting shot as the impostor attempts a high-speed escape!

As Flash streaks out of the building - Darkstar takes to the skies in hot pursuit! Believing it may be his last shot at neutralizing a global threat -- he fires deadly bolts of energy that meeting their running target in a spectacular explosion!

Believing he's witnessed the death of his long missing friend -- Green Lantern erupts with rage! He launches himself at the Darkstar, but is met with pleas of innocence! The Darkstar's energy bolts were merely meant to stun!

Darkstar posits that super-speed rendered his body unusually unstable, while Green Lantern contemplates the true possibility that The Flash pulled a literal fast-one.

While the two intergalactic lawmen argue; Professor Zoom lies in wait beneath the ground, having vibrated at super-speed to disappear below the surface! A gambit that caused the ground to explode, but left him safely unseen.

The Hammer...
Darkstar may've gatecrashed the battle and brought it to an explosive end, but there were no winners in today's featured fight! His role was merely in providing an assisted distraction that allowed the impostor Flash a discreet exit.

If you paid attention to the Tale of The Tape, you already know this felonious false Flash is in actual fact Eobard Thawne: Professor Zoom!

Usually he'd be wearing yellow and red as the Reverse-Flash, but in '93, Zoom's super-speed, and knowledge of future-past, were tools in a ploy to stage the impersonated return of Barry Allen! A comeback easily achieved with a quick costume change and commitment to 25th century cosmetic surgery!

The story actually functions as a revamp and return for Prof Zoom, whose neck snapping death famously occurred ten years earlier! In that respect, it's a story that does deliver on a major return! Even if ultimately temporary as a new Zoom came to succeed Thawne as the Reverse-Flash in 2001.

The plausibility of Barry Allen's return is something I don't have a great memory of. The story was coming just a few months after Death of Superman, and slightly ahead of the much-hyped 'breaking of The Bat' in Knightfall. Significant changes were being visited upon DC's greatest heroes, and I have to imagine a return that would displace Wally West seemed at least conceivable, as a result.

Of course, when compared to the international headlines made by Superman and Batman, it was easy to overlook The Flash as just another monthly issue on the racks. If you weren't paying attention, you might not have even noticed that the scarlet speedster on covers wasn't the one who was supposed to be there!

It had only been eight years since Barry Allen's supreme sacrifice in the pages of Crisis on Infinite Earths #8. It was a timeline that probably should've leant credence to his prospective return, but also reinforced a naïve confidence that it was too soon to unseat a replacement who'd served the post-Crisis DCU well.

The garbled transition from pre to post Crisis brought many frustrations for a young reader, but if there was one thing to take away, it was the sacred text of Barry Allen's death. It was an event so significant it placed him within the rare pantheon of the seemingly un-resurrectable: Thomas & Martha Wayne, Uncle Ben Parker, Gwen Stacy, Bucky Barnes & Jason Todd...

Yes, the rules have changed a lot in the decades since. The mid-2000s brought those last two back, and if you've been reading long enough, you're probably thinking heavily about the return of Flash in Final Crisis, and Flash: Rebirth.

Heck! Even Thomas Wayne has a bafflingly active fanbase now thanks to the regrettable tangents of 2010's Flashpoint. The template of early nineties stunt events seems to permeate today's publishing heavily, rather than lessons learned from all that had to be undone.

"The Return of Barry Allen" might not be as well remembered as Death of Superman, Knightfall, or even Green Lantern's fall from grace and turn to villainy. Yet, as an exception, it remains one of the better examples from that time. As an event, its dramatic tension is the threat of a return.

As a story, its end result is a contribution of something that had been taken away -- and a re-emphasis of an important piece of myth building. Good fiction builds on itself. It can twist, contort, progress and surprise without breaking. It creates problems (drama) without eroding the consequences of meaning of its own content. The kinds of comics I'm much preferring to read and revisit.

This month on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths we're featuring comics with the characters found in Injustice 2! The Flash, Green Lantern and Reverse-Flash are all characters you'll encounter in the sequel video game, albeit in a universe where many of DC's greatest heroes are no longer in tact.

Follow links throughout this post to find more from the heroes, villains and comics you love! Dive deeper to find every past featured fight in the Secret Archive Index, where they're organized by publisher, series, and issue number!

Get daily links to fights inspired by the major topics of the day by subscribing to Facebook and Twitter! A like, share or retweet is a great way to help support the site and dazzle your friends with spectacular superhero smackdown!

Winner: Draw
#28 (+2) Green Lantern (Hal Jordan)
#133 (+161) Professor Zoom (Eobard Thawne)
#526 (new) Darkstar (Ferrin Colos) [+1 assist]

Monday, May 15, 2017

Real Name: Unknown
First Appearance: New Gods #9 (July, 1972)
Fight Club Ranking: #DNR

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

The "Rebirth" of DC Comics may still stink of The New 52's garbage, but you can always count on the Young Animal imprint to brighten your day! Last April we touched on  re-launch of Doom Patrol - a tent pole for Gerard Way's curated line-up. Now it's time for the Family Allred to charge ahead with a relaunch nobody expected, asked for, or ever saw coming: Bug! The Adventures of Forager!

With Mike Allred handling the pictures, and wife Laura splashing them with a face-melting pop palette (of colour, that is) -- this was always going to be an easy sell! Which is a good thing, because your average reader is probably thinking "Who the hell is Bug?!"

Whoa now! First of all: his name's Forager -- and he damn well gave his life to save The Batman and the entire Planet Earth! See, it's the darndest thing! Like good comics of old: Bug! is digging deep to mine a forgotten hero for brand new adventures and thrills!

As things turn out; Forager's one of Jack Kirby's old creations! "The King" woulda celebrated his 100th cycle on Earth this year [if he hadn't been called away on urgent cosmic business at age 74], and this series is shaping up to arrive as a living tribute at the perfect time!

Kirby's most famous creations may've come from Marvel Comics, but his most unique legacy was arguably created for DC Comics as The Fourth World series of titles starring The New Gods.

The villainous Darkseid is the best known of the characters that populated this distant cosmic corner of the DC Universe. In his shadow, many others scurry about the worlds of New Genesis and Apokolips, including colonies of evolved "micro-life" that gave us Forager!

Forager was last seen starring in DC's Jim Starlin epic Cosmic Odyssey: a story that threatened existence with the personification of The Anti-Life Equation -- an irony that forces Darkseid to turn against the very concept he covets!

An excitingly eclectic group of heroes, including Batman, Superman, Etrigan, Orion and Forager, were forced to team in a mad dash to stop Anti-Life's grand plan for destruction. There were monsters, mayhem, and Mike Mignola on pencils! Plenty of reasons we'll almost certainly find time to talk more about the series in the future.

Throughout the story Orion's arrogance, and disregard for presumed lesser beings, is a simmering thread of tension. He has a particular prejudice against the lowly "Bug" -- a derisive term challenged by Batman in one of the story's strongest moments. That moment is reprised in a preview for Bug #1 , which suggests an interesting journey ahead!

It isn't always easy to brim with enthusiasm when it comes to crowning the Hero of the Week. It's as much about discussing what's significant and going on as anything else. It's always nice to get back to comics and feeling excited for what's ahead. Young Animal still seems to be the saving grace breathing life into a bruised DC Universe. That's why Forager is the Hero of the Week! Yay!

Friday, May 12, 2017

And No Dawn To Follow The Darkness (DC)
Supergirl #3 When: November 1996
Why: Peter David How: Gary Frank

The Story So Far...
When the life of young girl Linda Danvers was hanging in the balance -- Supergirl was there to save the day!

A failed demonic sacrifice resulted in the unlikely merging of hero and victim! Resettling in Leesburg, Virginia; Supergirl continues to live a dual life as loving daughter Linda - and protoplasmic Girl of Steel!

When a Sun-Eater plunges the world into darkness by consuming the Sun; evil forces conspire to take advantage - even in Leesburg! Supergirl is forced to protect the town's citizens from themselves as they devolve into a violent pack of berserk animals worshipping a beastly master!

The demonic cultist responsible for Linda Danvers' sacrifice has found a new ally in his corruption of Leesburg! Intent on remaking the town in his own image, Gorilla Grodd accepts a dark magic that threatens to destroy everyone - including Supergirl!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Supergirl 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Gorilla Grodd 5 (Professor)
Speed: Supergirl 5 (Super-Human)
Stamina: Supergirl 5 (Marathoner)
Agility: Gorilla Grodd 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting: Draw 3 (Street Wise)
Energy: Supergirl 5 (Lasers)
Total: Supergirl 30 (Super)

You know the drill. It's the might of The Girl of Steel against the articulate aggressions of a super-intelligent ape. Two characters we've seen before and know well - right? Not so fast, hotshot! All is not quite as it seems!

Supergirl may look similar to the last daughter of Krypton, but in actual fact she is a shape-shifting creature from a parallel universe known as Matrix!

Coming from a reality where Superman died in his youth; Matrix was created by a benevolent Lex Luthor in the image of his deceased love. He gave her natural super-human abilities of telekinesis, invisibility, shape shifting, and much the same strength, speed, stamina and endurance of the Kryptonian he admired.

When Lex accidentally freed Kryptonian criminals General Zod, Zaora and Quex-Ul from The Phantom Zone, he sent Matrix to retrieve the Superman of the main universe to aid in their struggle. Life on the parallel Earth was decimated by the villainous trio before Superman made the difficult decision to execute them. With Luthor dead and nothing tying her to her universe, Supergirl accompanied Superman home to the main universe.

Kara Zor-El didn't arrive in the post-Crisis DC Universe until years later, leaving Matrix to serve uninterrupted as Supergirl for a decade or so. During that time, she encountered, and fused with, a dying young girl named Linda Danvers. She absorbed aspects of her memory and personality, becoming trapped in a dual identity of Linda and Supergirl. This greatly limited her more adaptable powers, too. A status that brings us to today's fight!

Gorilla Grodd is a super-intelligent ape hailing from Gorilla City. He possesses great strength, stamina, durability, and telepathic abilities!

He's best known as an arch-nemesis of The Flash, but has been involved in a variety of schemes that have brought him into conflict with the Justice League, and its individual members.

We saw Grodd manipulate the Ultramarine Corps as pawns against The League in JLA: Classified #3. He briefly held Batman on a spit before The Dark Knight managed to turn the tables.

Grodd himself has been a member of various contentious collectives, including The Society and Injustice League. We saw him present for the organized execution of Martian Manhunter in Final Crisis: Requiem #1, and a massive team melee in Justice League of America #15.

The latter example demonstrated Grodd can both endure the strength of Wonder Woman, and overpower a young Firestorm. Compelling evidence that he's a physical match for Supergirl - and a psychological threat!

Grodd's telepathic abilities could be the key to victory, able to discover and exploit the uncertain mental state of the Danvers-merged protoplasmic being. Her best bet might be a frontal assault at super-speed, but she's running in without knowing her opponent -- someone who is used to tangling with multiple speedsters. Let's see how it went...

The Tape: Supergirl Ranking: Gorilla Grodd (#844)

What Went Down...
Supergirl enters the town church just in time to rescue Sylvia Danvers from a mob of bestial parishioners! Danvers, mother to the girl Matrix merged with, sought refuge with the local United Methodist priest, but found only madness!

Reverend Varvel's mind is as clouded by The Heart of Darkness talisman that transformed his flock. Danvers preaches against their pagan worship of "The Beast", but a voice from above interrupts her pleas. It is no divine intervention.

Gorilla Grodd swings from his perch upon a cross, wielding the talisman that's turning the people of Leesburg into animals. He addresses a confused Supergirl with contempt, mocking her "Superman suit" in response. She attacks!

Supergirl tackles Grodd head-on as he notes the exception of her resistance to the talisman's effects. He intends to remake the town in his own image. A party, he calls it, before issuing her "invitation" personally.

Locked at close quarters; Grodd presses the magic talisman to Supergirl's head!

The mental impact of her absorption of human girl Linda Danvers cost Matrix control over her physical form. If these powers could've been of any use, they fail when she needs them most.

Supergirl doubles over on hands & knees as the magic takes hold! The Heart of Darkness only works at night, but with the Earth's sun consumed by an alien Sun-Eater, there is no hope of relief.

Sylvia Danvers cries out to Supergirl, but the moniker has lost its meaning. When "The Maid of Steel" rises, she sneers through the fanged-teeth of an animal. A bestial roar confirms her transformation: Supergirl belongs to Grodd!

The Hammer...
Shock! Horror! Gorilla Grodd claims quick victory with a single deft manoeuvre! A stunning and cunning tactic that brings Supergirl over to his side: to be continued in the pages of Supergirl (Vol. 4) #4 -- and perhaps another featured fight in the future!

Gorilla Grodd is one of the exciting new additions playable in DC fighting game sequel: Injustice 2! Officially out for home consoles May 16th; Injustice 2 is the inspiration behind this month's featured fights!

Real-deal Kryptonian Supergirl is another of the characters I've been excited to see join the game. She looks to have a fairly major role, thanks in part to her connection to cousin Superman, who infamously turned tyrant in the first game.

You generally won't get me to say much positive about Injustice as a whole. The core concept and plot of the first game is thoroughly lacking. As part of what I'm calling a Supergirl renaissance, however, I think the sequel is peachy keen!

I gushed a whole lot late last year, describing my personal about-face on The Girl of Steel. After watching that first season of the live-action television series, I'm still very much in a mood of enthusiasm.

I would've liked this week's entry to be another contribution to our mounting Supergirl file, but as you've hopefully picked up from previous sections, this is the Matrix creature who served as Supergirl after Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Crisis rebooted the DC Universe without Superman's cousin. She'd sacrificed herself in the fight against the Anti-Monitor, famously mourned in Superman's arms on the cover of Crisis on Infinite Earths #7. She was ultimately the other big death of the series, overshadowed by the themes of legacy carried on after Barry Allen's sacrifice in Crisis #8.

Flash could be succeeded by his second, Wally West, but Supergirl herself was the derivative taken from Superman. Even if the newly streamlined DC Universe would acknowledge her, there was a valid question as to whether it should.

The mythology of Superman as the last son of Krypton has always been a great tag line - but it didn't ring true. In a new, savvy, cohesive DCU, there was an opportunity to restore Superman to his unique roots, erasing the fumbling excuses that introduced a cavalcade of other Kryptonians. There was a chance to make Kal-El special again -- and they did... Sort of...

The oddball compromise of Matrix, soon to be Supergirl, was first introduced in 1988. Just a couple of years after the streamlining of Crisis and Superman: Man of Steel; John Byrne was responsible for creating a very strange cake-and-eat-it compromise. This Supergirl wouldn't undermine Kal-El's unique story of survival, but would allow DC Comics a marketable facsimile.

I've got to think Byrne created his Supergirl under direction from DC editors. His reinvention was suitably steeped in mythology of the past, but any Supergirl seems slightly incongruous with the rest of his work. He outlined a no Supergirl, no Superboy philosophy focused on keeping Superman special in an interesting UseNet post archived by DC in the 80s.

For a long time, I probably would've supported the notion Supergirl should be omitted all together, too.

Secondary derivative characters are rarely satisfying, and Supergirl as a concept can only diminish qualities in Superman. It's a cold logic I still think holds up, but ignores the enjoyable twists a character like Supergirl can offer. Especially when the narrow focus of a reboot dissipates and decades of story are the measure once more.

Kara Zor-El crash landed in the post-Crisis DCU in 2004. Her arrival quickly nudged the Matrix Supergirl toward irrelevance, leading to several years of confusion over whether or not she was completely erased. Despite conflicting accounts of editors, the character endured in relative obscurity, at least until the mess was made even bigger with the line-wide re-launch of The New 52.

With the benefit of hindsight, you might call the creation of Matrix completely extraneous. If you're going to do Supergirl stories, you should probably just do Supergirl stories. As we can see, the awkward compromise only ended in a tangle of confusing and frustrating inconsistencies. Exactly the kind of problems they set out to solve with the 1985 Crisis.

It would be wonderful if examples like these could inform a smarter approach to the big company's comics. Alas, events like Crisis on Infinite Earths only seem to grant more license to perpetual do-overs as solution to poor decision making.

I'm glad the real-deal Supergirl is back in circulation, but it seems a shame to discard so much else.

There's clearly a place for considered alternatives to Superman's Kryptonian story. Supergirl imbues the powers and responsibility with a uniquely youthful, socially connected perspective. A more fun, grounded take than Superman's high ideals. That's evident even in the work of writers like Peter David, who made the most of telling contemporary stories with the Matrix knock-off, but should've been canonized by a character that withstood the ages.

I'm sure we'll be revisiting this corner of the DCU some time in the future. In the mean time, if you'd like to experience the Matrix Supergirl in her entirety yourself - take advantage of the Amazon link provided! Doing so will help support the site at no extra cost to you!

If the classics are more your speed, be sure to check out the Supergirl tag, or links littered throughout this post. Be here throughout the month as we dive deeper into DC Comics!

You can also dive into the Secret Archive to find every feature fight listed in order of publisher, series, and issue number! For daily battles inspired by the topics of the day, follow on Twitter and Facebook. A like and share is always much appreciated!

Winner: Gorilla Grodd
#355 (+489) Gorilla Grodd
#841 (new) Supergirl (Matrix)

Monday, May 08, 2017

Real Name: Steve Rogers
First Appearance: Captain America Comics #1 (March, 1941)
Fight Club Ranking: #7

Featured Fights:
- vs BLACK PANTHER: Tales of Suspense #98 (Feb 1968)
- vs BATROC & MR. HYDE: Captain America #251 (Nov 1980)
- vs MR. HYDE: Captain America #252 (Dec 1980)
- vs WOLVERINE: Captain America #405 (Aug 1992)
- vs DOPPELGANGER: Captain America #408 (Oct 1992)
- vs PUNISHER: What If...? #51 (Jul 1993)
- vs BATMAN: Marvel versus DC #3 (Apr 1996)
- vs NAZIS: Captain America #1 (Nov 1996)
- vs THOR & LOKI: Avengers #1 (Nov 1996)
- vs HULK: Avengers #4 (Feb 1997)
- vs BARON ZEMO & MODOK: Captain America #6 (Apr 1997)
- vs DESTROYER: Thor #1 (Jul 1998)
- vs EXILES: Exiles #31 (Oct 2003)
- vs INVADERS: New Invaders #0 (Aug 2004)
- vs SINISTER TWELVE: Marvel Knights: Spider-man #11 (Apr 2005)
- vs CROSSBONES: Captain America #4 (Apr 2005)
- vs RED SKULL & NAZIS: Captain America #5 (May 2005)
- vs SILVER SURFER: Marvel Zombies #3 (Apr 2006)
- vs GALACTUS: Marvel Zombies #5 (Jun 2006)
- vs SHIELD: Civil War #1 (Jul 2006)
- vs AVENGERS: Civil War #3 (Sep 2006)
- vs BARON ZEMO: Thunderbolts #105 (Oct 2006)
- vs ATLANTIS: Marvel Adventures: The Avengers #9 (Mar 2007)
- vs MASTER MAN: Reborn #2 (Oct 2009)

Captain America is a Hydra agent and he always has been. I can't say the premise of Marvel's Secret Empire has me particularly interested, but this week's Free Comic Book Day special demands attention for putting Thor's hammer Mjolnir in the hands of a treasonous Steve Rogers!

A wildfire of critical opinion seems to already be flickering around Secret Empire, grafting political unease in the United States onto the fictional scenario. Consternation over what it means to paint Captain America as a pseudo-Nazi seems to overlook the common trope of an alternate or altered reality, and the obvious temporary nature of stories like these.

Suggesting Hydra Cap is worthy of lifting Thor's hammer offers a much needed wrinkle to what I would otherwise consider a very uninteresting premise. I find it difficult to share any of the passion that's come from fans fiercely for - or against. At this point, it feels as if it's a warn out scenario. Just another Marvel event in the vain of House of M, Fear ItselfAge of Ultron and other disappointments.

More over, it compounds the problem of Marvel's icons being largely unavailable over significant amounts of time. Last month I talked about the obvious strain of trading the mainstays for a new generation of replacements. Captain America comes with the added frustration of the last decade spending so much time without offering the iconic, good old fashioned Cap fans know and love.

2007's Captain America #25 took Steve Rogers off the board for two years when he was assassinated after surrendering at the end of Civil War. He made his obligatory return in 2009's Captain America: Reborn, only to be quickly repositioned as the new Director of SHIELD, and again when his super-soldier serum induced youth was stripped. It looked like another triumphant restart was launched for the character's 75th anniversary -- but here we are again anticipating more time wasted.

It's been a long time since Marvel's big events have had real gravitas, or an interesting hook. This one didn't seem to have much more than the usual clichés to offer, but maybe they have something up their sleeve. I certainly hope so. Marvel are calling it their last big event for a while, and I think we'll all be grateful. They keep selling the death, corruption, and weakness of their own characters, when the most interesting pitch might actually just be telling good, old fashioned, run of the mill stories.

I'm not ready to invest in the story just yet, but I'll be interested to see what lies beneath the otherwise tired and obvious concept. If a Hydra super-soldier is worthy of lifting Mjolnir, there clearly must be more to the story! That's what makes Captain America our Hero of the Week!

If, like me, you're a little tired of all the shenanigans, and just want to enjoy Captain America kicking bad guys (especially Nazis) in the face - fear not! You can check out some of Cap's best featured fights at the top of this post, or dive into the Secret Archive to read about even more true blue exploits! A heroic figure of inspiration is something I'm sure everybody could use!