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)

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