Monday, June 26, 2017

Real Name: Benjamin J. Grimm
First Appearance: Fantastic Four #1 (Nov, 1961)
Fight Club Ranking: #10

Featured Fights:
- vs FRIGHTFUL FOUR: Fantastic Four #129 (Dec 1972)
- vs EGO THE LIVING PLANET: Fantastic Four #235 (Oct 1981)
- vs ULTRON: Marvel Two-In-One #92 (Oct 1982)
- vs AHAB & HOUNDS: X-Men Annual #14 (1990)
- vs DOCTOR DOOM: Fantastic Four #350 (Mar 1991)
- vs JUSTICE PEACE: Fantastic Four #354 (Jul 1991)
- vs PAIBOK: Fantastic Four #358 (Nov 1991)
- vs DOCTOR DOOM: Fantastic Four #361 (Feb 1992)
- vs DOPPELGANGER THING: Fantastic Four #367 (Aug 1992)
- vs ADAPTOID: Fantastic Four: Unplugged #1 (Sep 1995)
- vs MOLEMAN: Fantastic Four #2 (Dec 1996)
- vs SUPER-SKRULL: Fantastic Four #6 (Apr 1997)
- vs ICONOCLAST: Fantastic Four #2 (Feb 1998)
- vs FRIGHTFUL FOUR: Marvel Adventures #12 (Mar 1998)
- vs WOLVERINE: Wolverine #22 (Jan 2005)
- vs SINISTER TWELVE: Marvel Knights: Spider-man #11 (Apr 2005)
- vs GOMDULLA: Spider-man Family #3 (Aug 2007)
- vs SENTRY: Mighty Avengers #10 (May 2008)
- vs LUKE CAGE: New Avengers #2 (Sep 2010)

Joy of joys! Marvel Two-In-One is officially coming back!

Axel Alonso got people talking with a Twitter teaser that implied some version of "Fantastic 2". CBR has since reported the story, revealing cover art with Thing front-and-centre, alongside a cavalcade of prospective Two-In-One allies including his old buddy Human Torch!

Marvel Two-In-One would probably be a welcome classic reference at the best of times, but with Fantastic Four out of print since 2015 -- and many of Marvel's most iconic heroes sidelined in the last twelve months -- it's exactly what weary fans of Marvel Comics should want to hear!

If Marvel Legacy really isn't able to deliver the Fantastic Four; a Thing team-up book is the perfect way to stir up similar feelings. Marvel Two-In-One is the kind of series that really fell out of vogue in the 1990s and 2000s, but has always been a fun concept begging for a revival. The fact that Thing and Human Torch were left displaced in the Marvel Universe after the FF disbanded makes it the kind of intuitive no brainer that's long overdue!

I've found myself revisiting issues of Marvel Two-In-One throughout the year -- not just the classic 1982 Annual -- but non-descript issues, too!

I had particular fun revisiting issue #96, where a variety of heroes attempt to pick up the slack while Thing recovers in hospital from his battles with Champion and Gladiator. A whole lotta bad guys are out causing trouble. There's a particularly nice moment when Sandman manages to slip by the other heroes defenses, only to share a beer with Thing. A very nice, classic Marvel moment!

The possibility of diving back into superhero comics like that is nice, even if a little unlikely. It's presently unclear exactly how the new Marvel Two-In-One will operate, or for how long. Here's hoping we get a lot of fun adventures with the ever lovin' blue-eyed Thing!

If you want to see more of his classic exploits, be sure to follow the featured fights at the top of the post. You can also dive in to the Secret Issue Index for past battles filed by publisher, series and issue number. Follow along on Twitter and Facebook to get daily fight links inspired by the day's topics!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Real Name: Diana of Themyscira
First Appearance: All-Star Comics #8 (Dec, 1941)
Fight Club Ranking: #14

Featured Fights:
- vs ETRIGAN: The Demon #17 (Nov 1991)
- vs STORM: Marvel versus DC #3 (Apr 1996)
- vs MANTIS & JUGGERNAUT: Unlimited Access #1 (Dec 1997)
- vs MORGAUTH: JSA Strange Adventures #1 (Oct 2004)
- vs SUPERMAN & BATMAN: Superman/Batman #15 (Feb 2005)
- vs ULTRAMARINE CORPS: JLA: Classified #3 (Mar 2005)
- vs MONGUL: Infinite Crisis #1 (Dec 2005)
- vs INJUSTICE LEAGUE: Justice League of America #15 (Jan 2008)
- vs MINOTAUR: DC Universe 0 (Jun 2008)
- vs MARY MARVEL: Final Crisis #3 (Sep 2008)
- vs CHEETAH: Wonder Woman #29 (Apr 2009)
- vs GENOCIDE: Wonder Woman #32 (Jul 2009)

As the world counts down to this week's theatrical release of Wonder Woman, a chorus of voices unites in anticipation of Gal Gadot's solo return to the big screen. Her smile lit up the drab night of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but will it be enough to reverse a trend of disappointing DC Comics movies? If I'm completely honest - I am not sure.

Finding definitive comic book reference for Wonder Woman isn't always the easiest task. Her most iconic villains vary from second-hand mythological figures like Ares, to the tough-sell spectacle of Giganta and Cheetah. For a film adaptation, this could be liberating license to invent an intuitive definitive vision for the character -- or a blank slate that directs a movie on a rudderless course.

The Wonder Woman film immediately takes the unconventional step of shirking the heroine's roots in World War II to extend her lifespan by centuries, repositioning the film's plot in the first World War. As a lover of retro, my heart belongs to the modern world of the 20s-40s, which already makes this movie a little less appealing.

Usually I have some idea of what I'm getting into before I see a film. There've been surprises, pleasant and less so, but superhero movies rarely surprise. So it's curious that Wonder Woman trailers and limited promotional material leave so little an impression.

Warner Brothers have made moves to tell the world Wonder Woman will be fun. The juggernaut of DC productions may roll on, but WB clearly recognize some amount of course correct will be necessary if the audience is to remain interested (hopefully). I'm not sure if I believe them, or not.

As noted last week, my enthusiasm for superhero movies is mostly reserved for Black Panther. As much as I would love to feel otherwise, it's very hard to believe that a compelling Wonder Woman movie exists behind these trailers. The hope is in what they don't show, but my threshold for gambling on joyless, mediocre superhero movies is rapidly eroding. I hope I'm wrong, but my expectations are very low at this point.

There's already a ring of enthusiasm pouring out for the movie, but so far impressions seem more enamored with the gender of the hero, than the quality of her journey. A lot of superhero movies elicit glowing reviews declaring each new release 'the best movie evarrr'. These seem unique only in their emphasis on genitalia. I'm down with woman, but I'd like some wonder too.

I hope this really is the triumph the DC Extended Universe needs. Nothing about Justice League seems likely to turn frowns upside down. Wonder Woman is certainly the best chance of achieving that. I'm not convinced it will, but I hope it does.

Edit: June was supposed to be the month of Wonder Woman comic book battles, but sadly, 2017 had a way of derailing the best of laid plans! Be sure to check out the featured fights listed at the top of this Hero of the Week entry, and keep an eye out for all-new Wonder Woman updates in the future!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Real Name: T'Challa
First Appearance: Fantastic Four #52 (July, 1966)
Fight Club Ranking: #127

Featured Fights:
- vs CAPTAIN AMERICA: Tales of Suspense #98 (Feb 1968)
- vs SUPER-SKRULL: Fantastic Four #6 (Apr 1997)
- vs DOCTOR DOOM: Black Panther #19 (Oct 2006)

Black Panther was an early addition to last year's Hero of the Week when Ryan Coogler was announced as director of the feature film. The hero debuted as a major player in that year's Captain America: Civil War, and twelve months on, we're closing in on the long awaited solo abventure! The first teaser trailer and movie poster were released late last week - and they look exciting!

Of all the superhero movies currently upcoming -- this is the one I'm most excited for!

That comes with the knowledge that the more Disney reveal their movies, the less interesting they usually appear. Doctor Strange was the last must-see destination that quickly lost its appeal as more of the Benedict Cumberbatch performance was exposed, and the details of the adaptation emerged.

Fortunately, anticipation hasn't been damaged by this first big trailer for Black Panther! If anything, my hopes for the film are buoyed by what looks like a movie with the potential to live up to the promise of a unique vision of a Marvel hero!

Aesthetics have been one of the most disappointing aspects of Marvel Entertainment. The trailer isn't presenting a perfect image, but so far I love what we've seen of the visual palette and designs! Wakanda is a wonderful blend of nature and engineering, presenting the city as its always been conceived in the comics: a world in touch with the past and the future!

Its warriors add welcome splashes of colour. I think I'm as excited to see Black Panther's guards as I am to see him! Boy, do we see Black Panther in the trailer!

Whether he's lurking in the shadows of Africa's jungles, or leaping across cars in the urban jungle -- this is a movie that's clearly going to give us a man of action! It's not quite the colour popped sci-fi of Tron, but I'm really enjoying the purple and blue hues of the city where the Panther appears to hunt!

I can't help but wish the Panther's suit had the gold highlights the comics added in the 2000s. I think that would've given the visual an attractive highlight in a lot of these images. That's ultimately a small complaint, though. A preference forgotten with so many other things going right.

In 2017, there will be a racial read of the character and film. So far this seems to be a movie that's embracing the established qualities of the comics, creating a world intuitive to itself. Nothing about the production seems contrived or insincere. I see Black Panther as a character who demands a screen presentation in the same way as any other Marvel hero, but if it also supplies heroic images relatable to a diverse audience -- that can't be a bad thing! Actors from around the world may play the parts, but we don't often see international heroes in big American superhero blockbusters. An African hero will hopefully feel refreshing to everyone in the audience.

Sadly, we still have a while to wait: Black Panther won't be in theatres until next year - February 16th, 2017. With any luck it will be completely worth the wait. I'll certainly be looking forward to the opportunity to dig deeper into some of my favourite Black Panther comics!

Monday, June 05, 2017

Real Name: Jason Todd
First Appearance: Batman #357 (March, 1983)
Fight Club Ranking: #40

Featured Fights:
- vs THE SOCIETY: Batman #647 (Jan 2006)
- vs BRICK: Green Arrow #70 (Mar 2007)
- vs GREEN ARROW: Green Arrow #71 (Apr 2007)
- vs SPEEDY: Green Arrow #72 (May 2007)
- vs ROBIN: Batman: Battle for the Cowl #2 (Jun 2009)
- vs NIGHTWING: Batman: Battle for the Cowl #3 (Jul 2009)

Last month the featured fights were all about the heroes and villains of Injustice 2, but if you thought the DC fighting game sequel was done and dusted now that it's on sale -- you were wrong!

Warner Brothers and NetherRealm Studios have made a fine-art of selling extra content after the initial release of the game. They aren't wasting any time in revealing the next big character coming via download! As MK Online reports, it's one of the fans' most requested characters: Red Hood!

As is monotonously the case; I feel a slight pang of resistance to our first Hero of the Week of June. The cloud of commerce, and an absence of nuance, makes the arrival of Jason Todd a somewhat bittersweet scenario. It's nice to see a character fairly faithfully recreated from the page, but it's the unremarkable off-the-rack aesthetic of jacket and helmet that makes that a low bar to reach.

If you were here in the mid-2000s, you'll know I wasn't particularly opposed to the return of Jason Todd. The basic premise of resurrecting the dead Robin comes with inevitable friction, but the work of creators like Judd Winick and Doug Mahnke made it a pitch with meat on the bone.

The aesthetically pleasing, urban chess board that appeared in Batman comics at that time didn't need a Red Hood to work -- but both character, and scenario, were ultimately enhanced by one another. The dynamic of characters moving through Gotham City to serve distinct motivations was a very enjoyable experience.

I'm not sure Injustice 2 will receive the same enhancement. Last week I talked about the desire to at least see aesthetic and functional distinctions in fighting game superheroes. Red Hood's gun-toting street fighting doesn't exactly offer a whole lot in either department.

In a game that already comes with the likes of Batman, Robin, Catwoman, Black Canary, and Deadshot -- Red Hood isn't exactly bringing a whole lot to the table. Pre-fight character interactions may offer a few nods to character dynamics, but there's no story involvement for DLC fighters, which means any benefit Red Hood might bring is in the eye of the beholder. Which doesn't necessarily mean Red Hood won't find a market.

The last decade or more of gaming has refocused pretty heavily around shooting guns and moving through urban environments. It's no real wonder Red Hood is a popular character amongst the gaming demographics. As time has worn on, the novelty and meaning of his return has faded. In its place has been an adolescent power fantasy with simple cosplay appeal. Guns, a jacket, and a 'tude that pushes against the establishment. Taxi Driver with a silly helmet might be going a bit far, but the character doesn't always come with overly interesting goals or inspiration. He's bratty teen rebellion in an age where that's the beginning and end of a philosophy that will linger much longer in life. The fight against grown ups.

In another time, a character like Red Hood might've stood for the opposite of burning disposable income on the latest tack-on to a finite purchase. He would've been a figure of counter-culture -- but comics and their multimedia tie-ins have left that spirit behind.

There's always something a little bit ugly about the voracious consumption of a demographic spending more than double the value of an all-content-in-one-box "Komplete Edition" just to gobble up the latest shiny bauble, but I wouldn't want to judge too harshly - it's not all bad. In fact, that audience even performs the service of funding more material, which sometimes opens things up to even more interesting extensions. It's just hard to ignore the gluttony of it all.

I'd love to see the Injustice 2 Gear system offer the short-lived Red Hood design that haunted Batman and Robin during Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's memorable 2009-2010 run.

The over-the-top absurdity of the design, and its perversion as a market-minded anti-Batman was a whole lot of fun to groove to!

You'd probably have a tough time conveying the concept through the game, but the thought of such an aggressively comic book aesthetic confronting the overly-seemed, grim 'n' gritty, armor-plated gamer is its own pleasure. These games should dare to be that amazing!