Friday, March 30, 2018

Superman vs The New Gods! The Champion! (DC)
Action Comics #586 When: March 1987
Why: John Byrne & Dick Giordano How: John Byrne

The Story So Far...
The will of the evil god Darkseid is far reaching! On Earth, his plans to undermine the public's trust lead to a federal outlawing of unsanctioned heroes and vigilantes. Which means Superman is stuck in the unassuming guise of Clark Kent when Omega Beams suddenly pursue him through the streets of Metropolis!

Despite his best efforts to evade them; the Omega Beams find their target - transporting the Daily Planet Reporter to the throne room of Darkseid! With The Phantom Stranger in witness, Darkseid feigns ignorance to the mortal's true identity - casting him into the wild of his dominion!

Stripped of his memory by the Fire Pits of Apokolips, Superman is manipulated to lead a revolt on behalf of the Lowlies who pulled him from the inferno. As quickly as he championed these Hunger Gods, the confused Man of Steel betrays them -- tricked to believe he is the son of Darkseid!

While Granny Goodness attempts to restore Superman's dulled powers with an intense and cruel training regiment -- the true son of Darkseid rushes to his aid! Orion and Lightray prepare for a fight, but it may be the man they're coming to rescue who works hardest to destroy them!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Draw 6 (Enhanced)
Intelligence: Draw 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Superman 6 (Mach Speeds)
Stamina: Draw 6 (Generator)
Agility: Superman 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting: Orion 6 (Warrior)
Energy: Draw 5 (Lasers)
Total: Draw 33 (Super)

Savior is the son of Darkseid. Thrown to the mercy of the Fire Pits of Apokolips; he was recovered by lowly Hunger Dogs and taken to the bosom of the people of Armagetto.

Suffering memory loss: The Savior was inspired to purpose by Amazing Grace, leading a charge to the gates of Darkseid's Tower. It was an act that brought him to knowledge of his true nature as the son of Darkseid, and a player in his game to inspire hope and courage -- only to crush it!

Or so the so-called "Savior" was led to believe...

In truth Savior is Superman: Last son of Krypton, Man of Steel, and defender of truth, justice, & the honorable way! He was deposited on Apokolips by Darkseid's Omega Beams, and manipulated as part of a grander scheme against the heroes of Earth! Fortunately for Superman - heroic New Gods race to aid him in his plight:

Orion is the true second son of Darkseid, but he was raised by Highfather of New Genesis. It was an attempted peace through the exchange of offspring.

Though his spirit is stirred by the call to war, Orion learned to control his natural-born rages so that they may be channeled toward great acts of altruism and good! Orion has used his strength as an ally to the Justice League, and is prophesized to one day end his father's dark reign. A destruction we saw him temporarily deliver when they battled in Countdown #2!

Orion is joined by Lightray, whose uncanny solar light has long shined favourably upon his good friend Orion! A powerful ally, who he'll need, given Superman is still operating under the influence of his false past as Savior!

Amnesia has robbed Superman of full control over his powers, but he remains double-tough and more determined than ever before! We've seen what that means in battles with Captain Marvel [Action Comics Annual #4], Jimmy Olsen [All-Star Superman #4], Green Arrow [Superman/Batman #14], and Wonder Woman & The Freedom Fighters [Superman/Batman #15]!

We've also seen Superman take on Darkseid himself, with the aid of Batman, back in Superman/Batman #42. The Man of Steel made Darkseid bleed on that day -- not quite the wrenching of his heart from his chest that Orion achieved, but a feat no less impressive!

The fact that Superman's full abilities are relying on a deception of faith hatched by Darkseid means Orion could have the edge. Lightray gives him extra eyes on the fight, but it's up for grabs how much influence his solar light will have.

The Tape can't separate them, but circumstances favour Orion. It's another epic DC Comics dream match! Let's see how it went down...

The Tape: Draw Ranking: Superman (#5)

What Went Down...
Faster than a speeding bullet - a figure hurtles past Orion and Lightray! Backlit by the fires of Apokolips, the mystery attacker arcs back towards them in silhouette. The second son of Darkseid soon confirms the man-shaped missile is no mere Parademon -- receiving his trajectory like a torpedo to the gut!

Lightray flies behind, recognizing the face of Superman! Orion does his best to contend with the Kryptonian's fists, urgently requesting a light-powered distraction from his flying wingman.

Streams of light dance around a stunned Superman as Lightray does his best to daze and confuse the already bewitched Man of Steel! Orion takes advantage, putting distance between he and his powerful attacker!

With Superman now identified; Orion knows strategy will be vital to defeating their unlikely foe. A feat he hopes to achieve without killing him! It therefore requires the most delicate precision when he reaches for his harness to summon forth but a fraction of the world-shattering astro-force!

Concussive bursts of energy surround the aerial Superman - pummeling him from all sides! Though disoriented, he calls upon his recent training with Granny Goodness to take evasive action. Swooping to the city below - he wrenches a monumental column and hurls it at Orion!

The massive structure piledrives Orion into the surrounding super-structure!

Stirred by Superman's claims to be the son of Darkseid, Orion calls the right to single combat. Lightray stands his ground as Orion emerges from the crater his body has made, bracing for the coming of his powerful opponent!

The two lock-up at closer quarters as Superman spews the unforgiving views put forth by Darkseid! He compares Orion to a hero and a fool. The true son of Darkseid contemplates the irony of his father's deception and finds hope.

Superman connects with a straight right to Orion's jaw, but the warrior retaliates with an all mighty slam of his back hand!

The devastating blow affords Orion the time needed to confront The Savior with his own word. The son of Darkseid removes his helmet, revealing the hardened visage of the dark lord's true offspring. He uses a Mother Box to sooth the tortured heart and mind of Superman, stripping all evidence of the sinister teachings of Granny Goodness and dark designs of Darkseid!

The Hammer...
It's a difficult decision for the court of combat! A moments distraction to follow Lightray left the vital moments of conflict tinged with obscurity!

Ultimately, all evidence suggests it was the brute strength of Orion that allowed for tactical victory. Superman was physically halted, allowing his mind to be cleansed. It could also be read that Orion enacted some horrific physical (or psychological) torture during those unseen moments: "Time you learned what it truly means to be a son of Darkseid!!"

The timing of the two-page tangent to Lightray (and Amazing Grace) is a tad awkward in terms of pacing. I'm inclined to wonder if writer-artist John Byrne was making some effort to shield Superman from a punishing visual defeat.

This period of Action Comics is still re-establishing Superman post-Crisis. It may not have been seen as a great time for Orion to be delivering butt whoopings to the mascot hero. Particularly as he has to return to Earth to help thwart Darkseid's plans in the pages of Legends, which this tangentially ties in with.

I kinda like the notion that it was a matter of taste. A dose of tough-love from a man who knows the existential torture of what it means to be the son of Darkseid. It's a devious meaning, but that's what makes the New Gods fun!

Given the minor controversy over last week's result from Captain Marvel versus Superman, I suspect there could be a few dissenting opinions! You can always offer opinions and feedback by posting to the comments section below!

I'm finding these trips back to past Superman adventures the perfect antidote to the wayward revisions overwhelming recent publication. This issue was a particularly enticing cross-section of looming subjects.

I'm hopeful upcoming Action Comics #1000 will be able to restore a sense of thrill and classic enjoyment to a character who's very core has been under attack from many mediums.

The novelty of a Superman twisted to misdeed and failure is fun & games within the context of a couple of issues -- but what's missing from contemporary Superman is the big blue boy scout (with red trunks)! I won't be disappointed to see Brian Bendis inject Byrne influence into the contemporary product. A mix of modern sensibility and the definitive Superman.

It's interesting to note the way Byrne tackled the lingering threads of the Fourth World Saga. The destruction of New Genesis in Kirby's 1985 DC Graphic Novel send-off weighs heavily on the characters. The New Gods became an integral part of the post-Crisis DCU. Byrne treats the characters with reverence, even though Kirby's Hunger Dogs graphic novel could've brought them to an end.

The road for the post-Kirby, post-Crisis New Gods was pretty bumpy. There have been highs, but also some considerable lows. It would've been a shame if they hadn't become the icons they are today -- awaiting a recently announced Hollywood film by Ava DuVerny -- but I think about the unwanted merging of realities and properties today, and think twice.

There are differences. Alan Moore didn't create Wacthmen or America's Best Comics as part of the DC Comics tapestry. Their inclusion is more obtuse. The extension is similar and popularly demanded in some circles, though. Which is pause for thought. Work like Byrne's on Superman may serve as template, but it was built as foundation that still feels as valid as ever. Made to see what could be kept -- not what could be thrown away.

If you'd like to witness this classic battle for yourself, be sure to check it out in collected editions! By using the Amazon links provided, you'll get a good deal and help support this site at no extra cost!

You can also show your love for the Secret Wars on Infinite Earths by sharing your favourite battle links around the web! Subscribe to Twitter and Facebook to get daily links to fights inspired by the topics of the day. A like, share or retweet is a nice way to help spread the word! Find more by diving into the Secret Archive for battles index by publisher, series, and issue number!

Winner: Orion
#87 (+89) Orion
#529 (new) Lightray [+1 assist]
#5 (--) Superman

Monday, March 26, 2018

Real Name: Johnny Blaze
First Appearance: Marvel Spotlight #5 (August, 1972)
Fight Club Ranking: #102

Featured Fights:
- vs TRAPSTER: Marvel Team-Up #58 (Jun 1977)
- vs AVENGERS: Avengers #214 (Dec 1981)
- vs GHOST RIDER: Ghost Rider #29 (Jan 2009)

Last week we talked about the return of Hawkman, so it's with extra gusto that today's Hero of the Week puts out a plea to modern comic book writers and editors: Please! Stop the killing!

The wheel of death falls on Ghost Rider this week, who admittedly always looks a little like death warmed over, but took a fresh plunge to his demise in Doctor Strange: Damnation #3. CBR featured the "shocking" moment, where Mephisto lifted the curse that grants Johnny Blaze his infernal durability, only to push his frail mortal body from the top of a high-rise.

Even though Marvel does presently have another Ghost Rider on the books -- I don't really believe this is the end for Johnny Blaze. Which is arguably a problem unto itself. Marvel (and DC) kill their characters so routinely: death has lost all meaning. These characters are becoming meat for the grinder, and the whole place is starting to stink of decay. These stories have lost their flavor. Even the short-term thinking that a major death can spike sales is losing its power. Time to stop!

I've ignored a couple of major deaths over the last year or so of Hero of the Week entries. I'll probably be ignoring a few more. HOTW is here to be a little topical, but there's no joy in talking about superhero deaths. It's gotten tired, and there are bound to be better things to talk about -- even if it means digging deeper into the past, and forsaking the meager mistakes of the present.

Doctor Strange: Damnation might be an interesting series, but at best it's a victim of the times - because I never want to read another book -- or solicitation -- about a superhero dying. Enough. Stop screwing around. Stop selling your own death. Just tell me a fun story with an iconic character. Yeesh!

Friday, March 23, 2018

Living Daylights (DC)
Action Comics Annual #4 When: 1992
Why: Dan Vado How: Chris Wozniak

The Story So Far...
The darkness of rage and vengeance is threatening to eclipse a world besieged by Eclipso! The ancient demon of vengeance has been returned upon the mortal world, exploiting the darkness within the mortal soul to possess an ever growing army of eclipsed souls!

With the situation growing more desperate as Earth's greatest defenders fall under Eclipso's control, what's left of the Justice League of America must work with Professor Emil Hamilton and Lex Luthor to devise a means of combatting Eclipso's plague-like influence!

Desperate to buy the heroes the time they need to enact a technological trap - Superman volunteers himself in exchange for the souls Eclipso has hoarded in a small fishing village. As he becomes a vessel for Eclipso himself, even Superman is unaware of the League's ace in the hole: The Power of Shazam!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Draw 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Captain Marvel 5 (Professor)
Speed: Superman 6 (Mach Speeds)
Stamina: Superman 7 (Unstoppable)
Agility: Draw 2 (Average)
Fighting: Draw 3 (Street Wise)
Energy: Superman 5 (Lasers)
Total: Superman 33 (Super)

They really ought to be the best of friends, but when one serves with the Justice League - the other often isn't required. They're two of the toughest heroes in the cabinet, possessing peak power capable of knocking planets off their axis!

The key differences that separate their basic similarity helps make this one of the most compelling super-heavyweight showdowns in comics history! It also doesn't hurt that they battled it out newsstands during the Golden Age, and went head-to-head in the courtrooms in the fifties!

Captain Marvel is Earth's mightiest mortal, endowed with a plethora of powers supplied by a pantheon of inspirations! By speaking the wizard Shazam's name, good young soul Billy Batson summons an acronym of abilities to his place:

Captain Marvel possess: the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles, and the speed of Mercury! Together these sources spell the magic word: SHAZAM!

Superman was sent to Earth as an infant, escaping the destruction of his home world Krypton aboard a lonely rocket ship. Crash landing in Kansas, baby Kal-el was adopted by Jonathan and Martha Kent. He learned to use the abilities gifted by Earth's yellow sun for the betterment of mankind. He possesses super-human strength, stamina & endurance, speed, flight, and heat vision!

Despite his amazing abilities; Superman can be stripped of his awesome powers by exposure to the mineral of Kryptonite. These irradiated remnants of his destroyed home planet, or close simulations, come with a variety of side effects. It remains Superman's best known and deadliest weakness!

Does he have an inherent weakness to magic? Around these parts we say - no.

Superman's abilities naturally leverage advantages over the material world. Phenomena deemed "magic" exists to subvert established understandings of material reality, and causality. Superman has no natural defense against this type of magic -- but he also isn't uniquely vulnerable to it.

Captain Marvel's strength and might may be supplied by magic, but it should be debated it has no unique effect on Superman. His isn't spellbound strength to be greater than others. It's merely an infusion unto Captain Marvel. That said...

In Kingdom Come #4, we saw how Shazam's magic lightning bolt could be weaponized in combat. Instead of receiving its transformative effects, Captain Marvel can narrowly avoid it at high-speed - directing it against an opponent. It was enough to give him an advantage over Superman, at least until he used super-speed to turn the tables, and silence Billy Batson.

In today's featured fight, Superman will be possessed by the wicked entity known as Eclipso. An Eclipsed Superman will fight Captain Marvel again a decade later, in Superman #216. The lightning ambush had a role to play in that struggle, but it was the intervention of The Spectre that secured victory.

Likewise, Captain Marvel relied on a tag team partnership with Hawkman to deal with his stalemate against Superman in Superman/Batman #4! Our records show this as a victory to Captain Marvel, but it's an asterisk where determining the winner of this classic rivalry is concerned!

Personally, I just have such a soft spot for Captain Marvel, I always go into the rivalry viewing him as a slight underdog determined to win. Will that be the case today? Eclipso's malice will add a significant twist to Superman's attacks, but it also means a less experienced hand, and a new spectrum for vulnerability.

Captain Marvel comes into the fight with the element of surprise. Let's find out if that's enough to secure a victory over his compromised legendary rival!

History: Captain Marvel (1-0-2)
The Tape: Superman Ranking: Superman (#5)

What Went Down...

Steered by the malice of Eclipso; The Man of Steel looms menacingly over Fire, preparing to finish her with intense beams of Kryptonian heat vision!

Suddenly -- an unseen force strikes like lightning! With the swiftness of Mercury; Captain Marvel collects the unsuspecting Eclipso Superman - rocketing him through a surrounding wood to a slamming halt in the dirt!

Apparently unaware of Eclipso's possession, Captain Marvel wonders what's gotten in to his usually heroic contemporary. The compromised Man of Steel replies by leaping from the dirt to uproot a mighty wood -- turning it into a giant bat with a single swing at the mighty Marvel!

Eclipso Superman immediately closes the space between them - following with a devastating left cross to the Captain's chin! The big red cheese absorbs the blow, firing back with his own punch that sends Superman hurtling away!

The villainous entity is thrilled by the prospect of facing an opponent worthy of Superman's strength, but Captain Marvel is reluctant to cause him harm.

Earth's mightiest mortal makes peace with his predicament, flying at Superman like a big red battering ram! The awesome blow launches Superman careening across the small town conquered by Eclipso - sending him into nearby water.

Remorse overwhelms Captain Marvel as he skims the water, failing to find an emerging Superman. The villain's gambit pays off. He explodes from the liquid veil directly below - catching Marvel unprepared with a flying uppercut!

This time it's Captain Marvel's turn to get wet! He lands in another section of water, but Eclipso Superman is immediately upon him! A bicep of steal wraps around Marvel's throat, tightening to choke the air from his body!

Cap desperately pushes the fight to the surface - breaking for air. Now hovering above the water, he breaks Superman's chokehold and delivers a point blank blow direct to the face!

The mighty Marvel catches up with Superman back on land. The docks provide Eclipso's grounded vessel with plenty of weapons. He hoists a massive part of the pier above his head and hurls it at the apologetic big red cheese!

In an effort to dispel the misunderstanding that he's still Superman - Eclipso quickly catches Captain Marvel by the throat and slams his hammering fist onto the top of the mighty mortal's skull!

The vicious assault convinces Marvel of his mistaken. He swats Eclipso Superman's hand from his throat and sends him involuntarily airborne with another all mighty punch to the jaw! This time Supes' trajectory takes him into a nearby silo that immediately explodes!

Just when Marvel thinks he's finally slowed his rival down - a flaming fist tugs at his collar and sends him flying with an epic, full swing haymaker!

The power of Zeus ensures the landing doesn't destroy Captain Marvel - but it's hard luck for the tanker his body cut through!

Doused in leaking gasoline - he can do nothing but dread the burst of igniting heat vision that causes the tanker to explode!

Marvel lets out a roar as his body is engulfed in flames! Fortunately, he soon recovers - standing across the burning battlefield to face-off with Eclipso again!

The two super heavyweights collide! Eclipso wants the mighty mortal's death - but there's no quit in the big red cheese! He swings the back of his right fist across Superman's face! Eclipso signs his work - firing back with his own fist!

The vicious counter-strike sends Captain Marvel hurtling into a construction site across town! The impact destroys a large crane, but still he refuses to stop. He hoists the massive machine above his head and greets Eclipso Superman by hurling it at him!

Eclipso attempts to reduce the machine to slag with a blast of heat vision, but it doesn't stop the mangled metal's trajectory toward him!

They head for the sky, but Captain Marvel follows the shrapnel with a devastating right hand that forces Superman earthbound! His impact causes the balanced house of girders to come crashing down upon him, as well!

Again, Captain Marvel makes the mistake of believing the fight is finally over. Again, the Eclipsed Superman rises from the rubble. He does so to a glimmering of hope from high atop an overlooking mountain!

The light signals the activation of a solar trap devised to wash away the taint of Eclipso with a cleansing light! The untested device was designed by the brilliant Professor Emil Hamilton and Lex Luthor - but its demand for power is too great!

Marvel locks Superman in a full nelson and points him towards the flickering light. Eclipso cannot escape the hold, but he may not have to. The solar trap returns the darkness of night, much to Captain Marvel's dismay!

Buoyed by the near-miss, Eclipso frees himself with a mighty flexing of Superman's muscles - and a thrust of his elbow! He topples Earth's mightiest mortal anew, looming over him with designs for a killing blow!

Another flicker of the solar trap curbs Eclipso's murderous intent. Unwilling to risk losing control of Superman's power, he opts instead to fight another day, leaving a bruised and battered Captain Marvel to contemplate his fortunes.

The Hammer...
All in all it was a fairly straight forward slugfest, but boy! There was plenty to recap! It probably deserves its place as one of the less celebrated fights between Superman and Captain Marvel, but it has its sneaky moments...

The over-sized Action Comics Annual #4 can roughly be divided into two main fights. The other half is a battle between Superman and a ragtag JLA trio who will help him combat Doomsday later the same year [see; Superman #74].

The issue generally suffers from inconsistent artwork throughout, but the moments involving Captain Marvel produce some of the best looking pages of the issue. That panel late in the fight [above], when the two are flying straight at each other, has a particularly well rendered Captain Marvel!

Chris Wozniak is penciller, but there's a small army of inkers contributing: Karl Altstaetter, Trevor Scott, Karl Kesel, and Steve Mitchell are all credited.

If you've ever wondered how much an inker can affect an artists work, this is a pretty good study. There's considerable variance from page to page. Even the character models vary a surprising amount.

I can't confidently identify which inker contributed to which pages, and I'm not sure I'd want to judge too harshly. I imagine the Eclipso: Darkness Within event -- featured in various DC Annuals in '92 -- threw a lot of extra work into the mix. Deadlines probably had an influence on a lot of what we see.

As a matter of quality and personal taste: I obviously prefer the smooth, simply rendered panels containing Captain Marvel. It seems like those images show a genuine affection for the classic version of the character, who'd been slightly betrayed by his post-Crisis integration into the DC Universe through Shazam: The New Beginning, Legends, and Justice League.

This appearance may be one of the earliest indications of walking the character back from contemporary trappings, for a more deliberate, classically tinged, slightly anachronistic vision. Jerry Ordway launched a strong new vision in graphic novel format in '94, launching into the Power of Shazam series in '95.

The dueling styles in Action Comics Annual #4 remind me of the growing pains DC Comics seemed to go through in the early nineties.

The considered cool of DC's post-Crisis relaunch seemed to prolapse into pretty slapdash reactions to the rise of Image, nasty revamps, and of course self-flagellating stunts informed by Death of Superman. They navigated their way to a pretty strong 2000s, but the identity crisis that gave way to some real trash feels all too familiar in the 2010s.

Eclipso: The Darkness Within clearly left an impression on someone - and not just my friend who was quite enamored with Eclipso's wanton destruction of second-tier characters, and gimmick "real gem" cover.

Revamping the villain as a high-concept precursor of The Spectre made for some memorable return appearances, including the better remembered Eclipso Superman rematch of 2005 [see; Superman #216]. Geoff Johns mined some lower stakes fun from the possession angle in the pages of JSA, as well.

I've found myself with a curious taste for Eclipso, so we may just find our way back to the villain sometime in the near future. For now, we record another draw in the classic rivalry between Superman and Captain Marvel!

[Note: Eclipso Superman may've been trending toward the upper-hand, but he left the fight to avoid defeat. Captain Marvel may be worse for wear, but he's still trucking. The record will show that this result is an inconclusive draw.]

If you'd like to find more from any of these characters, be sure to follow links throughout this post, or in the labels listed below. You can also dive into the Secret Archive for featured fights index by publisher, series, and issue number.

You can also follow Secret Wars on Infinite Earths on Twitter and Facebook to get daily links to fights inspired by the topics of the day! A like, share or retweet is a nice way to support the site and bring the fight to your friends! Shazam!

Winner: Inconclusive (Draw)
#5 (--) Superman
#112 (--) Captain Marvel
#534 (+40) Eclipso

Monday, March 19, 2018

Real Name: Carter Hall
First Appearance: Flash Comics #1 (January, 1940)
Fight Club Ranking: #31

Featured Fights:
- vs SINESTRO: Secret Society of Super-Villains #5 (Jan-Feb 1977)
- vs DOCTOR FATE: All-Star Squadron #4 (Dec 1981)
- vs SUPERMAN: Justice League of America #200 (Mar 1982)
- vs SUPERMAN & BATMAN: Superman/Batman #4 (Jan 2004)
- vs MATTER MASTER: Hawkman #23 (Mar 2004)
- vs DEATHSTROKE: Identity Crisis #3 (Oct 2004)
- vs ST. ROCH: Hawkman #31 (Oct 2004)
- vs MORGAUTH: JSA Strange Adventures #1 (Oct 2004)
- vs SOLOMON GRUNDY: Hawkman #33 (Dec 2004)
- vs ELONGATED MAN & SUE DIBNY: Blackest Night #1 (Sep 2009)

Late last year we learned Hawkman was "found" -- now he's coming back from the madness of Dark Nights: Metal to re-launch back into his own on-going series! The Washington Post reports the first issue will be released in June, with creative team Rob Venditti and Bryan Hitch saying all the right things about the long awaited spotlight!

It's the return of one of DC Comics' most underrated bad asses, and Venditti seems reassuringly aware of it: "Hawkman is a foundational character in the DCU. Over time I think he’s lost some of that central importance to the DC universe, and we really want to bring that back and make him a marquee character".

The return won't be without its perils. The creators also give a lot of services to exploring past lives and new facets of mythology -- pitfalls that have damaged the character in the past, and always threaten to overwhelm a more simple, innate cool that lies within the winged warrior.

Before he became the apparent manifestation of the Anti-Monitor in real life: Geoff Johns was able to mine past existences successfully with the 2000s relaunch of Hawkman. Since then, the quirk of Hawkman's reincarnation cycle has been exceedingly exploited, presuming the character can be killed and almost instantly remade without any consequence, or passage of time.

The wounds of recent deaths should still be fresh in the minds of readers. It will be disappointing if Venditti's new excavations double-down on over-emphasizing the importance of dying to the Hawkman character. The elevator pitch reference Indiana Jones always seems to make sense, but here's hoping Hawkman can also "LIVE IN THE NOW" to fulfill his significance to the DCU.

To some extent, like a lot of iconic characters at DC and Marvel, all I really wanna see is some cool villains, fresh adventures, and a return to an iconic core. Here's hoping whatever we get, it's a strong, table return for a character who's been jerked around way too much in the modern era!

Friday, March 16, 2018

The Secret Origin of Jessica Jones 2 of 2 (Marvel)
Alias #23 When: August 2003
Why: Brian Michael Bendis How: Michael Gaydos

The Story So Far...
Jessica Campbell was an ordinary kid until her life was turned upside down by a car accident on the way home from a family trip to Disney World.

The collision with a military convoy carrying hazardous chemicals killed her family, and left Jessica in a coma for six months. She awakens to a world in chaos as Galactus and his herald touch down in Manhattan.

If that wasn't bad enough: Jessica is soon adopted, and returned to a life of high school bullying and flashbacks to her family's death. The only upside is that she can now fly and break trees with a firm shove! With great power comes great possibility and fate is about to deliver Jessica to her first heroic moment!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Draw 5 (Super-Human)
Intelligence: Jessica Jones 3 (Straight A)
Speed: Draw 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Draw 5 (Marathoner)
Agility: Scorpion 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting: Scorpion 3 (Street Wise)
Energy: Scorpion 3 (Explosives)
Total: Scorpion 24 (Champion)

Every superhero origin story has its confrontation with a first foe. Some stories start with a nemesis that will stay with the hero for their entire career. In the case of Jessica Jones, the story is a bit more simple than that.

A family car accident involving certain hazardous materials left Jessica Jones in a coma, and unwittingly endowed with extraordinary powers. Living in an age of Marvels in New York City, she naturally considered using her newfound super-human strength, endurance, and ability to fly to fight crime.

Fate had already crossed Jessica's path with various super-human phenomena. Like many young girls, she admired teen heart throb Human Torch, unknowingly went to high school with Spider-man, nearly shared a chemical bath with Daredevil, woke from her coma when Galactus was in town, and was even rescued from drowning by a passing Thor! Which brings us to her first fight!

Scorpion was once private investigator Mac Gargan, but when he was hired to learn more about Peter Parker's connection to Spider-man - his life changed forever! In the pursuit of results, Daily Bugle Editor J. Jonah Jameson paid to submit Gargan to an experiment to grant him super-human powers.

Gargan possesses super-human strength, durability, reflexes, speed, and agility. He's also capable of clinging to walls, and wears an advanced powersuit with a trademark tail. Operating as an extra appendage with impressive whipping strength, the tail has also been upgraded to offer a variety of extras: spikes, poisons, electrical charge, acid spray, laser projectiles and more.

His most frequent sparring partner has been Spider-man, but over the years Scorpion has been a formidable foe to the likes of: Ms. Marvel, Captain America, The Avengers, Alpha Flight, and even the Rhino!

We've only seen the classic Scorpion in moments of defeat. Spider-man put an end to his mad vow for revenge in Spectacular Spider-man #215. He was also out maneuvered by Batman during a crossover in DC/Marvel: All Access #3!

Jessica Jones undoubtedly has the strength and endurance to take on Scorpion, but this early in her career, it's fair to question her preparedness for the wild strikes the villain is capable of. A lapse of concentration during a dark period left her exposed to The Owl during a flashback in The Pulse #13.

Scorpion's mental state isn't exactly balanced, and although he's more powerful than Spider-man, he's been known to be outwitted. Jessica's inexperience gives Scorpion an edge in combat, but also means she hasn't learnt fear. The Tape tells a tale that favours Scorpion. Let's see if it's right...

The Tape: Scorpion Ranking: Jessica Jones (#94)

What Went Down...

In the park: Jessica Jones tests her newfound powers with relative success. She can hoist a bike above her head no trouble, and snapping an oak requires little more than a small run-up. Flying is a little trickier, but once she takes off it isn't long before she has a bird's eye view of the world!

In town, the costumed villain known as Scorpion is on a desperate dash for cash and a bee-line out of the city! He uses his suit's tail to shatter the window of a local laundromat and issue his demands.

It isn't exactly Fort Knox in terms of security -- or riches. His targets don't have much more than loose change and dirty clothes. The deranged Scorpion isn't about to change his plans any time soon, though.

He re-issues his demands, threatening the perturbed trio of laundromat patrons with a wiggle of his tail. He clearly didn't notice the girl flying above him.

It wasn't the most elegant take down, but a girl with super-human strength dropping out of the sky doesn't exactly need style points. The impact does it's job - knocking Scorpion out cold before he even knew what him!

Jessica sits on top of the unconscious villain - slightly stunned. Passersby ask if she's the latest superhero in town. After a moment's pause, she decides that's exactly what she is. They discuss her lack of costume, confident in the safety of Jessica's first heroic triumph!

The Hammer...
Every hero has their first fight, but they don't always claim victory on debut. It may've been unorthodox, but Jessica Jones notches up a big win in her first outing! Not bad for a rookie!

Scorpion probably isn't the most obvious foe for a teen Jessica Jones, but I always appreciate it when writers pick up on a small detail that inspires otherwise unusual pairings.

Jessica Jones' superhero career doesn't exactly go well. Eventually she quits the costume biz and gets into more down-to-earth work with Alias Investigations. That little meta connection to Mac Gargan's origins as a P.I. is a lot of fun, and elevates an otherwise arbitrary pairing to something more interesting.

It surprises me slightly that the two characters didn't have more to do with each other. I can't think of any stories that revisited the pairing, and I wonder if that's still fertile territory left untouched.

As a mature readers MAX series: Alias ultimately had higher-minded ideas, tackling a darker side of the Marvel Universe, most notably with the invasive exploitation by Purple Man -- the series' most challenging and iconic plot.

Jessica Jones did eventually make it into wider circulation via The Pulse, though: A short-lived series that turned private investigator Jones into a "vigilante analyst" for The Daily Bugle.

Mac Gargan has a long held homicidal hatred for Bugle Editor in Chief, J Jonah Jameson. A great many of his appearances have largely revolved around violent attacks on the publisher! Which would've made it very easy to bring Scorpion into Jessica's life again for a positive ID on the unmasked girl who sat on him. Thus igniting a beautiful new arch-rivalry!

I might've even enjoyed a brief return to Gargan's skills as an investigator.

Most stories tend to double-down on the madness Gargan incurred after being forced to live inside his Scorpion suit. That hatred of J Jonah Jameson, of course, is owed to his role in taking the humble investigator, and making him a half-crazed super-villain who needed a bright green suit to live.

At the time of The Pulse: Gargan was bonded to the Venom Symbiote - meaning he could've easily operated more discreetly than the days of relying on his bulky green power-suit. Perhaps a moment of lucidity leads Gargan to try attacking [The Bugle] where it hurts, by lending his investigative services to a publishing rival? It's hindsight, but it might've been a fun avenue to see explored.

Jessica Jones' future feels a little uncertain with creator Brian Bendis leaving for DC Comics. If new writers take her forward in the Marvel Universe, I wonder if some of these ideas might get a run. The character is still recent enough that her history might inspire further exploration. Scorpion is tipped to be a big deal again, too, if Sony follow through with that Silver Sable/Black Cat movie.

As you can probably tell, I don't love Scorpion as the comedy punching bag, but Alias was hardly the first time he fell flat on his face. These days he's back in the Scorpion suit and mixing it up with Spidey and Black Cat. Heck, even Shocker survived the serial mocking Bendis treatment to make it big again.

I could go on for many more hours about B tier villains, but it's probably time we wrap this up. There are many more fights to get to!

If you'd like to examine today's featured fight in its entirety, you can do just that by picking up a collected edition via the Amazon link provided [embedded right]! Doing so helps support the site at no extra charge to you!

Note: Alias is a Marvel MAX mature readers series. It contains adult language and sensitive subjects. Please ensure you are making responsible, age-appropriate decisions before making the purchase.

Need more superhero smackdown in your life? Follow links throughout this post to discover new and exciting battles. Or just dive into the Secret Index to access hundreds of fights organized by publisher, series, and issue number! Subscribe to Twitter and Facebook for daily links to fights inspired by the topic of the day! A like, share, or retweet is another great way to show your support!

Winner: Jessica Jones
#56 (+38) Jessica Jones
#373 (-7) Scorpion (Mac Gargan)

Monday, March 12, 2018

Real Name: Erik Killmonger (aka; N'Jadaka)
First Appearance: Jungle Action #6 (September, 1973)
Fight Club Ranking: #DNR

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

I was hoping to slot some Killmonger into our feature fight celebrations of Black Panther's theatrical domination, but it looks like the movie's main bad guy is gonna have to settle for being our Hero of the Week. Hey! You could do a whole lot worse! Klaw kinda did. Beware: spoilers lie ahead!

As he did in comics: Killmonger succeeds in overthrowing and replacing T'Challa as both Black Panther and ruler of Wakanda. He gains his admission into the closed city by dragging the corpse of murdering scumbag Ulysses Klaw to its border.

It's an act that serves the dual purpose of endearing Killmonger to angered Wakandans -- while also upstaging T'Challa, who failed to secure the wanted smuggler. Unfortunately, it also seems to deprive Klaw of his transformation from a villain who wields a sonic weapon -- to a living sonic being!

Andy Serkis plays the human Klaw (or Klaue in the movie) to his detestable best, but given the actors credentials as a motion capture performer, it was easy to presume the iconic Klaw would eventually make his way to the big screen. It's kind of a bummer that his death seems so definitive, but I like to think we'll still get to see Black Panther kicking Klaw's red reverberating ass in the future...

If you've seen trailers, you know the two Panthers will face-off in a visually spectacular final showdown. Killmonger loses the fight and seemingly chooses death from his injuries. I say seemingly, because the Killmonger of the comics has found many means to cheat death.

Undoing death in comic books and movies is a fasttrack to flimsy fiction and a disappointing lack of stakes, but with Killmonger, it's become a defining trait of the character. He's been resurrected by The Mandarin and a cult of followers -- the latter seeming the more likely route for Michael B Jordan to make a sinister return in a future sequel. After all, he did rally support from Wakanda's inner circle.

Further -- Killmonger has tapped into to the mystical side of Wakandan folklore, utilizing an Altar of Resurrection to not only return from the dead himself, but also marshal forces of zombie-like soldiers. A fitting means for bringing Klaw back in a sequel? Perhaps!

Some folks are going so far as to compare Jordan's performance with Heath Ledger's Joker, and even debating his status as the film's true hero. There are interesting social concepts at the core of the character, but I think that's more a case of the usual over excitement for the shiny new toy. We've all had our run-ins with snooty art curators, but murdering civilians isn't the path of a hero. Returning to your home nation to burn it all down -- not a very nice thing to do, either.

It will be nice if Killmonger and Klaw can come back in a satisfying way. My only concern is that the socio-political success of the movie might lead the filmmakers away from indulging in the fun of the film. Superhero films have a nasty habit of shying away from their fantastical excesses, and mystic resurrections might be out in favour of harder-edged political drama. Which would be especially disappointing for negating any chance of introducing Brother Voodoo into the mix!

I'm still hoping we'll find time to dive more into the world of Wakanda later in the year, to finally see the comic book Killmonger in action! Keep an eye on the Marvel section of the Secret Issue Index, or follow character links to find future featured fights!

Friday, March 09, 2018

The Phoenix Gambit: Part Four Black Queen's Mate (DC)
Suicide Squad #43 When: July 1990
Why: John Ostrander & Kim Yale How: Geof Isherwood

The Story So Far...
The Suicide Squad have been dissolved, and Amanda Waller imprisoned, but political unrest in the Eastern European nation of Vlatava has forced the powers that be to reactivate their expendable black-ops force!

Now operating as a fully autonomous outfit under Waller's command; a team, partially reassembled by The Batman, infiltrates Vlatava under the guise of going freelance to a global market!

Russian General Kaligari agrees to hire Waller under strict conditions, working to expedite hardline aggressions against the deranged Count Vertigo, and his Vlatavian resistance. In truth, the Squad work against the Russians, aiming to bring in one of their toughest agents -- the man wanted in connection to an assassination in Gotham City: Ivan Illyich Gort - Stalnoivolk!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Stalnoivolk 5 (Super-Human)
Intelligence: Bronze Tiger 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Vixen 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Stalnoivolk 6 (Generator)
Agility: Vixen 5 (Cat-like)
Fighting: Bronze Tiger 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy: Draw 1 (None)
Total: Stalnoivolk 25 (Champion)

It's a classic case of speed and skill against brute strength! The martial arts mastery of Bronze Tiger is unleashed by Amanda Waller with a mission to prove that even an invulnerable man can succumb to the right technique!

Bronze Tiger's target is a Secret Wars on Infinite Earths newcomer: Ivan Illyich Gort, aka; Stalnoivolk - translated as "Steel Wolf"!

Gort is the product of Soviet experimentation during the Second World War. He was born in the early 1900s, but his aging was drastically retarded by the process that also granted him phenomenal super-human strength, endurance, and stamina.

He could have been the first of many, but Stalin ensured his Steel Wolf would hunt alone. The fiercely loyal Soviet super-soldier participated in hostilities in Ukraine, only to be exiled to Siberia after the war. He was eventually recalled to action by the cold and calculating Major Zastrow, to participate in his covert super-human group Red Shadows.

Today we find Stalnoivolk operating under Zastrow to suppress rebels in Count Vertigo's homeland of Vlatava. He's best known for confronting the suspected nuclear threat of Firestorm, and covert operations of the Suicide Squad. As it so happens -- today: he is the Suicide Squad's covert operation!

Bronze Tiger is fighting master enough to challenge most strong-man types, but it's fair to say there's an air of mismatch when he goes up against Stalnoivolk.

It also doesn't help that Ben Turner isn't in the best of mental states, having been severely rattled under interrogation from Sargent Steel, before the Suicide Squad were officially disbanded as a government operation. The cold control he exhibited fighting Ravan in Suicide Squad #2, or taking care of Enchantress in Legends #3, is replaced with a recklessness that could prove dangerous.

His former lover Mari McCabe, aka; Vixen, secretly has his back, but in his current state The Tiger has no desire to call upon her assistance. She isn't exactly thrilled with the idea of offering it, either. The Ben Turner she once loved is a memory replaced by a man haunted by past misdeeds.

Which is a shame, because Vixen is arguably the better match-up for Stalnoivolk. Her ability to channel the morphogenetic field through her tantu totem means she can emulate characteristics of the strongest animals. That allowed her to go it alone against Professor Ivo and his androids in her own moment of darkness [Justice League of America #261]. She's also gone toe-to-toe with Wonder Woman in JLA: Classified #3, and Volcano Man during Justice League of America (Vol. 2) #15!

If Bronze Tiger and Vixen can get on the same page, they should be able to match the brute force of Stalnoivolk. If they don't, there's a real danger they'll just get in each other's way! The combined stats favour the Suicide Squad duo, but do not count out the simplicity of Stalnoivolk's power!

The Tape: Bronze Tiger & Vixen Ranking: Bronze Tiger (#79)

What Went Down...
Walking the streets of Vlatava; Stalnoivolk receives a call summoning him back to Red Shadow headquarters. It sufficiently distracts him from the figure leaving the shadows behind him. The mystery man strikes with deadly precision!

The blow to the base of the skull manages to send Stalnoivolk to his knees! The attacker is Bronze Tiger -- and he doesn't believe in true invulnerability!

Stalnoivolk defiantly digs his fingers into the concrete sidewalk beneath him and hurls the rubble at his looming attacker! He manages to catch Bronze Tiger by surprise -- momentarily blinding the martial arts assassin!

The Russian powerhouse rushes to capitalize on his gambit, but the Tiger can sense his movements. He vaults over the hulking super-soldier, buying enough time to regain his vision!

With clear sight on his target - Bronze Tiger responds with a furious flurry of targeted strikes! He hits a knee, the jaw, the back of the skull -- all in an effort to bring the "steel wolf" down!

The Tiger finishes his combo by thrusting both feet at Stalnoivolk's face -- but the Russian super-soldier catches him by the ankles! He's getting annoyed!

Luckily for Bronze Tiger, his Suicide Squad teammate and ex-lover Vixen has been following him. She leaps from the rooftops above and summons the charging power of a wild rhinoceros - targeting Stalnoivolk's steel back!

The super-human sneak attack involuntarily arches Stalnoivolk's back, releasing his grip on Bronze Tiger! The martial artist spills to his back, but wastes no time reorienting to capitalize on the unexpected assist!

Vixen channels a stampeding elephant into her punch as she strikes the wolf of steel's skull for the umpteenth time! At that same moment: Bronze Tiger thrusts his heel into Stalnoivolk's chest at full force!

The Russian finally falls! Invulnerable, but not undefeatable!

The Hammer...
At last we can answer the riddle: How do you defeat an invulnerable Steel Wolf? With the pure power of a stampeding elephant, and the striking ferocity of a tiger, of course!

After deep diving into Black Panther's origins last month; it might seem as if we're keeping up a theme of featured feline fighters. It's mostly a coincidence of what I've been reading lately, and maybe a little bit of influence from the recent Winter Olympic Games. I saw a whole lot of foulplay from Russians during the games. What's with that, any way?

The thought occurs that Bronze Tiger would be a very interesting opponent for Black Panther, should we ever get another round of DC versus Marvel fantasy fights! He's kind of a fusion of the physical discipline and mastery of Bronze Tiger, and the animalistic spirituality of Vixen!

Fans have often posited Black Panther works well as a counterpart for Batman, but there's no shortage of those. Who could resist a "cat fight" between two hand-to-hand masters of Black and Bronze?... Speaking of which: we really will have to get to Bronze Tiger's famous fight with Batman sometime soon!

As noted: I've been busied with the pages of Suicide Squad of late, reliving some of their classic conflicts from the back-half of the memorable run.

The Cold War was basically deemed done & dusted by this time in the series, but with a character as fun as Stalnoivolk, who wouldn't want to go back for another round of Soviet espionage and hostility? Facebook trolls and nudging speed skaters pale in comparison to the man dubbed Steel Wolf!

Regular readers know I love a good, simple second tier villain, and the bushy moustached Stalinist fits the bill perfectly! He's a great no frills kinda bad guy! A WWII relic who almost serves as a Russian counterpart to a 1940s Superman.

Stalnoivolk is a "man of steel" from behind the iron curtain - just as capable of leaping tall buildings, or out-pounding the powerful surf, as early era Supes! Like classic era Superman, he also doesn't do much more than take a good punch - or deliver one! The presentation is more austere, but that's both part of its charm, and the effectiveness of the character as a threat of will.

John Ostrander apparently created Stalnoivolk as a Firestorm villain, but he's arguably at his best as a threatening presence stalking the periphery throughout his Suicide Squad run. The Russian shows up pretty early as a continuation of threads from the first year's mission to Moscow [which went poorly]. 1990's "Phoenix Gambit" may come at a time when Cold War tension was losing topical relevance -- but it was the showdown readers had to have been waiting for!

The fight described is an action-packed moment of triumph for two of The Squad's best heroic characters, but it also shows the breakdown of their one-time romantic relationship.

The modern Bronze Tiger is fairly inseparable from Suicide Squad, but their mutually shared arc also did a lot to move Vixen forward after the final days of the Detroit era Justice League [see; Vixen versus Professor Ivo]. She goes into the Suicide Squad an emotionally broken hero, and comes out of it stronger. An inverse to the Bronze Tiger story, which finds him broken by Sarge Steel's grilling amid the governmental dissolving of the Squad in the previous story arc. It also plays to his earlier days brainwashed by the League of Assassins.

Ostrander [and Yale]'s
Suicide Squad is a great time just about anywhere you might drop-in, but as I'm finding out while I fill in gaps, it's much more satisfying read in its entirety!

The accumulation of character development, sub-plots, and high concepts is really fantastic. In many ways, the content feels very relevant to our present world. Yet I'm not entirely sure if the long form spread would lend itself to the more timid aspects of our present pop culture.

If you've enjoyed dipping a toe into Suicide Squad with today's featured fight, you can currently seek out trade paperback collections for most of the original run. Using the link provided [right] will even help support the site at no extra charge to you!

As always, you can find plenty more action by following your curiosity to links littered throughout this post, tags down the bottom, or by plunging into the Secret Archive for an index of every fight organized by publisher, series, and issue number!

You can also subscribe to Secret Wars on Infinite Earths via Twitter and Facebook to get daily links to fights inspired by the topics of the day! A like and a share is a great way to spread the word and support the site!

Winners: Vixen & Bronze Tiger
#48 (+31) Bronze Tiger
#69 (+49) Vixen
#845 (new) Stalnoivolk

Monday, March 05, 2018

Real Name: Billy Batson
First Appearance: Whiz Comics #2 (February, 1940)
Fight Club Ranking: #111

Featured Fights:
- vs MACRO-MAN: Legends #1 (Nov 1986)
- vs THOR: Marvel versus DC #2 (Mar 1996)
- vs DARKSEID & THANOS: DC versus Marvel #4 (Apr 1996)
- vs SUPERMAN: Kingdom Come #4 (Aug 1996)
- vs SUPERMAN & BATMAN: Superman/Batman #4 (Jan 2004)
- vs BLACK ADAM: Hawkman #24 (Mar 2004)
- vs SUPERMAN: Superman #216 (Jun 2005)

Last year's casting news tempered expectations for the long-awaited modern cinematic debut of Captain Marvel. Cautious hope for the light touch implied by Zachary Levi has been the best order available -- until last week finally produced the first glimpse of the actor in-costume!

The candid snap shared to Twitter by @BatmanNewsCom is a far cry from a promotional vanity shot, but as a first-glimpse it actually offers some fairly promising impressions!

There's a lot to like, from the colourful Christmas set decoration of what's presumably a mall - to the bold red of Captain Marvel's costume! It's sadly never an Alex Ross painting come to life when Hollywood's concerned, but it very easily could've been a whole lot worse!

The long cape and stock standard accoutrements (that belt) don't excite, but they seem to have resisted making him too similar to other designs. I'm also particularly liking the apparent lack of piping, panels, or armor plating. That brand of ugly action figure aesthetic has increasingly had its fangs in comics and multimedia. All I can say is: phew!

It's disappointing to see some folks struggling to embrace the vivid colour palette that is one of this costumes strengths, but who can really blame them? Superhero iconography on screen has been a fairly drab, uninspiring spread for the better part of two decades now! With movies increasingly encroaching on the page, and very few comic style live-action exceptions, young audiences really don't have a whole to go on. Here's hoping Shazam! can push back against the bleak tide!