Friday, August 31, 2018

Out For Blood (Marvel)
Amazing Spider-man #621 When: April 2010
Why: Dan Slott How: Michael Lark

The Story So Far...
Rising crime boss Mister Negative has caused Spider-man & Peter Parker a lot of grief, but mind-control is nothing compared to his latest threat: Devil's Breath!

The designer toxin can be programmed to be lethal to an exclusive DNA set, and since Mister Negative already blackmailed Spidey into surrendering a vial of his blood -- the entire Parker bloodline is in danger!

Desperate to negate Mister Negative's threat to himself and Aunt May; Spider-man has enlisted the aide of his sometimes romantic interest and vigilante-burglar: The Black Cat! Her expertise and bad luck powers are perfectly suited for stealing the Devil's Breath, but when her plan involves creating a distraction Spidey loses the element of surprise deep within the demon's inner sanctum!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Spider-man 5 (Super-Human)
Intelligence: Spider-man 5 (Professor)
Speed: Spider-man 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Spider-man 5 (Marathoner)
Agility: Spider-man 5 (Cat-Like)
Fighting: Draw 3 (Street Wise)
Energy: Mr. Negative 4 (Arsenal)
Total: Spider-man 29 (Metahuman)

Spider-man has seen his fair share of masterminds, kingpins, and evil geniuses -- but in today's featured fight he faces a crime boss unlike any other!

Martin Li is an assumed alias of the villainous alter-ego now known as Mister Negative! Negative stole the identity from a Fujian man who died in a human trafficking shipment wrecked en route from China. Part of the slaver's crew; Li began a new life in New York City - where he was ultimately kidnapped and experimented on by members of The Maggia crime organization.

Li received doses of the same experimental drugs that created Cloak & Dagger, creating a schism of light and darkforce within him! While the personality of Martin Li appears to be a kind and reasonable philanthropist -- his alter-ego of Mister Negative is a callous, super-powered menace!

Semi-occult in nature: Mister Negative's appearance becomes similar to that of a film negative when his dark persona takes over. His strength can reach super-human levels, while his speed, agility, senses, and reflexes are also significantly enhanced. He's a step behind Spidey on most levels, but has a few extra tricks!

Negative can command people in his thrall, able to invert an individual's personality to make the altruistic proportionately villainous. He also commands a loyal army of masked henchmen known as Inner Demons. Typically dressed in black suits and silver dragon masks - Inner Demons can regenerate from fatal injuries, and wield negatively charged weapons, such as swords and nunchaku.

Mister Negative can also charge weaponry for his own use, or expel limited bolts of electrical "negative charge". Energy projection is one of the few areas where Negative can statistically surpass Spider-man, even though he's not far off the pace in most other physical realms!

There aren't a lot of direct comparisons for Mister Negative, but we've certainly seen Spider-man take down a super-strong, well dressed mobster in Tombstone before [see: Spectacular Spider-man #142]. He also got the better of the other dimensional energies that empower The Spot [Amazing Spider-man #589].

Mister Negative has the potential to combine Tombstone's might with Spot's speed & agility, but that negative energy charge is his real edge! Electrical energy is hit & miss against Spidey. Classic nemesis Electro can be dangerously destructive [Marvel Knights: Spider-man #3], or a seasonal schmuck [Marvel Holiday Special '92].

The Tape: Spider-man Ranking: Spider-man (#2)

What Went Down...

Freed from restraint by their apparent immortality: Spider-man unleashes his fullest proportionate strength of a spider against the Inner Demons! Several lie unconscious from the heavy blows, while more line up - until a familiar voice calls an end to the brawl: Mister Negative!

The photo-negative visage of the villain almost glows in the darkness of his inner sanctum. Surrounded by more of his armed Inner Demons, he confronts Spider-man with total confidence, even as the web-slinger unravels his abilities!

Demonstrating a full grasp of the gamut of skills Martin Li's 'negative charge' can create; Spidey closes in to deliver a blow with his own brand of spider-strength. Alas, his estimates of Mister Negative's super-human strength have failed to take into account the "upper limits" of his fullest charge!

Negative effortlessly catches Spider-man's fist with a darkened palm...

... and with a mere flick of his wrist sends Spider-man hurtling through the air!

The all mighty blow is powerful enough to launch Spider-man out of the Chinatown sanctum -- and through an adjacent building! The far exterior depositing the battered hero with the trash of an adjoining alley!

The Hammer...

Short, sharp, definitive! Just when Spidey thinks he's got the upper hand: Mister Negative reveals another level to his dark powers!

This marks a strong debut for Mister Negative on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths! Created in the late 2000s by Dan Slott and Phil Jiminez: he's still a relatively new addition to Spidey's famed lethal foes, but was entrenched as a premier threat of the last decade!

Powers-wise, he can seem a little bit of a piecemeal hodgepodge, but for the most part - I'm a fan! Flanked by his suited Inner Demons, Negative has a flavor of modern Asian crime cinema, with strong Marvel Comics reference!

I still have misgivings about the era that brought Mister Negative into the fold. He was a product of the 2008 Brand New Day re-launch that was typified by its role in haphazardly excising quantities of Spider-man's iconic history. Most predominantly, but not exclusively, was Peter Parker's marriage to Mary-Jane, removed at the long discussed behest of Editor in Chief: Joe Quesada.

Early on, you might've been forgiven for wondering if Mister Negative was a demonic consequence of Peter Parker's choice to make a deal with Mephisto - but not so. Like a majority of the best moments since BND - Mister Negative has little to nothing to do with history that was deleted, or rejiggered. In fact, he's steeped in the kind of nostalgia that made history tampering feel contradictory!

His origin references the same Maggia experiments that gave us Cloak & Dagger in the early eighties -- 1982, to be specific. Indeed, the character feels right at home with the crime-ridden decade -- particularly the dark urban-noir of Spectacular Spider-man, where the aforementioned duo first appeared, and a cavalcade of darkly lit crooks, crime bosses, and super-villains came to the fore.

Artist Michael Lark, inker Stefano Gaudiano, and colorist Matt Hollingsworth collaborate for a finished image that feels suitably moody and tactile.

The shadows may be jet black, but the night is moonlit blue. It creates an atmosphere somehow equivalent to those fondly remembered night time romps in eighties issues of Spectacular Spider-man. It's all just very enjoyable!

Amazing Spider-man #621 is actually part of The Gauntlet: a nostalgic tour that revisits some of Spidey's most classic villains, but not necessarily as you know them. It was a run that stirred up feelings of disdain for the unnecessary reboot, but pushed through them by sheer force of being fantastic Spider-man comics!

I've been hoping to get to The Gauntlet sooner, preferably with some of the classic villains, whose issues were real favourites. I love the way The Gauntlet's issues are soaked in the classics, but blend well with a sense of something new. Mister Negative provides a very obvious new element to Amazing #621, but again I go back to that eighties Spectacular flavor, and the guest appearance of a character I think of as synonymous with those years - Black Cat!

She was entangled with another creation that comes to mind as right up Mister Negative's alley. The Spot was attempting to harness Cloak's connection to a dimension of darkness, but tapped another realm to become a living portal, circa Spectacular #100. Their similar origins were nicely exploited in Dark Reign: Mister Negative, where The Spot served as a mole in The Hood's gang of villains. Quite a nice way to stitch a new character into the fabric of the old.

The Spot was originally working on behalf of Black Cat's old employer - and another crime boss of the series - the Kingpin! As it so happens - Mister Negative will be at odds with Kingpin when he receives a major boost in exposure next week via the release of Spider-man for PlayStation 4!

The highly anticipated video game return for Spidey is direct inspiration for today's entry, with Mister Negative set to appear alongside versions of Electro, Vulture, Rhino, Scorpion, and Shocker! You can expect Black Cat to factor into the action as well -- although, given her recent rise through the criminal ranks in comics -- who knows whose side she'll be on?!

I'm not such a big fan of the redesigned, off-the-shelf villains, but I am loving being back in the world of Spider-man! You can be there too by checking out today's featured fight in collected edition!

By shopping via the Amazon links provided, you help support Secret Wars on Infinite Earths at no extra cost to you!

You can find even more inspirations by diving into the Secret Archive to revisit classic fights indexed by publisher, series, and issue number! Be sure to follow links throughout these entries to discover unexpected hits and misses!

Follow 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 show your support and spread the good word: FIGHT!

Winner: Mister Negative
#314 (new) Mister Negative
#2 (--) Spider-man

Friday, August 24, 2018

Deadpool Sandwich (Marvel)
Deadpool: Sins of the Past #3 When: October 1994 Why: Mark Waid How: Ian Churchill & Ken Lashley

The Story So Far...
PREVIOUSLY ON DEADPOOL... Black Tom Cassidy has been afflicted with a viral wooden growth that threatens to consume his body. His brother Sean uses Interpol connections to bring Weapon X geneticist Dr. Emrys Killebrew to examine the prisoner.

Black Tom's best buddy Juggernaut is worried for his pal, so he stages a daring dual breakout and kidnapping of Dr. Killebrew. He then learns there may be only one hope for curing the infection -- the healing factor of Deadpool!

Deadpool did his best to defeat the unstoppable Juggernaut, but when knives fail, he opts for a vat of molten metal -- big mistake! Now Juggernaut is mad as hell and covered in flaming hot magma!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Juggernaut 6 (Uh oh!)
Intelligence: Deadpool 3 (Alert, Not Alarmed)
Speed: Deadpool 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Juggernaut 7 (Unstoppable, duh)
Agility: Deadpool 4 (Does Whatever A Pool Can)
Fighting: Deadpool 4 (Underrated)
Energy: Siryn 4 (Celine Dion at Eurovision)
Total: Deadpool 26 (Stud)

The first time the Merc' with a Mouth starred in theatres, we took in the sights and sounds of Deadpool: Sins of the Past #2! Now that he's officially back on Blu-ray -- what better time to follow-up with a sequel of our own?

When last we saw him: Juggernaut was toweling himself off after a nice warm shower in molten steel! The result of dousing a magically unstoppable behemoth in liquid metal? Hot stuff coming through!

Juggernaut's hot & bothered and charging toward a second date with Deadpool and Siryn -- but this time: they have a chaperone!

Interpol's best man Danny Peyer has tracked down wanted Wade Wilson for his laundry list of international crimes. DP's hoping Peyer will play cavalry, but against Juggernaut, his men are severely mismatched!

We've seen it all before. Juggernaut slapped Colossus silly in Uncanny X-Men #183, kayoed Captain Britain in Excalibur #3, clobbered Captain Marvel Jr in the crossover of Unlimited Access #3, and walked away completely unscathed from a building dropping on him in Amazing Spider-man #230!

Of course, later in that same issue, Spider-man managed to keep Juggernaut down for a ten count by burying him in a few thousand gallons of wet cement! Spidey scored another win over a decade later by teaming with Wonder Woman for another DC/Marvel crossover in Unlimited Access #1!

We know Deadpool can be pretty crafty himself! Speed, agility, and ruthlessness helped him face the Hulk and live to tell the tale [in Deadpool #4]! Old fashioned survival skills bested Ajax's cyborg strength and cleaning power in Deadpool #19! Good gear and tactics had Cable on the ropes in New Mutants #98! And the greatest power of all was categorically proven to be dance when DP beat Taskmaster way back in Deadpool #2!

Alas; Siryn's sonic scream won't lend itself to a funky disco beat, and the best Danny Peyer can hope to be is David Bowie to Deadpool's gyrating Mick Jagger. The decks are decidedly unstacked with nary an Abba sample, nor rhythm, at hand. Will Deadpool be able to sock it to Juggernaut like the jive turkey he is?

That's what we're here to find out! You can't give it up! Round 2! FIGHT!

The Tape: Deadpool Ranking: Deadpool (#20)

What Went Down...

If running from a flaming Juggernaut sounded bad enough -- Deadpool and his favourite gal, Siryn, find themselves caught between a rock and squad of heavily armed Interpol agents! Lucky for them: Juggernaut beats Interpol!

Deadpool leaps clear of the incoming Juggernaut, dragging Siryn out of harm's way, as well. Peyer has to make his own way -- diving clear in the nick of time, while his Interpol friends open fire. Their ammunition barely leaves a scratch!

Peyer orders a tactical retreat, recognizing Deadpool's set-up. Before he leaves he warns Deadpool their beef isn't over. The threat puts a sightline on Deadpool, prompting Juggernaut to use his mass to bring the roof down!

Deadpool makes a graceful super-hero landing and starts throwing everything he's got in the direction of the ten-foot mountain of muscle and fire. Gunfire, shuriken, and katana blades all bounce and break off Juggernaut's magic hide!

Juggernaut reveals his ultimate goal is not to get revenge for past slights, but to collect Deadpool so his best pal Black Tom Cassidy can be cured of a nasty wood infection! As the old saying goes, mutant healing factor today

DP drops a choice reference to Wolverine, but that only gets the concerned Juggernaut in a dither. (He's just so anxious about his friend's condition!)

A massive, smoldering, unstoppable fist swings in Deadpool's general direction -- but he narrowly ducks it, and scrambles to escape through Juggernaut's legs!

Siryn watches frozen in terror as Deadpool calls for some much needed backing vocals! Juggernaut tells her to stay out of it, catching the crawling Deadpool by his ankle only to drag him into his clutches.

Massive fingers engulf Deadpool's neck as Juggernaut exercises his aggressions with a blatant choke. The sight of such obvious peril is enough to shake Siryn from her terror and unleash a bone-rattling scream!

The sonic blast blows the windows of the warehouse they've been fighting in and shakes even the Juggernaut to his core! It's enough to free Deadpool from his powerful grip as Siryn comes to the rescue - gliding him to safety with the knife manufacturer's entire building collapsing on top of Juggernaut!

The Hammer...
Once again we find ourselves in need of a definition for victory!

When it comes to a fighter as unstoppable as Juggernaut: defeat is rarely a permanent condition -- but who ever said it has to be?

Many have tried dropping a building on Juggernaut, but Siryn did it particularly well - and went one better - also rattling him to the core with a sonic scream! Juggernaut goes unseen for the rest of the issue, which is enough to convince me Siryn won the battle - even if the war wages on...

Indeed, Juggernaut does return in the fourth and final issue of the Sins of the Past mini-series. He concludes business with Deadpool, having started their feud a year earlier in Deadpool: The Circle Chase. Which was presumably inspiration for Juggernaut's live-action return in Deadpool 2 -- now on Blu-ray!

If you're just joining us: today's feature fight brings an end to the inconclusive battle begun back in Deadpool: Sins of the Past #2! No doubt we'll return again some time in the future to check out Round 3, and the earlier encounter.

Deadpool doesn't walk away completely empty handed from today's featured fight! Though his efforts failed to register as contributing to victory -- this does mark his first recorded assist on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths, and therefore an important milestone of personal development. Way to go, Wade!

The now-classic Deadpool on-going series launched a few years later in '97 and would continue to pick up the tab on Deadpool's developing crush on Siryn, and path to becoming a hero. Even Dr. Killebrew [mentioned in the first section] comes back for more wacky fun -- at least until he's iced by Ajax. SPOILERS!

There's obvious cult appeal to these early Deadpool mini-series, which really do inform the path for Deadpool in subsequent years - more than I might've noticed at the time. That said, things really go to another level when Joe Kelly starts embellishing the comedy -- and Ed McGuinness defines a big and bold look for the series. Both really contributed iconic detailing to the basic model!

Speaking of big and bold, I've gotta give it to Ian Churchill (and Ken Lashley) - he draws a mean Juggernaut! I actually quite like some of the scenes where  the structure of his musculature and costume armor is more square. It's a slightly different take to the classic model, but I like it! When Juggernaut starts getting too rounded, it just ain't right!

If you wanna see more from these characters be sure to dive into the Secret Archive to find every battle indexed by publisher, series, and issue number. You can also get a full serve by following links throughout this post!

Get the full experience and support the site by purchasing a collected edition with today's feature fight in it - or the Deadpool 2 movie! By shopping with the Amazon links provided, you'll help sponsor the site at no extra cost to you!

Follow Secret Wars on Infinite Earths on Twitter and Facebook to get daily links to battles inspired by the topics of the day! A like, share, or retweet is a nice way to let me know you're thinking of me. Which is important in any relationship. Shucks.

Winner: Siryn (w/ Deadpool)
#133 (+258) Siryn
#46 (--) Juggernaut
#20 (--) Deadpool [+1 assist]
#539 (new) Danny Peyer [+1 assist]

Friday, August 17, 2018

The Enemy Within Part 3: Blood Tide (Marvel)
Venom: The Enemy Within #3 When: May 1994 Why: Bruce Jones How: Bob McLeod

The Story So Far...
San Francisco is caught in a grip of madness as demonic goblin hordes swarm the city! Emerging on Halloween night, the creatures bring chaos and death that is soon met with fear and fire at the behest of Mayor Palentine!

While the city burns, its lethal protector Venom finds an unlikely ally in the living vampire Morbius!

Resolving suspicions, they work together to uncover the occult curse behind the goblin's rise. As the chase leads them to Alcatraz, they ready for a showdown with the wicked creatures an their deadly new master: Demogoblin!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Venom 5 (Super-Human)
Intelligence: Morbius 5 (Professor)
Speed: Draw 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Demogoblin 5 (Marathoner)
Agility: Venom 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting: Venom 3 (Street Wise)
Energy: Demogoblin 4 (Arsenal)
Total: Venom/Demogoblin 24 (Champion)

It's a 2-on-1 face-off between misfits of science and magic, but the battle lines aren't exactly as they seem! Technically there are three entities on the side of lethal protection -- and a whole army of darkness fighting against them!

Venom is the walking, talking twofer of man & living costume! The alien symbiote was originally brought to Earth as Spider-man's black costume, but he rejected it upon learning of its true parasitic nature. The symbiote then found a willing recipient in Eddie Brock, who shared its scorn for Peter Parker!

Because of its time spent with Spider-man the symbiote emulates his speed, agility, reflexes, and web-slinging, while also enhancing Brock's bodybuilder muscle. His strength has stretched to a peak of fighting Iron Man [Iron Man #302] and even Superman [DC/Marvel: All Access #1]! Neither foe was aware of the symbiote's natural vulnerability to sound or fire.

Despite a few homicidal tendencies -- Venom follows a skewed sense of justice. He even team with Spider-man against his symbiote-offspring Carnage in Spider-man Unlimited #2 -- but not before making the acquaintance of a few other unlikely allies, including Morbius The Living Vampire!

Dr. Michael Morbius is another Spider-man frenemy, whose vampiric tendencies developed after attempts to cure himself of a rare blood disease. As a living vampire he gained characteristic super-human strength, speed, durability, but also sensitivity toward sunlight -- and a need to consume blood.

His thirst saw Morbius walk a moral tightrope that often drew him towards creatures of darkness. Though not mystical like a true vampire, Morbius has battled the likes of Jack Russell, The Werewolf [Marvel Premiere #28], The Night Shift [Marvel Zombies 4 #2], and even Doctor Strange [Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme #10]! He also came into conflict with Demogoblin while assisting Venom during the Maximum Carnage saga!

Demogoblin is a demonic entity once bound to Hobgoblin by the demon N'astirh. Jason Macendale sold his soul for enhanced powers, but eventually expelled his demonic half, regretting the deal. The resulting separation unleashed a demonic imitation of his costumed alter-ego!

Demogoblin made horrific reality of an arsenal Macendale acquired from the Green Goblin's original designs. He rides a winged glider of hellfire, and conjures pumpkin bombs with various mystic properties. He does so in the name of a righteous crusade against those he perceives as sinners, such as Spider-man, and Ghost Rider & Frank Drake [see; Ghost Rider #40].

Typically hellfire burns the soul more than flesh, which means Venom won't be uniquely vulnerable to Demogoblin's attacks. That said, the demon has taken command of an army of goblins that drastically outnumber Venom and Morbius!

The Tape: Venom & Morbius Ranking: Morbius (#63)

What Went Down...
Tiny goblins claw and scratch, bubbling up from the depths of Alcatraz like a living flood that threatens to overwhelm Venom & Morbius! Above them streaks the flame of Demogoblin, riding his glider with gleeful greetings!

The hulking Venom tosses a few goblins aside, escaping to the ceiling on a strand of webbing! His escape leaves Morbius struggling with the hordes, but Venom rejects his offer for noble sacrifice. Instead, Venom covers the living vampire with a protective coating of web that catches a few goblins, as well.

Demogoblin swoops in to blast Venom with untold occult energies!

Venom is blown back by the blast, but the black symbiote spits out a tendril that fixes to Demogoblin's chest like tar. It yanks him completely off his glider!

Alas; dismounting this goblin doesn't separate him from his deadly arsenal. The Demogoblin is grounded, but immediately back on the attack when he conjures a pumpkin bomb and hurls it! Venom only narrowly avoids its blast!

The explosion blows a hole in the exterior wall that floods Alcatraz with sunlight!

The evening glow is enough to drive the goblin hordes back towards the darkness of the lower depths. It also sears the pallid complexion of Morbius!

Distracted by his ally's peril, Venom doesn't notice a line of goblins forming for a parting attack -- a united sonic cry that drives the alien symbiote to agony!

Though effective against their target, the intense sound waves also do further damage to the prison wall -- bathing the goblins in yet more evening light!

With his army burning, Demogoblin is shocked to find Venom recovered from the sonic assault so quickly. Venom takes great pleasure in demonstrating his strength with an uppercut that sends the demon hurtling out of the building!

Venom checks on Morbius, who was badly weakened by the intense exposure to sunlight. As the San Francisco sun sets, he assures Venom that he will soon heal from his wounds. More than can be said for the scorched goblins, whose master blazes away from the prison atop his flaming goblin glider!

The Hammer...
Demogoblin flees to fight another day, but he and his goblin horde were clearly defeated by Venom! Chalk Morbius up for an assist. He helped keep the terror at bay, but remained in a support role.

The outcome of the battle loosely alludes to the unusual pairing of Venom and Morbius. By this point, Eddie Brock had relocated to sunny San Francisco. Sure, they have nights in California, but Venom is a character of visual excess. He rarely remains in the shadows that nocturnal, vampire-types typically prefer. So why bring them together?

Venom: The Enemy Within plays in the loosest of ways as a three-issue follow-up to Maximum Carnage.
It doesn't address any of the concerns of the 1992-93 crossover in the slightest, but does capitalize on its visual iconography, and appeal of its oddball assembly of heroes who disbanded less than a year prior.

Venom had extra beef with Demogoblin via another '92 crossover: the four-issue Spirits of Venom. Morbius developed his issues during Maximum Carnage itself, with a particularly memorable battle in the Statue of Liberty, where he sought to rescue a tortured Venom. All of this addresses the surface connections that might enhance The Enemy Within, but it doesn't pay them much mind.

The real appeal of bringing Venom, Morbius, and Demogoblin together should lie in their thematic similarities. Each has explored common themes of duality and moral ambiguity, representing them from slightly different perspectives.

Venom is the self-styled lethal protector, enforcing a skewed view of justice with action-movie violence and flippancy. He is the man embracing his "dark passenger", accepting the symbiote's negative influence in service of what sometimes appears to be good.

Morbius too does good, but is an unintended instrument of death, compelled to drink blood to survive. His evil is of his own making - a responsibility he cannot ultimately expel as a living entity the way Jason Macendale expelled Demogoblin. Morbius did briefly deal in demonic possession around this time, but nothing as interesting as Demogoblin himself. He is the dark passenger personified, roaming untethered in pursuit of what he believes is a righteous crusade.

Somewhere among these thematic variations lies a very interesting thesis, but The Enemy Within is a Venom mini-series from the mid-nineties, with no such concern or aspiration. Action movie one-liners and disjointed, oversized panels tell a story of thinly motivated mayhem.

As you can probably guess, I was never one to follow Venom solo comics too closely. It wasn't for lack of interest in the character. The basics of design and concept were as exciting to me most wide-eyed fanboys who're still drawn into the character's web. The books were usually just a little too pricy, hard to find, and ultimately unsatisfying to read.

I always thought it was surprising Marvel didn't lock down an on-going series given Venom's popularity, but if you've read The Enemy Within #3, you know there's minimal distinction. There's a second showdown ending with Demogoblin's defeat and departure later in the issue. Then Venom: The Mace is teased in an open-ended coda.

The wrap really reads like any other monthly issue of a regular series. The only obvious difference: inconsistent creative teams, mixed prospects for follow-up stories, and a whole lot of new #1s for the speculator market to jump on. If you've ever looked into back issues, you know quality comics still don't dictate sale price. I like these characters, but I still don't have the set. I have my limits.

Want to get a bunch Venom #1s without chasing them all? The Enemy Within is collected with several accompanying mini-series and on sale now! Using the Amazon link provided will not only get you a decent deal - but also help support Secret Wars on Infinite Earths at no extra cost! That's symbiosis!

Hollywood will finally attempt their own Venom spin-off this October when Tom Hardy takes the role in a more faithful direction than past incarnations. It's the first in an ambitious slate of Sony spin-offs that will attempt to tell stories with Spider-man's friends -- but not Spider-man!

No doubt we'll be talking more about Venom and Morbius in the future. Find more battles with both by diving into the Secret Index where every featured fight is catalogued by publisher, series, and issue! You can also follow and subscribe on Twitter and Facebook to get daily links to fights inspired by the topics of the day. A like and share is a great way to show your support!

Winner: Venom (w/ Morbius)
#17 (+2) Venom (Symbiote)
#68 (+50) Venom (Eddie Brock)
#63 (--) Morbius [+1 assist]
#869 (-191) Demogoblin

Friday, August 10, 2018

And Death Before Dishonor (DC)
Adventure Comics #444 When: March-April 1976 Why: Paul Levitz & Gerry Conway How: Jim Aparo

The Story So Far...
When a fleet of unfamiliar Atlantean warships appears off the coast Monaco - Aquaman springs into action to discover a blackmailing plot hatched by his half-brother Orm!

The Ocean Master demands of Monaco their treasury in gold and silver bullion -- while from Aquaman he wants the substance known as Serum X! Capable of turning air-breathing humans into sub-aquatic amphibians; the closely guarded formula would be easy for the King of Atlantis to acquire -- had he not be deposed while away on the surface!

Fresh from battle with "The Shark" King Karshon, Aquaman abandons his effort to steal Serum X, instead opting to turn his frontal assault on Ocean Master's deep sea headquarters!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Aquaman 4 (Enhanced)
Intelligence: Ocean Master 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Aquaman 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Aquaman 5 (Marathoner)
Agility: Aquaman 2 (Average)
Fighting: Aquaman 4 (Training)
Energy: Ocean Master 5 (Lasers)
Total: Aquaman 24 (Champion)

It's high time we had a little high sea smackdown - and who better to take on the King of Atlantis than his own flesh & blood?! It's a royal family affair as half-brothers bring bad blood to bear beneath the crashing waves!

Aquaman is a stronger than average Atlantean, possessing the power and durability necessary to endure the pressures associated with deep ocean waters! T
he degree of that power has fluctuated over the years - growing with modern examples. We saw him wield his might offensively with a kayo uppercut to the powerhouse Olympian in JLA: Classified #3!

With breathing under water presumed; Aquaman's most recognized super-power has long been his ability to mentally commune with marine life. When he lost control of his body fighting the Mercury Monster, he was able to summon a school of fish in Secret Origins #32. A killer whale helped finish Sub-Mariner in their infamously controversial Marvel versus DC #2 showdown!

Telepathically summoning sea life doesn't always guarantee success. Sharks weren't able to secure a win when Aquaman went head-to-head with Despero in JLA #118. The alien's vast mental powers outclassed Aquaman's, which have sometimes extended to humans. Fortunate, then, Ocean Master is a long way from developing his own potent psychic powers at this time!

The man sometimes known as Orm Marius has undergone even more radical reinventions than Aquaman. His status as the hero's brother has cast his heritage as both resentfully human, but also equally Atlantean.

Whatever his status: Ocean Master always wields a powerful arsenal of malice against his enemies! Hi-tech solutions, such as his unique helmet, have allowed him to exist beneath the airless oceans. A combination of conventional weaponry, and mystic Atlantean artefacts, have ensured he can weaponized the water itself, and threaten opponents above and below the surface!

Despite the danger he poses, Aquaman has at times shown reluctance to harm his pirate brother. Familial psychology played a part in our only past example of Ocean Master's villainy when Martian Manhunter briefly exploited it in a psychic vision. Orm saw his own trident turned against him by his brother, before baring witness to the Martian's eventual murder, in Final Crisis: Requiem #1.

At the time of this fight, Aquaman has the edge of natural underwater dwelling -- but also the distraction of having just lost his kingdom! He's fighting alone, while Ocean Master commands an army of kamikaze troops!

The Tape: Aquaman Ranking: Aquaman (#63)

What Went Down...
Fifteen miles off the coast of Monaco, Ocean Master anticipates the arrival of Aquaman with Serum X. He presumes his brother to be a hapless slave -- until aide Jurgin spots him coming in hot with a company of electric eels!

Ocean Master scrambles to activate his kamikaze army, but the eels' charge disrupts the signal! Attack crafts are still within reach, but quickly destroyed when whales answer Aquaman's call -- ramming them to destruction!

Before the self-proclaimed Ocean Master can enact threats of total humiliation upon his brother - Aquaman enters the deep sea fortress!

Ocean Master trembles with rage at the sight of his brother - lunging to meet him with arms stretched! This is no greeting of brotherly affection, but rather the insane grasp of a villain who means to choke the life from his nemesis!

With the strength of a madman, Ocean Master wraps his hands around Aquaman's throat! The force of his momentum slams the hero to the ground, but Aquaman's resolve is strong as he stares defiantly into his brother's eyes!

Green gloves wrap around Ocean Master's wrists and squeeze - loosening his grip on Aquaman's neck! The deposed King takes his opportunity, swatting Orm with a left cross to the chin!

The blow sends Ocean Master recoiling, but Aquaman only makes it to his knees before Orm manages to drive his knee into the hero's heart!

Aquaman may be able to breathe beneath the sea, but even he must clutch his chest after such a vicious impact! The pain is not exclusive! Ocean Master rubs his jaw, still reeling from the King's blow, even as he staggers across the control room with finger outstretched -- seeking annihilation!

In desperation Aquaman dives across the room, tackling his brother's legs out from under him -- but it's too late! Even in the fall, Ocean Master managed to hit the button that launches three missiles heading for Monaco!

Death and destruction seems certain for the principality -- until a bubble of hard water suddenly forms around the weapons! Queen Mera successfully detonates the warheads harmlessly inside the hard water shell!

The Hammer...
We never actually get to see the finishing blows, but the abrupt wrap-up implies Aquaman dealt with his brother off-panel, while Mera saves the day for Monaco with her last minute hard-water heroics!

The ending reminds me of a Dennis O'Neil quote: "Occasionally -- just occasionally -- a penciller will become so involved in making wonderful pictures, or drawing what he likes, that he'll forget about parts that may be quiet, but have to be present if the story is to make sense. When you see a story loaded with captions that explain the motives of the characters or describes events that aren't in the story, this is probably what happened."

Some of the finer details get lost at the end, and a few panels wind up a tad sparse, but for the most part it's all smiles as the frenetic action sweeps Aquaman along a current of intense combat!

The "novel-length thriller" of Adventure Comics #444 super-sizes the Aquaman action to fill an entire issue - dispensing with the usual back-up shorts. The ol' novel-length sales pitch feels a little bit cheeky at seventeen pages of comic, but I do wonder if a last minute decision by the editor contributed to some of the looseness.

When I think of Jim Aparo, my go-to reference is usually sharper, more angular and stern figures in his late eighties Batman work. Here, his lines crash and flow like the churning surf! I figured we're overdue a classic showdown with Ocean Master -- but it's actually the least spectacular fight in the issue!

The full length issue delivers the intriguing Karshon to the throne of Atlantis, pitting the former ruler against some of his once-loyal subjects. There are a couple of determined Atlantean Guardsmen that get treated to a particularly brutal impact! Just one of the many skirmishes littering the issue!

I started the year with Flash Gordon on the brain, and I can't help but think of Alex Raymond as I'm whipped through the exotic undersea kingdom by Aparo's blonde adventurer.

The light shadows implying realistic faces, and loose action lines really evoke Raymond. As does the light political intrigue of key figures maneuvering within vividly picture cultures. Even Queen Mera and "Aquababy" feel fitting, with loyalist Vulko a stand-in for Dr. Zarkhov, and Karshon a double for any of the varied rulers of Flash Gordon's intergalactic kingdoms.

It became popular to go sword & sorcery with Aquaman and Atlantis, when he wasn't doubting himself, or subject to outright ridicule. There's some good stuff in a lot of those interpretations, but this might be a peak for me.

This is the kind of Aquaman that really makes you wonder how the character ever fell out of popular favour! Fortunately, this decade has seen him firmly restored to a place of respect amongst the DC pantheon!

Aquaman's aesthetic ascension on film could be the difference maker Warner Brothers has been looking for their DC Extended Universe series! Jason Mamoa will be swimming back to cinemas in December, taking on Patrick Wilson as Ocean Master, with Amber Heard as Mera! Exciting times that will almost certainly give us the perfect excuse to return to more classic comics action!

Want to get ahead of the swell to surf the ultimate wave of Aquaman excitement? Do yourself a favour and cast a net to catch some of Aquaman's most exciting stories in history! A

dventure Comics #444 is included with a cavalcade of classics in trade paperback and digital collected editions! Shopping via the Amazon links provided not only gets you great stories, but also helps support the Secret Wars on Infinite Earths at no extra cost!

Find more classic battles with these characters and more by following links throughout this post or label tags below! You can also find every featured fight catalogued by publisher, series, and issue by diving into the Secret Index. Or follow on Twitter and Facebook for daily links to battles inspired by the popular topics of the day! Say ahoy with a like & share!

Winner: Aquaman (w/ Mera)
#40 (+23) Aquaman
#538 (new) Mera
#545 (-46) Ocean Master

Friday, August 03, 2018

An Eye For An Eye (DC)
Action Comics #688 When: Early July 1993
Why: Roger Stern How: Jackson Guice & Denis Rodier

The Story So Far...
Guy Gardner fought by Superman's side just before he made the supreme sacrifice to stop the rampaging horror of Doomsday! So it comes a surprise when Guy returns from space to find four men claiming to be the original!

Seeking to honor the memory of Superman in his own demented way; Guy heads for Metropolis to confront one of the four heroes he's convinced must be a phony! When the visor-wearing Superman spots trouble, he defers to investigate a fire lit by Guy Gardner!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Eradicator 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Eradicator 5 (Professor)
Speed: Eradicator 6 (Mach-Speeds)
Stamina: Eradicator 5 (Marathoner)
Agility: Draw 2 (Average)
Fighting: Guy Gardner 4 (Training)
Energy: Guy Gardner 7 (Cosmic Power)
Total: Eradicator 33 (Super)

It's got all the hallmarks of a Green Lantern/Superman main event - but if you read the marquee you know it has the potential to be a whole lot messier!

Guy Gardner is well known for his days slinging a power ring as charter member of the Green Lantern Corps (and Justice League), but it wasn't always so! Proximity originally kept him from accepting Abin Sur's ring when the alien fatally crash-landed on Earth. Hal Jordan became the Green Lantern of Sector 2814 instead, but Gardner was eventually called up from the reserves.

In more recent years his attitude has attracted a Red Lantern ring -- but back in 1993, Guy was forced to wear an accessory of an entirely different hue!

He lost his Green Lantern ring to a fight with Hal Jordan, who'd returned to Earth after a stay in space. A brief stint as a powerless vigilante saw the likes of Black Hand kicking Guy's butt [Guy Gardner Reborn #1], so he tricked Lobo into taking him to deep space to seek new powers. Their adventure took them the tomb of Sinestro, where the then-deceased villain was buried with his yellow ring of Qwardian origin! Guy took it for himself - and the rest is history!

These days we know yellow rings as the fear-fuelled weapons of an entire Sinestro Corps - but back in those days, Gardner was able to wield the Qwardian ring without issue. It functioned much the same as his Green Lantern ring, allowing for yellow energy projections, and hard-light constructs.

We saw Guy using the yellow ring during Superman and the Justice League's unsuccessful stand against Doomsday in Superman #74.

A subsequent final showdown between Superman and Doomsday would seemingly result in their mutual demise. From the heroic void would rise four new heroes claiming to be the original Superman: A hybrid cloned Superboy, a Cyborg Superman, a literal man of Steel, and today's visored son of Krypton...

Eradicator was in truth a sentient device sent into space by ancient aliens facing extinction. It was reprogrammed by Kem-L of Krypton to instead protect his planet's culture at all costs.

Centuries after Krypton's destruction, its surviving keeper, The Cleric, bestowed the Eradicator upon Superman during a chance encounter on Warworld. The construct imposed various Kryptonian influences upon Superman's life during his post-Crisis reinvention, including the new creation of the Fortress of Solitude.

When Superman had seemingly died, The Eradicator used residual energies to create an organic facsimile of Krypton's last surviving son, retaining Superman's memories from a psychic interface shared with The Cleric. This allowed the new Superman to genuinely believe he was the original article!

The genetic imitation is a convincing one, mimicking the abilities associated with Kryptonian physiology when exposed to a yellow sun. Eradicator differs slightly in his origins as a creature of solar energy, allowing him to perceive and wield energy in different ways, such as powerful blasts from his hands and eyes!

We've seen Guy Gardner handle energy projections from the Blue Beetle scarab [in Blue Beetle #1], and rip away at the yellow fear energy of Parallax [in Green Lantern #24]. Given Eradicator also has innate super-strength and durability -- those past examples may prove cold comfort!

Eradicator also favors far more harsh methods than the traditional Superman, which means Gardner won't even be able to out-do him on the bad ass meter! We've done the introductions, let's just find out how the fight went!

The Tape: Eradicator Ranking: Guy Gardner (#121)

What Went Down...
Spotting a raging inferno from his aerial vantage point, the would-be Superman descends to see if he can help. On touching down at the waterfront, he finds the licking yellow flame disappearing without a trace! Guy Gardner steps from the nearby shadows to introduce himself -- and his yellow power ring!

A massive energy fist catches Eradicator by surprise -- exploding from the dock as Gardner announces himself a "one-man Superman revenge squad!"

The blow sends Eradicator hurtling into the water! Gardner's boastful challenges are soon replaced with presumptions of a one-hit victory when Eradicator fails to emerge from the water. Gardner dives in to the harbor encased in a yellow energy field to scan for his presumed drowning foe -- but comes up empty.

The ring-protected hero deduces his impact must've driven the substitute Superman into the sediment beneath the sea -- but he's only half right! The toppled Superman returns fire with a sucker punch from beneath the muck!

The awesome power of the blow sends Gardner hurtling from the sea to the sky! His air-filled energy field protects him from the devastating impact, and allows him to level out in the sky above -- but the trouble is far from over!

Eradicator rockets out of the water and straight for Gardner with a two-fisted strike! The deadly new Superman has little time for Gardner's childish presence!

The brawling heroes fight inland, where they smash through an overpass before crashing down to Earth. The Eradicator is first to emerge from the rubble as Gardner contemplates his short fuse.

Intent on regaining the offensive, Guy forms a golden suit of armor and lance, but barely has time to wield them before the stand-in Superman launches him airborne with another super-punch!

The incredible punch sends Gardner flying uncontrollably across the Metropolis skyline! He sheds his armor, smashing through jutting chimneys and water towers on a strategic trajectory towards trouble!

A simple energy field protects Gardner from harm as he crash lands into an old abandoned gas station! The scene was carefully selected by the analytical Eradicator, having spied signs of a biker gang before falling into Guy's trap!

The impact destroys the gang's bikes and gives Eradicator a chance to quiz Guy on his reasons for attacking. The gang attacks before a response is given, but Eradicator's brutal and violent methods soon appeal to Gardner's sensibilities.

The ring-slinger's suspicions that this Superman is phony are replaced with admiration and excitement for the Superman he'd rather have around. Gardner presumes a near-death experience has opened the last son of Krypton to more extreme methods than the past. Something Eradicator isn't so sure is good.

The Hammer...
There's an argument to be made that Eradicator had the upper-hand as clear aggressor, but he opts for the talking option to bring the fight to a non-combative conclusion. Gardner agrees to leave Metropolis. All done.

Action Comics #688 leaves us with an inconclusive result between Guy Gardner and Eradicator, but also establishes a sense of further understanding the two characters through their similarities - and differences...

Both ultimately address the same problem from a different angle. Namely: the perception that Superman and his boy scout moral code are outmoded in modern times. The heroes of Reign of the Supermen offer a distinctly nineties twist on the core concept, but it's an issue that still dogs Superman today.

Eradicator's "Last Son of Krypton" walks a line between indulging extreme violence, but also looking like a massive nerd with safety goggles, and off-brand Star Trek unitard. The design was a bit of a misfire, but his hardline crime-fighting successfully explored a Superman who isn't always holding back.

When Gardner abandons suspicion in favor of endorsement, Eradicator develops reservations for the underlying aggression of his actions. He sees his violence reflected back through Gardner's obnoxious and irrational use of power, and questions what it means to misuse the S shield for aggression.

There was a monkey's paw aspect throughout the Death of Superman, and Reign of the Supermen storylines. Eradicator functions very much as a 'be careful what you wish for' scenario. A lesser facsimile of the genuine article.

Guy Gardner essentially existed as a timely counterpoint to the whole archetype of Superman. He was a trash-talking loudmouth in the mode of 80s and 90s action heroes. A 'shoot first, ask questions later' hero occupying a precarious space between outright parody, and testosterone-fuelled power fantasy.

It's easy to appreciate the sweetness of such a perennial butthead taking umbrage with what he believes to be an impostor. There's no attempt to reframe the tense differences between Gardner and Superman, but he isn't a completely one-dimensional character. He didn't particularly like Superman, but he respected his sacrifice, and honored his legacy. Redeeming qualities.

I've always been pretty happy with a Superman who's a stand up kinda guy, which was probably why the whole thing was wearing thin by this point. It's never been a secret Steel was the byproduct I enjoyed most, but in digging through the ruins, I'm gaining more appreciation for the whole. In particular, the way existing elements like Eradicator and Hank Henshaw were made use of.

It's amazing to reflect on how brief the whole thing was. Superman is fighting toward his death in Action Comics #684, cover dated December 1992. He's back among the living by Action Comics #691 (September 1993), having left only two issues starring Supergirl, and four Eradicator.

With the Reign of the Supermen heading to DC animation, and DC Comics announcing new comics set in the aftermath of Death of Superman, it looks like there's going to be a lot more opportunity to reflect on this time in history.

As always: you can join me on this nostalgic trip by using the Amazon link provided to check out the collected Reign of the Supermen! All shopping via the link helps support Secret Wars on Infinite Earths at no extra cost!

Find more featured fights past, present, and future by diving into the Secret Index! Every battle is catalogued in order of publisher, series, and issue number.

For a more daring route, check out links littered throughout this post, or character tags below to discover more from your favourite characters and creators! You can also follow on Twitter and Facebook for daily fights inspired by the topics of the day!

Winner: Draw
#119 (+2) Guy Gardner
#415 (new) Eradicator