Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Christened On A Tuesday (DC)
Solomon Grundy #2 When: June 2009
Why: Scott Kolins How: Scott Kolins

The Story So Far...
19th century Gotham City was home to an evil soul called Cyrus Gold. With blood on his hands, he was cursed upon death to forever rise again from his unmarked grave in Slaughter Swamp! Now he terrorizes the modern world as Solomon Grundy!

Caught in an endless cycle of death and resurrection, the shambling monster is forever drawn to new acts of evil as an unstoppable undead creature - until now?...

A mysterious force has given Cyrus Gold seven days to end his curse, but dark forces conspire to prolong the agony of Solomon Grundy! Waylaid by The Demon Etrigan, a murderous Cyrus Gold was restored only to meet another grim end in a scrapyard. Now Solomon Grundy is loose in Gotham and fate would have it that a LexCorp transport carrying Bizarro now lies in his path!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Bizarro 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Solomon Grundy 2 (Average)
Speed: Bizarro 5 (Super-Human)
Stamina: Bizarro 6 (Generator)
Agility: Solomon Grundy 2 (Average)
Fighting: Solomon Grundy 3 (Street Wise)
Energy: Bizarro 3 (Explosives)
Total: Bizarro 24 (Champion)

Last time we looked at Solomon Grundy #2: it was a second round bout with The Demon! Now we're back for the main event! They're big, weird, and ugly -- but who'll come out on top when super-villains meet in a cover clash?

Solomon Grundy is exceptionally strong, but the supernatural slugger from Slaughter Swamp hasn't had a good run on The Comic Book Fight Club! He's become a bit of a punching bag in the modern age, shambling through quick done-in-one fights that put the hero over before they move on to bigger fish.

2004 was a bad year when Sand and the Justice Society toppled Grundy in JSA #65, followed by Hawkman, Hawkgirl, & Monolith in a team takedown a month later, in Hawkman #33! Thing's weren't much better a few years later: Grundy was cooked in the first round with The Demon, before he was sent back to the grave by a lethal underwater loss in the aforementioned finish!

A one-on-one bout of sewer smackdown against Killer Croc delivered Grundy's only recorded win - a vicious victory in Faces of Evil: Solomon Grundy #1! It's a far cry to the days of troubling Superman and Green Lantern, but it was a fine demonstration of Grundy's strength and ferocity, never the less!

Superman usually got the better of Grundy in the end, which could be an indicator for his chances with Bizarro! The chalk-faced doppelganger is only a step off from The Man of Steel when it comes to raw strength and endurance!

Bizarro's powers can be a little inconsistent, but popular inversions include fire breath and freeze vision. Both could cause problems for Grundy, whose body is a supernaturally durable compound derived from swamp bog and wood!

Fortunately for his opponents - strategy isn't Bizarro's forte! His backwards logic goes beyond bizarro-speak, sometimes reducing him to a stumbling idiot. That doesn't mean he's any less deadly, though. The "pretty lights" of the Human Bomb's explosions only fuelled Bizarro's brutal beatdown in Infinite Crisis #1!

Solomon Grundy is known to be tactically challenged, but his best chance for victory may be catching Bizarro wrong-footed! Otherwise, the bruiser from Bizarro World may just be too naturally powerful for the overgrown zombie!

The Tape: Bizarro Ranking: Bizarro (#178)

What Went Down...Rising from the squashed carcass of Cyrus Gold -- the monster Solomon Grundy is in a rage! He crushes the heads of two LexCorps truck drivers and assaults their radio. The disruption awakens the living cargo inside!

Unharmed by the explosion he ignited: Bizarro emerges from the smoldering wrecked carriage! "Bizarro no am free! Me no like free!"

Grundy was made to pause by the explosion, mildly perplexed at the strange being emerging from the fire. Bizarro grabs the shambling monster by the arm and examines him, perceiving a "tree-man" with his unique vision. This triggers memories of an "ugly ugly tree" and love in Bizarro, who hugs his friend!

Solomon Grundy doesn't take kindly to the unexpected act of affection! The monster articulates his aggression, before sending Bizarro hurtling away with an all mighty punch! The friendship has apparently ended!

Bizarro rockets out of the wreckage of the overpass he crash-landed in, flying a beeline for Solomon Grundy! He hits his target perfectly, driving Grundy's body through a nearby building - leaving another explosion in their wake!

Grundy attempts to free himself, smashing his massive fists against either side of Bizarro's head! The blow briefly stuns the aerial villain, leaving both to plummet uncontrollably towards an electric power station below!

The hulking bodies crash through wires and power coils erupting in a blinding flash of electricity! The durable pairing survives lethal voltage, rising on hands and knee with a sizzle and crackle of lingering charge.

Bizarro laughs at the tickle and renews his appreciation for Grundy, "Me hate you -- what your name?" Maddened by Bizarro's inverted reference, Grundy dives at the well-meaning menace! Bizarro awkwardly floats clear.

Missing the target only seems to fuel Solomon Grundy's rage. Moments later, the pair are airborne once more - on a collision course with an extravagant Gotham City penthouse! They crash through the glass of a greenhouse!

Bizarro comments on the "ugly plant room" as a flower pot smashes over his head. The sight of Bizarro with a yellow flower on his noggin finally brings Solomon Grundy around. The grounded pair share a hearty laugh.

The villains cease fighting and Bizarro retrieves a hotdog cart for an early breakfast. The pair chow down and watch the sun rise over Gotham City. Alas, the dawning of a new day triggers Grundy's cursed transformation back to Cyrus Gold. Confused by the unconscious mortal, Bizarro shakes him and leaves.

The Hammer...
Once again the curse of Solomon Grundy has descended upon the Secret Wars on Infinite Earths! It's a bonus round of monster mayhem to satisfy the dark spirits of Halloween!

It's becoming a fun tradition to return to Scott Kolins' now-underrated 2009 mini-series! The gauntlet of superhero & monster mash was always a natural fit for The Comic Book Fight Club, making it a series I've wanted to document in its entirety, since release.

For those coming in late: The path of destruction began with a sewer showdown in the one-shot special Faces of Evil: Solomon Grundy! From Killer Croc, he moved on to two rounds with The Demon in Solomon Grundy #1 and #2. Which brings us, at long last, to the second-issue cover battle against Bizarro!

It kinda comes about by happenstance, but the ominous vibe of Cyrus Gold's curse, and disembodied warnings of grim future consequence, creates a foreboding ripe for grim twists. It's cosmic bad luck Cyrus got crushed in a scrapyard by a falling crane magnet. Worse luck that it happened opposite a LexCorp transport lorry carrying one of Superman's weirdest enemies!

Bizarro has an innate monstrous quality that bridges superhero colour with the macabre tone of the Solomon Grundy series. It's almost a funhouse reflection of Grundy's battles with Superman in the 70s. The mini won't exclusively pit the title villain against dark or monstrous creatures, but its at its best when it does.

This Halloween I've found myself lurching to the tune of Universal Monsters and Hammer Horror. There's more than a little of that spirit in these pages! It's hard not to think of Frankenstein when the two battling behemoths crash through gothic stone and electrically charged coils. Really fun!

The DC version of Frankenstein's Monster is actually one of the characters who shows up in a future issue! Something to look forward to! The next opponent is Poison Ivy: teased when Bizarro leaves Cyrus Gold's unconscious body in the Gotham greenhouse, to be overwhelmed by encroaching flora.

The comedic finish to Grundy v Bizarro may disappoint fans of the beat 'em up aspect, but I thought oscillating between violent rage and comedy was a nice way to play up the unique quirkiness of the characters - Bizarro, in particular. It was a nice come down after the viciousness of the Etrigan finale. There'll be plenty of smash 'em, bash 'em action to satisfy later in the series.

If you can't wait for next Halloween to find out what happens next - why not pick yourself up a collected edition of Solomon Grundy? By using the Amazon purchase link provided, you keep the curse of death at bay by ensuring Amazon support the site at no cost to you!

You can seek out more spooky smackdown by exploring links throughout this article, by taking from the treat of Cover to Cover: Hard Hitting Halloween Horrors, or by summoning the Secret Archive for a complete index of ancient battles arranged by publisher, series, and issue number!

Winner: Inconclusive (Draw)
#135 (+43) Bizarro
#381 (+2) Solomon Grundy

Friday, October 26, 2018

Spirits of Venom Part 4 of 4: Last Rites (Marvel)
Ghost Rider/Blaze: Spirits of Vengeance #6 When: January 1993 Why: Howard Mackie How: Adam Kubert

The Story So Far...
Supernatural forces conspire in the night as New York City plays host to a bizarre gathering of occult entities! While Spider-man scrambles to protect Hobgoblin from the evil Demogoblin and Doppelganger -- the progeny of Deathwatch prepares for his resurrection below, drawing Ghost Rider, Johnny Blaze, and Venom!

The forces of darkness threaten to consume the heroes when they converge in the underground of Manhattan's sewers. Against overwhelming odds, the heroes prevail over endless hordes of Deathspawn, but when Venom's hatred for Spider-man gets the better of him, Ghost Rider steps into the line of fire!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Venom 5 (Super-Human)
Intelligence: Draw 2 (Average)
Speed: Draw 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Ghost Rider 6 (Generator)
Agility: Venom 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting: Draw 3 (Street Wise)
Energy: Ghost Rider 5 (Lasers)
Total: Ghost Rider 25 (Champion)

You only need to look at the character mugshots above to see the elephant in the room! Venom has two well known weaknesses - and one of them is fire!

Ghost Rider may have a burning skull for a head, but that's no ordinary flame! When Danny Ketch touched a gas cap sigil on a mystic motorcycle, he was transformed into a demonic spirit of vengeance! Among his occult arsenal of infernal powers is hellfire, which scorches the soul, but not necessarily the flesh!

Hellfire has sometimes been described as being cold upon contact, which is a simple distinction from the burning that usually sends the Venom symbiote into pained frenzy! We saw Venom go relatively unbothered by hellfire when he went up against Demogoblin in Venom: The Enemy Within #3.

If fire isn't going to send Venom running, then we can at least expect this to be a pretty even fight! We're giving Venom a slight strength advantage, as Danny Ketch was often shown to be a little weaker in practice than Johnny Blaze was.

Blaze isn't irrelevant in this encounter! The previous spirit of vengeance, now stripped of his powers save for a hellfire shotgun, is in the midst of partnering with the new Ghost Rider. He's still in the vicinity, as the trio were, until this point, part of a team-up against the deathspawn cult of Deathwatch!

Symbiote tendrils and Ghost Rider's chain roughly cancel each other out, but in close quarters, could give Venom a slight edge. If he tries to pull the rider in, however, he runs the risk of gazing into the abyss of the penance stare!

Venom is two entities in one: Eddie Brock and the alien symbiote. It's unclear how the penance stare would interact with their unique dual psyche, or if it would even matter. Venom has done terrible things, but he acts in accordance with the twisted morality of a self-proclaimed lethal protector. The symbiote found Brock praying in a church, and penance may not be something he fears!

Dan Ketch's stare proved powerful enough to overwhelm Johnny Blaze, when he served the angel Zadkiel many years after this, in Ghost Rider #29! Will it be a factor? Halloween's coming up quick! Let's see what went down!

The Tape: Ghost Rider Ranking: Venom (#67)

What Went Down...
Halted from pursuing his bitter vendetta with Spider-man; Venom turns his hatred toward the binding chains of Ghost Rider! For allowing Spider-man to escape, the spirit of vengeance who was briefly Venom's ally has earned death!

Venom leaps at Ghost Rider, extending a massive alien-enhanced arm as he does. His fist only narrowly misses its target, smashing through the sewer wall immediately behind Ghost Rider's flaming skull!

The Rider attempts to talk reason into Venom, reminding him of the true threat of Deathwatch's deathspawn, but the mutual hatred shared by Eddie Brock and his alien costume will allow nothing else! So intense is their hatred for Spider-man that they dare question the demon spirit's grasp of true vengeance!

Venom clamps his massive teeth around Ghost Rider's wrist and swings his head around to toss him across the sewer!

The throw separates Ghost Rider from his mystic chain. Venom picks it up and launches himself at the struggling spirit, flexing mighty muscle driven by a mad, misdirected lust for revenge against Spider-man!

Ghost Rider finds his back to the ground as Venom bares down over him, pulling the chain ever tighter around his neck! Venom makes a crazed vow to use his own weapon to rip his head off, if Ghost Rider insists on getting in his way.

With his head still in tact, Ghost Rider glares up at his opponent and invites him to meet the searing gaze of his penance stare!

Fire streams from Ghost Rider's eye sockets and licks at the alien costume's wide white eyes! The flame engulfs Venom as the demon challenges him to face the very pain and suffering he has inflicted upon others!

Venom is surprised to find the fire doesn't burn, but he is never the less wracked with pain! He snares and grunts, but his isn't the only discomfort! The fire begins to burn more intensely as Ghost Rider realizes Venom's alien costume is a living sentient entity! A factor that causes an unknown reaction!

An explosion of hellfire breaks the penance stare - throwing the two combatants in opposite directions!

Flames flicker across the battlefield, but only one combatant lies motionless: Ghost Rider! Venom rises to continue his misguided grudge against the demon of vengeance, but a shotgun barrel pressing against his head warrants a stay of execution. Johnny Blaze arrives just in time to stop the finishing blow!

The Hammer...
So, what have we learned today?..

Apparently if Ghost Rider tries to use the penance stare on Venom: it causes some kind of explosive feedback-loop that spares symbiote & host the full effect!

Why exactly is that? There doesn't seem to be any explanation offered here, but it might have had something to do with the alien's vast cosmic experience prior to being brought to Earth.

Two decades later, the symbiote was described as having "too much sin" in Thunderbolts (Vol.2) #23, when Johnny Blaze tried to use the penance stare on Agent Venom. The end result was similar, shorting out the Rider's powers.

Being too guilty for penance is a slightly ridiculous way of framing the unusual exception, but perhaps there's a more satisfying way of looking at it...

Spirits of Vengeance are derived from the realms of Heaven & Hell. Their penance stare weaponizes the esoteric power of an individual's sins.

High-ranking devils and demons are also frequently seen to draw their power from evil & sin. If Ghost Rider is an agent of these higher demons (or angels), unable to dominate them, it stands to reason within the internal logic of the mythology, that there is a threshold for sin being greater than Ghost Rider's ability to utilize it.

This all presumes the Venom symbiote has a staggering history of evil, which may be more difficult to accept, particularly with expansions and revisions to the symbiote backstory. Personally, I think some ambiguity is for best, so I'm happy not to go too deep into the world of "Klyntar". Not yet, at least.

It's fun to think about the chemistry of how unique characters interact, but I'm not sure this much handwringing is really necessary. Spirits of Venom is liquid 1993, crossing over two of Marvel's most visual characters, in the hands of one of their emerging popular artists. It's all about spectacle!

Adam Kubert shows moments of brilliance, leading with a full page POV from the back of Venom's throat on Page 1! You can see part of the image included above, sans credits. It's a great way to exploit Venom's ever-gaping mouth and makes for an awesome open!

Things get a little sketchy from there as the action, initiated by the end of Web of Spider-man #96, gets going, but it soon delivers another great moment. The fire pouring out of Ghost Rider and enveloping Venom [also pictured above] is an example of the really exciting, inventive layouts Kubert cranked out here!

Inker Bill Reinhold and colorist Greg Wright deserve a lot of credit for adding to the look of the issue! A lot of these early nineties Midnight Sons superhero-horror series had a similar look. It's a mistake to think of them as dark. Actually, they frequently had vivid colours and bright light reference! These were the supernatural glows that created the dark shadows people remember.

I really love the glowing purples and greens, and the way they pop against dark blues, greys, and blacks. The stories themselves could get pretty dodgy, but the finished artwork, particularly in the first couple of years, always seemed to have a high gloss that evoked a signature style and standard of quality.

All the interiors arguably pale compared to the Spirits of Venom Part 4 cover by Kubert and Ken Steacy! The image [page top] of an upside down Venom holding Ghost Rider's flaming skull in a chain was recreated in different mediums throughout the early nineties. I particularly recall a brighter version used in the first series of Marvel Flair trading cards - memorable for the thickness of their cardstock, and premium price. It sure helped mythologize the crossover!

Spirits of Venom plays up supernatural plotlines of Jason Macendale and the excised Demogoblin, creating a fairly natural crossover between the third string Spider-man series and secondary Ghost Rider title. It all feels a little gratuitous, but the concerns and motivations of the lead characters are actually pretty well represented. Even if its four issues of everyone raging incoherently through the sewers against each other, generic demons, and low rent villains.

The four-issue "event" really pales in comparison to Maximum Carnage from the same year, but it's an interesting artefact of its time, and I imagine we'll be back to pick apart some of the other conflicts that unfolded. As noted: Johnny Blaze stepped in to follow-up simmering tensions between he and Venom.

If you'd like to follow-up on more Spirits of Venom, or other stories, dive into the Secret Archive for a full index of featured fights organized by publisher, series, and issue number!

You can also find more battles by following links throughout this post, or following Secret Wars on Infinite Earths on Twitter and Facebook! Sharing and liking your favourite fights is a great way to support the site! October is Halloween, so stay tuned for more horrors!

Winner: Venom
#16 (+1) Venom (Symbiote)
#42 (+25) Venom (Eddie Brock)
#362 (-44) Ghost Rider (Dan Ketch)

Monday, October 22, 2018

Real Name: Barry Allen
First Appearance: Showcase #4 (October, 1956)
Fight Club Ranking: #16

Featured Fights:
- vs ANTI-MONITOR'S CANNON: Crisis on Infinite Earths #8 (Nov 1985)
- vs FIRE GIANT: Secret Origins #32 (Nov 1988)
- vs WOOD KING: Secret Origins #32 (Nov 1988)
- vs SUPERMAN: Dark Knight Strikes Again #1 (Nov 2001)
- vs CAPTAIN COLD: DC: The New Frontier #2 (Apr 2004)
- vs SAVITAR: Flash: Rebirth #1 (Jun 2009)
- vs LADY FLASH: Flash: Rebirth #2 (Jul 2009)
- vs SUPERMAN: Flash: Rebirth #3 (Aug 2009)
- vs REVERSE-FLASH: Flash: Rebirth #4 (Sep 2009)
- vs MARTIAN MANHUNTER: Green Lantern #44 (Sep 2009)

The Flash is making a television comeback -- and I don't mean the kid in the pleather cosplay!

The upcoming DC/CW "Elseworlds" crossover has revealed John Wesley Shipp back in the crimson suit he wore for 22 underrated episodes in 1990-91! Feast your eyes on a scintillating still shot shared to Twitter by Marc Guggenheim - and marvel at how excellent the recreation still looks!

When The Flash debuted on The CW in 2014, it was bittersweet to see Shipp appear as Barry Allen's wrongfully imprisoned father. Until 2011's New 52 relaunch, fans knew and loved three generations of scarlet speedster! Star Grant Gustin didn't particularly evoke any established version of Barry Allen, so the potential for Shipp to reprise his matured role next to a new Kid Flash seemed like a real no brainer!

As new properties scramble to play catch-up with the established worlds of comic books, this kind of use of real-life existing history seems like the next logical evolution - a unique advantage! As if to continually drive home how obvious the concept would've been: Amanda Pays and Mark Hamill even reprised versions of their roles as Tina McGee and The Trickster. Which is about all the reference you really need to the old 1990 show.

The CW could've continued on merrily with a fresh premise similar (but superior) to what we got. It would've just become a more natural coming of age story, with an existing Flash playing mentor -- perhaps stuck in the Speed Force -- instead of that weird mangled version of Professor Zoom they pulled. Other references from the old show would've been available if needed.

The 1990 Flash series will no doubt live again thanks to streaming services, and fans should be prepared to find a similar style of television adaptation. Back then, TV was synonymous with second-rate when it came to superheroes and most genre fiction. There still wasn't a whole lot of precedent, and the constraints of budget and technology were a lot more strenuous than they are today.

Rarity was one of the reasons I was so excited in 1990, but under further scrutiny, the show does a palatable job of making the most of what it's got. For one: The Flash costume was presented to look pretty fantastic!. In fact, seeing Shipp back in the suit - I dare say he still puts the CW to shame!

The old show didn't do comic book villains much better, with classics like Captain Cold and Mirror Master succumbing to so-so stunt casting, and off-the-rack non-costumes. Every fan worth their salt had some grumbling to do, but got over it because of novelty, the awesome realization of The Flash, and the fact that the best episodes featured original crime capers and terrific sci-fi drama!

There was also a strong aesthetic of eighties-deco in Central City, inspired by Tim Burton's 1989 Batman, with bizarre painted murals punctuating just about every location. You really need to see these backgrounds to believe it. They're insane and awesome! You couldn't expect a new show to recreate the city and interior sets -- budget was one of the things that took the original show down -- but some sense of a gentrified version of Central City would've been spectacular. I digress...

I don't know what to expect from Shipp's return to the red suit, or if it's even worth further confusing matters. After all, he's also already been re-cast as Jay Garrick in another previous attempt to make better use of TV's first (recurring) Flash.

The Elseworlds banner suggests the fun won't last for long, but it's sure as heck enough to make The Flash our Hero of the Week! You'll be able to tune-in to the three-part crossover in December, with Entertainment Weekly reporting Part 1 begins Sunday, December 9th on The Flash. Part 2 is Monday on Arrow, and Part 3 wraps it all up with Tuesday's episode of Supergirl.

<< Hero of the Week 10/29: Dracula      [Home]      Hero of the Week 10/15: Silver Surfer >>

Friday, October 19, 2018

The Boneyard Hop! (Marvel)
Amazing Spider-man #347 When: May 1991
Why: David Michelinie How: Erik Larsen

The Story So Far...
When Spider-man's costume was damaged fighting the Secret Wars of Battleworld, he mistakenly chose the wrong repair machine, unleashing an alien symbiote that masqueraded as his new black costume!

Freeing himself from the parasite using its weakness to sound, Spider-man inadvertently created his greatest nemesis when the symbiote bonded with a Peter Parker-hating journalist: Eddie Brock! Sharing the symbiote's knowledge of Parker's secret identity, host and parasite combined to create a deadly Venom!

Using the symbiote's ability to alter his appearance and negate Spider-man's danger sense -- Venom succeeds in luring the web-slinger to the Moleed Labs cryogenic facility. With his mortal nemesis frozen and helpless, Venom transports him to a deserted island so the pair can have their final showdown!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Venom 5 (Super-Human)
Intelligence: Spider-man 5 (Professor)
Speed: Spider-man 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Draw 5 (Marathoner)
Agility: Spider-man 5 (Cat-Like)
Fighting: Draw 3 (Street Wise)
Energy: Venom 2 (Projectiles)
Total: Spider-man 29 (Metahuman)

It's finally time to return to one the great comic book rivalries of the modern age! Venom is the distorted reflection of Spider-man, possessing equivalent powers thanks to the alien symbiote originally bonded to Peter Parker!

With a range of additional skills, Venom is arguably Spider-man's superior in physical combat, but that didn't stop the web-slinger winning their only previously featured encounter: an obscure battle from Spider-man Family #2!

The living black costume enhances Eddie Brock's speed and agility, generates webbing and extending tendrils, imitates materials and surfaces, mimics wall-crawling, and increases Brock's natural size and strength to surpass the brute force and endurance of Spider-man!

Venom's superior strength is one of his most obvious offensive advantages. He's used it to overpower Spider-man on countless occasions, and even gone head-to-head with powerhouses like Iron Man [Iron Man #302], Demogoblin [Venom: The Enemy Within #3], and even Superman, in the controversial crossover battles of DC/Marvel: All Access #1!

Fortunately, Spider-man is no stranger to a physical mismatch! With proper motivation he's out thought, and out fought, the likes of: Juggernaut [Amazing Spider-man #230], Rhino [Spider-man: Blue #2], Tombstone [Spectacular Spider-man #142], Scorpion [Spectacular Spider-man #215], Grey Gargoyle [Marvel: Heroes & Legends #1], and even DC's New God Mantis (and Juggernaut), with a little help from Wonder Woman [Unlimited Access #1]!

So what makes Venom more dangerous than all the other heavyweights?

Because of the symbiote's time attached to Peter Parker, it knows all that he knew - and shares it freely with Eddie Brock! There's an obvious tactical edge to knowing how Spider-man fights, but the psychological toll is just as great!

Brock has used his knowledge to prey upon Spidey's vulnerabilities, and torment those closest to him, like his former wife Mary-Jane Watson! At the time of this fight, Venom's personal warfare had arguably put him on the level of the presumed-deceased Green Goblin! A physical and mental double threat!

The symbiote's already managed to trick Spider-man into being cryogenically frozen! The thaw could prove an added problem, along with the unfamiliar arena. This has all the makings of a Venom win, but can you ever rule-out a spectacular Spidey comeback? Let's check it out!

History: Spider-man (1-0-0)
The Tape: Spider-man Ranking: Spider-man (#2)

What Went Down...
Chilled to the bone by cryogenic freezing: Spider-man opens his eyes to find himself sweating in the sun on a deserted island! Venom looms above in a tangle of webbing and palm leaves, waiting for his prey to thaw for the hunt!

Spidey cuts a lesson in the island's history short, webbing Venom's face to buy himself precious seconds to escape! He uses them to flee the open beach for the cover of dense jungle growth, while the symbiote briefly explodes off Eddie Brock's head, clearing the obstruction to its human host's vision!

With no fear of exposing his identity, Peter Parker sips at a cool stream sans mask. He tries to clear his head and prepare for combat when the water stirs!

Two massive, camouflaged arms reach from the water and grab Peter Parker by the throat! The alien symbiote both mimicks its visual surroundings, whilst negating any warning by Spider-man's preternatural spidey sense!

Dragged beneath the water, Spidey struggles to find his footing as a massive fist collides with his face! Spying a sunken tree branch, he desperately shoves the makeshift weapon into Venom's face, then swings for the fences!

The web-slinger makes a break for the surface and escapes the deep pool for the open sprawl of the canopy. Venom is in hot pursuit -- a fact that plagues Peter's mind as he web-swings his way toward an abandoned mining village.

At the settlement edge, Parker uses his fleeting time to improvise a trap and plan to lure Venom to it. Then he remembers: Venom always finds him!

Once again the landscape appears to come alive as the camouflaged symbiote extends from the jungle! It's almost as if the trees themselves are reaching out to attack when that massive fists sends Spider-man staggering!

With no way of knowing when his opponent is coming, Spidey briefly considers his plight is hopeless. He rallies as the tongue-wagging killer rapidly descends upon him, running back in the direction of his trap.

With the sound of a snap - Venom triggers the trap and is snared by the ankle like a rabbit on a rope! Dangling upside down from the trees, he's like a living piƱata. Parker rips a door off one of the nearby buildings and hits him!

The wooden door shatters into a cloud of splinters as it collides with Venom's super-humanly strong body! It sends his body swinging, but that's nothing he isn't used to thanks to the symbiote's imitation of Spider-man's abilities. He uses another of the skills to turn the tables, blasting Parker's eyes with web!

Spidey desperately rips at the webbing as Venom frees himself, clearing it just in time to flee once more! The Spider swings from the trees on his web, while the lumbering Venom opts to hoist a nearby jeep and toss it down the path!

The airborne projectile is narrowly avoided by its target, but the momentum of his swinging sends Spidey's twisting body tumbling earthbound! Rather than smash to the ground, the soaring truck falls through the grass -- revealing an abandoned mine! Spider-man crawls by the entrance, detecting a pocket of gas presumably responsible for the disaster that destroyed it.

Venom quickly finds the mineshaft as well, blocking the entrance as he descends upon Parker. The web-slinger has to think fast, pulling the support struts with his web to collapse the entrance under Venom's feet!

Parker keeps one step ahead of his nemesis, leaping out of the mine to swing his way back to the beach. He becomes concerned for web fluid reserves as he notices a shipping boat on the horizon. Before he can chance the waters with spider-strength -- black tendrils explode out of the sand beneath his feet!

The strands of symbiote drag Peter Parker across the beach toward an exposed Eddie Brock. Rather than resist -- Parker shoots webs past Brock and launches himself at speed towards his predator! The diving tackle sends Brock hurtling through the trees back in the direction of the center of the island!

The gambit gives Spidey the chance to go on the run again. He conserves his final web cartridge, hoofing it on foot across a makeshift graveyard, while Eddie Brock takes a break, lighting a campfire to keep warm as night falls.

The Hammer...
I thought we'd be following this battle to its famous conclusion, but it turns out an hour elapses before the final showdown even begins! Comic Book Fight Club rules clearly determine this brings an end to Round 1!

A largely exposed Eddie Brock took a pretty heavy hit before the break, but there's very little to suggest he couldn't continue fighting. He merely chooses to light a campfire and take a breather! That's enough for me to call this one an inconclusive draw!

It reminds me a little of the unexpected pause in Spider-man vs Juggernaut [see also; Round 2], but in this case, Spidey is specifically using the time to prepare for the next encounter.

Who wins an island fight if Spidey has prep time? To be answered when we return to Amazing Spider-man #347 at a later date!

Rather than dwell on what didn't happen in this epic showdown - let's just marvel at the pleasures of the collaborative teaming of David Michelinie and Erik Larsen! A couple of modern greats!

My deepest nostalgia for the pairing goes a little earlier, prior and during the time Spidey got cosmic and took on the likes of Graviton, Magneto [Amazing Spider-man #327], and the magically melded Tri-Sentinel [Amazing #329]!

I particularly appreciate the slightly grittier finish to Erik Larsen's pencils in that period. I think of his '89 work being tighter, with darker blacks, and sharper lines. Some of that might come down to the change from Al Gordon to Randy Emberlin on inks, but it might be artistic choice. That grittiness and weight seemed to return in the early years of Image [Savage Dragon #7].

The eyes and jaw of Venom warp more than I'd probably like. It's a strong, unique visual that compliments these early years when Venom was more readily characterized as a villain, but the sketchy eyes, and ever-extending mandible look too out of control here. I ultimately prefer the aesthetic of the smooth, more rigid Venom that became the model in the years following.more readily characterized as a twisted villain.

Michelinie and Larsen went down some wild roads, but they never strayed too far from a classical core. A big part of the fun of today's featured fight is seeing them take Spider-man out of his classic environment and playing with that.

It's a little silly that the murderous Venom would go this far to catch and release his nemesis, but for the sake of the high-concept of having them duel on a desert island, you've kinda gotta give them the means to deliver the conceit. At a time when third-stringers like Styx and Stone were getting tangled up with the fan favourite rivalry -- I don't think too many would've minded!

The slick black appearance, and toothy drooling maw of Venom sometimes draws comparison to HR Giger's Alien, but there's a little Predator in this story, what with its isolated location, dense vegetation, guerilla warfare, and the exploitation of the symbiote's ability to blend in with its surroundings.

There've been long stretches where the alien symbiote's ability to mimic other materials goes overlooked. Imitating clothing was inherent to the creature's first appearance in Secret Wars! It's a day one play, yet there is something slightly against the grain when Venom turns into things like water, concrete, or even the trunk of a palm tree. It makes sense, copying colour and texture, but it's not something I want to think about too often with this character.

Venom's psychological warfare with Spider-man has always been one of his best qualities as an arch-villain. Spidey can can't trust his sight or his spider-senses and never knows where Venom's coming from! That's enhanced further by the unfamiliar terrain of the island, where there are no tall buildings to swing from!

Taking Spider-man out of Manhattan can be a bad call for some stories, but you know Michelinie and Larsen deliver, getting the most out of the excursion by milking it for its tension. When Parker's inner-monologue starts to doubt his ability to stay ahead of Venom - you're almost believing it! Great stuff!

It all boils down to the chemistry and history between Eddie Brock and Peter Parker. That's going to be one of the biggest challenges facing Sony as they attempt to launch a Spider-Verse of films with Venom - now in theatres! Just one of the inspirations behind today's featured fight!

After you see the movie, get a pure injection of Venom by using the purchase link provided to read this story and others in collected edition! Market symbiosis means you'll be helping Secret Wars on Infinite Earths live at no cost to you!

You can find even more Venom by following relevant links throughout this post, or by diving into the Spider-Verse of the Secret Archive! Every featured fight is indexed by publisher, series, and issue number. Be sure to share your favourite links, and follow on Twitter or Facebook to help find more hosts!

Winner: Inconclusive (Draw)
#2 (--) Spider-man
#17 (--) Venom (Symbiote)
#67 (+1) Venom (Eddie Brock)