Thursday, May 13, 2021

Legion! (Marvel)
Falcon #2 When: December 1983
Why: Jim Owsley How: Mark Bright

The Story So Far...
Some would say every day is just another battle for survival on the mean streets of Harlem -- but it becomes terrifyingly true when a casual stroll past an inner city landfill turns lethal for The Falcon!

A mutant-hunting Sentinel has been lying almost dormant beneath the garbage heap -- but its sensors have detected the high-flying winged avenger and deemed him a mutant.

Suddenly springing to life -- the evil machine has gigantic hands of death and a malfunctioning program that wants to put the squeeze on Falcon!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Sentinel A7 5 (Super-Human)
Intelligence: Falcon 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Falcon 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Sentinel A7 5 (Marathoner)
Agility: Falcon 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting: Falcon 4 (Trained)
Energy: Sentinel A7 5 (Lasers)
Total: Sentinel A7 24 (Champion)

Sentinels have long been a scourge of mutantkind, but occasionally their hateful programming has been directed at other opponents as well.

Sentinel A7 was consigned to the scrap heap after it was blasted to oblivion by Cyclops in X-Men #98. It looks as if its been able to auto-repair the gaping cavity in its chest, but are its circuits and programming still fully functioning?

The malicious machine has identified The Falcon as a mutant target.

To this point Sam Wilson had never been considered by those terms. His wing suit was designed by the Black Panther, while his keen senses and rapport with birds came courtesy of a cosmic cube controlled by the Red Skull.

Is it possible the Red Skull merely unlocked latent mutant powers?

That's one explanation for the mental link he shares with Redwing and other birds. It also might support some of the daring aerial feats he's performed over the years, which would put considerable strain on his body.

He was able to torpedo Pyro and endure Avalanche's vibrational blasts when The Avengers battled Freedom Force in Avengers #312. His flying fists also caused trouble for Baron Zemo in Thunderbolts #105. He showed the indomitable will of a super-soldier whilst battling Batroc The Leaper in All-New Captain America #1.

All of this goes to show Falcon will never go down without a fight, but it also reminds us he's best equipped to take on human threats. Sentinels aren't a world away from Hydra super-weapons, but can he win alone? Let's find out...

The Tape: Sentinel A7 Ranking: Sentinel A7 (#600)

What Went Down...
An empty street erupts with violence when a damaged Sentinel suddenly springs to life from beneath the trash heap of an inner-city garbage dump!

The sleeping giant's trigger is Falcon -- who just happened to be strolling through the neighbourhood when the machine identified him as a mutant.

The earthbound hero leans away from the sudden danger exploding out of the dump, but is never the less completely caught by surprise in the ambush!

Falcon can do nothing to escape the gigantic purple fist clasping around him!

The metal hand envelopes him almost completely -- pinning his wings to the sides of his body! 
The machine coldly observes its prize and speaks declaratively: "Resistance is useless!".

The machine was correct. With its free hand the human-shaped robot blasts Falcon in the face with a concentrated dose of powerful knock-out gas.

Sentinel A7 transmits a report that The Falcon has been successfully neutralized and sets a course for home base. Its programming never once detects that there is no one there to receive.

The Hammer...
We came to see if Falcon could stop the scourge of an out-of-control Sentinel, but all we got was a dirty sneak attack! The winged avenger never really got a chance to fight -- caught by the spontaneous unexpected revival of Sentinel A7!

What makes this unit so special? As noted in The Tape: Sentinel A7 previously appeared in X-Men #98, where it was blasted to smithereens by Cyclops after interrupting a Yuletide dinner date. Its unexpected return in Falcon #2 is a genius bit of shared-universe storytelling early in the career of Christopher Priest.

If this doesn't seem like the whole story - you're damn right it isn't!

The malfunctioning Sentinel takes Falcon to its long abandoned headquarters and places him in a glass holding tube. It doesn't take long for the dazed & nauseated hero to pull himself together and bust out -- setting up an exciting rematch!

We'll get a better impression of what Falcon can do when we come back for Round 2. Ideally I'd like to work my way through the entire four issue mini-series, which is all around a good time. I've just been especially eager to get to this issue.

Falcon doesn't have a particularly famous rogue's gallery, mostly sharing foes with his crime-fighting partner Captain America. To keep things fresh the mini-series tackles its subject by first mining Sam Wilson's personal circumstances to explore the character, and generate a new villain. Then it finds inventive ways to send him into conflict with other well known adversaries from the Marvel canon.

Reviving Sentinel A7 almost seven years after it was seemingly destroyed was a strange and unlikely masterstroke.

The unusual match-up gives the second issue an immediate hook, with a dramatic Paul Smith cover to lure you in, and Mark Bright interior art that really sells the scale of threat Falcon is up against!

Three different artists tackle cover duties for the series. They're all pretty good, but I daresay Smith's are the most famous. That first issue almost telegraphs the coming of Sentinels with a battle-damaged Falcon up against a wall looking like he could step into the Days of Future Past scene from Uncanny X-Men #141.

Falcon's no stranger to fighting overwhelming odds, but what would a Sentinel want with him? Six years before Dwayne McDuffie gave us Damage Control the issue answered what happens when giant killer robots break down in the city, but it also asked the question that launched a couple of decades of fan speculation.

History seems to have settled that Falcon isn't really a mutant, but for a while the possibility added an interesting wrinkle to his Dolittle-esque rapport with birds.

Mutant status might've led to other unique adventures had the 1983 mini-series launched more regular solo outings. In the end, it was probably simpler for the wingman to remain organic to the world of Cap, and human concern.

Falcon #2 ultimately plays it pretty ambiguously, any way. Sentinel A7 may be cosmetically repaired, presumably from other scrap sourced from the junkyard, but is clearly experiencing malfunction. It continues to operate as if no time has passed since its previous attack in 1976, even though that iteration of Sentinels had been decommissioned, and its headquarters is in obvious disrepair.

If you'd like to see what happens when the action continues you can check out the full mini-series collected in Avengers: Falcon. By using the Amazon purchase link provided you'll not only get yourself a good deal, you'll also be my wingman by getting Amazon to support the site at no extra cost to you!

You can find follow-up articles and more by following links throughout this post, or by diving into the Secret Archive for a complete index of featured fights in order of publisher, series, and issue number! Just scroll down to Falcon to find any future updates, or explore the many other options available!

Secret Wars on Infinite Earths has featured more than 600 battles and ranked well over 1000 characters! If you like superhero smackdown and want to support this independent corner of the web you can sign up to Patreon. As a thank you you'll receive access to additional updates, polls, and custom article options!

You can also follow and subscribe on Twitter or Facebook to get daily links to fights inspired by the trending topics of the day! Be sure to like and share posts while you're there, and tell me which ones are your favourites!

Winner: Sentinel A7
#188 (+412) Sentinel A7
#996 (-11) Falcon

Friday, April 16, 2021

Seeing Red (Marvel)
Captain America #350 When: February 1989
Why: Mark Gruenwald How: Kieron Dwyer

The Story So Far...
When the government asserts that Captain America and his shield are intellectual property, and that Steve Rogers was never officially discharged from the military, he's presented with an ultimatum to return to service.

Rogers instead chooses to resign, taking up the fight as a free agent known simply as "The Captain". This leaves the Commission of Superhuman Activities to appoint a new Captain America: former adversary John "Super-Patriot" Walker.

Walker proves to be a volatile replacement, stained with the blood of his enemies in an orchestrated plot to discredit Captain America's legacy. When The Captain is reluctantly called in to rescue his replacement, The Red Skull pulls the strings to set up the ultimate clash between his old adversary, and the jealous stand-in!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: USAgent 4 (Enhanced)
Intelligence: Draw 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Captain America 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Captain America 5 (Marathoner)
Agility: Captain America 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting: Captain America 6 (Warrior)
Energy: Draw 2 (Projectile)
Total: Captain America 28 (Metahuman)

At this point in history John Walker wears the red, white, and blue of Captain America. He was previously known as The Super-Patriot, and will eventually be best recognized as USAgent.

After a brief stint in the US Army; Walker underwent the augmentation process of The Power Broker, gaining greatly enhanced super-human strength, durability, speed, and reflexes. He used his powers to join the Universal Class Wrestling Federation, but soon left the ring to begin a feud with Captain America.

The Super-Patriot believed he embodied America's ideals better than Steve Rogers, and when the US government's Commission on Superhuman Activities pushed Rogers to resign his post: John Walker was chosen to take up the shield as a new Captain America working directly for the Commission.

During this time Steve Rogers continued to operate as a freelance super-hero under the alias The Captain. Wearing a red, white, and black costume he continued to fight the good fight against villains like the alien-powered Cold War in Marvel Comics Presents #2.

By contrast John Walker had a tumultuous and violent tenure as Captain America. 
He battled UCWF allies turned enemies, Left and Right-Winger, and resorted to lethal force against The Watchdogs after his parents were murdered. He even lost his shield when he was badly beaten by The Flag-Smasher, requiring rescue by Rogers, Demolition Man, and his partner Battlestar.

John Walker has far superior strength to Steve Rogers, even once competing with Wonder Man in a weight-lifting contest, but a simple lack of heart and discipline means he always comes off second best.

This is the first time we've recorded a one-on-one battle between the two Captains, but they were on opposite sides when The Invaders and Avengers came to blows in New Invaders #0. Walker was again claiming to be Captain America while using a new spiked shield, but suffered a beat down at the hands of his former West Coast Avengers and Force Works teammate, Iron Man.

The Tape: Steve Rogers Ranking: Steve Rogers (#7)

What Went Down...
The new Captain America is still breathing heavily from battle when Steve Rogers enters the room to discover him surrounded by dead bodies.

Until moments ago the deceased were heavily armed agents of the Red Skull, but thanks to the villain's new face -- John Walker is operating under the belief they were working for Steve Rogers himself. He launches himself at The Captain!

Instantly recognizing the voice of John "Super-Patriot" Walker - Rogers knows he's no match for the replacement Captain America's enhanced strength!

Fortunately, he's still in possession of his relinquished shield, having recovered it after it was stolen by Flag Smasher. He uses the shield to bat the attacking Captain America out of the air -- but it buys only a precious few seconds before Walker is back again like a charging bull!

Rogers backflips out of his replacement's path and tries to tell him about the Red Skull's deception. The "battle frenzied" Captain America won't listen, throwing a super-human punch that's blocked by The Captain's shield!

Rogers drops low to take Walker's legs out with a kick to the back of the knee.

He knows he won't win with reason, and after the things he's heard John Walker has done in Captain America's name -- he doesn't mind taking this fight head-on.

Walker lunges forward with another powerful punch, but The Captain somersaults  clear. The blow smashes into the floor behind, and Walker uses his strength to rip a chunk out of the surface and hurl it at The Captain!

Rogers back flips over the improvised projectile, but this time his landing leaves him wide open to a charging attack from Walker! He hears the brute coming from behind, but still doesn't have time to regain footing. He can only throw his shield up and hope to cushion the impact as he's tackled into a wall!

The pair smashes through the wall like a freight train!

The Captain manages to use their tumbling to his advantage, escaping Walker's powerful grip and maneuvering himself to land on top of his doppelganger. Rogers takes the opportunity to drive his elbow back and hard into the new Captain America's face!

The blow appears to stun John Walker for a moment, but its nothing compared to the shock Steve Rogers experiences with the sudden illumination of monitors around the room.

They show images of the new Captain America's bloody exploits. Opponents beaten, maimed, and killed -- just like the dead men a room away. A legacy in ruin. Captain America was never meant to be a killer.

Rogers barely has time to process it all when his replacement suddenly spring to life, pushing off the ground with a two-legged kick The Captain manages to block with his mighty shield.

John Walker reminds his opponent that it's his shield and dares him to fight without hiding behind it. Remembering his failure to beat Walker in the past, Steve Rogers ignores his better judgement and tosses the shield aside!

The Captain throws a body blow deep into John Walker's stomach.

It is a blow driven with renewed fighting spirit. In that instant he reflects upon surrendering his uniform and shield, swallowing his pain and anger, and fighting to forge a new identity as The Captain.

With a left hook he topples his replacement. Here he will test if going back to basics has restored his edge. Here he will see if it was all worth while.

The new Captain America rises with blood trickling from his mouth and a crazed grin. He's far from finished.

Walker launches himself like a Super-Patriot missile -- leaping through the air outstretched to drive both his fists into The Captain's face!

An acrobatic twist brings Walker into a landing, but Rogers throws his leg out to meet his successor with a kick to the chest!

Walker responds with another vicious downward punch that The Captain narrowly rolls clear of. The new Captain America follows, stalking his opponent with a wild swinging back-fist. Rogers steps clear and bounces back with a stiff right hand!

Again John Walker furious charges at his opponent, but again Steve Rogers keeps one step ahead -- back flipping clear.

He lands gracefully, but with his back up against a large machine he can only duck to avoid John Walker's relentless rage-fueled punch. The enhanced strength of the new Captain America plunges through the steel outer casing into live electronics!

Untold volts channel through John Walker's body and he lets out a sickening shriek as The Captain dives clear.

Incredibly, Walker shakes off the blow in mere seconds, escaping the electrical charge with a fist full of wires and a mind full of bad intentions!

He rushes Steve Rogers and uses the electrical cable as an improvised garrote!

The wires tighten around The Captain's throat as John Walker issues a battle crazed vow: "You're dead, Rogers! You've tormented me for the last time!"

With dire stakes Steve Rogers summons his every ounce of strength and channels it into a do or die blow. His fists fly wildly above his head in a single desperate bid for victory -- and survival!

The Captain's aim is true and both fists collide with the sides of John Walker's head! The double-barreled blow delivers inescapable impact with enough strength and precision to at last knock the new Captain America out cold!

The Hammer...
After a little over eighteen months of John Walker as the new Captain America -- he finally meets defeat at the hands of the original!

A brief skirmish with the Red Skull follows, exposing his role in setting the pair against one another, before both Captains appear before the Commission of Superhuman Activities.

Without the influence of the Skull's corrupting agent, Douglas Rockwell, it's the Commission's ruling that the name, shield, and uniform may be property of the United States Government -- but it's always been Steve Rogers who imbued it with meaning. Remarkable, then, that he doesn't immediately accept its return.

Rogers asserts that his experiences as The Captain proved he can still effectively serve his ideals, and those of the country, without the shield and uniform of Captain America. It's only when John Walker himself chases Rogers down in the hall outside that he accepts the mantle's return. A little extra dramatic flourish for the readers who'd been waiting a year and a half for it!

Walker clearly intends to continue serving his country, but even he can see there's no point finding another "poor slob" to be an ineffective stand-in unfavourably compared with the original.

Four issues later John Walker returns wearing the red, white, and black of The Captain, now answering to the name "U.S.Agent". The Commission also places him with the West Coast Avengers as a condition of their government charter.

It might seem a little redundant to keep a second-rate Captain America running around the Marvel Universe, but it would've been a shame to retire the striking Tom Morgan design, which so perfectly suits the dark edge of John Walker.

It also opened up a storytelling palette with a different flavour, benefitting from the years of hard work spent constructing the John Walker character. [USAgent] continued to be a contentious figure, butting heads with his West Coast teammates, even as he fought with a better sense of restraint.

He unavoidably remained the 'asshole Captain America': a bona fide jerk far less idealistic than Rogers, but a well intentioned jerk, who managed to do some real good in the years that followed. It would take Mark Millar over a decade to present a more fundamentally ugly American super-soldier in The Ultimates.

At the time of this writing The Falcon and The Winter Soldier has begun airing on the Disney+ streaming service, and it's been amusing to see some viewers unsure if they should dislike John Walker. Especially so after the expectation of comic book reference seemed to weigh so heavily on WandVision.

As we've seen: John Walker has always been there to be disliked! The show even adapts the plot of Cap's unpopular replacement with an extra delicious twist by deliberately passing up more logical successors to the legacy -- namely the hand-picked Sam Wilson, and tenured Bucky Barnes.

So just how bad is John Walker? Today's featured fight should reflect poorly, but in future entries we'll track back through some of the real lowlights of his time as Captain America. We're also overdue to get back to more Falcon.

If you'd like to find battles with other characters you can follow links throughout this post to discover more. Or dive into the Secret Archive for a complete legacy of featured fights indexed in order of publisher, series, and issue number.

Secret Wars on Infinite Earths has featured in excess of 600 battles and ranked well over 1000 combatants! If you like diving into superhero smackdown and want to help the record grow you can support the project by signing up to Patreon. As a thank you patrons receive access to extra updates, polls, and custom articles.

You can also subscribe to Twitter and Facebook to get free daily links to fights inspired by the topics of the day! Don't forget to hit the like and share while you're there!

You can witness today's featured fight in its entirety for yourself by checking out the Captain America: The Captain collection. By using the Amazon links provided above you'll not only get yourself a good deal, but also make sure Amazon supports the site at no extra cost to you!

Winner: The Captain
#7 (--) Captain America (Steve Rogers)
#144 (-11) USAgent (John Walker)

Sunday, April 04, 2021

Sins of the Father (DC)
Superman #68 When: June 1992
Why: Dan Jurgens How: Dan Jurgens & Brett Breeding

The Story So Far...
For his entire adult life Slade Wilson has been caught in a cycle of violence, warfare, and betrayal. As Deathstroke The Terminator he's one of the world's most dangerous mercenaries, but his pursuit of a corrupt CIA agent has made him a wanted fugitive from the law!

Delayed on the tarmac in a commercial flight arriving to Metropolis, the disguised mercenary soon realizes he's the target of an undercover sting. His escape from the heavily armed Special Crimes Unit has unforeseen consequences when stray bullets strike a stewardess who also happens to be the daughter of an old war buddy - Sam Lane!

The wounded Lucy Lane is also the sister of Lois, whose romantic involvement with Superman sets the hero on a mission to find the man accused of responsibility. They were allies when the shadow of Warworld was cast over the planet, but now Deathstroke is being hunted!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Superman 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Draw 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Superman 6 (Mach Speed)
Stamina: Superman 6 (Generator)
Agility: Deathstroke 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting: Deathstroke 7 (Living Weapon)
Energy: Superman 5 (Lasers)
Total: Superman 33 (Super)

Superman is pretty much out of Deathstroke's league, but we come to this battle with the entrenched legend that a mortal man with skill, determination, and resources can orchestrate the downfall of The Man of Steel!

There was always the example of Superman's arch-nemesis Lex Luthor, but The Dark Knight Returns #4 established an enduring romantic vision for tactics and fighting ability levelling the playing field. It's something we've seen play out over many subsequent rematches. So if Batman can do it -- why not Deathstroke?

Along with extensive military training and field experience; Slade Wilson boasts super-human enhancements that put him a step ahead of most men.

Functioning with 90% brain capacity increases his tactical processing, speed, and reflexes, allowing Deathstroke to get the absolute most out of his performance in combat situations.

The greatest example of his potential may be Identity Crisis #3: There he was able to match and neutralize the super-powered ranks of the Justice League, by undertaking a specific detailed strategy for each opponent, including The Flash, Zatanna, Hawkman, Black Canary, and Green Lantern!

It wasn't a fluke, either. Two years after his debut Deathstroke performed the rare feat of beating Marvel's X-Men in the 1982 crossover Uncanny X-Men and The New Teen Titans! The same issue also showed him ruthlessly defeating Batman's greatest student and his frequent Teen Titans adversary - Dick Grayson.

Superman is usually the overwhelming obstacle a less powerful character aims to overcome, but in more recent years that's a role Deathstroke has served. He was part of The Society team that devastated the Freedom Fighters in Infinite Crisis #1, and played the lone unbeatable bogeyman in Birds of Prey #90, and Green Arrow #62. The unpowered Green Arrow also stopped him in Identity Crisis.

With the right circumstances Deathstroke could almost certainly beat Superman, but operating alone will he have the necessary resources? Let's find out...

The Tape: Superman Ranking: Superman (#5)

What Went Down...
Deathstroke knows he's taking a risk vaulting across the Metropolis skyline in plain sight. Ordinarily he'd never chance such a visible dash -- not when he can be so easily spotted by the likes of Superman!

The Man of Steel has been looking for Deathstroke since the mercenary was inadvertently involved in the shooting of Lucy Lane. Superman has no way of knowing Deathstroke is innocent -- and is out to get answers!

Superman orders Deathstroke to give up and be taken in, but The Terminator has no intentions of going quietly. He unloads with a full plasma blast from his energy lance, and turns his enhanced mind to coming up with a means of escape!

Knowing he's outmatched: Deathstroke leaps from the rooftop -- relying on reflexes and guile to take him to a flag pole on the side of the building, providing a means of slowing his descent into a graceful flip! The flip sends him towards a street light, which in turn allows him to swing safely to the main street below!

The daring display keeps Deathstroke on step ahead of Superman, who thinks the mercenary has erred by landing dangerously close to the path of an oncoming Lexfreight delivery truck.

The speeding traffic provides enough momentary cover for Deathstroke, who rolls between the wheels of the truck and lies motionless within the exhaust fumes of passing vehicles -- until a bus passes over and provides a means of escape!

While Superman scans the road behind for signs of injury -- Deathstroke snags the rear bumper of the bus and swings himself onto the roof!

The invincible Superman soon thinks twice about Deathstroke's mortal frailty and spots him crouched on the escaping public transport.

Knowing he must keep moving to stay one step ahead of the impressed Superman -- Deathstroke leaps from the bus and backflips through the display window of a nearby department store!

Superman pursues, remaining intent on bringing his former-ally in. He scans the store, peering through the dark and listening with super-human accuracy.

With knowledge of Deathstroke's troubled past, Superman appeals to The Terminator's emotions. He mentions the mercenary's dead son and the potential cost of his latest violent actions, causing Slade Wilson's steady heart rate to spike.

Cheap ceiling tiles lift away easily to reveal Deathstroke hidden in the darkness of the space above. In seconds he's plucked from his hiding place and held in the inescapable steel grip of a rear naked choke!

Superman comes down hard on his short-lived ally, but Deathstroke asks for his trust and passage to Lucy Lane's hospital room. He knows he's been beaten, but his heart is still intent on confronting.

The Hammer...
With modern eyes it's kinda refreshing to look back on an issue that unashamedly respects Superman as the indomitable hero he is. Deathstroke made a valiant attempt at escape, but never really stood a chance.

For the fight fans: I don't doubt that Deathstroke could defeat Superman.

This issue makes some of the concessions you would usually find in an upset win against The Man of Steel. We might accept that Deathstroke moved suddenly enough to catch Superman flat-footed at first, but disappearing onto the road while traffic rolls over him is straining plausibility -- even without X-Ray vision.

We're led to believe Superman is coming into this face-off extra motivated by the shooting of Lucy Lane, but the plot also plays off of trust built by his recent team-up with Deathstroke just a few months prior, in Panic in the Sky.

Superman actually recruited Deathstroke from a rooftop in that story. He was seeking tactical leadership for a preemptive military strike against Brainiac's Warworld. An effort to take the war to space before it destroyed the Earth.

Indeed, Deathstroke successfully guided a team of heroes through the frontlines of Panic in the Sky, and you might've been fooled into thinking it was a full submission of the morally grey mercenary into prospective herodom.

Slade Wilson was already skirting the line of being a hero as the main protagonist of his own on-going series, and the Justice League had certainly welcomed more unusual members into their line-up over the years. It wasn't to be, though.

Ultimately Superman #68 serves to balance the books. Deathstroke still isn't an outright villain -- he wasn't directly responsible for Lucy Lane being shot while he escaped Maggie Sawyer's Special Crimes Unit -- but he's never the less returned to a more morally grey, antagonistic position.

Superman successfully takes The Terminator into custody at the end of this issue, and in his own series Deathstroke is moved to prison. He was setup by a corrupt CIA agent, but it hardly matters. Wilson quickly stages an escape that brings him into conflict with the Justice League and firmly ensconces him in outlaw status.

It's a pleasant reminder of just how much Deathstroke ventured into the larger DCU in the early nineties. 2004's Identity Crisis #3 might be viewed as the moment he was cemented as a villain for the entire DC Universe, but he'd already had a series of encounters with a who's who of DC heroes by that point.

I'm very much enjoying expanding the Deathstroke file and I'm sure we'll take a closer look at some of those other battles in the future. If you'd like to find them, or plenty of other featured fights, you should follow links throughout this post, or dive into the Secret Archive for a complete index ordered by publisher and series!

Secret Wars on Infinite Earths has featured well over 600 battles and ranked more than 1000 characters! If you like what it's all about you can help the project continue to grow by supporting on Patreon. As a thank you patrons receive access to additional updates, polls, and custom article options.

You can also subscribe to Twitter and Facebook to get daily links to battles inspired by the topics of the day! Don't forget to hit like and share for an extra boost!

If you'd like to witness today's featured fight in its entirety you can find it collected as part of Deathstroke The Terminator Vol. 2: Sympathy for the Devil. Use the Amazon purchase link provided to get yourself a good deal delivered to your door -- and you'll also support the site at no extra cost!

Winner: Superman
#4 (+1) Superman
#81 (-3) Deathstroke

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Real Name: Kent Nelson
Battles Recorded: 3
Wins: 1  Losses: -  Ties: 1
Win Percentage: 50.0%
Recent Opponents: Hawkman, Morgauth, The Demons Three
First Appearance: More Fun Comics #55 (May, 1940)
Patron: Become a Tier 2 Patron to choose a Hero of the Week!

When his archaeologist father perished unearthing an ancient Mesopotamian tomb; young Kent Nelson became the ward of the revived Lord of Order inside - Nabu. Nelson was trained to master the mystic arts, eventually receiving three objects of great power: The Amulet of Anubis, The Cloak of Destiny, and The Helmet of Fate. With these artifacts he would become an agent of order and enemy of evil!

Doctor Fate has appeared sporadically in DC multimedia, most often as the iconic Kent Nelson. It has recently been announced that Pierce Brosnan will appear as the hero in the 2022 feature film Black Adam. Although details of the plot remain limited, Brosnan's Fate is expected to share the big screen with a version of the Justice Society of America.

Did You Know: Kent Nelson has not been the sole custodian of The Helmet of Fate. His mantle has been taken up by many men and women, including his wife Inza Cramer, great nephew Kent V. Nelson, Eric Strauss, Linda Strauss, Jared Stevens, Hector Hall, Khalid Nassour, and Nabu himself!

Fight Club Remarks: We've barely scratched the surface of Doctor Fate's vast mystic domain. The scope of his concern transcends hand-to-hand combat, but there are still many battles to be examined.

Featured Fights:
- Doctor Fate versus Hawkman (All-Star Squadron #4)
- Justice Society versus Morgauth (JSA Strange Adventures #1)
- Justice League versus The Demons Three (Justice League Unlimited #14)

Want to see a particular character in the Hero of the Week spotlight? Subscribe to Patreon at the Hero of the Week Tier to support your favourite character and Secret Wars on Infinite Earths!

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Rock of Ages Part Five: Twilight Of The Gods (DC)
JLA #14 When: January 1998
Why: Grant Morrison How: Howard Porter

The Story So Far...
Hard light holograms simulating the seven core members of The Justice League are just the beginning of their problems when a new Injustice Gang is formed by Lex Luthor!

The wealthy businessman has come into possession of a rare and powerful stone that allows him to control an alien prisoner and his Injustice Gang teammates. He thinks it might just be the ultimate weapon -- but in its many guises The Worlogog is the key to initiating cosmic armageddon!

Aquaman, Green Lantern, and The Flash find themselves thrust through time & space by the New God Metron in an effort to destroy "The Philosopher's Stone", but when they arrive fifteen years into the future they discover its destruction has brought humanity to the brink of annihilation!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Darkseid 7 (Omnipotent)
Intelligence: Metron 7 (Infinite Wisdom)
Speed: Flash 7 (Lightspeed)
Stamina: Darkseid 7 (Unstoppable)
Agility: Batman 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting: Wonder Woman 6 (Warrior)
Energy: Green Lantern 7 (Cosmic Power)
Total: Darkseid 36 (Cosmic)

What happens if evil finally wins? It's a question every comic book reader has pondered, and a few too many contemporary storytellers are willing to answer.

In 1998 JLA struck the right balance with a dark future dominated by evil New Gods in Rock of AgesThis Justice League are: Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Swarmtrooper 000830and Wally West.

The tattered future League aren't entirely the heroes you remember. Huddled in the underground Detroit JLA Bunker, they represent the last remnants of the JLA gathered by a time displaced Aquaman, who now inhabits his future-self.

Joining him from fifteen years in the past is Kyle Rayner, whose body has been converted into a techno zombie-like Swarmtrooper sans Green Lantern ring, and Wally West: a pale shadow of his former self, now disconnected from the Speed Force, and reduced to a sickly, overweight firepit builder in the Keystone Ghetto.

Their first ally from the future is Wonder Woman: a battle-hardened, armor-clad survivor who'll die before the Zombie Factory takes her. They're also joined by Green Arrow, Atom, Argent, Azteka, and a reprogrammed Amazo, all of whom have roles to play in coordinated strikes away from the rest of the team.

Batman was believed taken some eight years prior, but it turns out he endured years of physical and psychological torture, overthrowing Desaad to remain embedded under deep cover for two months disguised as his captor. He's perfectly positioned to formulate a plan to strike at the heart of Darkseid!

Darkseid is a New God of unspeakable evil whose pursuit of domination is as likely to be directed as his own subjects as it is his enemies! Born Uxas, he reinvented himself with the murder of his mother and conquest of the planet Apokolips!

He seeks ultimate power through the Anti-Life Equation, believing fragments of its solution to lie within the recesses of the human mind. This has drawn him toward the Earth many times before, making playthings of its mightiest champions!

His powers dwarf the godly pantheons, but he has never the less known defeat. We saw Superman and Batman overcome him in Superman/Batman #42, and his son Orion fulfilled destiny by ripping Darkseid's burning heart from his chest in the explosive battle of Countdown #2! He died of his wounds, but Darkseid and the New Gods always find a way to return to life...

The Tape: Justice League Rankings: Batman (#1)

What Went Down...
In a ship hovering over the ruined city of Metropolis: Darkseid awaits the arrival of his vile inquisitor Desaad. The New God of evil doesn't yet know his agent was replaced months ago by The Batman -- and he's bringing a new Justice League!

Batman leads the heroes through the Boom Tube, tossing scattered grenades ahead. The Apokolips-based technology fills the room with a dense "theotropically engineered" fog that baffles even the perceptions of Metron!

Darkseid erupts with furious bemusement while the League rushes purposefully through the smoke to their carefully planned destinations.

Wonder Woman elects to hold Darkseid, and the massive cube now called Granny Godness, at bay. She only promises an undisturbed minute or two. It takes mere seconds for Batman to reach The Mobius Chair and startle Metron.

The Dark Knight tempts Metron with the promise of undiscovered knowledge. He dares the New God to use his limitless power to become human for but a moment. Just long enough to record data most elusive to gods: mortal feelings.

While Metron considers the ease with which he could convert himself to a human approximation -- Wonder Woman harnesses defiant rage to fight for humanity!


The Amazon's vow is dismissed with cold agreement. Darkseid swats her away with the back of his hand, quite certain that she will die. Not by him, though. He has trusted followers to carry out such menial tasks.

Metron was never one to get his hands so dirty. Now flesh and blood, he discovers the sensations of weight and "ceaseless particle movement". He seeks the value of recording feeling. Batman gives him a crash course in pain.

A stiff right hand stuns Metron and allows Batman to fill the gods' vulnerable mortal form with powerful hypnotic drugs. Metron will now be completely pliant and ready to obey their every instruction.

Batman leaves Metron and his Mobius Chair to the time-displaced Aquaman, Green Lantern, and Flash. He trusts that a new fate will be made in the past, so that this doomed existence could be unwritten. The chair takes them back.

Still in the damned future: Darkseid summons his Grandmother Box to destroy Wonder Woman.

With all the heinous cruelty of the living Granny Goodness, the machine opens a Boom Tube to the molten core of Apokolips -- and teleports a direct stream of firepit energy directly at the Wonder Woman!

The Amazon ricochets through the halls of the dark aerial fortress.

Granny Goodness turns her red lens towards Batman, but before she can enact any cruel disciplines -- Wonder Woman smashes through the Grandmother Box's shell in a final furious blaze of glory!

Batman hurls his batarang through the gaping chasm of what's left of the murderous machine. His aim is true -- cutting a perfect line -- but the weapon explodes with indifference against the impenetrable shield surrounding Darkseid.

The Batman instructs an unseen Atom to do what he can about it. Maybe the guerilla scientist hears him, maybe he doesn't. It hardly matters with Swarmptroopers flooding into the chamber to surround him.

Darkseid condescendingly wonders if this dark individual is known to him, and what he could think his "pathetic display" would achieve. The New God still doesn't fully grasp the scale of Batman's deception and his planned "display".

The Dark Knight kneels over Wonder Woman's motionless body and whispers, "We did it." Then he tells Darkseid that they've shared a few laughs, but now he's taking everything. The dark god need only look up to see the beginning...

Somewhere within Darkseid's Zombie Factory: the young hero who answers to Azteka flips a switch on her belt. 
It unleashes the destructive power of her four-dimensional battery's energy! The explosion rips through The Moon base!

As masses of humanity begin to awaken from the nightmare of Anti-Life, Darkseid confesses his respect for such a small being's ability to hurt him.

Darkseid's mercy is expressed through the red beams that dart jaggedly through the room until they reach their intended target.

Batman will suffer The Omega Effect, but not before he hurls a final insult at Darkseid. A bitter truth: that Darkseid finds himself surrounded by "maggots" because he did what he said he would: "You recreated the whole world in your image ... and what you see is your own ugly faaaaa--"

The last word trails off as Batman ceases to exist -- lost in a cloud of sizzling red particles. To where or when, even Darkseid does not know. It simply is.

The Hammer...
The fight does not begin or end with the death of Wonder Woman, and defeat of Batman.

The Justice League's last stand is part of a three-pronged attack fought over multiple arenas, including a second front over the skies of Metropolis.

Batman's attempt to relay intelligence to Atom will play out minutes after he suffers The Omega Effect: an ambiguous fate that sent him through ancient history, and multiple lives, when it happened again in Final Crisis.

It could be argued that the arrival of Atom & Green Arrow minutes later is part of a single coordinated strike, but it functions as part of a very separate sequence, which we'll examine as Round 2 when we reconvene in the future.

I suppose efforts to send Aquaman, Green Lantern, and The Flash back to then-present 1998 could be considered an additional front -- if we take Doc Brown's advice and think of it fourth dimensionally. Otherwise, it's a pre-emptive strike that will render this entire future moot once the Philosopher's Stone (or Worlogog) is protected.

That just leaves Argent & Azteka's attack on the "Zombie Factory" Moon base unaccounted for. We caught an indirect glimpse of it during the fight recap. If you'd like to see more of that one, you can contact me through the various available channels, including Patreon. It's interesting, but incredibly brief.

Here in the grim future (or past) of 2021: it seemed appropriate to finally touch upon Rock of Ages for the imminent release of Zack Snyder's Justice League.

It's not so much a celebration as a comparison. Both stories have superficial similarities, but play out with significantly different quality, priority, and context.

Snyder restores his original vision with a four hour runtime that shares some of the dark palette seen in the now-classic JLA comic arc, but apparently benefits from little of its levity, brisk optimism, or inventive comic book genius.

Grant Morrison takes cues from the high concept mastery of Jack Kirby and bakes it with the dizzying excess of late 90s comics. Nothing is held back, allowing JLA Rock of Ages to be many things to many people, if a little cluttered and hurried.

The story is bookended with Lex Luthor and his Injustice Gang, whose plan sets the possible dark-future into motion. It is told in two dedicated issues after an excursion through Wonder World, and a multiverse of strange and chilling realms. The beginning and end, rooted in an exciting and turbulent contemporary DC Universe, anchor the darkness with colour and the joy of good superheroes.

I would argue Morrison perfected his New Gods epic with Final Crisis. It revisited similar concepts with slightly more clarity and breadth despite a "channel changing" style that incorporates many more players and series than Rock of Ages. It also can't be understated how Morrison's work benefits from interplay with itself, and how both stories benefit each other. The guy really knows what he's doing!

The depiction of Wonder Woman in this grim future is interesting. I didn't find myself able to include some of Howard Porter's most dynamic depictions of the Amazon. In truth, she is frustratingly out of focus, even when she leads the fight against Darkseid, and rips through his sinister servants.

The helmet and armor design reminds me a little of Big Barda, but behind its gold and silver plating is a story of battle-hardened survival and withdrawal into violent warrior culture. It should read as a contrast to the superhero, but here in 2021, I can't help but notice how much this seems like the contemporary depiction of Wonder Woman. A bit like Kingdom Come, it feels like its dark example has been ignored, serving as precedent & inspiration, instead of warning.

I've written about the struggle for a definitive Wonder Woman, and the intuitive emphasis of her Amazon warrior's heritage, but today's battle, with all its sound and fury, gives me a moment's pause to consider the finer points of her status as an ambassador for peace. There may still be much work to be done.

In-fiction, the grim future of Rock of Ages ultimately doesn't matter. It's obliterated from within by Orion and the Genesis Box before our time travelling heroes even set things right. Which is good. Because as tempting as it is to wonder about the darkest outcome -- the inherent beauty of superheroes is their ability to always prevent it. Wanting anything else is just madness. Anti-Life.

The phenomenon of Zack Snyder's Justice League has been a little off-putting in total. The zealous fervor of its most die hard cultists un-ironically recalls the edicts of Darkseid himself. A ravenous pack dedicated to nothing but the darkness of Snyder's vision and the inevitability of consuming more of it. Dark Snyder is.

I've pretty much had my fill of middling to disappointing adaptations and their expanding circumference of influence. As a consumer I want more from my purchases, and as a fan I crave better days of inventive, colourful superheroes.

DC Films President Walter Hamada referred to the Snyder Cut as a "storytelling cul-de-sac". I don't think that was a comment on its creative vision, but I wouldn't be opposed if it was, and hope in the face of dangling plot threads it can live up to that designation. The new cut may restore an acceptable degree of coherence to the plot, but I find it very hard to believe it is the best the Justice League can be.

Of course, the dark future of Rock of Ages isn't the best they can be, either.

If you find yourself feeling similarly, and want to experience the entirety of today's featured battle, you might like to check out JLA: Rock of Ages collected in JLA: The Deluxe Edition Vol. 2 or JLA Rock of Ages. Using Amazon purchase links provided will not only net you a good deal, but also help support the site.

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Secret Wars on Infinite Earths has eatured well over 600 battles and ranked more than 1000 characters! You can discover them all by diving into the Secret Archive for an index of battles by publisher, series, and issue number -- or discover the joy of following links throughout this post to other stories.

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#119 (+287) Darkseid [+1 kill]
#466 (+6) Granny Goodness [+1 assist] [+1 kill]
#609 (new) Metron [+1 assist]
#1 (--) Batman
#10 (--) Wonder Woman [+1 kill]
#25 (--) Aquaman [+1 assist]
#34 (--) Flash (Wally West) [+1 assist]
#75 (--) Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner) [+1 assist]