Friday, May 26, 2023

Too Many Heroes -- Too Little Time! (Marvel/DC)
Spider-Boy Team-Up #1 When: June 1997
Why: RK Sternsel How: Ladronn

The Story So Far...
When twin primordial entities recollected their dissipated conscious energies and regained each other's notice -- they turned to pit the warriors of their respective universes against one another in a battle to the death!

In an effort to contravene these dire circumstances, beings from both worlds -- The Living Tribunal and The Spectre -- clasp hands to forge a new universe comprised of elements of both.

Thus, for a fleeting instant, all of history unfolds to tell the tale of a new existence in The Amalgam Age! In this reality: General Thunderbolt Ross leads efforts to bioengineer a successor to the World War II super-hero known as Super-Soldier. Under ill-fated scientist, Peter Parker, Project Cadmus successfully creates a prematurely woken clone who becomes the sensational Spider-Boy!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Kang 5 (Super-Human)
Intelligence: Kang 6 (Genius)
Speed: Spider-Boy 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Kang 5 (Marathoner)
Agility: Spider-Boy 2099 5 (Cat-Like)
Fighting: Spider-Boy 3 (Street Wise)
Energy: Kang 5 (Lasers)
Total: Kang The Time Conqueror 29 (Metahuman)

Spider-Boy is the Amalgam Comics synthesis of Marvel's Spider-Man of the time, Ben Reilly, and the half-kryptonian DC Comics clone, Superboy!

Named Pete Ross for the Project Cadmus scientist who led his creation, Peter Parker, and his adopted guardian, General Ross; Spider-Boy uses his innate powers to manipulate gravity to walk on walls and fight crime.

He also possesses enhanced strength, speed, and agility, and a Cadmus designed gun that shoots adhesive webs -- complimenting his swinging style as Spider-Boy.

Before his "Uncle Gen" was gunned down in the street by a mugger, he bestowed upon the young clone wise words Super-Soldier once told him. A mantra Spider-Boy lives by, albeit with his own twist of tabloid chasing antics: "With great power does come great responsibility... and way too much fun!"

Spider-Man and Superboy fought during the Marvel versus DC crossover event, but combined they are one of the Amalgam Universe's greatest heroes -- inspiring following generations as far as the in-fiction future of 2099!

Of course, time is of no consequence to the mysterious cloaked spectre that is Kang, The Time Conqueror!

He is the combination of Marvel's Kang and DC's Time Trapper -- and his reach is just as grandiose as each of his two halves! 
As we'll soon see: The Time Conqueror is aware of the omniverse beyond his composite reality, and aims to access the nexus of powers inherent within the Amalgam hero.

The Tape: Kang The Time Conqueror Ranking: Draw (Not Ranked)

What Went Down...
As Spider-Boy successfully sends a mortally wounded samaritan to the relative safety of the Phantom-Negative Zone, he's shocked to learn from Vance Cosmic, and the future Legion of Galactic Guardians, that the young man will not emerge until the year 2099 -- a century from the present!

Shocked and baffled by their cavalier attitude towards the grim fate, Spider-Boy becomes even more perplexed as his 2099 allies appear to become frozen like statues. A sign that the grim spectre chasing him through time has arrived!

As the looming figure sizzles into view, its cloak hood falls to reveal the green & purple helmeted visage of Kang The Time Conqueror!

Having dragged Spider-Boy into the non-space of Limbo -- Kang now takes control of his target, wrapping massive gauntleted hands around his forearms, with a mad scheme to use the young hero to conqueror the very omniverse!

Kang reveals that Spider-Boy is a vital, primal living nexus of realities!

Powerful energies begin to glow like a seam down Spider-Boy's center as The Time Conqueror attempts to pull him apart, separating his amalgamated life energies to gain access to all realities through time and space!

As the process takes hold -- Spider-Boy begins to split into two separate beings: the confounded Spider-Man of the Marvel Universe and an equally confused Superboy from the DC Universe!

Despite Kang's seemingly imminent success -- a time square opens in the Limbo dimension -- producing yet another, fully masked Spider-Boy!

The mystery Spider-Boy uses the two heads of his splitting counterpart to vault out of the temporal transport and deliver a devastating two-footed kick to Kang's face!

The violent blow sends Kang reeling and frees his grip on the original Spider-Boy!

The masked version swings around the falling Time Conqueror, calling for his predecessor to lend a hand to quickly put the time-fiend on ice.

Having pulled himself back together, Spider-Boy produces his web gun and unleashes a steady stream of webbing in unison with his mysterious counterpart, who sprays organic webbing from his two forefingers!

With the villain successfully subdued in a bodily cocoon of webbing -- the twin heroes aim to at last unmask the scourge of time!

Spider-Boy rips the helmet from his head, unmasking Kang's true face as Chronos-Tut, The Time Pharoah! An enemy once defeated by the Challengers of the Fantastic when he attempted to turn Washington DC into ancient Egypt!

Unbeknownst to the heroes, in unmasking Kang they damaged his masks circuitry -- shattering his ability to control the omniversal forces that maintain Limbo!

A spectacular building of energies signals the collapse of Chronos-Tut's scheme!

He radiates with power until at last it explodes -- consuming Chronos-Tut and blasting both Spider-Boys back to the Project Cadmus laboratory found deep within the subterranean corridors of Fantastic Mountain!

Now mere moments after triggering the Phantom-Negative Zone device, Spider-Boy learns of the true significance of his unexpected ally: He is Mig-El Gand -- the injured boy who will spend a century in the pocket dimension, before emerging to receive the life-saving spider DNA serum that turns him into Spider-Boy 2099!

The Hammer...
For a fleeting moment I thought we had a fourth wall breaking appearance by Marvel's bona fide Kang The Conqueror, but the unmasking of Chronos-Tut confirms this is an Amalgam combination of Kang and DC's elusive Time Trapper.

I'm basically repeating thoughts from Kang's Heroes Reborn entry, but an intrusion into the Amalgam Universe really could've worked!

There are a variety of explanations for how he might've escaped the combination of universes. 
From his frequent visitations to the Limbo realm, to his existence as a time-displaced traveler from a distant future; the means for Kang to step beyond the consequences of causality -- and a present day that merged Marvel and DC -- were there to be exploited.

Kang The Time Conqueror, aka; Chronos-Tut, The Time Pharoah, might not exist beyond Amalgam Comics, but nevertheless possesses an awareness of its unique composite reality, as we saw in his efforts to divide Spider-Boy back into his original components of Spider-Man and Superboy.

As a matter of note: The great Ladronn draws what looks like a fairly classic Spider-Man, which seems to suggest Spider-Boy owes his Marvel side to Peter Parker, even though it was Ben Reilly in the webs when the two universes clashed, and first produced the combined reality of the Amalgam Universe in 1996.

By this point it had been revealed Peter Parker wasn't the clone that everybody was led to believe he was. This shouldn't have any real consequence for Spider-Boy, and should probably be regarded as a mistake, but we're hardly going to hold against the artist. Ladronn's Kirby-infused pencils are always an absolute treat!

Spider-Boy Team-Up #1 is an all-around tour de force, with Roger Stern and Karl Kesel (credited as the Amalgamated "RK Sternsel") cramming every single page chock full of ideas brought to life with Jose Ladronn's masterful touch. It's really hard to believe it's only a 22-page comic! There's just so much!

Twin rollcalls for the Legion of Galactic Guardians 2099 playfully poke fun at DC's unstable Legion of Super-Heroes, while also casually tossing off a couple dozen awesome new Amalgam characters, including personal favourites: 'Lectron (Electro & Lightning Lad), Timberwolf By Night (Werewolf By Night & Timber Wolf), Cannonfire (Cannonball & Wildfire), Multiple Maid (Multiple Man & Triplicate Girl), and Sparkler (Dazzler & Spark).

It's an absolute smorgasbord of sparklingly brilliant ideas before you even reach the punctuating piece de resistance of Spider-Boy 2099, whose origin is actually told before your very eyes throughout the entire issue, using the reality & time bending plotlines to trick you into thinking it's a B-story, fusing elements of Mon-El, and the recently cancelled Spider-Man 2099, to create Mig-El Gand!

Perhaps the only criticism of this issue, like many of the best Amalgam one-shots, is that it really makes you want to continue reading more of these characters!

DC and Marvel collaborated on two complete waves of Amalgam Comics across 1996 and 1997, along with a sprawling catalogue of stand-alone crossovers, such as Green Lantern/Silver Surfer, but more consequential storytelling was limited to the original DC versus Marvel/Marvel versus DC mini-series, and two four issue spin-offs starring a joint-owned hero: DC/Marvel: All Access and Unlimited Access.

Those books gave us even more fun crossovers between the two companies, but Spider-Boy 
Team-Up might've been a fantastic series to continue, allowing them to introduce even more brilliant mash-up concepts, while doing more to showcase the heroes & villains introduced across in the earlier Amalgam Comics wave.

Alas, these kinds of crossovers appear to be in the distant past, and Spider-Boy will be one of the few variations of Spider-Man that will not be appearing in the upcoming animated theatrical blockbuster: Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse.

I guess that just makes it all the more perfect that we can talk about it here!

Sometimes I kind of view Amalgam characters as a little bit of time wasted given that their existence is limited and they'll rarely advance beyond one or two entries on the site, but here revisiting Spider-Boy, I'm reminded of just how much fun the whole experiment was. It literally had me running to the stands back in 1996!

There's actually quite a few Spider-Boy battles we can return to, and if you'd like to help make that possible, consider becoming a supporter on Patreon! As a thank you you'll unlock access to additional updates and a new Discord server, while also helping to make everything that appears here possible!

Secret Wars on Infinite Earths has featured more than 700 battles and ranked well over 1,000 iconic characters! You can find them all by following links throughout each article, or by diving into the Secret Archive for a complete index of featured fights in order of publisher, series, and issue number. Scroll through to the bottom to find crossover publications, such as Amalgam Comics, and much more.

Get free daily links to fights inspired by the topics of the day by subscribing to Twitter and Facebook, or by becoming a freebie follower on Patreon. Don't forget to smash that like, fave, and share -- and keep your eyes peeled for the week's top trending battles every Sunday on Twitter & Patreon!

Winners: Spider-Boy & Spider-Boy 2099
#360 (new) Spider-Boy (Peter Ross)
#361 (new) Spider-Boy (Mig-El Gand)
#1007 (new) Kang The Time Conqueror (Chronos-Tut)

Friday, May 12, 2023

Bugaboo (Marvel)
Spider-Man 2099 #30 When: April 1995
Why: Peter David How: Roger Robinson

The Story So Far...
In the year 2099: corporations battle for control over market share and literal dominion of entire districts. That's the fate of the town of Nightshade when it comes under attack from Alchemax Corporate Raiders!

The Spider-Man of the future does his best to rescue innocent townspeople and Nightshade's defenders, but soon finds himself caught in the hostile takeover, and a building rigged to explode by Alchemax Headhunters!

His unconscious body discovered in the rubble; Spider-Man is taken back to the lair of Packrat and his forager gang, where they force him to work on dormant technology discovered in an old research bunker. Little do they realise the faceless machine in their possession is an old AIM Adaptoid and its about to activate!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Draw 5 (Super-Human)
Intelligence: Spider-Man 5 (Professor)
Speed: Draw 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Flipside 6 (Generator)
Agility: Draw 5 (Cat-Like)
Fighting: Draw 3 (Street Wise)
Energy: Draw 2 (Projectiles)
Total: Spider-Man 29 (Metahuman)

The future of 2099 is filled with technological marvels, but sometimes you just can't beat the classics!

Flipside is a relic from the 20th century: an adaptoid stored in an old Advanced Idea Mechanics research bunker, with a database of heroic references, everyone from Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor, to the Fantastic Four and X-Men.

When the Spider-Man of the future happens to pass its scanners, it can't quite determine the identity of the new hero.

Split between possible matches for Spider-Man and Venom -- the adaptoid manifests a bizarre hybrid, becoming the violently psychotic cybernetic synthesis of the classic quipping Spidey and murderous lethal protector! A red & blue Spider-Man looking like a dollar store knockoff of the real web-slingers.

Miguel O'Hara was a gifted geneticist working for Tyler Stone and the Alchemax Corporation, but when he attempted to resign after reluctantly participating in failed DNA manipulation experiments, he was dosed with a highly addictive hallucinogenic drug in an attempt to keep him dependent on the company.

In an act of desperation, Miguel used the genetic coding process on himself to purge the addictive gene-drug, imprinting himself with the properties of a spider, with a little interference from a saboteur.

Miguel gained enhanced strength, speed, agility, as well as retractable talons on his fingers and feet, spinnerets able to project webbing from the backs of his wrists, and fangs that secret a non-lethal paralytic substance.

Needing a costume made from unstable molecules to accommodate his new physical characteristics, he dons a novelty death's head costume purchased while on vacation in Mexico, and becomes the Spider-Man of the year 2099!

How will the future's Spidey fare against a strange concoction of past reference? At this stage he hasn't had the time-bending adventures that will bring him face to face with his predecessor, so we'll just have to find out for ourselves!

The Tape: Spider-Man Ranking: Draw (Not Ranked)

What Went Down...
With the bodies of scavengers piling up in front of him -- Spider-Man snatches Flipside by the wrist before it can kill the gang's leader Packrat.

His attempt at glib banter backfires when Flipside takes it a little too seriously and grabs him by the head -- slamming him face first into the chest cavity made by the gang's shotgun blasts.

The cybernetic psychopath begins self-repairing its wound, pivoting to slam Spider-Man against the wall while its body slowly works to suffocate or decapitate the wall-crawler.

Quick thinking with taloned feet gives Spider-Man a foothold on the adjacent wall, but all he can manage to do is bridge to his trapped head and push desperately against Flipside's torso.

Failing to escape -- Spider-Man's body falls limp and he begins to consider giving up, but to die in such an undignified way? Not this time!

With an all mighty thrust Spider-Man jams his taloned fingers into Flipside's torso, pulling at a vital energy wire, while gaining the necessary purchase to at last pull his head free!

Flipside is able to reroute power temporarily, but quickly goes on the offensive to reclaim the vital power cable!

Spider-Man dodges his charging doppelganger and wraps the power cable around its cybernetic throat.

There may be no windpipe to squeeze, but the tightening cable gives Spider-Man a leash to bring Flipside to a hard stop -- and slams him to the ground!

Spider-Man keeps on the offensive, using the tether to swing Flipside into the machine-lined walls.

"Stop it! Don't you--! You got it... backwards! You're the one who wanted to die... Not m-- EEEEEEEEEE!"

With one final rotation, Spidey swings Flipside by the cable until his head pops off and his cybernetic body goes flying into the wall, bursting into a light show of explosions across his broken joints and torso.

The Hammer...
The leader of the forager gang excitedly declares Spider-Man the winner -- even as he draws his gun on the wall-crawler who just saved him.

Packrat will have a change of heart and allow the hero to walk out of their lair, but that isn't the only twist of fate. By the time Spider-Man is well clear, Flipside will have reassembled itself, presumably waiting to cause more harm to the ranks of the foragers.

We don't actually know what becomes of Flipside. Although the original run of Spider-Man 2099 is chock full of high-octane action, it doesn't feature the regular rotation of a rogue's gallery, which means we've never seen Flipside again.

With a design that screams repainted bootleg toy, I'm not sure we particularly needed to see more, but the potential to expand upon this basic premise is somewhat interesting. Flipside could've become more deranged and enhanced with 2099 technology had he become a recurring villain, or perhaps drilled deeper into its roots as a 20th century hangover from Advanced Idea Mechanics.

In five issues the series will actually introduce its own 2099 host for the Venom Symbiote, making the cracked mirror version of Flipside all the more obsolete. 11 issues after that the series will be over, concluding a forty-six issue run that doesn't actually feature as many memorable superhero fights as you might expect. A contributing factor in today's selection.

We featured Miguel O'Hara as Hero of the Week back in 2010 [via], but I was finally inspired to formally open the file on the 2099 Spider-Man ahead of his upcoming featured appearance in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.

The Oscar Isaacs voiced future Spider-Man will lead an army of Spider-Men (and Women) against Miles Morales in the animated sequel to Into The Spider-Verse.

I've got mixed feelings about all of this muddying of the Spider-Man brand, and exceedingly lackadaisical mainstream approach to the "multiverse", but it seemed appropriate to parlay the festivities into an interesting look back at Marvel's foray into an ultra science-fiction future, and a forgotten "spider" who probably won't make an appearance in the movie's encyclopaedic references.

If I have greater misgivings now about the increasing focus on multiple Spider-Men than I did back when this issue was on stands, it's in part because of the experience of Spider-Man 2099, and an appreciation for the discipline more contemporary versions continue to lack.

Launching an entire imprint's worth of titles dedicated to a world more than 100 years in the future was a tricky proposition. Leveraging the name recognition of characters like Spider-Man gave the concept an easy hook, but it demands the balancing act of living up to that, without becoming a redundant also-ran.

The double-edge sword didn't cut quite so deep back then. Readers still regarded new and exciting ideas with a premium, and publishers weren't quite so hyper-dependent on clinging to established brands and retreads.

The balance Marvel was able to strike got it somewhat right, creating an almost completely original vision for their new characters and the future-world they occupied. It was arguably much stronger for maintaining its individuality and separation from the mainline titles.

Of course, fans will always be tempted to wonder what the passing of a century will mean to their favourite heroes and villains, and I have to acknowledge: there could be some joy in exploring the corners of a future directly connected to our present. A series tracing and revealing how things have changed, along the lines of the unfolding Marvel Universe found in a series like Mutant X, but Marvel 2099 did a wonderful job of resisting that low hanging fruit.

2099 wasn't just the Marvel Universe with some neon lights and cyberpunk makeovers. There are fun occasional nods -- like a persistent religion dedicated to Thor, and a United States President who may or may not be the genuine Victor Von Doom -- but for the most part they remain focused on creating a wholly original experience, without grafting 2099 to every familiar friend & foe.

That discipline makes it a little more interesting in general, and noteworthy when something familiar does show up, like a winged scavenger answering to "Vulture", or an old adaptoid adopting a strange amalgamation of contemporary characters.

I suspect Flipside, the soon to arrive Venom 2099, and Goblin were all symptoms of the series' rapid approach towards cancellation, but into its fourth year, it at least felt like these references were well earned. Moreso than later incarnations that leaned directly into the more obvious cycle of repeating the past.

On that note: Flipside didn't return, but I do note that he reminds me of a similar concept published a few months later -- the ill-fated FBI agent Joe Wade, who became a second Scarlet Spider after the genuine article destroyed the virtual reality machine he was strapped to, and became bound to a hard light hologram.

Perhaps we'll explore the cybernetic Scarlet Spider another time. For now: you can catch up on all the featured fights by following links throughout this post, or by diving into the Secret Archive for a complete index in order of publisher, series, and issue number.

Secret Wars on Infinite Earths has featured well over 700 battles and ranked more than 1,000 characters! If you'd like to see more you can help make that happen by becoming a supporter on Patreon. As a thank you you'll receive access to additional updates, the new Discord server, and options to customize sponsored featured content including your own Rank & File Top 10.

Get free daily links to fights inspired by the topics of the day by subscribing to Twitter and Facebook, or by becoming a freebie follower on Patreon. Don't forget to smash that like, fave, and share -- and keep your eyes peeled for the week's top trending battles every Sunday on Twitter & Patreon!

Winner: Spider-Man
#359 (new) Spider-Man (Miguel O'Hara)
#1004 (new) Flipside

Monday, May 08, 2023

Unnatural Selection (Marvel)
X-Factor Annual #3 When: 1988
Why: Louise Simonson How: Terry Shoemaker

The Story So Far...
Since the 1920s, Dr. Herbert Wyndham has held a fascination for genetics and evolution. Experimentation on his own makeup transformed him into the brilliant High Evolutionary, whose agenda to advance humanity has led to many amazing discoveries -- and atrocities!

In subterranean caverns weaving deep beneath the Earth, The High Evolutionary's Purifiers are deployed to extinguish the devolved and primitive bloodline of the Moloids, but from among their mindless ranks rises a mutation capable of organizing their endless armies.

A psychic scream from the mutant Moloid is felt by "sensitives" across the Earth -- including Caliban: loyal hound to an ancient being who would regard the Moloid's struggle as fitness to survive. Now the High Evolutionary's tampering must answer to the Darwinistic challenge of Apocalypse!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Apocalypse 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: High Evolutionary 6 (Genius)
Speed: Apocalypse 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Draw 7 (Unstoppable)
Agility: Apocalypse 6 (Rubber)
Fighting: Apocalypse 4 (Trained)
Energy: Draw 5 (Lasers)
Total: Apocalypse 36 (Cosmic)

You think just because a couple of guys aced AP Bio they can't start somethin'?

The differences of their abilities are almost secondary to the contrast of their beliefs. They both observe life on Earth with a goal towards advancement, and at times their methodology is not all that different, but for the ancient mutant called Apocalypse, there is great difference between natural and unnatural selection!

The High Evolutionary
 was once a mortal Englishman, Dr. Herbert Wydnham on scholarship to Oxford University, whose study of genetics led him to evolve into a being of vast knowledge, perspective, and power.

Wyndham has experienced life as a neanderthal and demi-god, commanding his Evolutionary Accelerator from bases on Wundagore Mountain, and a distant Counter-Earth, where he resided with animals evolved into a breed of New Men -- part of his efforts to study and contrive the advanced progress of humanity.

His distinct suit of armor houses the best of his technologies, granting the High Evolutionary varying degrees of super-human strength, durability, and an arsenal of weaponry and scientific applications. He'll need them!

Apocalypse is privy to his own array of scientific wonderments, as well as genetic mutations that have allowed him to become strong over centuries of survival -- in total control of his molecular structure and energy projection!

Apocalypse conquered Earth itself in an alternate timeline, and has thought nothing of fighting gods into submission. Will his challenge of the High Evolutionary go any other way? Let's find out!

The Tape: Apocalypse Ranking: Apocalypse (#138)

What Went Down...
From his vantage point in outer space, The High Evolutionary peers deep beneath the Earth's crust, watching as his Purifiers encounter unexpected resistance from the subterranean moloids. It is not the only unexpected presence to trouble him.

Suddenly from behind beckons the booming voice of an intruder!

There stands the looming figure of Apocalypse and a philosophical quandary concerning the fate of the moloids.

The ancient mutant does not strictly object to the violent treatment of the savage underground race, but En Sabah Nur has seen centuries of survival and evolution, and he aims to bestow upon the brilliant and immortal Evoltuionary the wisdom of patience.

The High Evolutionary narrowly steps clear of a massive energy blast that rips through his powerful computers!

Challenging Apocalypse's arrogance, he accuses the ancient mutant of showing his own impatience in his attack.

The Evolutionary returns fire with massive blasts from his hands that rip through the moon-like facade of his own space station!

The pair are sucked into the void of space, but neither man would be so unevolved to concern himself with the triviality of oxygen.

While the High Evolutionary drifts unaffected, Apocalypse shifts his molecules to become a living bio-mechanical space suit!

High Evolutionary speaks of his own path, experiencing life as both animal and demi-god. He blasts more energy at Apocalypse, who exerts control over his form sufficient to jet himself clear of the danger with ankle-mounted boosters.

Apocalypse rejects the "unnatural selection" of High Evolutionary's efforts to sterilize those he deems unfit. He would see time weed out the weak, and advance the strong, allowing them to exceed and escape the presumed dead ends High Evolutionary arrogantly predicts.

Apocalypse extends his reach toward the High Evolutionary, stretching and contorting his arm to become a gigantic mechanical vice!

He grips the Evolutionary by the torso and draws him closer, inviting the scientist's scorn: "I recognize you, Apocalypse. Your claims... to encourage the growth of the strong... is at variance with your deeds. I consider you a villain of the first order."

The ancient mutant laughs uproariously, claiming everything he does tests human and mutantkind: "-- a trial by fire in which humanity grows strong as a species... or dies."

High Evolutionary wrestles with Apocalypse's body and ideas, grabbing at the mutant's arms, while Apocalypse grasps at his magenta face plate. The scientist works to break the stalemate by rapidly increasing his size!

Looming over Apocalypse, the High Evolutionary describes himself as a benevolent parent making choices for an immature humanity. A claim Apocalypse scoffs at, seeing the Evolutionary as merely attempting to remake them in his own image.

"Your own evolution was forced... and see what you've become. Disembodied... For all your power, with only that armor to give you the semblance of substance. You are a creature of the living dead... Who can no longer reproduce himself... The ultimate genetic dead end!"

Apocalypse dodges a massive energy blast from High Evolutionary's super-sized gauntlet, swinging his own enlarged clamp-hand like a battering ram into the giant target of The Evolutionary's mid-section!

For a moment the High Evolutionary is flung through space, but when he completely disappears Apocalypse knows his gambit. He can see through his invisibility and ensnare him in extending tendrils.

With the High Evolutionary in his grasp, Apocalypse uses his vast resources to teleport the both of them to the subterranean tunnels of the moloids.

There, he intends them to bare personal witness to the battle between The Purifiers, moloids, and their recruited allies -- the mutants of X-Factor!

Watching from a shadowy outcrop over the inner chamber, the High Evolutionary continues to regard the telepathic moloid rallying his people as little more than an animal acting without conscious, creative thought. A notion that will soon be challenged, even if the physical battle between he and Apocalypse is at an end.

The Hammer...
What a fantastic struggle! Not just the clash of super-powers, but the collision of philosophies! The debate is more compelling than the trading of blows, and not just because it renders something approaching a result.

At times Apocalypse wasn't always everything I hoped he would be -- especially in those early days. Sometimes he's a little too willing to roll around in the mud, a little too corny in his villainy to fulfill those big ideas of Darwinist malevolence.

I like an Apocalypse who is lofty in his ideals, coldly grandiose in his speech, and upright and strong in his bearing. Still very much the villain in the potential of his schemes, but somewhat aloof in his actions. He isn't quite that as he swings oversized novelty limbs in space, but the character study is compelling.

In X-Factor Annual #3 it feels as if Louise Simonson is taking the slightly awkward premise of The Evolutionary War -- Marvel's 1988 crossover through various series' Annuals, including The Punisher and Silver Surfer -- and spinning it into an excellent opportunity to examine her recurring antagonist.

I enjoy the way Apocalypse almost assumes the conceit of a hero here, coming to the aid of a lowly moloid whose life the reader might be willing to disregard, even if they feel compassion towards his plight.

Apocalypse is seen to note that he doesn't outright object to the hostile treatment endured by the primitive moloids, but he will defend the emerging potential of a fledgling mutant whose powers present a greater will to survive, and oppose the sterilization of the species.

It's an interesting premise, and a good demonstration of the differences between Apocalypse and High Evolutionary, who might otherwise appear similar in their grand objectives, if inconsistent from appearance to appearance.

The distinctions can get a little slippery, especially over time, but in essence, the High Evolutionary is a practicing supremacist, attempting to reach a pre-determined outcome for humanity through bio-engineering, while Apocalypse is in theory more of an equal opportunity offender, uniquely interested in mutation, and intent on provoking accelerated natural selection through periodic stress tests.

This might seem contradictory when we look at Apocalypse's meddling with the genetics of characters like Warren Worthington, the Angel remade as his Horseman of Death, but we must also remember that these characters are not strictly adherent to the ideas we associate them with. They are also presented to be living characters, with selfish motivations such as the creation of servants, and may be seen to change their mind or approach, from time to time.

Although High Evolutionary remains committed in his convictions and desire to share company with those similar to himself, it's nice that he acknowledges, in his private thoughts, that the mutant moloid, now going by Val-Or, earned a reprieve for he and his people, who once served The Evolutionary himself, and helped build his citadel on Wundagore Mountain. That's gratitude for ya!

Would you like to show gratitude? Secret Wars on Infinite Earths has studied more than 700 featured fights and tested well over 1,000 characters! If you'd like to see more, including the exploits of Val-Or the psychic moloid, you can help make that possible by becoming a supporter on Patreon.

As a thank you for your patronage you'll receive access to additional updates, an invitation to the new Discord server, and options to customize content, including Rank & File Top 10 lists and more.

If you'd like to find more from the characters and topics covered, make sure you follow relevant links throughout this post, or dive into the Secret Archive for a complete index of featured fights in order of publisher, series, and issue number!

Get free daily links to fights inspired by the topics of the day by subscribing to Twitter and Facebook, or by becoming a freebie follower on Patreon. Don't forget to smash that like, fave, and share -- and keep your eyes peeled for the week's top trending battles every Sunday on Twitter & Patreon!

Winner: Inconclusive (Draw)
#129 (+9) Apocalypse
#496 (new) High Evolutionary

Friday, April 28, 2023

Warlock Must Die! (Marvel)
Warlock and The Infinity Watch #27 When: April 1994 Why: Jim Starlin How: Tom Grindberg

The Story So Far...
While Adam Warlock attempts to use the combined Infinity Gems of Soul, Mind, and Power to unlock the lost memories of teammate Maxam -- he has no idea forces are conspiring to destroy he and The Infinity Watch!

US Senator Kyle Munson has used his mind-altering powers of hate to turn The Avengers into a bloodthirsty hit squad headed to Monster Island with a mission to kill Warlock!

The hate-mongering Senator is in truth the malicious Man-Beast who is out for revenge against Adam and The Infinity Watch for thwarting his attempts to conquer Counter-Earth and wield the powers of The Infinity Gauntlet!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Drax 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Giant-Man 6 (Genius)
Speed: Captain America 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Drax 6 (Generator)
Agility: Black Widow 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting: Drax 7 (Living Weapon)
Energy: Adam Warlock 6 (Mass Destruction)
Total: Adam Warlock 30 (Super)

The Avengers are: Captain America, Giant-Man, Thunderstrike, Black Widow, Hercules, and Vision.

Operating under brainwashing from the former Hate-Monger; The Avengers have already taken out Gamora in the previous issue, but apparently suffered the temporary loss of Vision as a consequence of the beach-side melee.

The Infinity Watch are: Adam Warlock, Moondragon, Drax The Destroyer, Maxam, and Pip The Troll.

The Watch are missing one of their best fighters, but they've still got a whole lot of cosmic might on their side! By nature of their assembly, they wield four of the Infinity Stones: Gems possessed of primordial energies of fundamental cosmic elements that once combined to make the Infinity Gauntlet.

Drax The Destroyer wields the Power Gem, adding it to his already impressive physical strength. In this incarnation we saw him team with Hulk to temporarily topple Thanos during The Infinity Gauntlet, and go toe-to-toe with Thor in the Infinity Crusade! He's a natural to neutralize Thunderstrike or Hercules.

Maxam lacks the boost of a gem, but his ability to increase his size & strength compliments Drax, taking care of either of the loose Avengers powerhouses, or maybe directly countering the super-sized might of Giant-Man!

With the Mind Gem enhancing her mental powers: Moondragon has the potential to neutralize any of their opponents, and maybe even finish the whole fight by breaking the brainwashing that's turned them against The Watch. Failing that, her hand-to-hand skills are good enough to test Black Widow or Captain America!

Warlock could similarly use his natural super-human gifts to fight The Avengers, or wield the Soul Gem to pull everyone into its pocket reality for a dose of soul-searching. if that fails and an exit strategy's needed: Pip the Troll might just be able to help the team escape with the Space Gem's teleporting potential.

We've seen The Avengers take on all kinds of challenges, but we've never seen them take this one. Let's find out what happened!

The Tape: Avengers Ranking: Captain America (#7)

What Went Down...
Through gritted teeth Captain America makes his mad declaration: "WARLOCK MUST DIE!"

The sentiment is echoed by Giant-Man as The Avengers square-up against The Infinity Watch. Adam Warlock asks for reason, while Drax mistakes Thunderstrike for Thor, and Pip The Troll leeringly confronts the Black Widow.

Pip disappears as quickly as The Widow's temper flares, while Warlock gives up on diplomacy and knocks Giant-Man to the ground with a flying right hook!

Moondragon takes the opportunity to launch a jumping martial arts kick, deflected by Captain America's shield. She takes on the hand-to-hand challenge, matching his bitter madness with her own critique of the "pompous" Avenger.

Maxam struggles to land a hit on Hercules, who remains bitter over their meeting during the Infinity Crusade. Herc aims to pay him back, using his own surprise attack to grab Drax by the cape and toss him into the ocean many miles away!

While Drax tries to figure out where he is -- Maxam finds himself caught between a rock lifted by Hercules, and the hard place of Thunderstrike's hammer!

Knowing when he's outmatched: Maxam calls for help, receiving a polite acknowledgment from Warlock, who evades a giant fist swung by Hank Pym -- and unleashes a direct karmic blast from the Soul Gem!

Warlock hops away from the kayoed Giant-Man, but before he can come to his teammate's aid is struck by the massive boulder hurled by Hercules!

A dark shadow watches from nearby island flora, and Pip The Troll materializes at Warlock's unconscious side, tossing his spiked mace "skull-cracker" in favour of brewing a "neat trick" he's been wanting to try out.

Meanwhile Maxam finds a forearm block wanting as Hercules follows it up immediately with a second, more devastating left that catches him across the chin!

Maxam's tired of being a punching bag for two demi-gods, and manages to narrowly avoid the raging descent of Thunderstrike's uru mace!

It crashes into the ground behind him, but Hercules continues his verbal and close-quarters assault, moving in to grab the "varlet" by the collar and punch him straight in the face!

Elsewhere Captain America blocks a kick with his shield, transitioning seamlessly into a shield swipe that Moondragon nimbly leaps over.

She resists Maxam's desperate plea to use a mind-blast: "Don't rush me! I'll be with you as soon as I attend to the good Captain in my own manner!"

A precision chop to the shoulder finds its mark, allowing Moondragon to kick Captain America's famous shield out of his hands! She follows with a stiff right palm strike to his jaw, dodging his right-hand counter punch with a twirl, to strike back with her own uppercut knock out!

Satisfied with her victory over Captain America -- Moondragon is happy to use the Mind Gem's powers to mind-blast Thunderstrike into submission!

The knock-out beam evens the odds for Maxam, but he fails to notice the massive ocean rock suddenly teleported overhead by Pip The Troll, which sends Hercules running clear of the impact zone!

The long thin rock crushes Maxam & Thunderstrike and kicks up a cloud of sand!

Moondragon doesn't even see Hercules coming as he runs right through her like a raging bull with a charging shoulder!

Pip tries to make the save, snapping the wooden handle of his spiked mace as he clobbers Hercules over the back of the head. The demigod shrugs it off, tossing Pip aside as he makes a path toward a recovered Adam Warlock!

Warlock ducks beneath a wild haymaker and returns fire with a jumping kick!

Hercules is unfazed, launching Warlock across the beach with an overhand punch!

He charges after Warlock, who unleashes the awesome mystic power of his Karmic staff, but the demigod "Prince of Power" resists its awesome energy, snatching it by the neck to push it away.

Warlock takes flight, unleashing a blast from the Soul Gem -- but it misses the target, allowing Hercules to grab him by the ankle and smash his face into the sand!

Warlock throws his free foot at Hercules' face, but the Prince of Power absorbs the kick and slams his left fist to the ground -- narrowly missing Warlock, who jumps clear and delivers another kick directly to the face.

Still Hercules shakes the physical assault off, rallying to deliver a devastatingly explosive backfist strike that knocks Warlock off his feet!

Warlock's body stays limp as Hercules walks the distance to pick him up by the collar, but the Avenger doesn't deliver his intended finishing blow.

Instead it's Hercules who is knocked unconscious when the eerie Vision emerges from the beach sand to deliver a surprise attack to his teammate's back!

The synthezoid's artificial brain appears unaffected by the telepathic brainwashing that enthralled his teammates. He reveals the plot to The Infinity Watch, recruiting Moondragon to use the Mind Gem to free them from their hypnosis.

The Hammer...
The last minute save from Vision helps The Infinity Watch secure their victory over The Avengers!

His timing might seem overly dramatic, but his actions are justified with cold synthezoid logic.

Knowing he couldn't possibly curb the hypnotized Avengers alone -- Vision used a skirmish with Gamora in the previous issue to feign damage, waiting for an opportunity to render assistance once The Infinity Watch had the upper hand! Or something along those lines... Something that conveniently gives us a "surprise" twist. Why not?

Vision shares the victory with Moondragon and Adam Warlock, who secured noteworthy individual triumphs over multiple members of the Avengers, including Captain America, Thunderstrike, and Giant-Man.

You already know who scored the double kayo because you just read the scintillating recap above, but it feels especially noteworthy that Moondragon managed to best Captain America in hand-to-hand martial combat!

Cap actually has one of the worst defeat tallies recorded on the site, [second only to Superman at the time of writing], but he balances significant losses with a high number of wins.

Both stats are attributable to Cap's never-say-die attitude and warrior-like vigor for combat. He boldly risks taking the L by standing ground against obvious mismatches, like Thanos, but to other heroes he remains a mythic benchmark for fighting prowess. He holds top fighters like Black Panther and Wolverine to account, while occasionally becoming the scalp himself to prove another hero's worth, like his epic crossover showdown with Batman.

Moondragon's script notes the interest of comparing their fighting skills, but this one lacks the weight of importance other big time showdowns might aspire to, especially in more recent times where that kind of thing is given a lot of pages.

I'm not sure if Moondragon had the cachet for a bigger marquee spotlight against Cap, and the entire battle comes pregnant with modifiers, noting a compromised Avengers in a guest role.

It's all a little rough in composition, reflected somewhat in art that shows plenty of intent, but is a little sketchy compared to Tom Grindberg's usual work, which I have become a growing fan of in recent years.

Bob Almond is no stranger to inking Grindberg with a more characteristic finish, which leads me to wonder if there were deadline pressures, or late editorial interference that impacted the issue. Perhaps negotiations with the Avengers office?..

As much as The Avengers are here to be beaten by the title heroes in their fleeting guest role, it surprises me how impressive a showing Hercules has!

I like the callback to Herc's brief face-off with Maxam in the still-recent Infinity Crusade, but I'm not sure that justifies such a strong outing. He isn't just the last man standing, but also handily intimidates Maxam, and beats the heck out of Warlock! He's practically served a visual win, if not for the interference of Vision!

Perhaps this all speaks to Hercules' mythic inclination towards violent madness, or perhaps there was a particular vested interest in presenting the Avenger as a legitimate, uncompromised threat.

Although most of the presented group could be found in contemporary issues of Avengers, Hercules is the character I would most closely associate with this era of monthly issues, sharing a spotlight with the likes of Black Knight, Sersi, and Crystal -- all conspicuous by absence.

Thunderstrike won't even be back in the fold until next month's issue, May cover-dated Avengers #374, which means he technically showed up two months early as an active Avenger in Warlock and The Infinity Watch #26!

They were crazy times, and how ever this issue managed to come together, it's a nice artifact from both catalogues. A nice chance for us to dip into Adam Warlock and The Infinity Watch, as well!

If you'd like to find more from the characters and topics covered, make sure you hit up links throughout this post, or dive into the Secret Archive for a complete index of featured fights in order of publisher, series, and issue number!

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Winners: Vision, Moondragon & Warlock (w/ Infinity Watch)
#86 (+5) Vision
#200 (+402) Adam Warlock
#382 (+285) Moondragon
#645 (new) Maxam [+1 assist]
#646 (new) Pip The Troll [+1 assist]
#140 (-1) Drax The Destroyer [+1 assist]
#7 (--) Captain America
#48 (-3) Black Widow
#87 (-6) Giant-Man (Hank Pym)
#161 (-4) Hercules
#1040 (-39) Thunderstrike