Sunday, September 30, 2007

Where: Street Fighter II #3 When: February 2006
Why: Ken Siu-Chong How: Alvin Lee

Quick Fix...
Okay, I'm going to start this entry way off on a tangent.
Earlier today I spent a disturbing amount of time sifting through google hits, conventional and blogsearch, looking for dates and issue numbers. I couldn't find them.

I do my best to make sure Secret Wars on Infinite Earths is a multi-layered and enjoyable reading experience, several times a week. If I might not always live up to that lofty expectation, I always find great pride in including explicit and relevant information for cross searching needs.

Now, let the minutes show that it is indeed Sunday, and therefore we must address today's pressing Street Fighter business. On today's agenda, two of the new warriors that made their debut in the revision title, Super Street Fighter II.

When a lot of casual fans think of Street Fighter, they're actually thinking of Street Fighter II. It was in this revamped sequel that the series left behind it's simpler side-scrolling to develop fleshed out characters, and the beat 'em up style that we all know and love. Characters like Ken, Ryu, and Sagat were all explicitly transplanted from the first Street Fighter into the sequel, but for the most part the game boasted a whole new cast of World Warriors.

Super Street Fighter II introduced a brand new quartet of characters from Greece, Jamaica, Mexico and Hong Kong. They were Cammy White, Dee Jay, T.Hawk and Fei Long respectively, and each would become stalwarts of the series.

It was Cammy who undeniably made the biggest splash, becoming an iconic instantly recognised pin-up in a similar fashion to predecssor Chun-Li; a contrast to cult additions like Dee Jay, and today's first subject, Thunderhawk.

T.Hawk's revenge story is ultimately one familiar to the genre.
He enters the Street Fighter tournament seeking revenge against Shadaloo mastermind and final boss, M. Bison, who harrassed the Thunderfoot tribe from their land, and ultimately murdered T.Hawk's rebellious father.

Like many of the most memorable supporting characters from the Street Fighter franchise; T.Hawk's model represents a two-dimensional quality to characterization. He presents much less martial arts style than other characters, instead erring for a strong ethnic charicature to strengthen his identity.

UDON maintain Thunderhawk's strong ethnic visuals, but extrapolate his role to incorporate the strong law enforcement representation to better initiate the character into the story. Chun-Li and Cammy White leave Guile behind to meet up with T.Hawk in his native Mexico, pursuing leads that involve Shadaloo's experiments with brainwashing -- a scenario Cammy herself escaped from.

Waiting for T.Hawk in a diner, Chun-Li and Cammy find themselves in the midst of an armed robbery. Their uniforms attract the attention of the gang's ring leader, prompting the two to debate combat honors, but it is ultimately the arriving Thunderhawk who takes control.

He makes light work of the two stragglers, making his dramatic first appearance with the collision of the would-be robber's heads.

Looming over the crooks, T.Hawk takes the surprised leader by the shoulder, using his turning motion to swiftly disarm him of his shotgun. With a look of distain, he removes the live cartridges.

Relieved of his weapon, the common thug doesn't stand a chance against the towering Thunder Foot warrior. T.Hawk ducks a punch and unleashes a powerful open-palm style, working the gut with a push before sealing the deal with a chop to the neck that leaves the gunman unconscious.

A gracious host, Thunderhawk apologises for the unsavory welcome, and makes a formal introduction to Chun-Li and Cammy.

UDON do well to incorporate elements of T.Hawk's Alpha storyline from the video games, building the sub-plot of Bison's brainwashed Dolls, which plays a significant part in Cammy White's mysterious history. As in the games, T.Hawk makes it his business to seek Little Eagle (Noviembre), along with Juli, who is attributed the backstory of being daughter to a German doctor who provided healthcare to those of the Thunderfoot reserve.

There's a question to be asked of UDON's preperation for longterm planning.
The inclusion of storylines like this, which do well to flesh out characters like T.Hawk, also collide with elements from various other installments in the game series, chronologically released prior to the Alpha expansion.

If one were to really look into the subtext of the situation, this might be an inadvertant glimmer of hope for fans of the games. Burning through storyline so quickly could be an indication that UDON's good will with Capcom and association with yet another revamp of the SFII port might be leading to a potential Street Fighter 4. On the other hand, it may yet be another example of short sighted writing from a studio of pencillers.

The Street Fighter license isn't UDON's to own, so the future may in fact be finite, but I can't help but raise the concern once again that this resembles a case of pencillers working as writers. Typical of a writer is longterm consideration, often absent in penciller's attempts to construct story.

I don't actually know Ken Siu-Chong's history, and I certainly don't mean to inflect negativity on his script work for the series, or pencillers in general.
From a position of interest in the future of the series, and a critical analysis, it's just very difficult to get away from these things. With a tournament allegedly the eventual target for Street Fighter II, one can't help but feel there are a lot of storyarcs building that suggest the logical conclusion of closure from such an event. That doesn't necessarily mean that is the case, but it's a theory.

If you have any theories about the future of the series, be sure to drop a comment. I so rarely here from even our regular readers, and lord knows it's unusual to run afoul Street Fighter fans in the thick of the American superhero comics scene. So say hello, because it's lonely out here.

The Fix: 4 The Issue: 4
Winner: Thunderhawk

[Juggling multiple storylines and groups pays dividends in fan service, but the rush of characters and plot points seems too much, spread too thin. The shift to SFII to streamline was an admirable call, but as the issues unfold it again begins to feel as if the central concept is lost, and stories are meandering toward their conclusion.]

Where: Street Fighter #8 When: May 2004
Why: Ken Siu-Chong How: Alvin Lee

Quick Fix...
It worked for Guile in his first appearance in the series [Street Fighter #1], and we just saw a strong showing from Thunderhawk, so I guess it's hard to argue against the gang-fight introduction.

Liu Kang (Mortal Kombat), Marshall Law (Tekken), Jann Lee (Dead or Alive): all characters who may have existed without Street Fighter, but represent the same tradition that saw the creation of Fei Long. One of the very first and perhaps most instantly recognisable characters, Fei Long represents the none-too subtle homage to cinematic martial arts legend, Bruce Lee.

Since his inclusion in Super Street Fighter II in 1993, the Bruce Lee clone has become an archetype of beat 'em up gaming, represented in most major series in the genre. Fei Long represents perhaps the most literal representation of the character, sharing many explicity commonalities in appearance, style, phrase, and story.

Fei Long's character and story remain typically consistent across the many adaptations of Street Fighter into various mediums. When he isn't starring in the next action blockbuster, he's practising the philosophies and mastery of the martial arts, sometimes returning to the street fighting circuit to stay true.

As a young and exceptionally talented Hong Kong film star, Fei Long almost inevitably attracts the attentions of criminal interests in the business.
Invited to star in a picture by ladies Xiayu and Yanyu, Fei Long finds himself set upon by thugs in an alley outside the studio where he has spent the day filming.

Despite overwhelming odds, Fei Long defies the pack of mobsters, unleashing the martial arts skills that made him one of the most popular movie stars in Hong Kong. His kick proves so powerful, it sends Dai Loe, the gang leader, flying through the air to the windsheld of his expensive sports car.

Through a muzzle of blood, the mobster orders his gang to kill the movie star.
Quoting the infamous water philosophy of Bruce Lee, Fei Long unleashes the full extent of his skill. With lightning quick kicks and fists, he takes his undisciplined opponents apart.

Like a scene from one of his movies, Fei Long produces a pair of nunchaku, evening up the score against the mob of thugs, some armed with baseball bats and blades. Attacking with devestating precision, he renders the goons embarrassed and bruised, leaving only he and Dai Loe.

Still on the hood of his car, the mobster draws a knife on the stoic Fei Long. The martial arts superstar's wags his finger, prompting Dai Loe to opt for a clean getaway over a confrontation he will inevitably lose.

Despite the decisive victory, Dai Loe still promises death for Fei Long at the hands of his masters. A fate Fei Long will no doubt meet with confidence of fist.

And with that, we wrap up the last post of the month, and another fine double feature inclusion to our weekend sponsoring of the Street Fighter brand. The October Punch-Up will reveal more on the progress of the Street Fighters against their superhero contemporarys, via the regular super stock listing. The list will also include all the other September movers and shakers in the on-going rankings.

We'll also have another exciting Quick Fix for your consumption, and discussion aplenty about issues of varying importance. Until then, it's midnight and I'm gonna hit the sack. We'll talk more about Fei Long in the coming weekends.

The Fix: 5 The Issue: 5
Winner: Fei Long

[Though seamless from the previous issue, this marked the first of UDON's self-publishing efforts discussed in the previous entry. In a call back to the first half of today's post, it's worth noting that Xiayu and Yanyu are both Dolls from the Alpha video games, rather than Hong Kong gangsters.]

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Old Man, New World (DC comics)
Action Comics #824 When: April 2005
Why: JD Finn How: Ivan Reis

The story so far...
Suffering the stress of a clash with Gog and a synthetic yellow form of Kryptonite, and the lurking threat of Doomsday; an aged Superman struggles against the xenophobic charge of Kandor's General Preus.

Having captured both the inquisitive Jimmy Olsen and the Justice League's Martian Manhunter, Preus uses Olsen's signal watch to lure Superman to his desert base where he commands an army of zealous white-supremicists.

Facing overwhelming physical odds, Superman will courageously do combat with his disillusioned Kandorian counterpart, but at the end of the battle, Preus' greatest weapon may prove to be humanity's own capacity for self-destruction.

Previous Form:
Superman (#7): Holds victories over Mongul, Saviour and Juggernaut.
Preus: Making his debut in the Infinite Wars.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Superman 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Preus 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Draw 6 (Sound Speed)
Stamina: Draw 6 (Generator)
Agility: Superman 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting Ability: Preus 4 (Trained Fighter)
Energy Powers: Superman 5 (Lasers)

- Earth's yellow sun powers Superman's Kryptonian make-up to expand his powers exponentially. Among them; flight, invulnerability, super strength, super speed, heat-vision, x-ray vision, and a keen intellect.

- Having been introduced to a new strain of yellow synthetic Kryptonite by Gog, Superman is suffering the effects of rapid aging and corresponding weaknesses.

- Preus is affected by Earth's atmosphere in many similar ways to Superman, with some subtle differences.
Comparable are their strength, speed and flight capabilities, likewise Preus' vision is enhanced in similar ways, visualised instead with a dark black, or purple quality, as opposed to Superman's familiar red.

- Preus has the additional ability to fire concussive blasts of energy focused through his fist, and tap into telepathic conversation. He also wears armor that is fused with his physical being, making it both a strength, but a potential weakness.

The Math: Draw The Pick: Superman

What went down...
It's about damned time Superman went head to head with energy efficient hybrid vehicles! That's right, it's a cheap gag to open as Superman speeds across the American desert, hoping desperately Jimmy Olsen has run afoul the likes of Kite-Man, given his ailing situation as a senior super-citizen.

A barrage of rocket fire makes for a disappointing response as Superman plummets to Earth from the blast only to find the unlikely sight of Preus, hovering before the gathered army of supremicist group, God's Peake.

A woman runs from the group, screaming for Superman's help. He promptly positions himself between the army and the woman, only to see the young lady reveal the scarred symbol of Preus tatooed on her chest above a waistcoat of explosives. She detonates them.

Superman manages to save the girl from herself, but it is a minor victory.
Preus commands his army of the willing to throw themselves at Superman, willingly giving their lives in the name of a like-minded genocidal philosophy.

Superman struggles to combat the mob without causing lethal harm. Prompting cries of cowardice, he leaps into the air, peeling himself from the army, only to come colliding back down to Earth with a speed that sends a shockwave through the surrounding zealots.

Desperate to stop the gun-toting xenaphobes killing each other, Superman sinks to depths uncomfortable, knee-capping a sizable percentage of the crowd with his heat vision. Preus joyously taunts Superman with informal references to the pleasure derived from harming the lesser humans. Enraged, Superman flies like a speeding bullet at the hovering Kryptonian, only to be knocked back to Earth.

Preus summons his dark energy, firing a blast from his fist before swooping down to catch Superman in mid-air and toss him across the battlefield.
Fearing he may be suffering a heart attack, the aged Superman helplessly bursts through the roof of Preus' base of operations, stumbling upon the missing Jimmy Olsen and J'onn J'onnz.

Preus soon follows, still shouting his purist claims.
Superman calls upon his experience with the effects of the yellow sun, using his intimate knowledge of flight to out maneuver the newly affected Kandorian.

Superman hops on the inexperienced Kryptonian's back, inflicting damage while controlling the course of their flight. Preus blasts wildly, damaging the restraints that hold Olsen as they head skyward once more, out of the fortress.

Intent on using their comparable weaknesses, Superman reaches for his belt to produce the mythic Kryptonite ring once used by Lex Luthor. It does well to momentarily stun Preus, but ultimately has little to no effect on the armoured native of Kandor.

With Superman's heart struggling under the stress of battle, Preus crushes his hand and sends him plummeting back into the fortress below with a mighty swing. Preus descends close behind, lording his plans to reshape the Earth in his purist image of New Krypton.

Having been freed from his flame torture by Olsen, Martian Manhunter is able to clarify a telepathic message to Superman, "The arm... or-- Armor near the heart..."

As Preus looms to deliver the final blow, Superman follows his Martian contemporary's advice. With Preus' hand around his neck, Superman reaches for the damaged shield and rips it away from Preus' chest.

Preus slumps back, the trauma stopping his heart, while Superman's returns to a normal rythmn. Ever the boyscout, he hoists Preus under his arm and defies Martian Mahunter's advice in the hopes that STAR Labs can save both he, and his enemy, even though they find themselves in the line of fire from Doomsday.

Struggling to stay afloat, Superman leaps his way to STAR Labs, where he will find the Justice League in tatters, and an old enemy waiting to kill him.

The hammer...
With another super-villain to his tally, we gladly declare Superman winner, with the vital assist from J'onn J'onnz.

Y'know, it's popular theory that the decades only make Superman more difficult to write, distancing him from a time when all-powerful aliens were cool, and the danger was real.

I, of course, do not subscribe to this particular opinion, but would agree there are some things that aren't helping. Like villains. Superman, arguably the most prevelant superhero in popular culture, has a pretty average cast of villains.
If they aren't hulking aliens with a desire to fight, they're Lex Luthor, Metallo, and a handful of other rare exceptions.

Among the greatest Superman villains, Bizarro and Zod, who are not only two of the most overworked antagonists in the franchise, but also extremely derivative of the central character, which can quickly turn poignancy to boredom.

Preus makes an effort to add to the pile, but likewise comes out smelling a bit too much like Zod, another Kryptonian General with a desire for conquest. Which probably raises the serendipitous subject of intention. For those that paint Superman with the broad stroke of 'unfeasible,' goals may represent grand poignancy rather than a satisfaction with successful on-going superheroics.

Fractured storytelling and conflicting characterization amongst stalwarts like Zod help further complicate the problem, while never quite setting the balance back in place. One can't help but wonder if it wouldn't be a good idea just to let these characters exist in a similar formula to the oft discussed chess board concept I've applied many times to the criminal underworld of Marvel and DC comics.

As if by serendipity we go from discussing Saviour [Action Comics #713], a man who believes Superman is a deceiver and is obsessed with championing his cause -- to a character like Preus, who has lost faith in Superman, and intends to succeed him on the basis of his own twisted interpretation of the symbol.

Building characterization on conflicts like that seems like such a delicious opportunity for a title like Action Comics, giving Superman the absorbant benefit of conflicts and personalities acting independent to his own infallible heroism.

What could be more fun than bridging a throwaway fight with someone like Solomon Grundy to a brand new threat. Superman's struggle culminates with a crash-landing in STAR Labs, where Preus is housed under the dampening power of a red sun.

Inadvertantly freed, Preus prepares to resume his quest of ethnic purity and conquest, only to be interrupted from an ominous whisper coming from off panel, "... deceiver..." -- Enter a likewise freed Saviour!

From there you can move the characters around in ways they haven't yet been seen, offering opportunities to develop and reshape characters. Self-reflection seems like the most likely developing course of action for a man like Saviour, who almost literally represents what he opposes. Does this nullify the all-powerful villain, or make him all the more dangerous? Does the desire for distraction lead Saviour down a path of destruction, or could salvation come from self-evaluation, allowing him to fullfil his own self-proclamation?

Likewise, a recurring theme of the Infinite Wars over the past month has been the so-called scale of justice. We've been talking a lot about the moral value of superheroes, particularly characters from the DC Universe. Developments in a character like Saviour offer a canvas upon which Superman's own personality, strengths and failings can be distorted, examined and reflected.

Morality proved to be a major part of today's entry, presenting both the moral conflict of overwhelming necessity (militia killing each other), and the outstanding good that Superman represents (attempting to save Preus).

I think if Wonder Woman represents the harsher end of the scale, willing to snap a man's neck in the name of justice; Superman is probably the other end.
It's displayed to quite well to an extreme in Frank Miller's work, [Dark Knight Returns, Dark Knight Strikes Again], where Superman's moral fibre holds so strong it guides him into the employ of his mortal nemesis, Lex Luthor.

Obviously Miller's take is almost at the point of being a parody, relevant to the sattirical containment of the DKR future. Even so, I think it at least alludes to Superman's role in the moral scale of justice. He is a character who can bring total justice to Metropolis, but is bound by a code of ethics in much the same way most local law enforcement agencies are. So, although he can see through concrete and bend steel, it would be a moral choice not to do so.

It was a situation similar to this that was highlighted a few years ago in The Question; a mini-series by Rick Veitch and Tommy Lee Edwards that justified the stay of a character like The Question in Metropolis through the crimes that could exist beneath Superman's all-seeing eyes.

I like the idea of Superman as a wholesome, idealistic figure. An icon.
I think accepting this role and presenting it in exciting Action Comics, with a backdrop of interesting on-going developments is almost certainly the way to go with a title like that. I think we've seen that at various intervals in the past, and may perhaps even see it again in the future, lest we breech the subject of late releases...

I don't think it's radical ideas that Superman needs.
Just a consistent approach, and a competent influence.

The Fight: 5 The Issue: 5.5
[Supposedly published under a pseudonym for fan-reviled writer, Chuck Austen, this issue makes for a surprise. While not the most spectacular comic on the shelves, it serves up a dynamic, well-presented issue that reads exceptionally well on it's own. The combination of Reis, Marc Campos (inks) and Guy Major (colours) is the perfect example of all parts working in successful harmony!]

Friday, September 28, 2007

Date Knight (DC comics)
Solo #1 When: December 2004
Why: Darwyn Cooke How: Tim Sale

The story so far...
A string of clues lead the Dark Knight Detective to a Gotham City museum exibit, where someone has broken in; neutralized the nightguard; disabled security systems; and breached the defenses of an expensive cat artifact.
So why is the statue still in it's case?

It seems Catwoman wants to play, and the perfect way to get the attentions of her Bat-themed lover is a midnight burglary, complete with scented clues to lead him to their rendezvous.

The sassy Selina Kyle leads the Batman on a pursuit across the Gotham skyline, in a date night only she could provide. Will the Dark Knight pursue criminal justice, or when the cheque arrives, will he do the gentlemanly thing? Mmmreow, stay tuned to find out!

Previous Form:
Batman (#2): Suffered his first recorded defeat at the hands of Catwoman.
Catwoman (#41): Has tussled with the likes of Batman, Elektra and Triple Threat.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Batman 3 (Athlete)
Intelligence: Batman 5 (Professor)
Speed: Catwoman 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Batman 5 (Marathon Man)
Agility: Catwoman 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting Ability: Batman 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy Powers: Batman 4 (Arsenal)

- Batman is highly skilled in multiple forms of hand-to-hand combat, complimented by his peak physical conditioning. This allows him maximum mobility and strength for a human being without super powers.

- Batman, aka; Bruce Wayne, sponsors his war on crime with the inhereted fortune of his deceased parents. This allows him great freedom both as a sociallite, and a man who occasionally reigns destruction upon Gotham.

- Catwoman has no known powers, but is at the height of physical fitness. Like Batman, she can be regularly seen on the Gotham rooftops, traversing them with ease via means acrobatic, and of cable.

- Over the years a sexual tension between the characters has been evident, perhaps allowing Catwoman an offensive x-factor not usually affronted to the Dark Knight Detective. The unlikely equaliser has been illustrated in other confrontations between the characters [Batman: The Mad Monk #1].

- Additional to the previous; as of the Hush storyline, Batman has revealed his secrety identity to Catwoman whilst fulfilling a romantic relationship with her. This affords Catwoman more intimate knowledge of her foe, and allows her the opportunity to get closer than ever before [JLA #118].

What went down...
Having lured Batman to the museum, it doesn't take Selina Kyle long to emerge from the shadows. Looking for fun she charges the Dark Knight, knocking him through a large window, out into the picturesque vista of the Gotham City evening skyline.

Batman manages to throw a batline to snag a gargoyle, but Catwoman takes control of the situation, snipping the cable with her glove's talon-esque claws.
The two plummet Earthbound, coming to land in a street merchant's rose cart.

Catwoman springs from the wreckage of the wooden cart, playfully acknowledging the vaguely romantic connotations of the situation.

She leaps atop a truck moving through traffic, with the Batman following in hot pursuit.

The Dark Knight takes on Catwoman like a raging bull, yanking her from atop the moving vehicle, back into the Gotham evening air. His reckless abandon sends the pair hurtling uncontrollably toward a restaurant, much to Catwoman's commentating delight.

The duelling lovers smash through the large windows of the Gotham eatery, spilling champagne and shrimp alike.
The Catwoman doesn't pass up the opportunity for a quick bite, "How risque!"

Making for the exit, the pair pass through the alley, resuming their sprint upward to the rooftops once more. Catwoman makes the first leap, but the Batman catches up with her once more.

"I'll dance with you big stuff -- but I lead, n'est-ce pas?"
Catwoman expertly rolls through the Batman's tackle, turning the tide of the tumble to put her back on top -- just the way she likes it!

With Catwoman leaping ahead, Batman pursues, only to be ambushed from behind. A diving kick sees the Dark Knight sent flying from the roof, caught embarassingly by the ankle with his own bat-line.

Catwoman comes to a perch, playfully mocking the stoic Batman;
"I don't care what the other girls say. You're fun."

Batman receives a kiss or four for his troubles, and an invitation to do it all again the following Saturday. Left to find his own way out of being hung upside down, the Batman seems less than enthused.

The hammer...
A cheeky conclusion to a delightfully playful outing for the Bat and the Cat, with Catwoman coming out the better. Then again, doesn't she always? Mwah-mwah.

It took a disturbing amount of fiddling around with contrasts and hues to even come close to matching the masterful colours of Dave Stewart. So awesome are Mr. Stewart's colours that my scanner literally can't handle them. I had similar, if slightly less prominent problems on things like New Frontier. I have not ruled out the possibility that Dave Stewart has the powers of Mr. Terrific.

That isn't really a commentary on the work as much as it is an alert to how redundant the technology I'm using is. It's... It's a super-power in itself, I think, that I was able to act as publisher/editor of my own comic book, The Kirby Martin Inquest. Yeah, it's been a while since I've mentioned it, and I thought it would be a nice iopportunity to just gently remind everyone it's still out there after I braved illness to do yesterday's post.

Actually, I'll be honest, I was probably more insightful in a haze of hayfever than I am usually. Like creative experimentation with illicit recreational drugs, maybe I should just consider surrounding myself with animals, rugs and newspapers in an effort to trigger further allergy inspired genius. On the other hand, I might not want to wish that self-induced nightmare on myself, and will quickly backtrack in, in writing no-less.

Anyway -- we are gathered here to discuss Catwoman, who remains the most prominent female influence in the macho-primo world of the Batman.

We started to talk a little bit about my feelings concerning Gotham, and the way it affects the people who are born and bred there. It's a quality that permeates through the architecture, to law enforcement, to criminal element.

There's a mysterious something that ties Gotham together with a stale sense of corruption, which is where I think Catwoman has a place in Batman's life.

Batman is a character who is obsessively driven to combat all he perceives as wrong in the world, by any means necessary. Batman is at his best when he's threatening and terrifying criminals with his own brutal form of non-lethal justice. In this respect he is almost the corrupted form of justice, representing vigilantism in it's angriest, most dangerous form.

Out of that you have the humanising elements in Batman/Bruce Wayne's life, which is where you find an indulgance and desire for someone like Catwoman.
It's written all over the pages of this very entry. I'm not going to suggest that Darwyn Cooke's script is specifically written for the period when Batman and Catwoman were sharing a bed, but there's a quality of acceptance in Batman who no longer sees Catwoman as an evil worthy of his unrelenting pursuit.

It's the corruption that lies within even the good of Gotham that allows him to recognise the internal purity of Selina Kyle, while be seduced with the confident, challenging sass that personifies her character. She's a little bit dangerous, and a little bit of a challenge, and I like to think that excites a mind like Batman.

There's a popular theory that if you fight something, you become it, and it's from that perspective that I think all of this originates. For Catwoman, her ties with the criminal underworld are perhaps justified under a similar pretense to Batman's intelligence methods. For Kyle, the rich are presumably the deserving of her crimes that keep her in the loop, which allows her the luxury of keeping a close watch on all things villainous. We saw this during the gathering of the Society, which ultimately led Hugo Strange to pit his pawns against her.

The Catwoman character is almost the kind of cliche female activists should hate. She's the kind of character who, when discussed, almost demands the use of the word "sassy", which in itself is potentially insulting in it's referencial connotation. It's the over-sexed pin-up who could be argued to think she's using sex as a weapon, but is really debasing herself to a level controlled by her peers.

Maybe there's a validity to that argument, and maybe it further plays into the theory that working so close to corruption makes you slightly blind to it's affections. Then again, maybe Selina Kyle really does represent the ultimate street-level female hero, liberated and confident in her own abilities.

Which begs the question of how her character may be changing.
Under the direction of Will Pfeifer, Seilna Kyle has not only continued to maintain relationships with a new supporting cast, but has also now given birth!

If Catwoman's greatest strength was self-deriving confidence, how then does this new weakness potentially affect her? Does this strengthen her distanced relationship with Batman, seeing him as a now required ally, or does she withdraw from a life that puts everyone near her in danger? More to the point, does this lead us down an inevitable path of a dead infant? We can only imagine some hesitance every time Catwoman goes for the fridge...

So, I mentioned Bahlactus yesterday...
Bahlactus, bloody Bahlactus. Oh, it seems our unique brand of fight-league statistics and ham-fisted critiques aren't hot enough for Mr. Purple Mini-Skirt's Friday Night dress code! Well, pardon me for not getting our required seventeen thousand words out of a single picture of Captain America kicking a mono on an army of Hydra goons atop a jet-powered Steranko-cycle!
Forgive me for thinking two years might have earnt me a little good will!

No, it's all in good fun! Although, if anyone wants to ring the bell, I'll gladly sew leather patches on the elbows of my leather catsuit so school can be back in.
Mmm, hammer-time! Speaking of which, the sucka punching begins soon.
Not quite as early as the Infinite Wars, but y'know... *wink*

EDIT (29th): My mistake! The good word is the Infinite Wars will spill over to the Night of Fights once again, starting next week. What's that sound? The bell ringing, my friend. Take a seat! "Bahlactus has spoken."

It would be remiss of me to not throw out a mention for the most fantastic Friday contribution from Bully [Time waits for no man...]. Super-cool, and ominously relevant as we brace ourselves for a month of DOOM!

Anyway, I'm shagged and still suffering the effects of allergies. I already have no recollection of what went on here today, and I don't know if I'll see you tomorrow, but there'll probably be some Street Fighting on the weekend.

The Fight: 6.5 The Issue: 7
[Solo was a breath of inspiration, leading incredibly well with the Tim Sale issue. This remains a sorely missed title from DC's line-up, with so many talents never having contributed. The return of MCP might fill the void to some extent, but I can't imagine anything topping such an exciting read.]

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Scarlet Salvation (DC comics)
Action Comics #713 When: September 1995
Why: David Michelinie How: Kieron Dwyer & Denis Rodier

The story so far...
Three years prior, the world watched in horror as the alien creature Doomsday fought Superman to a stand-still, the two dying in the street by each other's hands.

Having returned after the destruction of Coast City, Superman returns to resume his battle for truth, justice and the American way -- but not everyone is convinced!

After a sinister plot orchestrated by the Kryptonian cybernetic fiend, Braniac; a doubt is cast in the minds of all when an illusion is cast to reveal Superman still dead in his coffin. Though the truth was eventually revealed, deranged serial killer, Ramsey Murdoch, remains unconvinced.
Believing himself to be a self-proclaimed saviour, Murdoch prepares himself to destroy the one who poses as Superman.

Previous Form:
Superman (#8): Victories over Hulk, Wonder Woman, Green Arrow, & Mongul.
Saviour: Making his debut in the Infinite Wars.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Draw 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Superman 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Superman 6 (Sound Speed)
Stamina: Superman 6 (Generator)
Agility: Superman 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting Ability: Draw 3 (Street Wise)
Energy Powers: Saviour 6 (Mass Destruction)

- Saviour's abilities are psycho-kinetic in nature, allowing him to convert thought into physical reality. Applications of this ability commonly include an increase in size and strength, potentially to gargantuan proportions; and the creation of physical artifacts like weapons, and creatures.

- Saviour is driven by his own righteous perception of truth, making him physically susceptible to a good argument. Mentally imbalanced, this argument need not even be true, just acceptable to Murdoch's logic processes.

- Superman has endured through the decades as one of the most prominent heroes of the DC Universe. A spiritual leader, Superman has a wide array of physical capabilities to back it up, the stalwarts being; super strength, flight, heat-vision, super breath & super speed.

- Though not typically depicted as such, Superman also has a keen intellect, his Kryptonian brain enhanced in much the way his body is. A keen strategist, Superman also has a broad understanding of sciences and battle tactics, but is often hindered by his own sense of caution and responsibility.

The Math: Superman The Pick: Superman

What went down...
Having escaped prison, the ominpotently powered madman, Ramsey Murdoch, finds his way to Planet reporter Ron Troupe. Having covered Murdoch's trial for a string of murders connected to Murdoch's mission to destroy "deceivers", Troupe makes himself a dangerous enemy in Saviour, but finds himself saved by a bigger concern pertinent to his agenda.

In a public show, Murdoch takes Troupe hostage in a Metropolis street, garnering the attentions of the man calling himself Superman. Referring to the hero as the great deceiver, Murdoch waves the proof of a newspaper photograph of Superman's coffin in the air, insistant that Superman appears in the picture.

Unable to talk the killer down, Superman resorts to heat vision to melt Murdoch's knife. Ron Troupe is able to flee to the sidelines as Murdoch turns his attentions to Superman, revealing from beneath a headban the Superman shield he has carved in his own forehead -- a mark for the truth he believes he stands for.

Murdoch dedicates himself to Superman's cause, growing in proportions and using his ability to turn regular streetwear to the red and blue of Superman. The red S begins to bleed as his transformation turns the costume to black.

Recognising the undeniable escalation of the situation, Superman leaps into action, flying directly to his enlarged opponent. Unfortunately for him, Murdoch's strength is proportionately adjusted, matching that of the Hulk's!

Saviour pounds Superman into the street, repeatedly pummeling with power that baffles even the travelled Superman.

The fight, taking place in the middle of a crowded Metropolis city street, sees a child innocently playing a part in the battle. Pointing a toy gun, the small boy terrifies his mother by making an effort to save Superman.

The toy gives the otherwise uninspired Saviour a model upon which to shape his reality altering powers. Manifesting a weapon in his own hand, he demonstrates far more lethal capabilities than whirring sound makers and flashing lights.

Believing Superman's defeat, Saviour lords over the crater created by his imaginary gun's blast. Like a lazarus, Superman rises from the hole, bursting out to connect with a flying uppercut that sends Saviour flying!

Landing outside a bar, Saviour lies slumped against a wall as a baffled drunk passes. Inspired once again by the seemingly insignificant, he takes the drinker's exclamation, creating a literal stampede of giant, tusked pink elephants!

With the watching public scattered in a panic, Superman goes to work on the giant pink elephants, utilizing his impressive strength to use fist and brawn to take them out. Pink skulls collide as he hoists one elephant over his head by the trunk, colliding it with another.

Saviour takes full advantage of the distraction, wrapping his hulking arms around Superman in a sneak attack from behind. Taking the battle close quarters gives Superman a sure fire shot with his heat-vision, which connects with enhanced bicep at point blank range.

Pained but ultimately unaffected by the blast, Saviour retaliates with his own literal translation of heat-vision. The burst scatters the last son of Krypton, and engulfs the entire street in uncontrolled flames!

Though the street was cleared by the rampaging elephants, Superman still finds himself with an obligation to protect and serve the people inside the engulfed buildings. He has no choice but to ignore Saviour, turning his super powered lungs to the matter of the blaze.

Showing no honor, Saviour charges the occupied Superman to pound and taunt him. "Liar, liar -- brain on fire!"

Watching from the shadows, Ron Troupe struggles with the scene he's witnessing, but as he ponders his lack of super powers he considers another way to influence the course of events: the information gained from research he conducted for the Ramsey Murdoch article he wrote!

Troupe courageously steps into the battlefield to challenge Saviour and his self-proclaimed truth. He recounts Murdoch's unimportance in the world, and tendencies to blame everyone but himself for his predicaments.
Terrified but commited, Troupe continues to psychologically attack Saviour, buying Superman time to put out the fires that threaten citizens of Metropolis.

Troupe's attack manifests itself physically as Murdoch is confronted with his shortcomings, reflected by Saviour's psycho-kinetic powers.

Reduced to a worthless whep on the ground, Saviour is quickly revived by Troupe's call to Superman. Big blue swoops in to clean the deck before Saviour can again reconceive his invulnerability, allowing the polish hammer to do the job of knocking the villainous Murdoch out.

He is taken into custody by STAR Labs, where their advanced facilities are used to keep Ramsey Murdoch in a suspended state of sleep, at least until he would next awake to terrorize Metropolis.

The hammer...
With the crucial assist of Ron Troupe, Superman prevails in the name of just truth, on this particular occasion. Although, justice and the American way may be called upon to testify, so they should be well forewarned. Hussah!

Having just filled in some of the previously featured Superman battles, it occurs to me that we really need to step it up with the villain battles. Good grief. For a site that rarely strays before the nineties, let alone the fifties, you'd think we'd have Superman painted in a better light!

Anyway, moving on... I'm going to be one hundred percent honest here: I may not be at the top of my game. No, I know, you'd never notice! Alas, there has been a pressure in my head that continues to rob me of clarity, let alone any kind of half-arsed pseudo-intellectual musings on superhero books.

We're here because damned if I'm going to let allergies stop me delivering unto you some of the least important fights in comic book history, and because I'm enjoying pouring as many stats into our sporting-styled database.

Why this less than memorable issue of Action Comics, I hear you ask?
A jaded portion of our community might say I made a very wise decision, but way back in the mid-nineties I passed up the event that was The Death of Superman.
At the time the event was somehow so very real, despite an already rich history of superhero deaths and resurrections. Maybe it was the fact that DC had effectively wiped their slate clean ten years prior, or maybe it was the mass media coverage, but for some reason, Superman's death seemed certain.

Even in the face of what was potentially one of the most historically significant events since the creation of Superman, I felt it wasn't warranting of purchase. I was still a youngster at the time, far less interested in Watchmen and the so-called comics 'mus-haves' of the time, instead seeking out things like Spider-man joining the Fantastic Four, or the Phantom taking up boxing for charity.

Some may say I dodged many a bullet (including early Image Comics), but ten-fifteen years later, I kinda wish I'd fleshed out my collection just a little more. So when Superman: Doomsday hits DVD, I can flick back over some of those stories and reminisce about different times. Heck, I'd even settle for some electric Superman issues, gar!

Anyway, things happen over the years, and next to owning an unusually large amount of Steel comics [for a middle-class white guy who listens to techno]; Action Comics #713 is about as close as I get to Superman's death.

I have not seen Superman: Doomsday, and given my current financial situation, probably will not see it for quite some time. Honestly, I don't consider that any great loss, although I would gladly see it if for no other reason than the purpose of review, which has probably been thoroughly accounted for by other websites and blogs. Maybe one of these days we'll get a sponsor, or something...

As for this issue; look, I like David Michelinie, mostly for his work on Amazing, but I couldn't in good conscience call this a great issue. Honestly, it's the kind of thing you really read in one sitting, and throw over your shoulder like a used pink elephant. Everything from the characters to the inks and colours are pretty uninspiring, to the point where I think maybe even with the blinders of zeitgeist, you would readily have identified this as insignificant at the time.

[If monsieurs Dwyer or Rodier have amounted to major things in the comics industry, and I just can't think of them, then colour me red-faced. Yessir.]

Even so, Saviour manages to be one of those interesting concept-characters who is the writer's equivalent of the DJ's Rob Dougan before the Matrix movies.
He's the kind of forgotten character you can lay down in a new way and just totally blow a crowd's mind.
Of course, Saviour did resurface some years after this issue, I'm led to believe presumably to the same ineffectual ends. So while he isn't the secret weapon of a writer in waiting, you'd still have to wonder what could be done with a nutter who can create anything from his imagination.

And wonder we shall, as I disappear into the gloom, a little less congested than when we began. Which is hopefully good news for when we come back to do it all again tomorrow at our usual Friday timeslot. (I'm looking at you, Bahlactus!)
Oohhhhhh, you see what I did there? No? I'll tell you tomorrow! Get off my back for crying out loud, I've got allergies! Geez!...

The Fight: 6 The Issue: 3
[A thoroughly mediocre issue that really does little to enhance the reputation of the much maligned mid-nineties. Saviour is definitely a character of interest for the Secret Earth, but barring an unforseen investment, don't expect to see him any time soon. Seriously, how great would a sponsor be?...]

Monday, September 24, 2007

Days of Future Present Part 4: You Must Remember This (Marvel comics)
X-Men Annual #14 When: 1990
Why: Chris Claremont How: Art Adams

The story so far...
For humanity there exists a dark potential future.
A time where mutants have been hunted to near extinction, and humanity lives enslaved by the robotic Sentinel armies that police the streets so vigilantly.

Franklin Richards and Rachel Summers, refugees from this dark time, escape back to seek protection in a more placid time where their parents stood triumphant and hopeful against these evils. Unfortunately for them, their time travelling escape is not the only shift made from this future.

Dr. Roderick Campbell, the man-Sentinel known as Ahab, follows the two mutant rebels back through the timestream, hoping to use the environment to manipulate a final showdown with his longtime targets. Unfortunately for him, the mutants are far from extinct in this time, and despite his advanced technology and many powers, he may find himself overwhelmed...

Previous Form:
X-Men [#1]: The X-Men have defeated the future's super-Sentinel, Nimrod; among others.
Fantastic Four [#2]: Killed in a future where Death's Head II became AIM super-weapon, Charnal.
Invisible Woman (#12): Prominent victories over Iconoclast, Frightful Four and others.
Cyclops (#45): Invaluable in the X-Men's defeat of Xorn, and Executioner.
Ahab: Making his debut in the Infinite Wars.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Ms. Marvel 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Mr. Fantastic 6 (Genius)
Speed: Cannonball 5 (Super Speed)
Stamina: Ahab 6 (Generator)
Agility: Warlock 6 (Rubber)
Fighting Ability: Cable 4 (Trained Fighter)
Energy Powers: Human Torch 7 (Solar Power)

Okay, so if you're a regular reader you might be scratching your head, trying to figure out what Ahab has to do with Marvel Ultimate Alliance. Rightly so, too, since this is a late post for Monday's on-going celebration of the villains from the video game.

Well, we're closing evil clone month off with a positively epic entry! Pictured to the right, an assembly of the Fantastic Four and X-Teams of the time -- but wait! Can you spy two notable exceptions?

Yes, in his timespanning mission to capture and destroy Franklin Richards and Rachel Summers, Ahab has transformed one of each of their parents into dark versions of themselves -- turning them into sadistic, sinister versions of themselves.

The missing parents in question are of course Invisible Woman and Cyclops, and they're going to be front and centre amongst the nameless Hounds, representing Ahab with mad respect, yo. Days of Future Past style, can you dig?

It might not surprise you to know I'm thinking about folding this section up to include only the statistical information, because I think we're reaching a point where I'm just killing time in this section. There are sixteen heroes assembled in the attack on Ahab, and while that doesn't sound like a lot, and scenarios or predictions are only going to be more boring than they usually say.

Suffice to say, there's a tremendous advantage in the number of heroes, and I'm going to probably just go along with that.
Ahab; a super baddy cyborg from a future where mutants are on the brink of extinction and Sentinels patrol the streets, is a tough customer, but come on.
You've got all kinds of Mr. Fantastic, Beast, Forge combinations there, and the Human Torch, and She-Thing, and all kinds of muscle power there...

The Math: FF/X-Men (Total) Ahab & Hounds (Average)
The Pick: Fantastic Four/X-Factor/X-Men/New Mutants

What went down...
The massive collective of heroes sound Ahab's mutant detecting alarms as they burst into his hi-tech stronghold. Distracted from his torture of the former-mutant hunting hound, Rachel Summers, Ahab turns to face many would-be rebels already deceased in a future where he probably killed many of them.

Reed Richards recognises the green garbed humans by Ahab's side as the twisted forms of Scott Summers and Susan Richars -- Cyclops and Invisible Woman, respectively. Boastful of his powers, Ahab sets his Hounds on the invaders.

The armoured Cyclops is the first to do damage, unleashing his optic blasts with enough force to shake even the She-Thing, Ms. Marvel!

Mr. Fantastic steps up to use his elastine body to absorb the brunt of the plasma blasts, while Jean Grey does her best to telekinetically stem the flow of Invisible Woman's malicious invisible forcefields.

The move frees Ms. Marvel up to do more damage where she's better applied, against the nameless bruisers of Ahab's sinister collective of Hounds. The young mutant Cannonball struggles with the moral fact that many of the Hounds were innocent mutants before they met the control of Ahab's machinery.

Meanwhile, Jean Grey suffers moral conflicts of her own, struggling to battle Invisible Woman without inflicting any mortal injury on her during this murderous state. Recognising the issue, Mr. Fantastic taps Banshee to disarm his wife with the non-lethal means of his sonic scream.

Busy grappling with Grey, Invisible Woman is easily blindsided.
Meanwhile, Cable comes up with a plan to use Warlock's tech receptors to absorb the power from Cyclop's power blasts.

Warlock neutralizes X-Factor's jaded leader, while the battle rages onward around him. Cable and Ben Grimm do their best to use non-lethal weaponry to subdue the Hounds, while Gambit, Ms. Marvel and Boomer opt for more physical methods.

Cable, having subdued the Hounds in immediate opposition, sees a path to make a frontal assault on their half-Sentinel leader, Ahab!

Cable lunges at the suspiciously similar looking Ahab, finding himself a little out of his own cybernetic depth. Clutching at Ahab's harpoon staff in the defensive position, Cable soon discovers it is directly connected to Ahab's own power.
With his hands burning, Cable finds himself unable to let go of the weapon, forced to stare into the face of the enemy. Ahab taunts him, asking the mutant whether he sees someone he knows, before swatting him away with the staff.

Storm, suffering the youthful affects of a previous encounter with The Nanny, finds her way to the imprisoned adult Franklin Richards. She does her best to summon Franklin's senses before Ahab can act, but it turns out his trump card affects more than the pod-bound son of Mr. Fantastic.

With the push of a button, Ahab levels the playing field of both his enemies and allies. An energy field attacks the heroes and Hounds alike, attacking their living tissue to the point of incapacitation. Only the mega-powered Franklin Richards is left standing, glowing with incredible mutant energies.

Ethereal, Franklin destroys Ahab's machines of harm with but a gesture.
Unsure and intimidated by the threat he's faced with, Ahab summons his Hounds to heel, including Rachel Summers. Courageously Summers defies her former master, prompting him to toss his harpoon spear for her defiance.

Franklin and Jean Grey intervene, stopping the spear in mid-air with their respective powers. The pressure situation proves more than the adult Richards is able to deal with, impeding his ability to exert his fantastic powers over the mechanical weapon. Likewise, Jean Grey struggles to maintain her telekinetic hold over it.

As Ahab's weapon propels itself gradually closer, Jean Grey unleashes all of her energy, diving between her daughter from the future and the weapon in a last ditch effort. Exhausted in her daughter's arms, Grey is successful.

Seemingly out of tricks, Ahab finds himself surrounded as Reed Richards declares his imminent defeat. The cyborg from the future taunts Richards with the promise that regardless of his fate in the past, Ahab has the last laugh in battle with the heroes. With that he teleports away, leaving the gift of his mark on their loved ones; Cyclops and Invisible Woman.

The hammer...
Woof, well, after all of that, your winners, the Fantastic Four, X-Men, X-Factor and New Mutants. Since everyone is seen to be active in at least panel dressing, I think I'm forced to hand the win to everyone, regardless of the weight of individuals like Franklin Richards. Rachel Summers proved uninvolved in this fight, but for provoking Ahab to seperate from his harpoon, an assist stat.

So, with the pleasantries out of the way, we can finally wrap this one up.
Y'know, it actually turned out to be a lot more straight forward than I felt like it was going to be. I guess part of the issue was that it probably wasn't until the advent of the Fox/Saban cartoon series that I really became a fan of X-Men.

I could be wrong, but this might just about be the first X-Men comic I ever owned, and even then it was probably more because of the story running through from the Fantastic Four annual. Even so, I have to admit to fond memories of this particular issue. Crammed full of characters and action, it actually ranked considerably higher with me at the time than the more subdued FF instalment.

It introduced me to characters like Cable, who was appearing with the New Mutants, a book I was even less interested in than the more recognisable X-books. I mean, I had a passing interest in Wolverine, and Cyclops, and Colossus, and some of those characters, but the New Mutants were barely on the radar!

I couldn't say why that really was. Long before the internet blogosphere, I was pretty removed from the reading public, so I certainly didn't indulge in the Liefeld sensation, or the general X-boom. I can't say if it was all the tail-eating future stories, or the boring similarity amongst the costumes, but something just turned me away from that X-corner of the Marvel universe.

Of course, it's not like there weren't convolusions across the board at the time.
Ben Grimm was finally cured of his rocky predicament, metaphorically passing the curse to Sharon Ventura, who was mutated in much the same way, becoming the affectionately referred to -- She-Thing.
If you've been reading the Infinite Wars recently, you'll know Sharon Ventura eventually showed up, in her human form, to woe the emotionally conflicted Grimm who had again become the Thing [Fantastic Four #367]. If you stay tuned, we'll be filling in some more of those gaps in the coming month.

Fortunately, the combined brilliance of Forge, Beast and Reed Richards, all exibit expertise in fields of mechanics and genetics, are able to use intelligence from the wreckage of Ahab's abandoned facility to return their loved ones back to normal.

The story of Ahab, however, would never enjoy that kind of satisfaction. There are many fabled tales of editorial changes made throughout Chris Claremont's legendary affiliation with the X-Men, and the Ahab character is one of the many.

The reference to seeing someone he recognises during Cable's attack on Ahab alludes to the conceptual conclusion that Ahab was in fact the unfortunate progression undertaken by Cable. The trademark skunk streak, scarred eye, and expanded cybernetics were all indicative of a corruption at some point in the mysterious Cable's future.

Cable would undergo many permeatations, absorbing new pieces of his history and future to eventually become one of the many maligned creations of the X-Universe. His close association with Rob Liefeld and subsequent pad/weapon/pocket heavy design also made for a shakey relationship between fan and character coming out of the declining nineties.

I don't know if you could rightly call this comic fantastic.
It's got that event-heavy action packed quality of the time, with an execution typical of Claremont, occasionally creeping into the embarassingly explanatory.

At the same time Art Adams' artwork is thoroughly effective, and really sticks out in my mind for a lot of reasons. Quiet moments have an odd energy about them, but likewise carry a consistent emotional weight that's prevelant even in the action scenes. His style is beautifully complimented by a slew of inkers, and colours by Brad Vancata which somehow seem to exceed what was typical of the era.

I find myself searching for a reason to call this one of the most enjoyable comics you could ever read, but it's just so hard. Maybe I'm tainted by vague, fond memories from 1990, I do not know. I think what ultimately shines through here is everything positive about this kind of nineties comic book, still sporting the musk of the less spiteful decade of the eighties.

There's playful mystery to the characters, dynamic action sequences, and a pretty clear line between the heroes and the villains. It's not about the internal conflict, even though two heroes are turned to fight against their fellows. It's just about an evil killer cyborg from the future, and a massive collection of heroes culminating their efforts in one big battle.

I'm going to borrow from Bully's criteria, and just call this comic fun!

The Fight: 4.5 The Issue: 6
[Days of Future Present ran in the 1990 annuals of the titles starring the four respective teams involved. The story played off of the previous decade's famous X-story, Days of Future Past, detailing a dystopian future where mutants are hunted to the brink of extinction. The Claremont/Byrne story from 1981 remains one of the most popular alternate universe tales, heavily influencing the grim future depicted in the recently returned NBC series, Heroes.]