Friday, January 14, 2011

Planet Hulk: Exile Part IV (Marvel)
The Incredible Hulk #95 When: July 2006
Why: Greg Pak How: Carlo Pagulayan

The Story So Far...
Approached by SHIELD to undertake a mission in space against a rogue satellite; Bruce Banner, as he so often has, attempted to turn his burdened curse into a force for good. As his alter-ego, Hulk, the conflicted hero learned of a plot to rid the Earth of his existence, hatched by Iron Man, Mr. Fantastic, Dr. Strange, and Black Bolt -- members of the secret cabal of heroes known as The Illuminati. Having grappled with internal rogue elements as dangerous as the reality altering Scarlet Witch, they no longer saw a tennable solution for the Hulk's unpredictable and devastating rampages.

Ejected into outer space; Hulk attempted to free himself from The Illuminati's vessel with brute force. The assault knocked his ship from it's course to a remote, habital planet, instead sending the green goliath through a wormhole, which deployed him to a distant, savage planet called Sakaar.

Weakened by his intergalactic journey, Hulk is quickly sold into slavery on Sakaar, powerless to prevent his admission into the Empire's gladiatorial system held in the Great Arena. Inadvertently thrust into a group of surviving warriors, Hulk's powers begin to grow anew, posing a threat to the Emperor's rule as he aids his fellows in their battles. A win away from freedom, with the Emperor's blood on his mighty green hand, "The Green Scar" and his Warbound must now face the ultimate challenge. A warrior captured from the stars and forced to fight. A master of the power cosmic. A former ally to the Hulk himself -- The Silver Savage!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Hulk 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Silver Surfer 5 (Professor)
Speed: Silver Surfer 7 (Light Speed)
Stamina: Draw 6 (Generator)
Agility: Silver Surfer 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting: Hulk 6 (Warrior)
Energy: Silver Surfer 7 (Cosmic)

Real Name: [Bruce Banner]
Group Affiliation: [Warbound]
First Appearance: [Incredible Hulk #1] Year One: [1962]
Win Percentage: [59.26%] Last Opponent: [Rulk]
2006: [#6] 2007: [#10] 2008: [#5] 2009: [#36]

Dr. Robert Bruce Banner, a slight and insignificant scientist, lives slavishly dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge, as funded by the United States military.
Though Banner justifies his goals as means for peace, he becomes one of America's leading weapons designers after inventing a gamma radiation bomb.

During preperations for a test launch in the desert, Dr. Banner spots a reckless youth on the testing ground, and in a moment of magnificence, knowingly throws himself on a bullet that would grant a far crueller fate than death. Bitterly aware of the Communist conspiracy of his fellow scientist, Banner struggles to usher he and the boy to safety while his colleague continues to countdown the launch.

After succumbing to an ordinarily lethal doses of gamma radiation, Dr. Banner soon finds himself undergoing a horrific transformation. Originally by night, but soon triggered by rage or unease, Banner discovers the superhumanly strong alter-ego within himself, dubbed simply - the Hulk!

As Hulk, Banner's brilliance is reduced to a childlike lumbering, while his slight frame conversely comes to possess size, strength, and durability never before imagined. After being ejected into space by the secretive superhero Illuminati, Hulk came to land on a planet called Sakaar. While there, he developed a moderate intelligence with a keen mind for combat, hardened by forced gladiatorial combat. In The Great Arena, Hulk is joined by Korg, Brood, Shadow Warrior, Elloe, and Miek, collectively the Warbound.

Hulk has no specific known weaknesses, but is fiercely protective of the few who earn his favour. Though generally good hearted, Hulk is prone to wild rages and varied personalities, particularly provoked by any challenge to the identity of his persona, particularly where matters of his physical dominance are concerned.

Real Name: [Norrin Radd]
Group Affiliation: [Galactus' Heralds]
First Appearance: [Fantastic Four #48] Year One: [1966]
Win Percentage: [50%] Last Opponent: [Beta Ray Bill]
2006: [#21] 2007: [#22] 2008: [DNR] 2009: [#119]

Once an inhabitant of the paradise world Zenn-La; Norrin Radd was forced to enter into a faustian pact for his soul in order to protect his planet and beloved, Shalla-Bal, from the endless hunger of omnipotent world devourer, Galactus.
Pledged to serve as herald to the devourer and seek out planets to satisfy his sustainance, Radd was bathed in the Power Cosmic, transforming him into the chrome-coated space rider and harbinger of death, the Silver Surfer.

When first leading Galactus toward Earth, the Silver Surfer was engaged by the Fantastic Four, who were aided by The Watcher. During battle with Thing, the Surfer was knocked into the studio appartment of a blind artist, Alicia Masters. The kind touch and concern of the sculptress was key to reawakening the spirit of Norrin Radd, who then chose to use his powers against his master. Galactus spared Earth, but exiled his herald to the confines of the Milky Way Galaxy. As a result, he briefly held membership with The Defenders, along with adventuring many more times alongside the Fantastic Four.

The Power Cosmic grants Silver Surfer a near limitless array of abilities, many of which are rarely explored. At the outer limits of his skill, the Surfer has been shown to adapt telepathy, convert matter into alternate substances, and even time travel. More typically, he possesses greatly enhanced strength, stamina, and endurance sufficient enough to withstand even the harshest of environments unphased. He channels cosmic energy into projectile bolts as a means of combat, and can also control all aspects of his board, upon which he travels. The board is an extension of his being, but does not have any inherent baring on his power.

Additional: On designate Earth-2149, Silver Surfer had an encounter with zombie versions of Hulk and the other Avengers. In this reality, Silver Surfer was still herald to Galactus, arriving on Earth much later than his counterpart in mainline continuity. Hulk was strong enough to bite through the Surfer's cosmic chrome, leading both Silver Surfer, and his world devouring master, to suffer the ironic indignity of being eaten. The Surfer's fate was sealed in Marvel Zombies #3.

Despite a long association between the characters, which includes their mutual status as founding members of The Defenders, this is the first time the two have met on The Comic Book Fight Club.

History: N/A
Statistics: Silver Surfer Ranking: Hulk (#6)

What Went Down...
A triple drum call echoes throughout the realm, announcing a public holiday for the citizens of The Imperial Crown City. It means but one thing for those whose path leads to the Great Arena -- "It's gonna be a bloodbath."

Entering the arena first are the challengers, whose record includes victory over the Maw and Wildebots, with the loss of only one warrior, Lavin Skee. They are Horoim the Shamed, the mighty Shadow Warrior; the descriptively titled Brood, from Broodworld; the stoney Korg of Kronan; loveable fighting bug, Miek the Unhived; and the hulking hero of the people, The Green Scar!

Their opponent, the ultimate contest for these Warbound warriors, is a chrome skinned hero from the stars, repackaged for the Great Arena as a board-shielded, mace wielding bad ass, The Silver Savage!

The Green Scar, Hulk, clearly recognises his opponent, revealing his identity to be that of former ally, The Silver Surfer! Controlled by the same retarding slave discs that punish any sign of rebellion amongst the Warbound gladiators, Silver Surfer is unable to resist the Emperor's demand for combat.

The first blow belongs to this Silver Savage, who delivers a devastating charging uppercut with fixed mace, powerful enough to shatter Hulk's shield and send the armored Green Scar and his fellows toppling like never before!

Hulk ties up with his former Defenders teammate, to share a piece of his mind. The Surfer plays it a little more direct, however, sending Hulk careening across the arena with a cosmically charged headbutt, for his troubles. His utterance, "forgive me...," offers little consolation to his fighting foe.

The rest of the Warbound join the fray, but Brood and Miek are just as easily defended against. Using his modified board as a shield, the Surfer blocks Miek's leaping attack, whilst tending to the more effective Brood with a swing of his arena supplied, energy crackling fixed mace.

A rampaging Kronan would likely rock any other being to their core, but the Silver Savage is swift in his dismissal of the undisciplined assault, counter attacking with a simple rise of his board. The impact of Korg's landing sends a destructive crack through the Great Arena seating!

With an eye for a more strategic attack; Hulk, still recovering from his first dash against the cosmically powered Surfer, formulates a motivated assault on the Surfer's only obvious weakspot, on the same page as former Shadow Warrior, Hiroim. The fallen former imperialist leaps into the air for an overhead strike!

The Silver Surfer confidently raises his shield to defend against the aerial attack, leaving himself wide open to a head-on collision from the incredible Hulk! Hulk drives Hiroim's spear directly into the control disc attached to the Surfer's chest, successfully rupturing it! The effect is quick working, freeing the Silver Surfer from the device's controlling influence. His gratitude is swift. Hulk is swifter...

As the Green Scar's mighty fists come crashing down upon the limp silver form beneath them, something primal, old, inherent in his DNA comes out. The crowd's cheers turn to shocked silence, but the Hulk hears neither, unleashing a rage that decimates a Silver Surfer who is no longer a threat. The stoney hand of Korg stays Hulk's pounding fist, "Hulk, no. We've won."

A monster's roar gives way to a sense of clarity.

The third victory is secure.

Hulk has earned his freedom...

The Hammer...
Given recent history, I'm reluctant to promise a lot of these 2011 updates, but I do so very much enjoy the prospect of returning to these meaty, instant classic battles. In the scheme of things, The Comic Book Fight Club has dwelled so often in obscurity, the contemporary, or personal obsession, that some of the biggest battles and most famous comic book rivalries have failed to make an appearance. In the scheme of things, this is a comics blog that has only scratched the surface of it's subject matter -- an exciting prospect!

I have to admit straight away, I passed Planet Hulk up on it's initial run. Worse still, what really inspired me to bring this particular battle to the site was the animated film based on the comic, which notably omits this fight in favour of an adaptation featuring Beta Ray Bill in Silver Surfer's place, who was licensed elsewhere. This really isn't an illigitimate way to breach characters, or stories, but as a die hard old comics reader with designs to be a credible source of information, I guess I'm just not used to resorting to second-hand second-glimpses, like that.

Ultimately, even after comic and cartoon, I'm not entirely convinced this is a story for me, but I so totally admire the conviction of Greg Pak's story, and the Planet Hulk concept as a whole, that I cannot deny it it's dues. To really get a grasp of Planet Hulk from this context, I think you need to look at the whole.

In these heavy thinking times, Hulk has become a far more difficult character to write than the basic concept might suggest. A brilliant, peaceful scientist who becomes victim to the raging beast within is still a very interesting and viable concept, but the Hulk's legend has grown over time so much so that accepting his simple existence in a Marvel Universe has become a tricky subject.

Some of my favourite features on the site come from guest-spots, or one issue stories, but Hulk can no longer meander from one appearance to another as freely as he did in decades gone by, certainly not without raising larger questions from an increasingly savvy audience. Causality is nothing new in superhero comics, but the bredth of it's reach has expanded and intertwined with other concerns, such as a tone of consistency and greater, more plausible balance of risk and threat in fiction that depends on the survival of it's iconic characters.

This conspiracy of ideas, to refine the purity of Hulk's status as "strongest one there is," alongside the desire to do so with a sense of superhuman versimiltude, has meant that the classic enterprise of pitting the Hulk's mindless strength against other heroes now demands an event unto itself. It's not enough to have Matt Murdock meet Bruce Banner in New York City by chance [Daredevil #163], or let Hulk walk away from a clash that threatened the lives of the American Winter Olympic team [Marvel Treasury Edition #25]. Now there must be consequence, and if forty years of an unpredictable power of Hulk's significance demands a sense of consequence, then attempts at longterm solution become inevitable.

I like Planet Hulk because it comes from a couple of good places.
On the one hand, the premise of ejecting Hulk into space comes from the simple perspective of wanting heroes to have the credibility of recognising a threat, in a world where an ultimatum between franchises can never be made. Ejecting the character into space, even in the knowledge that it won't last, is as elegant a way to make everyone look good without creating an unsolvable, impossible situation. Quite the contrary, when, this is the basis for an opportunity to work with a high concept that, in one sense, plays very much to the character, but in another, takes it to a whole new place.

[Greg] Pak credits Marvel Editor-In-Chief, Joe Quesada, with the invention of the Planet Hulk story. There seems to be no denying, however, that the success of the story comes straight from the writer himself, who was given enough rope to tell an unlikely story, his way. The result is a textured approach to event comics, as big an idea as something like Civil War, without the loss of character that comes from such a large scope. This is "event comics" with the grounding of the tried and true method of writing storyarcs, bolstered by a dedication to a focal point, even if attention is shared with other strong characters.

The gladiatorial aspect of Planet Hulk seems right up a vintage alley, relevant to some of the earliest Stan Lee adventures, which gleefully pitted Hulk against his fellow Marvel heroes in some of the earliest examples of these classic rivalries [ie; Tales to Astonish #79]. The idea of dropping Hulk on an alien planet, where his powers aren't at their height, is twisting that original combative premise on it's head in a way that makes good use of the unique situation. Combine this with the presence of the Warbound supporting cast and their converging plotlines, and you've got a very admirable and unique chapter in the Hulk's illustrious history.

You couldn't talk about the event of Planet Hulk without mentioned World War Hulk, which bridges the gap between then, and now. The most enduring legacy of World War Hulk remains the invention of Red Hulk -- gamma irradiated alias of General Thunderbolt Ross -- which has very specifically represented a rebuttle to the kind of thinking that brought us to now. "Rulk" and Hulk have been a part of a couple of years of storytelling under Jeph Loeb [and Ed McGuinness], who've very much retreated back into a way of approaching the Marvel Universe that has very few signs of consequence, initiated by the mass destruction of World War Hulk, but taking it much farther in it's disregard for other characters.

Personally, I think Planet Hulk got it right.
There's a balance in the world that takes a very individual, removed perspective, but retains a referencial tone. Pak balances his own goals with the pop precepts that drive Loeb's action-heavy guest spots, giving us this rather exciting issue of Hulk versus Silver Surfer, with a more organic consideration for what's plausible or appropriate. Granted, the story makes a time-based exception to allow for the concurrent Annihilation event that featured Silver Surfer, but does so quite elegantly, with the overriding consideration that Silver Surfer is an enticingly connected character within the Hulk mythos, with every potential to be there. It's something the Loeb stories lack, or at least, fail to exhibit with as much delicacy.

Back matter in the letters page of single issues includes blog-like scans and reference material from classic Hulk comics -- a feature that almost redeemed farcical opus, Cry For Justice -- which reveals Pak's efforts even further. As a side, it not only makes buying the back issues well worth it, but also exhibits a technique that really should've been more prevelant in comics since the 2006 cover date. As an invested fan, I enjoy the context and wallowing in the history and continuity of the canon. For younger readers who have become notoriously characterised as stupid and lazy, this kinda stuff should be a good way to indoctrinate some backstory and perspective into them without the contextual vagaries of Wikipedia descriptions.

Visuals are vibrant and exciting, with Pagulayan looking equally comfortable when emoting the melodramatic expressions the story demands, or having the Silver Surfer explode into a fullpage assault with a fixed mace. He's joined by Marshall Rogers early in the issue, who contributes for a flashback sequence describing how the Silver Surfer came to be on the planet Sakaar.

All in all, if you fully comprehend that this is as far removed from the Marvel Universe and Hulk stories of the norm', then there's no reason to hesitate in getting a closer look. By it's removed nature, I'm not sure it can ever stand as one of the all-time great Hulk tomes, but as time goes on, I'm sure Planet Hulk will be fondly remembered as something a little bit different.

Winner: Hulk & Hiroim [w/ Brood, Korg, and Miek.]
The Fight: 5 The Story: 4.5 The Pictures: 4.5

Friday, January 07, 2011

"Who Would Win?" (DC)
Superman/Batman #78 When: January 2011
Why: Joe Kelly & Jack Kelly How: Ed Benes

The Story So Far...
Violence. The will to fight for survival.
It is a trait manifested in nature across almost every level of dominating species. For those who possess it, it is a skill measurable in the darkest aspects of social heirarchy, and equally revered in sport and entertainment. For many creatures who exist within universes, and beyond them, power over the physical is an attraction whose lure attracts great fascination and mathematical speculation.

In a world where superhumans bare symbols and insignia, the lines of conflict and sport can blur. Beyond the multiverse exists a place known as The Comic Book Fight Club, where the struggles of everyday super-beings are watched and analysed. Within the universe itself, similar beings do much the same, dwelling on the powers of their greatest champions, whilst pondering their farthest limitations.

On a planet known to some as "New Earth", two beings, children, Gus and Skyler, indulge in such speculation. Representing the heroes known as Superman and Batman, they pit the two titans' tested combat repertoires againt each other in a battle of wits and wherewithal. No killing, no mind control, no Bat-Mite, no Mr. Mxyzptlik, no magic. A scenario of irreconcilable difference and the will to answer one simple question: "Who Would Win?!"

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Superman 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Batman 5 (Professor)
Speed: Superman 6 (Mach Speeds)
Stamina: Superman 6 (Generator)
Agility: Batman 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting: Batman 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy: Superman 5 (Lasers)

Real Name: [Kal-El aka; "Clark Kent"]
Group Affiliation: [Justice League of America]
Cumulative Rank: [#5] Win Percentage: [56.67%]
2006: [#7] 2007: [#13] 2008: [#2] 2009: [#245]

With the planet Krypton on a path toward destruction, a scientist, Jor-El, bundles his only son into a rocket ship designed to take him far from the impending doom. The young Kal-El would be rocketted far from his home to come to land on the planet Earth, where a yellow sun would grant him the powers to become the man of steel - Superman!

A spiritual leader for the superhero community; Superman has a wide array of physical capabilities to back his presence up, the stalwarts being; super strength, flight, heat-vision, super breath, and super speed. He also has a keen intellect, his Kryptonian brain enhanced in much the way his body is.

A keen strategist, Superman has a broad understanding of sciences and battle tactics, but is often hindered by his own sense of caution and responsibility.

Real Name: [Bruce Wayne]
Group Affiliation: [Batman Inc., JLA]
Cumulative Rank: [#1] Win Percentage: [73.8%]
2006: [#1] 2007: [#2] 2008: [#1] 2009: [#19]

After witnessing the street murder of his parents, the young Bruce Wayne's destiny was forever shaped to be one dedicated to an ideal. Having spent his formative years studying the various sciences, martial arts, and crime fighting techniques, Bruce is ultimately inspired to become the one-man war on the criminal element in Gotham City: Batman.

Perhaps Batman's greatest power is the millions inherited from his industrialist parents, and the various facilities that came with that. They prove crucial in the design and construction of his many weapons, which are typically non-lethal, and have a variety of uses.

Complimented by his keenly strategic mind is Batman's expertise in the martial arts. He is extensively trained in multiple fighting styles, and commonly regarded to be one of the greatest hand-to-hand fighters in the world. He is also extremely proficient in general urban warfare.

Additional: Superman and Batman may be known as two of the greatest heroes in comic books, but their relationship hasn't always been representative of two World's Finest buddies. It's become something of a tradition here on The Comic Book Fight Club to start the year off with one of the many battles between the two. So far, there've been six, making this feature, the seventh.

Currently, at least here in the "Infinite Wars", Batman has proven to be the superior. In 1986, Batman famously had the better of his Kryptonian counterpart in Frank Miller's seminal final chapter, The Dark Knight Returns #4. In 2008, Darwyn Cooke acknowledge being influenced by this interpretation when he approached their secret battle in Justice League: The New Frontier Special.

Mind control had a part to play in other features, including the Hush storyline encounters of Batman #611 and #612, where the Man of Steel came under the influence of Posion Ivy. It was Batman who was possessed in 2005, however, when Kryptonite Man used him as a vessel in Superman/Batman #23.

History: Batman (4-2-0)
Math: Superman Ranking: Batman (#1)

What Went Down...
The specifics are ultimately unimportant. Batman has run the numbers, Superman remains unconvinced. However similar their desire to protect the innocent may be, they can simply not agree on the terms necessary. With the stakes devastatingly high, the two heroes have no choice but to force a concluson upon the other...

Superman strikes first, with a super-fast burst that shatters the Justice League meeting table and sends Batman reeling. When he reaches for a tool, the Dark Knight finds his trusted utility belt taken from him already. Ready for just such an occasion, he utters the voice command, "Damocles." With it, the utility belt explodes in a ball of flame that scatters "capsules of lead micro-filaments" that momentarily blind Superman, and render his incredible X-ray vision useless.

Batman makes a break for it, but the sound of the explosion was insufficient to deafen the alien ears of the last son of Krypton. Unable to see for the moment, Superman can still hear Batman, his heartbeat, if not deliberate, carefully trained movements. Batman isn't hiding, though. He's merely planning ahead.

Utilizing a "subcutaneous beacon," Batman summons the Batplane to his location, sending it hurtling toward the Man of Steel! The destruction of the machine slows Superman down, but does not defeat him any more than the batarangs Batman tosses after, to annoy him.

Superman responds in kind with a blast of arctic cool breath that sends a freeze across Batman's cape. The Dark Knight presses a button on another one of those wonderful tools, but Superman is on him once more before any result becomes apparent. In an effort to put the Batman to sleep, Superman takes him on a one-way trip thirty thousand feet above the Earth. The lack of of oxygen would defeat any mere mortal, but Batman has accounted for even this possibility!

Apparently dropped off by the Batplane before it's destruction, Batman dons an unfolding suit of armor, complete with oxygen supply! Suited up, the Dark Knight takes control of his direction in space, while the giant Batman/Superman Robot designed by The Toyman takes control of Superman's!

The massive robot, once pilotted by Captain Atom against a Kryptonite meteor hurtling toward Earth, certainly does not go unnoticed by it's right-side inspiration, but even a robot as big and powerful as this pales in comparison to the one and only, original Superman!

An unrestrained blast of heat vision makes light work of the gigantic robot, rennovating a massive hole in the machine's torso. It is an impressive feat, but plays right into the Batman's hands, who reveals his intent to deceive, rather than defeat.

Acknowledging that "there is nothing [Batman] can make that [Superman] can't break," the Dark Knight reveals the robot's status as a vessel, intended to carry and deliver a terrible weapon! Batman's greatest assault proves ultimately to be a chilling irony as Superman realises he has played a part in unleashing a terrible defeat upon not just himself, but the entire Earth below.

Batman rockets toward the Man of Steel, punching with armor-enhanced fists as black bats flitter around them. The engineered swarm reflect Batman's greatest powers -- incredible economic fortune, and a mind dangerously capable of putting it to work. Superman rips away at the rocket pack on Batman's armored back, while a dark shadow is cast across the Earth as Batman's trump card slowly but surely obscures the source of Superman's powers -- the Sun!

Batman continues to fight with an unwavering drive to win, unable to effect their trajectory without the pack on his back as they drift back into the clutches of mother Earth. His powers failing him, Superman is also too weak to do anything but object to the madness of his counterpart's actions. As the plummet back into the Earth's atmosphere, this Batman makes a final chilling declaration, "Welcome to the human race!"

The Hammer...
With 2009 aborted and 2010 a total non-event, The Comic Book Fight Club has seen a lot of annual traditions go sacrificed and unfulfilled. With 2011 approaching, I couldn't bare to let that continue, and had a great issue to inspire a return.

There's something about the combative combination of Superman and Batman that inexplicably gets the juices flowing. Yes, they're two of comicdom's biggest and oldest icons, but they don't naturally match-up well like Hulk and Thing, and lack the natural history of tension that a famous feud like that one was founded upon. Never the less, it's become a fond tradition to start the year with these two at each others throats, and I'm pleased to be doing it again with a comic as meta-textually relevant, and sincere, as this one.

I wound up with this issue over Christmas by accident, in a pull-list that was supposed to contain an easily misread #76. I wouldn't by any means call it a blessing of fate, but I'm glad to have stumbled into it. There's something very charming about a comic book that allows for this kind of diversion, playing upon an idea that's a common thread for comics readers of all ages, but is stitched naturally into the world of the DC Universe. One of my overruling philosophies about superheroes in the modern age is that, after nearly a century of this archetype, it starts to make sense without explanation. To that end, we have people dressing in costumes and fighting crime in the world as you read this now, in a none too subtle example of life imitating art imitating life. If it exists as long as these ideas have, they inevitably start to make sense to someone.

This particular story asks less of the reader, settling for a familiar scene of two kids debating the powers of their favourite hero. This duelling dialogue takes on a very plausible tone, perhaps thanks to the presence of Joe Kelly's son, Jack, who is creditted as co-writer. It seems this could've very easily been transcribed directly from a friendly discussion between father and son, bringing with it the hint of dad injecting undeniably cool moments into son's somewhat shallow script, like the final exchange between the heroes as they plummet toward Earth, and Batman punctuates his harsh victory with the foibles for self-destrution he and the rest of humanity possess. You get a sense, as Superman plays the back foot throughout the story, that perhaps papa played Batman throughout the scenario, but speculating about who wrote what is really beside the point.

This is a comic book that reminds me of my childhood, filled, as it was, with long bus rides, and a father who patiently and enthusiastically indulged in these types of conversations with me. It's a reminder that there's another audience that needs to be catered for, not just in a special cornered off cartoon-based imprint, but in widely available superhero comics. A fact I'm sure many motivated readers and parents are aware of, but something the rest of us can easily forget.

The artwork of Ed Benes, existing somewhere in the realm of a Jim Lee-esque DC mid-2000's house style, is perhaps the most vital component that separates the cartoon imprints from these "standard" in-universe comic. It's a design standard that represents the presumed middle ground of comics, which doesn't assume anything about a readers' comprehension, which was vital to my enjoyment reading comics at a young age. Combine that with the whimsy for insulated ideas and the recent shift to one issue stories, and Superman/Batman is a book worth acknowledging, in general. The cover looks like stock art that got some text slapped on it to explain away the commercial irrelevance, but other than that, it's a peach.

On [Benes]; I don't know that young readers would have the critical eye to note some ugly inconsistencies in Benes' faces and figures, or the sometimes shallow framing and storytelling his artwork exhibits, but when he's good, he's really quite. Every now and then, those Jim Lee comparisons seem eerily apt. There are a few tells that it isn't Lee, but the panel featured above almost feels as if it could've come straight out of For Tomorrow. Other times, I wish Benes had a bit more depth in the staging of his frames, and a few less awkward poses. This poster simplicity probably lends itself to a younger audience, but wouldn't become overcomplicated with a few improvements.

Cynics might grizzle about young Jack's easy ticket into a credit in a world filled with would-be writers, but I'm sure you won't find any of those people here. Cynicism is something Superman/Batman seems to have battled for quite some time, but ultimately, that audience has been swiftly defeated by the books total lack of cynicism. Even when Batman isn't locked in [Grant Morrison] high concepts and Superman remains Earthbound, there's an awful lot of books month-to-month starring these two characters, it's true, and Superman/Batman as a series has struggled to find it's purpose since it's much hyped launch in 2003. By wholly investing in these fanciful, single shot stories, I think the series comes up a winner, even if an issue like #78, bought instead of #76, is soon forgotten.

To the question of the comic -- Who would win?
Gus and Skyler, the two children in the story, decide the ultimate end of their debated fight would be too grim for either hero to be deemed winner. We here in The Comic Book Fight Club have the luxury of judging on a scale, however, and I simply couldn't ignore the fact that Batman holds the upperhand, right to their hypothetical demise. It's a result that will do little to end debate over which hero would win in a fight, but for now, it is another statistic noted by Secret Wars on Infinite Earths: The Comic Book Fight Club.

Winner: Batman
The Fight: 5 The Story: 4 The Pictures: 4