Saturday, December 31, 2016

The last twelve months have been a wild ride of diving through the back issues to feature a whole lot of superhero smackdown!

Even though this is The Comic Book Fight Club, classic battles were not the only order of 2016! While we went as far back as the 60s in Friday Night Fights, we kept one eye on the present via Hero of the Week -- a returning feature from 2009 and 2010!

We were able to talk about a phenomenal array of heroes and villains from Marvel, DC and even one or two other agencies. In years to come we'll be intrigued to look back upon the characters who were grabbing attention in 2016! Enjoy the complete list of the year's Heroes of the Week, use links at the bottom of entries to find more, and feel encouraged to share your own HOTW in the comments!

#1 Doctor Strange (January 4th)
#2 The Punisher (January 11th)
#3 Black Panther (January 18th)
#4 Captain America (January 25th)
#5 Superman (February 1st)
#6 Colossus (February 8th)
#7 Ryu (February 15th)
#8 Deadpool (February 22nd)
#9 Iron Fist (February 29th)
#10 Black Canary (March 7th)
#11 Spider-man (March 14th)
#12 Daredevil (March 21st)
#13 Wonder Woman (March 28th)
#14 Batman (April 4th)
#15 Robotman (April 11th)
#16 Winter Soldier (April 18th)
#17 Iron Man (April 25th)
#18 War Machine (May 2nd)
#19 Apocalypse (May 9th)
#20 Martian Manhunter (May 16th)
#21 Magneto (May 23rd)
#22 Quicksilver (May 30th)
#23 Sub-Mariner (June 6th)
#24 Doctor Manhattan (June 13th)
#25 The Flash (June 20th)
#26 Cable (June 27th)
#27 Ibis (July 4th)
#28 Doctor Doom (July 11th)
#29 Hulk (July 18th)
#30 Vulture (July 25th)
#31 Joker (August 1st)
#32 Harley Quinn (August 8th)
#33 Deadshot (August 15th)
#34 Captain Boomerang (August 22nd)
#35 Killer Croc (August 29th)
#36 Deathstroke (September 5th)
#37 Hawkman (September 12th)
#38 Ghost Rider (September 19th)
#39 General Zod (September 26th)
#40 Luke Cage (October 3rd)
#41 Vixen (October 10th)
#42 Wolverine (October 17th)
#43 Professor X (October 24th)
#44 The Ancient One (October 31st)
#45 Ghost Rider (November 7th)
#46 Thor (November 14th)
#47 Champion of the Universe (November 21st)
#48 The Flash (November 28th)
#49 Captain Marvel (December 5th)
#50 The Jackal (December 12th)
#51 Enchantress (December 19th)
#52 Supergirl (December 26th)

Friday, December 30, 2016

Apokolips... Now (DC/Marvel)
Uncanny X-Men and The New Teen Titans #1 When: 1982 Why: Chris Claremont How: Walt Simonson

The Story So Far...
Nightmares plague the young heroes of the X-Men and Teen Titans. The memory of fallen comrade Phoenix haunts the mind and heart of those who loved her, while a universe away, her flaming visage inspires terror.

Across the gulf of space, Darkseid contemplates the means to penetrate and harness the supreme power of The Source Wall. His plan: to send his agents to collect the residual psychic energies left on Earth by the cosmic Phoenix entity.

Flanked by an army of Para-Demon soldiers, Deathstroke accepts the mission to lead them in a quest to accrue cosmic energy. A task that could only inevitably draw the attention of the Uncanny X-Men!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Colossus 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Deathstroke 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Nightcrawler 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Wolverine 6 (Generator)
Agility: Nightcrawler 5 (Cat-Like)
Fighting: Deathstroke 7 (Living Weapon)
Energy: Cyclops 5 (Lasers)

X-Men are: Cyclops, Storm, Colossus, Sprite, Nightcrawler & Wolverine.

The glaring issue here is an apparent mismatch in numbers, but we can pretty quickly address that. Deathstroke is working in the employ of Darkseid, which has given him access to an army of Para-Demon shock troops. Not that he necessarily needs them!

Deathstroke The terminator is Slade Wilson: A career soldier who was subjected to secret military experiments designed to create the ultimate super-soldier.

The result granted Wilson access to 90% of his brain capacity, unlocking significant cognitive abilities including; increased reaction time, reflexes, tactical brilliance, learning enhancement, memory retention, and more. These skills are best demonstrated by his supreme fighting ability. Deathstroke is versed in multiple hand-to-hand combat techniques, martial arts disciplines, and weapons training, including his weapon of choice: the sword.

We saw just how dangerous a combatant Deathstroke can be  in Identity Crisis #3, where he single-handedly fought the Justice League to a standstill! In that instance, speed and tactics were his deadliest weapons, as he systematically neutralized each hero. He anticipated and thwarted Flash, silenced Zatanna, clipped Hawkman's wings, bagged Black Canary, and so on.

There's an obvious comparison to made there for the challenge of the X-Men - a group who won't even have the benefit of familiarity with Deathstroke's tactics!

He possesses an increased healing ability, allowing him to recover from near fatal injuries much quicker than an ordinary human being. That's not only an obvious comparison to Wolverine, but a confidence builder against the mutant's adamantium laced claws. Can Deathstroke's sword withstand their legendary cutting power? It may not need to, having the advantage of reach over claws!

Nightcrawler could be an interesting fencing partner for Deathstroke, given his famed fondness for sword fights. He may be outclassed by the superior soldier, who would certainly be more ruthless, and able to anticipate his moves. Even if he were to incorporate his mutant gift of teleportation.

Organic steel skin and super-human strength mean Colossus has muscle and durability on his side, but Deathstroke's arsenal, speed, agility, and Parademon back-up are mitigating factors. Parademons are also Deathstroke's best option for neutralizing Storm's control of weather phenomena, and/or busying Cyclops.

At this point in X-Men history, Kitty Pryde was an inexperienced young teen, but her powers of intangibility arguably make her the biggest X-factor of this fight! The Terminator's 90% brain function may come up with a strategy to turn her abilities against her, or at least neutralize their offensive potential, but he can only do that if he identifies them before they make the difference!

We've seen one X-Man be the game changer many times over the years, tipping the scales in battles with: Nimrod [Uncanny X-Men #194], Magneto [X-Men #25], Xorn [New X-Men #150] and The Lizard [X-Men: First Class #2]!

We also saw Kitty Pryde play a major role in X-Men Annual #6, when this era's X-Men came close to getting the better of Count Dracula! The divided team only managed a draw in the '82 annual. Let's see how they did here...

The Tape: Wolverine Ranking: Wolverine (#5)

What Went Down...
On a very particular butte in New Mexico: Deathstroke commands an army of Parademons in the erection of a massive "Psi-Phon" tower. They're collecting the residual psychic energy left by The Phoenix - but they're about to get more than they bargain ford!

Wolverine manages to sneak up on an unsuspecting Deathstroke to ask if he's got a light. The Terminator answers with a swing of his sword, but Wolverine is prepared! He ducks the weapon and returns fire with the adamantium reinforced backside of his fist! Deathstroke is sent flying!

While Wolverine deals with their leader; Cyclops blasts the Parademons who're guarding the towering machine. The X-Man orders its destruction - a simple feat for the super-human strength of Colossus!

The steel-skinned Russian upends the gigantic machine, toppling several Para-demons in the process. Storm helps in the task, sweeping more Apokolips soldiers away with an uncanny gale-force wind!

Sprite does her part, emerging from the rocky desert in front of a gun-toting Parademon. The distraction allows Nightcrawler to teleport in for a surprise attack that disables the villain!

Across the battlefield, Deathstroke studies the X-Men in action - aware of their reputation. His keen reflexes allowed him to avoid a knock-out from Wolverine's earlier blow. He takes advantage of being the loose man, targeting airborne Storm with a rifle that fires a fear ray! The sudden onset of severe claustrophobia sends Storm hurtling earthbound!

The Parademons rally, catching Sprite, Nightcrawler and Wolverine with a noxious Toxi-Cloud Grenade! Relying upon superior numbers and technology, one of the soldiers takes out Cyclops with an energy disperser bolt gun!

Colossus is the last X-Man standing and sets his sights on Deathstroke. The mercenary braces for the charging mutant and goes low - turning his metallic momentum against him! Close to the edge of the butte - Colossus is sent tumbling over the side toward the desert below!

With victory in hand, Deathstroke and the Parademons take their opponents prisoner and open a boom tube for Darkseid's throne room in The Wall.

The Hammer...
We couldn't end 2016 without one final return to a battle between DC and Marvel Comics! After all, this was a year that marked the 40th anniversary of the character crossover that started them all: 1976's Superman versus The Amazing Spider-man!

It took five years for the two publishers to arrange a sequel issue, once again pitting their mascots Superman and Spider-man against corroborating villains. Doctor Doom and Parasite were the offending bad guys, but this time Wonder Woman and Hulk were along for the ride, too.

Hulk would return later in '81 to headline another crossover special - head-to-head with Batman in a mismatch of television and comics icons. The original three oversized issues offered a fair spread of characters from both unvierses, but no single special had the scope of the inter-company crossover published in 1982: Uncanny X-Men and The New Teen Titans!

The ambition of Chris Claremont and Walt Simonson's teen team crossover went far beyond the cosmic trappings of its own set-up. The threat posed by Darkseid is arguably the biggest of any of these stories, but it was its function as a sequel to The Dark Phoenix Saga that makes it more than any ordinary one-shot.

The New Mexico setting in today's featured battle recalls a specific tender moment shared between Cyclops and Jean Grey in Uncanny X-Men #132. Though only a couple of years removed, that's still a pretty deep cut for an inter-company crossover -- and it isn't the only one! The entire premise plays upon Darkseid's minions revisiting those key locations touched by Phoenix's power.

The X-Men and Teen Titans were obviously twin hot properties in 1982, but I think the choice of using significant canon probably helped make this the popular crossover it was. Superman/Spider-man had spectacle, Batman/Hulk a curiosity factor, but this one had both -- and a story that seemed to elevate its importance, even for me - a confessed teen hero hater from school age.

Of course, no inter-company crossover is complete without an interesting title fight. Learning from reactions to the '76 Versus title; DC and Marvel made the wise choice to replace their combative preposition with a more applicable conjunction: and.

The cover gives no reasonable expectation that the X-Men and Titans will fight -- but that doesn't mean they didn't have a perfect bout up their sleeve! Just a couple of years old, and a couple more away from the heights of The Judas Contract; Deathstroke The Terminator was already a pretty perfect opponent for morally conflicted mutant hardass - Wolverine!

If you followed the feature fight, you know Wolverine effectively got the drop on Deathstroke, but failed to finish the job. Does that sound like the best there is at what he does? Hey, it goes both ways. The Terminator -- as he was known almost four years before the movie -- may have toppled the X-Men, but there's a more physical rematch before issue's end. A battle we'll no doubt look closer at in the future.

It's a small wonder we didn't see a third decider when it came time for DC and Marvel to pit their characters against one another in a long awaited, all fighting crossover spectacular: DC versus Marvel/Marvel versus DC! It probably couldn't have been more controversial than the battle we got: Lobo versus Wolverine.

It speaks to the mystique of Deathstroke for the longest time, whose solo series was coming to an end in 96. It seems he didn't penetrate the DC Universe in any lasting, meaningful way until the mid-2000s. Even after sixty issues of mercenary escapades, he always seemed anchored to the Teen Titans. A factor that's fast fading, with the mainstream preparing for test footage to turn into a full fledged feature film appearance in DC's The Batman.

As we put 2016 behind us, Hollywood is telling tales of ascent and descent for these two comic book icons. With Logan, Hugh Jackman expects to retire his iconic performance as Wolverine after seventeen years on screen. On the flip side, Joe Manganiello has begun training to bring a new icon to screen. Will he inherit the mantle of big screen bad ass that Wolverine vacates?

We end the year celebrating the past whilst looking towards an uncertain future!

I hope we'll be together for more Secret Wars on Infinite Earths in 2017. If we aren't, you can relive all the featured fights from 2016, including our celebration of the 20th Anniversary of DC versus Marvel, back in April! To find even more classic battles and inter-company crossovers scroll down the Issue Index!

Winner: Deathstroke
#94 (+208) Deathstroke
#5 (--) Wolverine
#42 (--) Storm
#66 (-1) Cyclops
#91 (-21) Sprite (Kitty Pryde)
#357 (-13) Colossus
#508 (-134) Nightcrawler

Monday, December 26, 2016

Real Name: Kara Zor-El
First Appearance: Action Comics #252 (May, 1959)
Fight Club Ranking: #90

Featured Fights:
- vs SINESTRO CORPS: Green Lantern #25 (Jan 2008)
- vs MARY MARVEL: Final Crisis #6 (Jan 2009)

I hoped I'd be more thoroughly versed in TV's Supergirl before we got to this point, but it's the final Hero of the Week for 2016, and I'm not going to let that dampen my enthusiasm. The past sixteen months have been a veritable renaissance for one of DC's trickiest second tier acts - and I'm chuffed!

It's a sad fact that DC Comics themselves have been in such a shambles the last half-decade, it took an entirely different medium to remind me I'm actually a lapsed Supergirl fan! Not that I'm forgetting that television and comics both spent much of the 90s and 2000s fumbling attempts to reinvent the character. Midriff baring updates searched clumsily for contemporary references, but aimed too low in teen culture to create a lasting modern heroine. Fortunately, TV's new version plays it stronger!

If you somehow missed it: The television series kicked off in October 2015, and first impressions were so positive - I started the year with an early Supergirl spotlight in our Friday Night Fights!

The bright, saturated look of the show, as well as its earnest adaptation of Supergirl's classic attire, instantly set it apart from low grade CW counterparts. Where those shows built on the cringe worthy, plastic cosplay legacy of Smallville; it seemed as if Supergirl would take its cues from a more sincere television past, fusing elements of Lois & Clark and the late eighties Superboy series, with a bit more stock in the comic book adventures themselves.

Rare is it that any live-action adaptation lives up to the source material, let alone aspires to. Supergirl is not without its flaws and alterations. Yet, any adaptation can rise above these distractions if there's enough to like. Supergirl surrounds its concessions in the first season with a likeable cast, upbeat tone, bona fide super-heroics, and a quickly assembled world that serves to support the entire show.

There's a lot to like about the basic arrangement of all elements. There are equivalencies between the worlds of Supergirl and her established big blue cousin, but they're all subverted by the context of the show. Kara Zor-El isn't the first Kryptonian, nor is she the first S shield wearing hero. The character and series are both learning from Superman's example, but resolute in the importance of Supergirl finding her own path. This balancing act of distance and legacy gets the most out of core elements.

The accumulated ensemble ensures there are sub-plots and life surrounding the central heroine, who is brought to life by Melissa Benoist [above]. She has a natural, affable sunniness in her alter-ego as put upon assistant to Calista Flockhart's media mogul - Cat Grant. Don't think this is any lightweight, though. Suited up she's a convincing woman of steel who looks the part - and plays it well!

Benoist convincingly distinguishes her two performances, without ever completely separating them. As Kara Danvers she's fun and spirited, a new best friend sharing her life as a working woman in the big city. Her Supergirl is young, but stands strong and aspires to be the best hero she can be.

Benoist's performance also has the support of acceptable stunts and special effects. Seeing a young lady power-slammed into reams of construction steel is a mild shock. Seeing her get up and kick her alien opponent's butt is very satisfying. The show seems relatively family friendly from what I've seen, but it isn't pulling its punches, either. A boon to the believability of the titular heroine.

The show certainly isn't perfect, but it's the one that actually got me to watch. A refreshing change of pace from the drab, muted, lightweight alternatives you've probably heard of. I'm not going to review every aspect of the show, though, because there's more that makes Supergirl a Hero of the Week!

Along with DC Comics getting their act together with an interesting new-look Supergirl in comics (as well as a digital-first series based on the show) -- she's also front-and-centre in NetherRealm Studios' upcoming beat 'em up Injustice 2. Indeed, Supergirl was a surprising inclusion in the debut trailer, which is fast promising a uniquely diverse character line-up. Another feather in the character's cap!

I'm not really very fond of Injustice or its basic premise. In fact, it runs contrary to some of the things I like about the Supergirl television series. It is, never the less, another reason to honor Supergirl as our final HOTW for 2016, and as one of the heroes to watch in 2017!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Earlier this month we looked at the Top 20 Most Popular Fights of 2016. These were the battles that, for one reason or another, attracted more direct attention than the others. Which is to say, there were plenty more memorable moments and curious clashes featured throughout this monumental year!

Much of 2016 was divided into topical subjects, but careful attention was also paid to picking up the tab on iconic characters and classic battles that hadn't been featured before. The result was a year of fights that had a blend of topical relevance, offbeat curiosity, and marquee appeal! Perfect for a return that began with the 10th Anniversary of Secret Wars on Infinite Earths!

Below is a complete chronological index of all the battles featured throughout the last twelve months -- as well as the bonus bout that announced the return! Whether you're revisiting the greatest hits, or seeing for the first time, I think you'll agree it was a fantastic year for The Comic Book Fight Club!

Hit the links to check out each featured battle, and if you like what you see - share the link, hit the G+1 button, or leave a comment! You can find all previous feature fights catalogued by publisher, series, and issue in the complete Issue Index. Your support helps keep the wars infinite! Stay tuned for more looks back at the last year, as well as what ever we can muster moving forward!

#0 The Demon versus Solomon Grudy (Solomon Grundy #1)
#1 Juggernaut versus Colossus (Uncanny X-Men #183)
#2 Dragon versus Overlord (Savage Dragon #7)
#3 Beta Ray Bill versus Thor (Thor #337)
#4 Justice League of America versus Doomsday (Superman #74)
#5 Flash versus Anti-Matter Cannon (Crisis on Infinite Earths #8)
#6 Jessica Jones versus Owl (The Pulse #14)
#7 Supergirl versus Mary Marvel (Final Crisis #6)
#8 Jimmy Olsen versus Superman (All-Star Superman #4)
#9 Spider-man versus Juggernaut (Amazing Spider-man #230)
#10 Deadpool versus Ajax (Deadpool #19)
#11 Juggernaut versus Deadpool & Siryn (Deadpool: Sins of the Past #2)
#12 Daredevil versus Deadpool (Contest of Champions II #4)
#13 Daredevil versus Punisher (Daredevil #257)
#14 Captain Marvel versus Superman (Kingdom Come #4)
#15 Hawkman versus Superman (Justice League of America #200)
#16 Captain Marvel & Hawkman versus Superman & Batman (Superman/Batman #4)
#17 Spider-man & Wonder Woman versus Mantis & Juggernaut (Unlimited Access #1)
#18 Superman versus Venom (DC/Marvel: All Access #1)
#19 Batman versus Scorpion (DC/Marvel: All Access #3)
#20 Green Lantern versus Hulk (Unlimited Access #1)
#21 Teen Titans versus Brotherhood of Evil Mutants (Unlimited Access #3)
#22 Black Panther versus Captain America (Tales of Suspense #98)
#23 Secret Avengers versus Baron Zemo (Thunderbolts #105)
#24 Psylocke versus Iron Man (Contest of Champions II #1)
#25 Magneto versus Apocalypse (X-Men Omega)
#26 Magneto versus Juggernaut (What If...? #94)
#27 Ninja Turtles versus The Shredder (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1)
#28 Dragon & Ninja Turtles versus Complete Carnage (Savage Dragon #22)
#29 Captain Britain versus Juggernaut (Excalibur #3)
#30 Batman versus Joker (Crisis on Infinite Earths #2)
#31 Firestorm versus Brimstone (Legends #1)
#32 Guy Gardner versus Black Hand (Guy Gardner Reborn #1)
#33 Sinestro versus Green Lantern & Green Arrow (Green Lantern: Rebirth #4)
#34 Reverse-Flash versus Flash & Max Mercury (Flash: Rebirth #4)
#35 Justice League of America versus Brimstone (Legends #2)
#36 Suicide Squad versus Brimstone (Legends #3)
#37 Rick Flag versus Batman (Suicide Squad #10)
#38 Batman & Catwoman versus Harley Quinn (Batman #613)
#39 Bronze Tiger versus Enchantress (Legends #3)
#40 Bane versus Killer Croc (Batman #489)
#41 Avengers versus Juggernaut (Thunderbolts #150)
#42 Luke Cage versus The Untouchables (Cage #3)
#43 Purple Man versus Luke Cage (New Avengers #3)
#44 Avengers versus Luke Cage (New Avengers #2)
#45 The Demon versus Solomon Grundy (Solomon Grundy #2)
#46 Mr. Hyde versus Ghost Rider (All-New Ghost Rider #5)
#47 Ghost Rider versus Ghost Rider (Ghost Rider #29)
#48 Juggernaut versus Dr. Strange (What If...? #24)
#49 Baron Mordo versus Dr. Strange (Strange Tales #114)
#50 Dr. Strange versus Morbius (Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme #10)
#51 Juggernaut versus Dr. Strange & Hulk (Marvel Adventures #14)
#52 Thor versus Champion of the Universe (Marvel Two-In-One Annual #7)

Why do we stop at November? The Secret Wars on Infinite Earths began one fateful December ten years ago. That's right! It's the Holiday gift that kept on giving! To see how things ended in the calendar year, simply hit the December 2016 link -- or wait another twelve months! Ha-cha!

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Deadshot Ricochet (DC)
Detective Comics #474 When: December 1977 Why: Steve Englehart How: Marshall Rogers

The Story So Far...
While Bruce Wayne plays interested billionaire playboy for enterprising love interest Silver St. Cloud; news breaks of an old enemy's escape from Gotham City maximum security prison!

Floyd Llawton once threatened to replace The Batman as Gotham City's resident masked vigilante, adopting the marksman's moniker of Deadshot!

When he was exposed for the crook he really was, Deadshot was thrown into prison and soon forgotten. Locked away with a bitter grudge against The Dark Knight, Llawton waited for his opportunity to escape -- finding it when The Penguin is incarcerated with a laser monocle!

Back on the loose, Deadshot has honed himself into a deadlier nemesis than ever before! Knowing the escaped convict's old haunts are dangerously close to Silver's exhibition, Wayne takes to the rooftops as Batman to confront his enemy in the ultimate grudge match!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Batman 3 (Athlete)
Intelligence: Batman 5 (Professor)
Speed: Draw 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Batman 5 (Marathoner)
Agility: Batman 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting: Batman 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy: Batman 4 (Arsenal)

We've spent a lot of time revisiting the mid to late eighties of DC Comics during this year's Secret Wars on Infinite Earths. It was a time defined by Crisis on Infinite Earths, and the subsequent rebuild of the company's shared universe.

You can't think about the post-Crisis eighties without remembering John Ostrander's Suicide Squad -- featured heavily in August updates to coincide with the release of the feature film! A pivotal, breakout character of the original run (and movie) was Floyd Lawton, aka; Deadshot -- fan-favourite, never-miss mercenary with a wrist-mounted gun for hire!

We got to see Deadshot's gunsight in use during the Suicide Squad's inaugural mission in Legends #3. Recruited from prison after a run-in with The Flash [Legends #1]; Lawton helped take down a giant fire-monster from Apokolips called Brimstone! The creature had previously taken down Firestorm [Legends #1] and the Justice League of America [Legends #2]. A pretty big debut!

Before he became an expendable covert asset for the United States Government and Task Force X: Lawton was a wealthy thrillseeker who fancied himself as the next Batman. Dressed in top hat, tails and mask, he turned his crackshot skills against Gotham City's mobsters and became the new top vigilante in town.

Batman and Robin eventually exposed Deadshot for the crook he really was. He was thrown in jail, where he remained for years -- until Detective Comics #474 brought him into a new era!

If we were approaching this story in 1977, the odds would probably be even. Deadshot did have the upper hand in that original 1950 story, but was also ultimately defeated. Today, we have a very different impression of both featured characters. The post-Crisis modern DC Universe placed both characters on equal footing with some pretty major league opponents!

Batman, in particular, has routinely taken down super-powered foes of the caliber of
Darkseid [Superman/Batman #42], Superman [Superman/Batman #78], and Amazo [Batman #637]! His arch-nemesis The Joker is basically a mortal man relying on weapons, but their dynamic typically sees The Dark Knight in complete combative control. Even Marvel's Bullseye was effortlessly punched out after a game of Batarang catch in DC versus Marvel #1!

We haven't seen Batman really face-off with a marksman of Deadshot's caliber, but he was significantly tested in hand-to-hand fights with Rick Flag [Suicide Squad #10] and Captain America [Marvel versus DC #3]. There was also the little matter of his ultimate defeat by Bane [Batman #497] - a tactical fighter, but not really at all comparable to Deadshot.

This is essentially new territory for Batman on The Comic Book Fight Club. How will he handle the ultimate gunman? Nine times out of ten he should have the best of the cavalier Deadshot, but lets see just what happened when Batman first faced off with his revamped nemesis!

The Tape: Batman Ranking: Batman (#1)

What Went Down...
Patrolling the Gotham City rooftops; The Dark Knight remembers the time he was nearly bested by a twisted counterpart -- now a fugitive! As if in reply, a rifle shot rings out in the night, narrowly missing the caped crusader's cowl! An attention grabber fired from the barrel of recently escaped convict: Deadshot!

From a vantage point atop the nearby Ellsworth Building, Deadshot calls to his nemesis. He educates his enemy in his new methods: a wrist-mounted blaster to channel his hatred into pure power. In the past he played games, but now his revenge will come as straight as a bullet from a gun!

While Deadshot is distracted delivering his impassioned speech, The Batman navigates the night to launch a sneak attack. He seizes upon the villain with a sudden tackle, clutching at his weapon - but Deadshot is unfazed!

In the former dandy, Batman finds a nemesis who has used his prison time to harden his will, and strengthen his body! Deadshot avoids an uppercut and fires back with his own left cross! The scuffle sends Deadshot toppling from their precarious perch, but he's prepared for that too! A grappling line fired from one of his gauntlets allows him to glide effortlessly through the city street! He challenges The Batman to catch him if he can!

Batman wastes no time - taking chase on his own batline to follow the arc of his gun-toting counterpart. As they touch down on a conventional hall roof, Batman uses his momentum to turn the tables on his prey!

The costumed combatants smash through a skylight, plummeting onto a giant typewriter displayed within the convention hall! A prop in the exhibition run by Bruce Wayne's favourite girl Silver St. Cloud!

Suspicious of The Caped Crusader's connection to her beau, St. Cloud keeps her security at bay, allowing the vigilante to pursue the fight across lettered keys!

Losing the fist fight, Deadshot flees across the keyboard - warning Batman of a new moral code that has no concern for innocent bystanders! This only fuels the Dark Knight's determination as he launches over the typewriter hull, landing on one of two massively oversized typeballs!

Thinking quick, Deadshot fires a magnum charge at the carriage return key - sending the typeball spinning out from under Batman's feet! He has no choice but to launch himself into the air - his cape sprawled like a bat's wings!

As Deadshot gets him in his sight, Batman disappears into the typewriter void. When the marksman leans over to look in - Batman springs his trap, swinging gymnastically to catch his opponent in a head scissor!

Falling into the machine, Deadshot becomes entangled in the massive tape strip. Finding sure footing above, Batman bests his returned nemesis with a simple threat to write a letter. Deadshot concedes - for now!

The Hammer...
By his opponent's own admission: Batman is victorious!

An seemingly ignoble return for a villain who once successfully bested The Bat, but the beginning of a full-fledged comeback that would create the definitive Deadshot! A legacy that arguably peaked around a decade later, but we're getting ahead of ourselves...

Publishing lore has it that the modern revamp of Deadshot came about almost by accident! Brian Cronin covered the story in his Comic Book Legends Revealed, illuminating the clash of two Joker stories scheduled to hit racks simultaneously.

Conscientious Bat-editor Julius Schwartz tasked his Detective Comics team with coming up with a new script to delay their now-famous "Joker Fish" issue. The resulting insertion was the return of a villain who hadn't made a meaningful appearance since his debut in 1950!

The Deadshot that appears in Detective Comics #474 arguably could've been a brand new character. In his original appearance he was a dandy gunslinger in mask, top hat and tails. There's very little in common between that character and the metal masked, red suited mercenary designed by Marshall Rogers!

Yet, by harnessing the published history of a forgotten villain, Englehart and Rogers create a character pregnant with greater context.

By honoring the noble tradition of reexamining old ideas in comics, they demonstrate one of the factors I love most about the medium.

Back issues were presumably a boon to the creative process, but the reader gets something out of it, too. A reason to look back at an old story, to find new and old meanings, and to see a living evolution of characters and their world. It's creation and fiction coming together to make something special and largely unique to well made, well maintained serial comics!

DC have applied the basic premise of revamping characters quite heavily to their comics line in recent years. Frankly, it's made them unattractive. Their approach to restarting the line was in keeping with the premise of Crisis on Infinite Earths, without any of the justifiable reasoning. By applying a new coat of paint to a forgotten, discarded character, Englehart and Rogers demonstrate when and how to take this approach.

Would I have embraced this new Deadshot if I were an informed reader of 1977? I am a traditionalist at heart, so I'm not  entirely sure, but there are compelling factors that spell welcome update...

Twenty-seven years of dormancy has a way of justifying a new approach. Especially between eras as distinct as 1950 and 1977. The eighties certainly benefitted from Deadshot's look - as at home with four-colour comics as GI Joe toys. I greatly appreciate that the original design is featured in the issue's flashbacks. An acknowledgment and transition that leaves the door open should ideas warrant it.

Of course, there is something appealing about the absurd visual of a man in a tuxedo wielding guns. It lends itself to the idea that this is a dark shadow to Bruce Wayne, lacking motivation or sophistication in his masked alter-ego. In the present, there'd be a fun, facetious, pop post-modernism to embracing the dated appeal of the original, moustachio Deadshot. I think that's a good thing, but don't quote me on it.

The eighties are, of course, a big part of why we're revisiting this issue now. Even with all their considerations, Englehart and Rogers ultimately left Batman with a fairly shallow sniper in his rogue's gallery. A welcome addition, but one that would be most valuable as a utility to stories, rather than an engine. That all changed when the character caught the eye of John Ostrander.

Right from their first mission in Legends #3 (1987), the Suicide Squad put Deadshot up front and center. By now he was well on his way to being a charismatic, cavalier mercenary, but under Ostrander all aspects of the character would coalesce into a worthy icon of DC Comics! A sniper with a death wish and a complicated old money history built on his first appearance.

We ran out of time to really spotlight Deadshot in August, but the dubious big screen Will Smith version did inspire a Hero of the Week entry. As we tie these loose ends from 2016, I hope we can again aim to come back to address more of Deadshot's development. I've had a lot of fun revisiting Deadshot and the Suicide Squad throughout this year!

If you'd like to find more featured fights like this one, take advantage of links littered throughout this post, or dive in by Publisher, Series and Issue in the Secret Index Archive! There you'll find a catalogue of every battle featured on the blog! If you like what you read, hit the G+1 button or social media links located at the bottom of every entry!

Want to read today's featured issue in its entirety for yourself? You can find relevant collected editions by hitting the Amazon links embedded to the right of this text. Using them helps the site, which is great!

I recommend you do. The panels featured in this post really don't do the sumptuous art work justice! Terry Austin's inks give Rogers' art a great strong look, and the reprint colours look great. Strange Apparitions is tough to come by right now. I hoped the Suicide Squad film might get it back into print - but it didn't. I do know this particular issue is included in Deadshot: Beginnings. Another worthwhile read, if you're looking to better understand the character's motivations.

Winner: Batman
#1 (--) Batman
#111 (-6) Deadshot

Monday, December 19, 2016

Real Name: June Moone
First Appearance: Strange Adventures #187 (April, 1966)
Fight Club Ranking: #513

Featured Fights:
- vs BRIMSTONE: Legends #3 (Jan 1987)
- vs BRONZE TIGER: Legends #3 (Jan 1987)

For the most part, the year is ending relatively devoid of exciting new stand-out topics. Logan is making its case as a promising cinematic destination for 2017, but we've touched on Wolverine and Professor X, and will probably talk more deeply about those characters when it's more relevant.

Indeed, it seems as if there'll be a lot of movie influence in what's relevant next year, but then, that was quite true of this year, as well. Take August for example, when we went all-in on Suicide Squad to coincide with the release of cinema's self-proclaimed "worst superheroes ever".

Joker, Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Captain Boomerang and Killer Croc were all topical talking points as Heroes of the Week. It would seem wrong to let the year pass without taking a moment to discuss one of the most talked about aspects of the movie - controversial final villain: Enchantress.

It was very difficult to get to grips with exactly what Suicide Squad's plot would be when guns blazed to Ballroom Blitz. Joker seemed better suited to a glorified cameo from the outset, but the attention lavished upon Jared Leto's grotesque image made audience confusion understandable. There certainly wasn't a lot of indication of what else the movie might actually be about!

When group shots first started emerging from the film, my eye was definitely drawn to the striking image of a J-Horror looking lady with a crescent on her head. Despite the obvious hieroglyphic clue, I can't say I  recognized the figure as June Moone until it was made abundantly explicit by promotional materials.

In a cast that included El Diablo and a general off-the-shelf cosplay aesthetic, I guess I just figured we'd be introduced to someone more obscure. Then again, it may be that I'm just a little too in love with the iconic eighties sash wearing Enchantress -- more Kate Bush than Ringu.

Not that my references were entirely off the mark! I won't speak to execution in the film, but the twist that makes Enchantress a Ghostbusters-esque Third Act villain actually sits quite well with the Suicide Squad's first appearance in comics!

By design, or coincidence of convergent logic, Legends had basic elements in common with the foundations laid for DC's Cinematic Universe in 2016. Granted, in Legends #3, it was Darkseid and his firey agent Brimstone who set the Suicide Squad into motion. Broad references more applicable to what supposedly informed Batman v Superman, and is said to be coming in Justice League.

The key similarity here was the post-script for Enchantress. After using her sorcery to defend the Suicide Squad from Brimstone's blazing corpse, she becomes a new threat, succumbing to evil.

In Legends #3, they have enduring Suicide Squad icon Bronze Tiger to abruptly curb Enchantress' attempt at insubordination. It's over in a matter of panels. Yet, in that original mission, there is the perfect premise for an enemy within, which could play very well in a cinematic context. If nothing else, I would definitely say hate the movie -- not the concept!

Hate seems to be the conclusion of many, despite Suicide Squad's massive monetary box office success. Enchantress remains one of the most talked about aspects of the movie. As we draw near the end of 2016, that was more than enough to make her our Hero of the Week!

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Gathering (Marvel)
Contest of Champions II #1 When: September 1999 Why: Chris Claremont How: Oscar Jiminez

The Story So Far...
A race of aliens known as The Coterie have abducted Earth's greatest heroes for the purpose of hosting a Contest of Champions!

The seemingly benevolent species hopes only to honor and pay tribute to the renowned fighting heroes by basking in their prowess through organized competition. Behind their pleasant demeanor lies a more sinister intent, evident in their use of airborne nano-technology to influence the minds and aggression of the heroes.

Iron Man's armor protected him from infestation, allowing him to stay clear headed in the opening round. Alas; his hosts have identified the absence of their mind altering machines, escalating a plan to manipulate the contest and eliminate the problematic Avenger. Now it's an 8-on-1 mismatch as X-Force challenge Iron Man in Round 2!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Iron Man 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Iron Man 5 (Professor)
Speed: Cannonball 5 (Olympian)
Stamina: Iron Man 6 (Generator)
Agility: Domino 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting: Domino 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy: Iron Man 5 (Lasers)

Here we are back for another round of Contest of Champions II!

When last we left the action, Iron Man was victorious in his first match, defeating ninja telepath: Psylocke! In that fight he had to overcome a single X-Woman, but in his next match he finds himself against an entire team!

X-Force are: Cannonball, Moonstar, Sunspot, Meltdown, Proudstar, Siryn, Jesse Bedlam & Domino.

If you're wondering why an entire team is submitted into a fighting tournament as a single entry, the simple answer is: The organizers are secretly bad guys. They've become aware that Iron Man is unaffected by their mind-influencing nanite technology, and are just looking for a way to take him out.

To the credit of the bookers, they've chosen a young team that could plausibly fail. Iron Man's diverse arsenal puts him in good stead against most opponents, and adequately addresses most of the specialist skills of the young mutants.

Proudstar, perhaps better known as Warpath, possesses high level super-human strength that isn't quite at Iron Man's level, but could pose a serious problem if combined with team attacks. Team leader Cannonball is a perfect example: an aerialist whose high speed plasma field achieves invincibility - but whose mastery of the sky may not aim as true as the nimble Iron Man!

Sunspot also possesses super-human strength, as well as the ability to project intense heat blasts, but may not have sufficient solar exposure to maintain his powers on the space station. Sonic vocalist Siryn is also impaired, carrying an injury to her larynx inflicted by the villainous New Hellions.

Moonstar's telepathically reliant constructs are another threat in the vein of some of Psylocke's attacks, but we did just see how Iron Man was able to identity and resolve that type of assault. Meltdown (aka; Boomer) and Domino aren't normally at a level that would trouble Iron Man's armor, either. As a team, however, their abilities could add sufficient stress.

Intriguingly, we don't have a lot of useful data for Iron Man fighting a foe with superior numbers. His affiliation with The Avengers has usually meant the team advantage is working in his favour. Our only prominent case on record is Iron Man #159, where the alchemy of Diablo forced him to fight his own armors!

That said, there are plenty of examples to demonstrate the high level Iron Man always fights at! He's beaten Hulk [Iron Man #2], outwitted The Mandarin [Iron Man #312], endured Sub-Mariner [Invincible Iron Man #12], and stopped the Juggernaut [Thunderbolts #150]! All in a day's work!

It's worth noting just a couple of years prior to this story, Cannonball had a famous, defining victory against Gladiator (during a stint with the X-Men). There's an even bigger x-factor than that working in X-Force's favour, though, that will play out in the following fight. Let's see how it effects things...

The Tape: Iron Man Ranking: Iron Man (#3)

What Went Down...
By virtue of the speed of their attacks, or respect for their opponent; Iron Man finds himself defending against the members of X-Force individually. The first to strike is the team's co-leader and fast-moving human rocket: Cannonball!

On board files help Iron Man understand his young mutant enemies, using intel to counter their unique attacks. Cannonball may be invulnerable while he flies like a human missile, but Iron Man's suit has him beat for maneuverability! He avoids the attack, leaving Cannonball to hurtle past him on a wide arc.

Danielle Moonstar makes the next move, reaching for the bow through which she can channel psychic arrows. A disorienting sonic blast neutralizes her before she can even think, leaving her too dizzy to fight.

Solar powered Sunspot tries his luck, blasting the armored Avenger with a focused beam of energy. Rather than run, Iron Man turns to absorb the blast - using it to recharge his armor's power cells!

Meltdown's plasma timebombs take the Iron Man test next, but are easily shut down with a few creative bursts from the shellhead's pulse cannons. A tactic that disrupts the kinetic matrix of the timebombs before they detonate!

Ordinarily team powerhouse Proudstar might not concern Iron Man too much, but with the constant threat of nano-tech infestation surrounding him, he can't afford the slightest breach of his armor! He blocks a left cross with his forearm gauntlet and goes airborne to put distance between himself and the strongman!

As he jets in the direction of Siryn, Iron Man's armor alerts him to recent tracheal and larynx trauma that has drastically reduced the mutant's naturally produced sonic scream. Empathy distracts the man inside the armor -- a costly mistake in the arena of combat!

The mutant called Jesse Bedlam possesses the natural gift of disrupting any electrical or mechanical system. Iron Man doesn't even see it coming as the perfect attack seizes his armor in an electrical storm!

Skilled martial artist Domino takes the liberty of striking the finishing blow, leaping through the air with a flying kick she's confident will ring his chimes, armored or not. A KO victory that sets the young mutants celebrating!

The Hammer...
Nobody said the Contest of Champions was going to be fair - and it sure as heck ain't! With numbers on their side, and a much needed precision strike: X-Force eliminate Iron Man from the tournament!

One again I'm reminded of the debate that raged within the letter pages of Wizard Magazine: Could Iron Man single-handedly take down the X-Men?

Wizard editor Doug Goldstein certainly seemed to think so. He was a major proponent for the (apparently) controversial opinion, warring with indignant X-fans in the early years of the comics magazine.

Keep in mind, this is the early nineties, when X-fandom was at its most rabidly fervent! Schooled fans may've known to have a healthy respect for Iron Man and The Avengers, but the popular vote was overwhelmingly in favor of anything with an X! A pretty ballsy stance for a fanzine editor, even if it was all in good fun, and readers were less inclined to run from an opposing opinion.

I really got up to speed with this particular feud thanks to G. Kendall's 2015 articles on Comic Book Resources. "The Guide To The Guide To Comics" was a slightly self-conscious nostalgia trip through the magazine's enthusiastic decade of influence. A fun read that should compliment most retro superhero reading!

Writing about Wizard #27 (November, 1993), Kendall referenced an addendum to Goldstein's original stance. He clarified the X-Men could beat Iron Man as a team, but their members would mostly lose one-on-one. His noted exceptions were telepaths Professor X, Phoenix, and Psylocke, and maybe Kitty Pryde.

For the most part, that's pretty reasonable, and I don't think there'd be too much argument from fans today. I can't help but wonder if Chris Claremont had the debate in mind when it came to writing Contest of Champions II in 1999.

We've been tackling the mini-series slightly out of sequence on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths, but if you paid attention to earlier sections in this post, you know the first fight saw Iron Man defeating Psylocke. That fight confirmed Goldstein's theory of psychic weakness, but also showed how Iron Man may be able to counter a telepathic attack, at least from a lesser threat such as Psylocke.

The final fight of issue #1 set out to eliminate Iron Man from the tournament, but rather than use one of the more powerful X-telepaths, (Phoenix does appear later), or even another A-list hero -- Claremont opted for a secondary X-team!

I'm not aware of anything linking Contest of Champions II to the Wizard debate, but it certainly addresses the matter, one way or another!

This obviously isn't the final word on Iron Man's match-up against mutants. Marvel built an entire event around a similar concept as recently as 2012: Avengers vs X-Men! We may yet get to that saga, or others, some time in the future. For now, take the examples supplied and let the debate rage on. You can even post your opinions in the comments section below!

All eight X-Force heroes may've shared glory within the tournament itself, but we here on The Comic Book Fight Club answer to a different standard of measure. Jesse Bedlam and Domino specifically executed the win, while the rest of the team can only be credited with an assist. See how that effects their individual standings in the updated site rankings below!

While you're down there, why not hit the G+1 button? It's a great way to help keep the site! You can also share all articles by hitting the applicable social media icons. Looking for something in particular? Follow links throughout posts to discover more, or dive in by publisher, series, and issue in the Archive Index!

Winners: Bedlam & Domino
#3 (--) Iron Man
#298 (new) Bedlam
#299 (new) Domino
#134 (+5) Boom Boom (Meltdown) [+1 assist]
#154 (+53) Sunspot [+1 assist]
#313 (+21) Cannonball [+1 assist]
#379 (+20) Siryn [+1 assist]
#507 (new) Moonstar [+1 assist]
#522 (+195) Warpath (Proudstar) [+1 assist]

Monday, December 12, 2016

Real Name: Ben Reilly
First Appearance: Amazing Spider-man #149 (October, 1975)
Fight Club Ranking: #82

Featured Fights:
- vs SCARECROW & SCARECROW: Marvel versus DC #2 (Mar 1996)
- vs SUPERBOY: Marvel versus DC #3 (Apr 1996)

As you may or may not know, Spider-man has been seeing dead people of late. More specifically: Marvel's Clone Conspiracy has brought about the return of the villainous Jackal persona - an identity most associated with mad scientist Miles Warren.

Not unlike the original, this Jackal's been using cloning to effectively resurrect the dead -- provided they meet requirements that will earn them the medication needed to maintain their living state. CBR reports last week's Clone Conspiracy #3 revealed the secret identity lurking behind the revamped mask -- none other than clone supremo and Hero of the WeekBen Reilly!

With misdirection and conspiracy so inherent to the plot, I'm not sure I'm totally willing to take the reveal at face value. It seems to make a good lick of sense, though. Both within the terms of the story itself, and as confirmation of what struck me as one of the most obvious guesses for the "Dead No More" pre-release teasers. Whether or not that's a good thing remains to be seen.

I should probably confess to having enjoyed aspects of the much maligned, original mid-nineties "Clone Saga". At inception, it seemed like an interesting way to revisit the earlier 1975 clone battle, and spin a bigger plot out of its famous conclusion.

The science and ethics of cloning was a pretty "in" topic at the time, and the uniquely genuine belief that "our" Peter Parker may have been the clone all along was a pretty exciting, paranoid concept! The eventual creation of the Scarlet Spider was the epitome of nineties ripped sweatshirt naff, but it had a certain streamlined appeal, exploring Spidey from a fresh angle.

Of course, even at the time, it was easy to understand the haters.

Ditching enduring icons and their history is always pretty bogus. In the schoolyard of the 1990s - knowledge was power, and superhero backstory a cool currency that could come in handy at any moment. DC Comics struggled for playground market share, hampered by the often misunderstood fault lines caused by Crisis on Infinite Earths. Even as fans rushed to collect the first appearance of edgy new heroes -- nobody was diving into Marvel Comics because it didn't have a classic canon!

It's hard not to look back on The Clone Saga and see the grim legacy of Death of Superman. Those who predicted doom were ultimately right. Instead of being unique experiments in high concept ideas, stories like The Cloen Saga are viewed as publisher precedent. Where once Spidey would turn into a giant spider for a few issues -- we now endure deviant concepts for a few years. Characters die and return in seasonal events. The time afforded to classic heroes is shorter and shorter.

There are elements of The Clone Conspiracy I like. As a mask and bodysuited wannabe Green Goblin, The Jackal always left something to be desired. Entwining The Jackal name with relevant imagery of Ancient Egyptian death gods is a welcome improvement. Marrying his clone science to issues of mortality - a nice way of building on the idea. Even the notion of reshaping Ben Reilly as an antagonistic counterpart has its appeal! I'm just not sure it's sustainable.

As a means of undoing the last few frustrating years of death and mayhem - it's an unattractive prospect. A cycle of invalidation implying time wasted. I don't want to see Doctor Octopus dead, but the lesson learned is to not take the mortality of characters so lightly. As a reference to, and proliferation of, the diminishing returns of post-Death of Superman stunts, The Clone Conspiracy would be unwelcome. It's an old, tired, joyless way of doing superheroes. Something we get far too much of these days, from far too many mediums. Comics should be better. To hell with other versions.

That we once again have a Spider-man swinging through the Marvel skyline is nice. I'm not overly opposed to his current status as wealthy industrialist, even if I think getting to the inevitable reset sooner than later is preferred. It's good to know Spidey's there, though. Let's just hope it stays that way, without falling back into the trap of diminishing the concept through rampant reproduction!