Friday, April 28, 2017

DRAX versus THOR
The God and The Brute (Marvel)
Warlock and The Infinity Watch #21 When: October 1993 Why: Jim Starlin How: Tom Grindberg

The Story So Far...
Across the Earth and beyond; heroes have begun to fall under the spell of a being called The Goddess! She is the expelled good from Adam Warlock manifesting in sentient form, and she's on a crusade to eliminate evil from the universe - by any means necessary!

Among the ranks of The Goddess' religious zombies is the mighty Thor of Asgard! The thunder god's mind is already clouded with madness. He sees enemies where once there were friends, making him one of the most dangerous pieces in the cosmic game!

High above the Earth; the incredible Hulk and Drax the Destroyer confront the mad thunderer. Under other circumstances they could've easily overwhelmed the god, but with Hulk sent hurtling earthbound, it's up to The Destroyer to stand alone against the power of a god gone wild!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Drax 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Thor 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Drax 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Draw 6 (Generator)
Agility: Draw 2 (Average)
Fighting: Drax 7 (Living Weapon)
Energy: Thor 5 (Lasers)
Total: Thor 32 (Super)

A showdown of super-heavyweights finishes a massive month of cosmic action!

Drax The Destroyer appeared in the Secret Wars on Infinite Earths just a few weeks ago, battling his resurrected arch-nemesis: Thanos!

As human Arthur Douglas, he was killed by The Mad Titan while driving in the desert. His daughter Heather survived, while Arthur's spirit was captured by the Titans Kronos and Mentor, who placed it in a body designed specifically to destroy Thanos! Thus, Drax begins his life's goal to destroy his nemesis!

Drax was gifted phenomenal strength, durability, and endurance in his artificial body, which at the time of today's fight reached hulking proportions. Similar to the classic Hulk, Drax also possessed greatly diminished intelligence. That was partially resolved in the mid-2000s when he was reborn as a leaner, meaner fighting machine with now iconic red markings.

This sleek version of Drax succeeded in fulfilling his life's mission at the worst possible time, killing Thanos in Annihilation #4! It was a kindler, gentler period for The Mad Titan, but none the less an impressive feat!

Thor wasn't exactly himself at the time of today's battle, either.

The god of thunder is fighting in the grip of madness! Upheaval in Asgard has driven him berserk, worsened by the manifestation of The Goddess: An entity created from Adam Warlock's expelled "good", whose holy war against evil has made crazed zealots of an army of the universe's greatest heroes!

Thor's a power player at the best of times, but in his mad state he's a warrior of scant mercy! This is the same Thor we saw destroy Super-Skrull in Thor #465, and similar to the Heroes Reborn version who fought The Avengers with Loki [Avengers #1], and went toe-to-toe with Hulk [Avengers #4]!

The might of Mjolnir and command of lightning gives Thor a unique edge in the fight, but Drax is in possession of the Power Infinity Gem! That means nigh limitless strength, similar to that once supplied to Champion of the Universe!

Drax was made to destroy a "Mad Titan", does that mean he can beat a mad god? Thor's comparable to Drax in so many ways, but feels like he has the edge. Let's drop the speculation and get ourselves some answers!

The Tape: Thor Ranking: Thor (#25)

What Went Down...
A wave of kinetic force ripples through space as titans clash! Even the incredible Hulk watches in awe, drifting helplessly away from a fight that could decide the fate of Earth's stand against The Goddess and her religious zealots!

Drax The Destroyer is a simple being, but he takes his fellow green goliath's words to heart. He must stop "hammer man" Thor! A goal he attacks with unwavering certainty - even as the hammer Mjolnir crashes across his face!

In a state of madness, Thor takes umbrage with the presumed arrogance that fuels Drax's efforts. The dim-witted warrior's confusion only provokes Thor's ire further as he buries his fist in Drax's stomach and sends him hurtling in space!

As his opponent drifts from sight, Thor's troubled mind turns to thoughts of other friends he would now call enemy. His dedication to The Goddess has blinded him in many ways. He hardly notices the shadow looming over him...

Drax returns from the void with a massive purple-gloved fist leading the way!

The Destroyer smashes Thor flat against the space rock that has become their ground. The thunder god marvels at his opponent's phenomenal strength and tenacity - even as Drax rains down against the back of his head with two fists!

Physically powerful in his own right; Thor shrugs Drax off his back and leaps to his feet! He now plans to punish The Destroyer for returning to continue their battle. His old world tongue inspires Drax to attempt to shut him up with a devastating right cross! He follows with a left - but Thor ducks it!

Displaying superior combative finesse, Thor looks to his enchanted hammer to demonstrate another key to victory -- what he calls "mystic guile and strategy"!

When the lightning clears Drax is somehow still standing! He returns "guile" in kind with blasts of energy from his extended fist!

Once again Thor recognizes he faces a uniquely worthy opponent! Undeterred he launches at his new nemesis, who responds in kind in a spectacular collision!

As the two behemoths brawl through space - Thor is visited mentally by Drax's daughter: the telepath Moondragon! Working under the spell of The Goddess she warns Thor he cannot defeat Drax so long as he possesses the Infinity Power Gem. She orders him to abandon the fight, summoning his impressive godly power to The Goddess' cause on distant Earth.

Thor clobbers Drax with a Mjolnir-wielding uppercut - freeing himself to refuse Moondragon's telepathic demand! Torn between his vow to The Goddess and the pledge of righteous combat -- the mad god becomes lost in his own thoughts of Odin and rotating Asgardian rule. Driven deeper to madness he renounces The Goddess -- a choice her representative swears he will come to regret!

Moondragon's threat is soon forgotten as Thor launches himself back toward his stunned opponent! He hurls his enchanted hammer like a missile - momentarily launching Drax through space again!

Thor follows as his foe plummets to the rocky surface below. Identifying the hammer as a deciding factor: Drax instantly recovers and pounds his hulking fists to the ground! The disruption staggers Thor, and Drax catches him with another blow with inter-locked fists! His tactic: to take control of Mjolnir!

Like so many before, Drax tries in vein to lift the hammer. Its enchantment ensures only they who is worthy will succeed, and although Drax fights for the side of good, he is not so fated. Thor allows him his futile chance, before beckoning the hammer to return to its rightful wielder.

Slightly confused and none the wiser, Drax decides he'll just beat Thor with or without the hammer. Their battle resumes, the two charging to one another once again!

Thor breaks the deadlock, toppling Drax with another Mjolnir uppercut! Drax clutches at the space rock as he lands, wrenching a massive boulder he catapults across the battlefield! Thor endures the shattering rock and swings his hammer in a circle above his head to clear the debris!

Drax charges toward the thunderer, but Thor knocks him back with a right hand. Drax returns fire with a right of his own, slamming it into Thor's trunk! He follows it up by driving his knee into the hunched god's vulnerable stomach!

Thor reverses the chain, nailing Drax on the side of the head with his hammer! He pounds Drax again like a smith working steel! They tumble together and Drax turns the tables with a kick. Thor retaliates - burying Mjolnir in Drax's stomach! Even then - The Destroyer doesn't back down!

Seemingly inseparable, the two gladiators break and stare intensely at the other. They have fought hard, but neither seems willing to yield. It may be one of the most intense battles the galaxy has ever played host to, but it will not be decided by weapons or brute strength.

Thor sees something amiss with "Midgard's star". Drax senses the temperate starting to rise. In the distance, Earth's Sun suddenly begins to flare and swell!

Mortal enemies become idle equals as they gaze into the cosmic magnificence of The Sun going nova. Each warrior is helpless as its fire expands to completely engulf them! They disappear in the blinding light!

The Hammer...
If you've ever found yourself wondering who would win in a fight between Drax and Thor - there's good news and bad news. The good news is: you now have an entire issue's worth of empirical evidence to satisfy your curiosity!

The bad news is: Warlock and The Infinity Watch #21 ends with an inconclusive draw brought about by the impending apocalypse. Bummer!

Fortunately, there are twenty pages of all-out super-heavyweight smackdown before the fight ends. An epic showdown worthy of two powerhouses from the Marvel pantheon! There's an ebb and flow, but even in the character moments, the unique style of artist Tom Grindberg gives every panel critical mass!

We featured Grindberg's work from Secret Defenders #10 last week, but didn't really get a chance to dwell on the visuals all that much.

He's a very interesting artist. Divisive, I imagine. Even in the early nineties, I never quite knew how to feel about his unique style. It's so consistently exaggerated - I can't imagine criticizing his anatomy - yet there are times when proportions warp beyond credibility, details fade into insignificance, and bulk blurs into the indistinct and implausible.

Rob Liefeld sometimes cites the influence of Jack Kirby on his work, and it's easy to imagine similar inspiration filtering into Grindberg's pencils. In fact, if I could compare Grindberg to any other artist, it would probably be Mike Mignola -- another self-confessed Kirby acolyte, with slightly more obvious references.

Grindberg is much less inclined toward the square features and gnashing mouths of Kirby characters. When his figures project out of the page, often they're jumping legs first -- unlike Kirby's forward lunging heroes.

In fact, legs may be the most exaggerated part of Grindberg's anatomy, more consistently over-sized than the arms or trunk. When it gets away from him, sometimes you're left humming Fat Bottomed Girls, but it's a rare exception. A single panel from this issue, featuring Moondragon, comes to mind. You'll know it if you see it. Physically large characters typically fare better.

In 1993, they didn't come much bigger than Drax The Destroyer. This is Drax a decade before the 2005 revamp that cut back on bulk, and streamlined his mind. This was a time when Bruce Banner kept his smarts in any shade of green and Drax was more Hulk than Hulk!

In fact, the very first pages of Warlock and The Infinity Watch #21 show the intelligent Hulk drifting away in space, as if seceding to Drax. He had the wherewithal to impress upon Drax the importance of beating Thor, but couldn't find a way to change his trajectory. I guess even Hulk claps need atmosphere.

Hulk was present because of the events of Infinity Crusade, which saw half of the Marvel Universe fall under the spell of The Goddess. That meant a whole lot of oddball pairings of brainwashed heroes fighting heroes. It was a sequel event to The Infinity War, but in the bigger picture, it fits somewhere between the high-concept pitches for 1984's Secret Wars, and 2006's Civil War.

I'm sure we'll endeavor to take a closer look at some of those interesting battles sometime in the future. For now, we commit this entry to the records and look forward to what's ahead!

Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 officially hits screens next week (May 5th) and is the inspiration behind this month's crammed card of cosmic collisions! If you see the movie in theatres, you may also catch a preview of Thor: Ragnarok - a sequel that promises to pit Thor against Hulk in a battle not unlike today's!

Want to see the full fight for yourself? Check out the Amazon link provided to pick yourself up a copy. Amazon will support Secret Wars on Infinite Earths at no extra charge if you do -- and you'll be able to bask in that amazing last page!

Still craving more action? Check out links scattered throughout this post (or labels below) to find more featured fights and articles about your favourite heroes!

Dive deeper into the Secret Archive to scan past battles organized by publisher, series, and issue number. Or subscribe on Twitter and Facebook to get daily links to fights inspired by the topics of the day! A like and share also helps a lot!

Winner: Draw (Inconclusive)
#25 (--) Thor
#125 (+15) Drax The Destroyer

Monday, April 24, 2017

Real Name: Tyrone Johnson
First Appearance: Spectacular Spider-man #64 (March, 1982)
Fight Club Ranking: #574

Featured Fights:
- vs AVENGERS: Civil War #3 (Sep 2006)

Marvel hasn't exactly wowed with their expansion into television. The Netflix shows have a certain referential appeal, but their reluctance to go all-in on the designs and spectacle of the comics takes some of the fun out of it. Shows like Agents of SHIELD and Inhumans persist in spite of themselves. Even Marvel cartoons lack the punch of earlier incarnations who didn't have the resources of Disney.

Cloak & Dagger doesn't immediately scream a game-changer, but if you take a look at the first trailer, you may agree that the 2018 series will be worth keeping an eye on...

Like a lot of fans; I know the tag team of Cloak and Dagger primarily through the adventures of Spider-man. Sure, I was pretty chuffed that time I found the first issue of their 1983 mini-series in an el cheapo three-pack, but their solo escapades lacked the punch of time spent with the web-slinger. Heck! They even produced an oddball Spidey villain I've always had a fondness for: The Spot!

For readers of the early nineties, and lovers of 16-bit video games, the duo is probably best remembered as players in the crossover jambalaya that was Maximum Carnage!

The 14-part epic put Cloak & Dagger on the same side as Venom, Black Cat, Morbius, Captain AmericaIron Fist and even more oddly grouped heroes. Collectively they were roped in to fight the serial-killing symbiote Carnage, and his own Manson Family-esque crew of homicidal maniacs. In theory it was all kinds of wrong, but damned if it wasn't a whole lot of 1993 fun!

The drama of Dagger's apparent death early in the story was particularly memorable. It focused on a dynamic of affection that bordered on co-dependency. Their super-powers of light and dark were reflected in their personalities, making the balance of their unique partnership more than just a corny codename. They weren't the Wonder Twins, but they worked well together!

The origin of Cloak & Dagger functions as a weird sort of garbled PSA. It's embroiled in the usual types of teen dramas: stuttering, anxiety, emotional neglect, running away, exploitation, and being experimented on by Mafia chemists who're developing an alternative for heroin. You know. The problems we all dealt with in puberty.

It looks like the relationship drama will play a big part in the live-action TV series, which will air next year on Freeform. I don't know a whole lot about Freeform, but it doesn't take deep analysis to recognize they'll be aiming this series at a Millennial teen demographic. It has the same filtered haze of faux-eighties touchstones like It Follows, with a vibe that reminds me of what's going on with The CW's Riverdale. Not a bad way to go for a TV serial working to a budget.

The thing that gets me most excited about the TV version of Cloak & Dagger is the glimpse of super-powers seen in the trailer.

Live-action shows usually disappoint severely in the costume and powers department. I don't think Cloak & Dagger will rewrite the rules in that respect, but a lack of expectations make the glowing white of a light dagger, and the wind swept fabric implying a cloak, an early thrill. That rooftop crane (or drone) shot of Cloak at the end is particularly cool!

Of the pair, Cloak was always my favourite. His ability to cast a shadowy sub-dimensional void within the animated folds of his fabric is a great visual! The concept of engulfing villains and trapping them within the terror of their own darkness - a wonderful pulp irony. There's a little bit of The Shadow in the concept, which always appeals. Aubrey Joseph plays the role in the series, and is the more immediately convincing of the two young leads.

We haven't really talked much about Cloak (or Dagger) on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths, but I hope this will spur on a future feature fight. For now, Cloak is our Hero of the Week! If you'd like to find more of his adventures in the future, or other characters, be sure to follow links throughout this post, or dive in to the Secret Archive!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Revenge Part II (Marvel)
Secret Defenders #10 When: December 1993
Why: Ron Marz How: Tom Grindberg

The Story So Far...
On the Mars moon of Phobos a titanic struggle is waged for the fate of the galaxy! The mad space-pirate Nebula has broken free from her prison on Titan, and plans to return to Saturn's moon to destroy it -- and all of its inhabitants!

In a desperate bid to stop Nebula's plot; the Silver Surfer has sought aide from his old ally -- Earth's Sorcerer Supreme: Doctor Strange!

Unable to accompany the Surfer into space; Strange recruits two powerful Secret Defenders to assist him in his dire mission: the armored Avenger War Machine and hammer wielding Thunderstrike!

Together the trio of heroes confront the overwhelming odds of Nebula's crew, but in the ambush Silver Surfer is captured and strapped to her moon-destroying bomb! With seconds to liftoff War Machine disables the warhead and frees the Silver Surfer. Now it's one on one in a race to bring Nebula to justice!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Silver Surfer 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Silver Surfer 5 (Professor)
Speed: Silver Surfer 7 (Light Speed)
Stamina: Silver Surfer 6 (Generator)
Agility: Silver Surfer 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting: Nebula 4 (Trained)
Energy: Silver Surfer 7 (Cosmic Power)
Total: Silver Surfer 37 (Cosmic)

A cosmic grudge match with the fate of Saturn's moon Titan hanging in the balance!

Silver Surfer is a space-faring defender whose power cosmic was bestowed upon him by the world devourer: Galactus! The Surfer was coated in cosmic chrome when he agreed to give up a life as stargazing scholar Norrin Radd -- pledging servitude in exchange for his planet Zenn-La!

Silver Surfer became an unfeeling sentinel of doom, ever in search of planetary feast. When he arrived on Earth, his cold heart was stirred to feel compassion once more. Thus; the herald turned his power against its source: rescuing another world from destruction -- only to be exiled to its galactic boundaries!

Generally speaking, Silver Surfer is one of the most powerful heroes in the Marvel Universe! We've seen him take down Ronan the Accuser [Silver Surfer #13], go toe-to-toe with Beta Ray Bill [Godhunter #2], and defeat DC Comics' Green Lantern [Marvel versus DC #3]! He was even gladiatorial champion on the planet Sakaar -- until his old Defenders ally Hulk showed up to take the title in that famous arena battle! A shoo-in to beat most foes, right?... Not so fast!

Nebula is a notorious inter-galactic space pirate, but more than that, she's the purported grand-daughter of The Mad Titan: Thanos!

Such a bloodline means incredible strength, durability, and energy powers -- but also a life of torturous cruelty and callous hate! Nebula has suffered considerably at the hands of her own father, and grand-father, alike!

When Thanos assembled omnipotence through The Infinity Gauntlet, he used it to remake Nebula as a twisted, charred, tribute to Death. A fate she escaped, only to be imprisoned on Titan by her uncle, Starfox. She later transformed herself, undergoing procedures to become the iconic bald cyborg she is today!

Nebula's early exploits included battles with The Avengers, The Skrull Empire, and another of Galactus' heralds: Firelord. She was responsible for massacring much of his race -- a typical consequence of her heinous inter-galactic crimes.

This is the first time Nebula is appearing on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths, but you get the idea of the high-level threat she presents! Remembering that Silver Surfer once submitted his power to a space-faring Doombot [Silver Surfer #107], and was stripped of his powers by Super-Skrull while held in techno-bondage in Fantastic Four #6 -- and there's plenty of reason to be concerned!

When we join the fight, Silver Surfer has already spent time shackled by Nebula and her crew. Her plan is to annihilate him and the moon Titan -- a fate she already believes is sealed. Let's skip the speculation and see what happened!

The Tape: Silver Surfer Ranking: Silver Surfer (#40)

What Went Down...
With no time to spare -- Earth hero War Machine frees Silver Surfer from his shackles and disarms the bomb they hold him to! Titan and its inhabitants are saved, but vengeful Nebula still poses a formidable threat!

The cyborg villainess flares with anger as her explosion fails to come to pass. Even as she ponders the expected destruction of Titan and the Silver Surfer - the gleaming cosmic guardian appears outside her ship!

Nebula grabs her gun and charges furiously from the cockpit. Running through the corridors only brings her faster to the presence of the Silver Surfer! With phenomenal speed he's there - waiting!

Instinctively - Nebula fires! The weapon discharges in a deadly point-blank blast aimed directly at the Surfer's heart!

The hi-tech weapon's flare lights up his polished silver body as it arches violently, absorbing the gun's devastating load! His shoulders rise and his head sinks in a sudden, contorted hunch -- but the Silver Surfer does not fall!

Instead, Nebula's fury is matched in kind by a hero who is sick of witnessing her heinous crimes. With grit teeth the Surfer vows to end the spree of violence, death, murder. In a very uncharacteristic moment - he raises his fist!

The punch is enough to make good on the Surfer's pledge. Nebula is subdued and cuffed, ready to be returned to a Titanian prison for her murderous crimes.

The Hammer...
Short, sharp, but not so sweet. Silver Surfer isn't exactly known for his heavyweight boxing, but when rare circumstances call for it -- he packs a punch with the best of them!

It may be an atypical fight, but in context it makes sense: It took two issues of being beaten, shackled, and threatened to push Silver Surfer to lose his usual cool!

A few years of unpleasant history with Nebula had a bit to do with it, too... Heck! If you want to talk history -- threats against global civilizations are always a bit of a sensitive subject with The Surfer! Reluctantly ushering planets to their total annihilation will tend to have that affect on a dude, but hey! That's a downer and baggage we can work through some other day!

This month's cosmic themed feature fights are in anticipation of the theatrical release of Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2. Karen Gillan returns as Nebula in the May 5th sequel, which also introduces Kurt Russell as recently featured Hero of the Week (and occasional Silver Surfer villain): Ego.

In preparing for Nebula's debut on the site, I was struck with how iconic her bald head and metal plate have become. Obviously that's the design featured in the movies, but it made a strong impression long before then.

This iteration of Nebula had been around for about a year by the time of today's featured fight. Prior to that she'd been established as a credible threat to the Avengers wearing long jet black hair and bangs. Admittedly, she didn't make a huge impression on me as a young Marvel reader, but today's feature was very nearly a couple of issues from 1990 that were always favourites.

In '91, Nebula played a significant role in The Infinity Gauntlet: a now-classic Jim Starlin story as famous as anything for its influence on Marvel's present trajectory towards a Thanos fronted Avengers film. Nebula didn't go cyborg until the following year, becoming a regular in the pages of Silver Surfer.

Over in Hero of the Week we've been talking a lot about the trials of introducing new characters, and adapting old ones, and I think what we have here is a very intuitive example of a Marvel character receptive to change.

Nebula was a decent enough established villainess with ties to Thanos, but she'd never really stood out as an icon. Visually she was a stock standard comic book villain with maybe a hint of Star Trek. A strong candidate for a rethink.

Metal plating and cybernetics were dime a dozen clich├ęs in the early nineties, but for Nebula it wasn't just a design short-cut. It was a makeover to usher in a new chapter in a character's unfolding story. Signs of the old were still there: she kept the purple and blue of her classic uniform. Yet it was given a rougher edge that better evoked the life of a space-faring pirate bad ass.

The new look seemed to infuse a harder edge to the character's attitude as it was written, as well. Secret Defenders #10 isn't a particularly deep story, but it revels in Nebula the terrorist. A character with an unrepentant mean streak and the will to cause real damage, if given the chance. Thanos' cold nihilism repackaged with a punkish Gen X twist.

When I think of Nebula - this is the version I picture!

Not exactly the boldest statement if you've only known the character since seeing her in movies. Never the less, an endorsement that I hope attests to the success of what has become a definitive vision for an unlikely icon. When I choose artwork to reflect characters, I don't necessarily place currency on the present as much as what I think identifies the character best. When it came time to find an image for Nebula - I knew I wanted her bald.

As a matter of record: I settled on one of the better Greg & Tim Hildebrandt trading card paintings from Marvel Masterpieces '94. It was a lesser year for the card series in my humble opinion, overshadowed by the inaugural set, and moments of brilliance in 93's Series 2. If you scroll back up to The Tale of The Tape section, you might notice a snarling Rose McGowan vibe in the isolated mugshot. Softer than I thought of Nebula, at that time, but still one of the brothers' better efforts, I think.

Appropriately enough, Secret Defenders is itself another example of an intuitive update. Marvel's "non-team" started as Doctor Strange, Sub-Mariner, Silver Surfer and Hulk, but expanded its loose line-up throughout the seventies and eighties, adding: Nighthawk, Beast, Ice Man, Moondragon and many more.

The Defenders developed a few distinct flavours over the years. As one of the first new recruits, I guess Valkyrie was the Yoko of the original foursome, who maintained loose affiliation with her and the subsequent Nighthawk era. The "New" era of the eighties was more stable, but also short lived.

Secret Defenders brought the concept of a non-team back after a decade out of print, and arguably took it to its most logical conclusion. Doctor Strange was the constant, devising bizarre team-ups to address threats of varied credibility. At a time when brand identity was still very strong at Marvel, these oddball team-ups were novelty enough to grab attention on the racks!

The two-part story that concludes with Secret Defenders #10 stars War Machine and Thunderstrike: heroes who were understandably mistaken for Iron Man and Thor upon introduction to Silver Surfer. We'll talk more about them if and when we get a chance to revisit some of the other combat featured in these issues.

As always, be encouraged to seek out more of your favourite characters and their fantastic exploits by following links littered throughout this post. If you want a more direct method, you can dive into the Secret Archive, where hundreds of featured fights are organized by publisher, series, and issue.

If you'd like to get daily links to battles inspired by the topics of the day: follow Secret Wars on Infinite Earths on Facebook and Twitter! Sharing and liking is a nice way you can help support our humble online arena.

Winner: Silver Surfer
#33 (+7) Silver Surfer
#837 (new) Nebula

Monday, April 17, 2017

Real Name: Nathaniel Summers
First Appearance: New Mutants #87 (March, 1990)
Fight Club Ranking: #105

Featured Fights:
- vs AHAB: X-Men Annual #14 (Jul 1990)
- vs BARON ZEMO & MODOK: Captain America #6 (Apr 1997)
- vs AVENGERS: Civil War #3 (Sep 2006)

He was DC's Jonah Hex in an already forgotten 2010 Warner Bros western, and is gearing up to voice Marvel's Thanos in the next installment of Avengers: Josh Brolin is basically breaking all the comic book movie rules -- adding another superhero to his fast growing oeuvre!

His third starring appearance as Cable is now confirmed by The Hollywood Reporter, beginning with next year's Deadpool 2. The news ends a whirlwind of speculation that whipped up every would-be aging action star from Dolph Lundgren, to Ron Perlman. Ten months ago, even I did a pretty good job of convincing myself Eric Dane should be considered. All moot as of mid last week.

Cable is expected to lead a new era of FOX's X-Men franchise, filling the void left by Hugh Jackman's Wolverine. He's another of Marvel's testosterone fuelled mutants who were big in the nineties. Instead of claws, he's a cyborg mutant with telekinetic powers and huge guns! Did I mention he's also from the future? Oh, and his parents are Cyclops and Jean Grey. Yeah. A lot going on with this guy.

While it remains to be seen if the character can live up to expectations, it's certainly clear that Josh Brolin brings the right blend of character, stature, and star-power to give it the best chance to succeed. All that's left now is to put him in movies and avoid screwing it up!

If all goes to plan: Brolin will likely transition from Deadpool 2 to the long rumored X-Force movie, which has ambiguous ties to next year's New Mutants.

Comics fans know the New Mutants were rebranded X-Force when Cable assumed teaching duties, reshaping the young X-kids as a paramilitary group. It was a shift in direction courtesy of Cable co-creator Rob Liefeld. Early speculation suggests the film version will actually wind up being more in line with 2008's relaunch, which refashioned the team as a lethal black-ops compilation of X-Men characters, eventually including the likes of Deadpool and Psylocke.

The uncertainty surrounding FOX's plans is part of what's making them the most exciting superhero movie maker of the moment. X-Men: Apocalypse may have been a disappointment, but with Bryan Singer possibly moving away from the franchise, the future looks a little brighter. Hopefully as bright as X-Men: First Class, which still remains the high-point in the X-film catalogue.

As you can see from the Featured Fight list we're a little anemic in the Cable department, but I'm sure we can look forward to exploring the character further in the future. If you need your X-fix right now, be sure to follow links provided, and explore the Secret Archive for features arranged by publisher, series, and issue number.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Four Against Ego! (Marvel)
Fantastic Four #235 When: October 1981
Why: John Byrne How: John Byrne

The Story So Far...
A peaceful day is violently interrupted by sudden tremors rippling across the entire planet! Brilliant scientist Reed Richards quickly deduces an unnaturally force enacting its will upon the Earth from beyond the atmosphere!

Without a second thought the Fantastic Four rocket to space to confront this newest threat! Upon navigating long, decaying tendrils they discover the horror that shakes their very world: Ego - The Living Planet!

With the roar of a "grinding" world, Ego booms his ominous warning: He has followed a trail of dead worlds in search of his enemy. It has brought him to the "third planet" and now he means to destroy it -- and all of its inhabitants!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Ego 7 (Omnipotent)
Intelligence: Ego 6 (Genius)
Speed: Human Torch 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Ego 7 (Unstoppable)
Agility: Mr. Fantastic 6 (Rubber)
Fighting: Invisible Woman 4 (Trained)
Energy: Ego 7 (Cosmic Power)
Total: Ego 38 (Cosmic)

The Fantastic Four are: Mister Fantastic, Invisible Girl, Human Torch and Thing.

Collectively they're the stars of the World's Greatest Comics Magazine! The first family of Marvel Comics! The beginning of the modern Marvel Universe, and a jewel in the comic book crown! The Fantastic Four have traversed the weirdest frontiers of space and reality -- but can even they overcome an entire planet?!

Ego, The Living Planet is exactly what the name suggests!

Globe given form; Ego is a sentient entity in control of equivalent phenomena we associate with other known astronomical planetary bodies.

Ego can terraform his surface to create a multitude of environments, as well as manipulating the elements that command them, such as electro-magnetic and gravitational pull. Avoiding Ego simply isn't an option once you enter his gravity!

Consider the deadly peril humanity faces from extreme environments found on our own planet: Volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, lightning strikes, gas emissions, mudslides, freezing cold, searing heat -- you name it! If you thought climate change was a scary concept: just imagine the world has a mind of its own - and it really is out to get you!

Ego personifies by generating a massive humanoid face on his surface, but also possesses psionic capabilities that allow him direct access to the minds of those who dwell upon him. His consciousness is facilitated by massive internal organs, namely a gigantic brain housed deep beneath his surface.

Like other living things; Ego can defend himself from foreign infection with "Anti-Bodies" that manifest as humanoid creatures. If he uses more energy than his planetary body can sustain, Ego is also capable of absorbing it from sentient life on his surface, or surrounding ambient sources. He can traverse space thanks to a giant engine attached to his south pole by arch-nemesis: Galactus!

These confluence of elements has been enough to cause nightmares for the likes of Thor, Silver Surfer, Iron ManBeta Ray Bill, Nova, and more!

The FF are famous for taking on some of the biggest super-heavyweight threats in comic book history! They've told Galactus to go eat worms; turned the tides against Namor and Atlantis; forced Mole Man and his subterranean hordes back underground; and even given Doctor Doom things to think hard about!

In Fantastic Four #358, we saw the FF overcome significant cosmic odds when they defeated Paibok the Power Skrull, and a legion of Skrull soldiers! Not quite the combined might of an entire planetary body -- but still a sizeable chunk of an inter-galactic empire who was beaten on their own imperial ship!

Individually, the members of the Fantastic Four are among our highest ranked combatants: Mr. Fantastic and Thing currently round out the Top 10 at numbers 9 and 10. Their comrades aren't far behind with Invisible Woman at a very respectable #12, and the Human Torch at #14!

Mister Fantastic ranks among Marvel's most brilliant minds, and that's always a key asset when the FF take on dangers from outer space! Invisible Woman's force-fields make her an asset against the unknown, keeping distance from volatile elements, and trapping oxygen if needed. Thing's phenomenal durability and strength will no doubt come in handy against Ego. The Human Torch is an ace in the hole against the organic Living Planet.

How do they beat Ego? The variables are a vast many, but the easy answer is always some kind of technical gizmo cooked up by Mr. Fantastic. There's also the remote potentials for cosmic intervention from the FF's allies, such as Uatu The Watcher, who helped them drive Galactus from the Earth.

The odds are arguably against them, but the Fantastic Four have an uncanny knack for defying even the most overwhelming force. Let's quit the guessing game and find out what happened when they faced The Living Planet!

The Tape: Fantastic Four Ranking: Mister Fantastic (#9)

What Went Down...
Invisible Girls is able to deflect the brunt of a devastating force beam suddenly fired from one of Ego's "eyes"! The Living Planet has come to the Milky Way in search of his nemesis Galactus - and now he means to destroy the one planet that escaped The Devourer of Worlds' cosmic consumption!

Some of the awesome energy still manages to smash against the Fantastic Four's vessel! It costs them artificial gravity - as well as their orientation beyond Ego's surface! The FF are going down - and fast!

While The Thing desperately applies his skills as a pilot to level the ship's sinking trajectory; Human Torch escapes in a streaking blaze to scorch Ego's bizarre surface. He's their only hope of creating something approximating a runway!

Their incredible landing brings the Fantastic Four upon Ego's strange land. Over the horizon - a gargantuan feat of engineering: the propulsion engine that allows Ego to travel through space! The strangely familiar tech becomes their target as Mr. Fantastic desperately devises a means to stay Earth's grim fate!

An uncanny psychic blast diverts the foursome from their desperate mission. Human Torch is able to catch his sister and brother-in-law, but the rocky Thing plummets from his sky-cycle like a rock! He's unfazed by the crash-landing, but Ego quickly spawns living Anti-Bodies to swarm and attack!

Thing scatters the Anti-Bodies like skittles with a thrust from his mighty limbs!

Meanwhile, Invisible Girl quickly discovers translucency is meaningless when the very world she walks is her enemy! A quick adjustment in tactics launches her out of reach of the threat thanks to a rising force-field!

The Anti-Bodies crowd around the column-like platform, smashing against its invisible sides. Their clustered proximity allows Mister Fantastic to surround them with his stretchable body - and fling the creatures into outer space!

Before Ego can manifest more defense, the FF scrambled for the gigantic propulsion engine -- an inorganic addition to Ego that will not spawn any more attacks. A perimeter of flame buys them time, but thousands of Anti-Bodies continue to plough into the fire in an effort to reach them!

Meteor-like shards of bone rain upon the foursome as they remove part of the inner workings of the engine. Recognizing Galactus' technology, Mister Fantastic has a plan. Sue Storm's force-field protects them from projectiles, and carries three of the four into a nearby pore that takes them beneath the surface!

Their journey beneath the surface of The Living Planet brings the Fantastic Four to what appears to be a brain!

Reed Richards means to detonate a power pack removed from Ego's engine, but the pressure of the inner chamber is insufficient to be anywhere near the planet's core. Though there emits a "psychic stimulation" -- Mister Fantastic detects a decoy! Human Torch burns it and Ego is heard roaring with anger!

The heat and pressure build as the Fantastic Four journey deeper towards the centre of the planet! Remarkably, Reed Richards's malleable rubber-like body is the first to succumb to the mounting force. More sensitive to the pressure, he is to weak to lead his teammates further - forced to remain behind!

An hour later, the mounting heat and pressure are making it hard for the Invisible Girl to catch her breath. Despite the struggle, she is determined to accompany her allies -- fearful they may have need of her force-fields!

The Thing isn't buying it, though. He and The Human Torch are uniquely suited to handle the heat. Knowing she cannot resist, Thing scoops Invisible Girl into his arms and launches her back toward the recovery of a cooler area!

Before long, even The Human Torch is struggling to think clearly. With the pressure mounting, he has no choice to bid his old friend farewell. The entirety of their mission now literally resting on the shoulders of The Thing!

Even the mighty Thing finds himself struggling as he ventures ever deeper into Ego's planetary core. He wants to stop, but he dare not! So deep beneath the surface, the great hero has no way of knowing how close the Earth is to peril!

Pressing on The Thing is confronted by an image shocking enough to stop him in his tracks even after all he has seen! Before him: the gigantic, moon-sized neural network that is Ego's one true brain!

Without warning, images of the cosmos wash over Ben Grimm. Psychic flashes offering insight into Ego's past!

His travels through space, encounter with Thor, and the brief inhabitance of The Wanderers upon his body's surface. Events that drove The Living Planet mad, and led Thor to stand with Galactus when attaching a propulsion engine to his surface. It was meant to send him to the darkest corners of reality, but instead powers Ego's mad lust for vengeance.

Thing strains to hurl the volatile power cell at Ego's vulnerable brain - but misses! It hardly matters to Ego, however. The close call sends him into a rage, activating his south pole engine to plot a course for Earth's final doom!

Only - the engine is left half-powered. Ego's trajectory becomes an arc, sending him dangerously in the direction of the Sun!

Time spent travelling through deep-space has deprived Ego of much energy. His surface stinks of decay, and in the clutches of solar embrace -- he cannot resist the gravitational pull! The Living Planet is being torn apart!

Trapped deep within Ego's core - Thing's fate is no longer his to control, but all is not lost! The loss of planetary integrity is a blessing in disguise for the hero!

As Ego is torn asunder - Thing is expelled with the stuff of The Living Planet's very being! The incredible forces leave him stunned, but the Fantastic Four have already escaped the planet, and can see their courageous friend!

A final daring flirtation with death sees their rocket arc precisely toward the mayhem. Just close enough to rescue their unconscious friend without being sucked into the carnage of Ego's defeat!

The Hammer...
Aaaaand exhale! For a second there I thought I was about to run out of oxygen! Dare I say it? A space epic worthy of Stan & Jack?

I don't think I'm blazing a trail in rating Fantastic Four #235 a classic issue! It's one of many memorable adventures from John Byrne's storied association with the characters. The kind of story that almost makes me think of Ego as a Fantastic Four villain -- even though he technically belongs to the Thor camp.

If you read this week's Hero of the Week: you already know Ego will be causing trouble for Star-Lord and The Guardians of the Galaxy when Guardians Volume 2 hits theatres, May 5th!

To celebrate the occasion, we're getting the drop on the space action a month early! Battles throughout April will all feature the cosmic exploits of characters starring in the movie -- and plenty who aren't, too!

Case in point: When I heard Ego was going to be bad guy in the movie, I knew it would be the perfect opportunity to break this story out! It's a great representation of what Ego is like in the comics, but it was also a nice opportunity to revisit the erstwhile Fantastic Four.

It's kind of unbelievable to think we're living in a time when the FF aren't part of the Marvel landscape! Sure, Human Torch and Thing are floating around the mish-mash of Avengers, and other degrading brands, but the bona fide "World's Greatest Comics Magazine" hasn't been in print for around two years!

Between dodgy runs in the late 2000s, and total inactivity, it's disheartening to think the joys of Marvel's "First Family" may be lost on a new generation of fans. Particularly as properties like the modern day Guardians of the Galaxy arguably owe a lot of their cosmic comedy, and family dysfunction, to the FF.

Back in The Tape section, we posed the question: Can even the Fantastic Four beat an entire planet? Our answer appears to be: kinda...

Thing was already minted as the beating heart of the Fantastic Four, but I tend to think of the early eighties as a time that really reinforced him as the never-say-die, courage-under-fire hero we all know and love.

In 1982, Thing makes one of his all-time famous final stands against Champion of the Universe in Marvel Two-In-One Annual #7 [see also; Champion vs Thor].

I tend to think of today's feature fight as being a companion, but it's interesting to note that, although Thing completes the trek to Ego's core, and delivers the destructive payload: he doesn't actually succeed in hitting the target!

We like to spend time on The Comic Book Fight Club debating and defining the terms of victory. That's what shapes our world famous character rankings!

It was actually the mere removal of the would-be explosive power pack (from Ego's propulsion unit) that was his ultimate undoing! It meant only half of the unit was firing, and his trajectory arced unevenly into the sun!

That means Mister Fantastic and Thing played the most pivotal role in defeating Ego, but they couldn't have done it without Invisible Woman and Human Torch helping fight back the defenses of The Living Planet. In other words, if you're here for a result, you can count the entire Fantastic Four as shared winners!

It's interesting to ponder how the story may've unfolded if it were written today.

I wouldn't question John Byrne's grasp of the classic Fantastic Four. His story feels appropriately tinged in the hues and sci-fi trappings of early FF adventures, courting those Lee & Kirby comparisons I mentioned earlier.

I do, however, wonder if super-malleable Mister Fantastic would be the first to succumb to the immense pressures inside Ego. One might suspect he could handle the effects better than the rest of his team. Then there's Invisible Woman, who doesn't appear to be using her force-fields to any great advantage. Her steely resolve is undermined by the stresses of heat, but it's a thought.

Oh, and if you're wondering -- don't worry! Ego isn't completely destroyed by the encounter! He was back a few years later to take on Rom and The Spaceknights. I'm sure we'll revisit The Living Planet some time in the future.

If you're missing the Fantastic Four as much as the rest of us, you can always dive into the Secret Archive to go straight to many more battles starring the team! You should also follow links littered throughout this post (or below) to discover more from characters and creators!

Want to read this battle in its entirety for yourself? You can pick it up in collected edition via the Amazon link provided [right]! Doing so helps support the site at no extra cost and ensures the wars remain infinite! You can also follow, like & share daily fight links on Facebook and Twitter!

Winners: Fantastic Four
#9 (--) Mister Fantastic
#10 (--) Thing
#11 (+1) Invisible Woman
#13 (+1) Human Torch (Johnny Storm)
#836 (new) Ego (The Living Planet)

Monday, April 10, 2017

Real Name: Ego
First Appearance: Thor #133 (October, 1966)
Fight Club Ranking: #DNR

Featured Fights:
- Yet To Be Featured on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths.

It's been a bit of a quiet week, but Hollywood continues to throw a blanket of inescapable promotion for the year's blockbuster theatrical releases. One of the most prevalently anticipated of the past few months: May's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 -- which also happens to be the inspiration for this month's featured fights here in the Secret Wars on Infinite Earths!

Bad guy Ego is simultaneously the most intriguing, and most fraught hook for the colourful sequel, which follows-up a 2014 franchise-starter I can't say I was all that enthused by.

In light of other recent, sour Hero of the Week entries; I'm sure my reservations run the risk of confirming a bona fide hater of fun. However! I would argue Guardians' reputation for laughs and good times is actually sorely exaggerated! A notion awaiting the typical reevaluation that comes with every new recipient of 'best movie evarrr'. Before you reach for the pitchfork, let me explain...

Characters like Rocket, Groot and Drax are well justified as fan-favourites, but their theatrical debuts struggled to expand upon the showcase of trailer highlights in any satisfying way. Fans were better served by peripheral toys, cartoons, games, and a decade of comic books that informed the movie.

Laughs are actually few and far between throughout the finished 2 hours, and if you don't walk in already on the side of heroes, the film will give you few reasons to genuinely care.

Motivations are wafer thin throughout, especially for Ronan The Accuser, whose film version just barely resembles the comics, and is sorely lacking any definition as a driving factor to the film's climax. He amounts to one of the most shallow villains in Marvel's formulaic pantheon, adding nothing to a movie advanced by rote. Even as a new coat of paint, Ronan comic book charm.

Strong aesthetics should've picked up the slack for the films other failings, but wide shots only seem to linger when there's nothing much to look at! Blade Runner, this didn't need to be, but its obvious adoration for movies of the same era really should've informed a stronger consideration for the environment of the galaxy itself. Star Wars may be part of an elevator pitch for Guardians, but the movie learns none of its marketable lessons. Good design is implied, but rarely delivered. Repeatedly abandoned for character close-ups, and other less interesting subjects. Lost in an unfocused haze.

"Unfocused" is the prevailing criticism of the 2014 movie. Where some films reward repeat viewings, Guardians can only hope to reinforce its sparsely laid legacy of comedy & characters through expectant repetition.

It's disappointing that it shows the most disregard for comics of any Marvel-made movie, but its biggest failings aren't as an adaptation. It disappoints as a movie.

Fortunately, all this criticism means there's little confusion about what made Guardians of the Galaxy a breakout success. Hollywood traditionally demands a sequel repeat its forebear on a larger scale, and Volume 2 has the opportunity to confidently hone in on the best aspects of the first.

The comedy should play stronger throughout, the characters should get better defined, and the galaxy should visually benefit from the monetary investment that comes with success. Even if Marvel are said to be a tad on the stingy side.

Yes. Some may profess sequels can never truly surpass the original, but these lean times of superhero blockbusters have been particularly good for disputing that: X-Men 2 was a better version of X-Men at a time when conventional cinematic rules still counted for something. Avengers: Age of Ultron was an imperfect improvement upon the lackluster Avengers. Even Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a more satisfying movie than The First Avenger, despite having its own problems, too.

Guardians Vol. 2 can follow in the footsteps of improving Marvel sequels, and when it comes to leading with a satisfying villain, it may have already addressed that particular problem...

We've known for quite some time that classic Marvel villain Ego would play a major role in Vol. 2.

Kurt Russell seems a slightly unlikely choice to play The Living Planet, but we're yet to see anything resembling a planet mass. Indeed, the genre star of 80s classics like Big Trouble in Little China is instead a perfectly cast, referential choice for Star-Lord's much discussed mystery father.

Sadly, these details bear no resemblance to their comic book counterparts. On the page, you wouldn't really care who fathered Peter Quill - its just some guy. You'd also have to do some serious digging to find classic Ego sauntering about as a man. I'm not aware of any human/planet cross-breeding, either, but I wouldn't want to judge anyone's life choices too harshly.

I'm certainly not entirely opposed to the concept of Ego nurturing a humanoid avatar. It doesn't do much to maintain what makes the character unique, but it also isn't completely unheard of. We'll talk more about precedent later this week in our featured fight. For now, I'm going to assume at least somewhere in the movie, Kurt Russell is a CG face on a planet. If Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer taught us nothing else, it's that you've gotta deliver on the cosmic Kirby weirdness!

Either way, Kurt Russell is an instant plus for Volume 2 and a good reason to give it a shot!

His screen presence has always been rock solid, with definitive results found in his collaborations with John Carpenter. Movies like The Thing and Escape From New York have always owned pride of place in genre cinema, but hold special relevance within toady's nostalgic pop culture. From these sources alone, Russell commands charisma, comedy, and credibility as an character-driven action hero, who should be fresh in the audience's collective mind. That can only help Guardians.

As father to Star-Lord; Russell feels like a genuine casting choice more than a cheap stunt.
Had Disney called up Harrison Ford from the set of Episode VII, the callbacks to Indiana Jones and Han Solo would've made sense, but also been a little too on-the-nose. Russell scratches that itch well, without reducing it to a nothing more than a reference. This should be a good character performance -- something Ronan sadly never was.

It could still be another disappointment, but hey. It's Hero of the Week, and I'm just happy to be talking about an interesting character we haven't spent much time on!

If you're interested in Ego The Living Planet as he exists on the page, I strongly urge you to be here Friday for our featured fight! If you're reading this entry some time after the fact, just hit this link to go to Ego's greatest hits on The Comic Book Fight Club! You can also dive into the Secret Archive to check out featured fights catalogued by publisher, series, and issue number!