Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Devil's Night gives way to Halloween and yet another year of monsters, maniacs, and menaces who prowl in the shadows! Only the bravest heroes can fight against the horrors that prey upon the human psyche. This edition of Cover to Cover will provide you safe passage to some of the most chilling and macabre battles recorded in the annals of The Comic Book Fight Club!

Beware as you confront the terrors of: Mephisto, Morbius The Living Vampire, Scarecrow, Solomon Grundy, Etrigan The Demon, Mister Hyde, The Grim Reaper, The Demons Three, ghosts, vampires, werewolves, demons, zombies, slashers, and those possessed by the darkest evils! Aiding you on your journey are the bravest and most bold: Hulk, Spider-man, Batman, Wonder Woman, Doctor Strange, Punisher, Daredevil, Hellboy, Hawkman, Ghost Rider, Wolverine, Thing, and many more!

Still seeking more thrills and chills? Dive into the Secret Issue Index to discover hundreds of battles from the dark side and beyond! Like & share daily links on Facebook and Twitter to spread the blood amongst your friends! Happy Halloween from Secret Wars on Infinite Earths!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Real Name: Frank Castle
First Appearance: Amazing Spider-man #129 (February, 1974)
Fight Club Ranking: #66

Featured Fights:
- vs DAREDEVIL: Daredevil #257 (Aug 1988)
- vs X-MEN: What If...? #24 (Apr 1991)
- vs TOMBSTONE: Cage #3 (Jun 1992)
- vs CAPTAIN AMERICA: What If...? #51 (Jul 1993)
- vs DAREDEVIL: Daredevil #65 (Nov 2004)
- vs RHINO: Punisher War Journal #3 (Mar 2007)
- vs DEADPOOL: Deadpool: Suicide Kings #2 (Jul 2009)
- vs THE HOOD'S SYNDICATE: Punisher #5 (Jul 2009)

I was pretty disappointed when War Machine became the latest casualty of a Marvel event. It seemed like a gratuitous, cynical response to the creation of Ironheart, potentially without consideration for the long term relevance of the character in the Marvel Entertainment pantheon.

Yet, if you're anything like me, you also enjoy the way The Punisher occasionally picks up weapons and tools from other characters when he's allowed to operate in the Marvel Universe. So news that Frank Castle will soon be wearing the War Machine armor as part of Marvel Legacy is kinda neat.

Stories like this can always be divisive, but I kinda get a kick out of the way it revisits a personal favourite issue of What If...?In Volume 2 #29; Captain America is thawed into a modern world populated by familiar characters in unfamiliar guises. Red Skull masquerades as President Steve Rogers, commanding an oppressive military force equipped with suits of armor by Tony Stark. Star Iron Man is Frank Castle, wearing a War Machine-esque greyscale version of the suit. He eventually does the right thing, joining a weird What if version of the Avengers that includes a Wendigo Wolverine and Giant-Man Sam Wilson.

Punisher is, of course, also starring in the live-action Netflix series spinning out of Daredevil, ready to binge next month. Which is more than enough reason to make Frank Castle our Hero of the Week!

Monday, October 23, 2017

Real Name: Dru-Zod
First Appearance: Adventure Comics #283 (April, 1961)
Fight Club Ranking: #196

Featured Fights:
- vs SUPERMAN: Action Comics #846 (Feb 2007)

What do you do about a menace like General Zod?

Once upon a time this guy was more famous for his absence than any present-day threat he posed to Superman! How he became Hollywood's impression of the ultimate nemesis of The Man of Steel is a little bit baffling, but I can't say I'm opposed to comics following suit! He's one of the better vessels for exploring the persistent idea of a Superman gone bad, and recent results have been pretty fun!

Around this time last year Zod was a surprising arrival in the pages of Suicide Squad, where he lingered for a while. Earlier this year, he joined the ranks of The Superman Revenge Squad. Next he's heading for a showdown with the willpower of space cop Green Lantern!

CBR featured a preview for the 2018 story, which will reportedly see General Zod take over a small planet -- drawing the attention of the Green Lantern Corps! "The Power of Zod" begins in January's Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #37, which seems like a fun editorial swap given Sinestro was causing trouble for Superman just last month!

Like other recent Heroes of the Week, it feels like this is another step in the direction of fun, character focused comics. The fact that General Zod hasn't been a definitive part of the past few decades gives him extra leeway, but what's been done so far is a lot of fun. Tracking his movements feels akin to stories we talked about in last week's HOTW for Juggernaut, albeit in tighter succession.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Real Name: Cain Marko
First Appearance: X-Men #12 (July, 1965)
Fight Club Ranking: #43

Featured Fights:
- vs SPIDER-MAN: Amazing Spider-man #230 (Jul 1982)
- vs SPIDER-MAN: Amazing Spider-man #230 (Jul 1982)
- vs COLOSSUS: Uncanny X-Men #183 (Jul 1984)
- vs NIMROD: Uncanny X-Men #194 (Jun 1985)
- vs CAPTAIN BRITAIN: Excalibur #3 (Dec 1988)
- vs DEADPOOL & SIRYN: Deadpool: Sins of the Past #2 (Sep 1994)
- vs SUPERMAN: DC versus Marvel #1 (Mar 1996)
- vs SPIDER-MAN & WONDER WOMAN: Unlimited Access #1 (Dec 1997)
- vs TEEN TITANS: Unlimited Access #3 (Feb 1998)
- vs HULK & DOCTOR STRANGE: Marvel Adventures #14 (May 1998)
- vs AVENGERS: Thunderbolts #150 (Jan 2011)

Last year on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths we set about filling in gaps from the iconic fighting career of Juggernaut.

The X-Men villain with an occasional heart-of-gold used to be a bit of an attraction, stomping through the Marvel Universe with a relatively well maintained path of destruction. Guest appearances by Juggernaut were usually worth paying attention to, infrequent enough to keep his movements fairly consistent, even as he faced a list of increasingly diversified opponents!

The eighties were a particularly fun decade to track Juggernaut's movements, told through memorable sequential appearances in a variety of series. We added a small sampling of some of them, with loosely related fights from Amazing Spider-man #230, Uncanny X-Men #183, and Excalibur #3.

These relatively simple to read issues were always fun, and it looks like Marvel thinks so to, announcing a classic style Juggernaut return coming in Uncanny Avengers #29!

It's a reference to classics that feels in-step with Sabretooth's return to the pages of Iron Fist, and Cyborg Superman getting up to no good in Action Comics. I'm getting a real kick out of seeing more of these character-driven, stand-alone issues and I hope everyone else will too!

Sometimes it's just nice to grab an issue off the shelf and enjoy the ride with one of your old favourite characters. It may not be as absent from the modern line-up as it seems, but it feels like the kind of approach we're overdue seeing more of. There's still Secret Empire fall-out in this one, and I'm not the biggest fan of the blending line-ups (of Avengers/X-Men), but hey. Issues like this can always win you over. It's sure made Juggernaut our Hero of the Week!

Monday, October 09, 2017

Real Name: Walter Kovacs
First Appearance: Watchmen #1 (Sep, 1986)
Fight Club Ranking: #278

Featured Fights:
- vs MOLOCH: Watchmen #2 (Oct 1986)

It's been over a year since it became apparent that the world of Watchmen was on a collision course with the Rebirth DC Universe. Doctor Manhattan's blue glow was projected onto a variety of events, including The Button, which put Batman, Flash, and Professor Zoom on the trail of the pastiche universe. This inevitably led to months of false-positives as looming stories were falsely attributed to a controversial crossover. With the impending arrival of Doomsday Clock - it's finally time.

We still know so very little about what the series really will be. There's an ever-ominous feeling in the air. It's been easy to hypothesize DC Comics is headed for another drastic restructuring, a concrete reversion, perhaps, to restore the iconic reality lost to The New 52. This expectation of upheaval prepares us to expect the unexpected, but seeing Rorschach is still a surprise.

CBR has featured a black & white preview for the series, which raises more questions than it answers. Everyone knows Rorschach died at the end of the revered twelve issue maxi-series, but with his face enshrouded in an ever-changing mask, can anyone really be sure Walter Kovacs is alive?

The quantum possibilities of Doctor Manhattan open many doors, but as with all things Watchmen, one wonders if any should be opened. If it borders on sacrilege to open the file closed by Alan Moore, what would it mean to undo his work? Such an act would once seem inconceivable, but there aren't many sacred cows in today's pop culture landscape, and Geoff Johns' role in The New 52 and DC movies has drastically changed impressions of his creative voice.

The Johns of old was wonderful at capturing the classic spirit of characters and renewing them for a modern take. One wonders if DC wouldn't be better leaving their beloved deviant text alone, to focus attention on the neglected inspirations for its characters. It feels as if its been so long since The Question walked the streets of the DC Universe. Perhaps we'll see he and his Charlton fellows soon.

Even as a relative skeptic about the reverence of Watchmen, I start to feel a little queasy about where things are headed. The meta narrative of the post-Crisis DCU sharing DNA with 1986's Watchmen has a certain appeal, but this decade has been so destructive, it's hard to walk with any faith.

The return of Rorschach is enough to make him the Hero of the Week, but it remains to be seen if Doomsday Clock will be a daring risk -- or just another tale of DC devouring itself.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Real Name: Selina Kyle
First Appearance: Batman #1 (June, 1940)
Fight Club Ranking: #34

Featured Fights:
- vs ELEKTRA: Marvel versus DC #3 (Apr 1996)
- vs ABOMINATION: DC versus Marvel #4 (Apr 1996)
- vs POISON IVY: Batman #611 (Mar 2003)
- vs HARLEY QUINN: Batman #613 (May 2003)
- vs BATMAN: Solo #1 (Dec 2004)
- vs CHEETAH: Catwoman: When In Rome #4 (Mar 2005)
- vs BATMAN: JLA #118 (Nov 2005)
- vs BATMAN: Batman: The Mad Monk #1 (Oct 2006)
- vs TRIPLE THREAT: Catwoman #63 (Mar 2007)
- vs CHEETAH: Catwoman #78 (Jun 2008)
- vs JASON TODD: Batman: Battle for the Cowl #2 (Jun 2009)

As a general rule of thumb: I don't like hard reboots.

Movies, video games, comics... Contemporary culture is rife with do-overs and remakes, ranging from the utterly ill conceived -- to the passable, but largely unnecessary.

You have to make a real mess to actually need a hard reboot in serial fiction. It's almost by definition a submission of total and utter failure, and is best thought of in those terms. That was basically the case in 2005 with Batman Begins: a justifiable revival of Batman on the big screen, eight years after Batman & Robin rendered the idea unpalatable, if not unprofitable.

Christopher Nolan's new entry into an already fractured adaptation process was actually sold within the framework of a contemporary trend of prequels. It offered the untold story of Batman's origin. Its Joker epilogue was even discussed as a plausible allusion to Tim Burton's 1989 Batman, as much as teasing a prospective sequel. It wasn't necessarily designed to be the template for a generation of ill conceived imitators and an eroding, colourless cultural apocalypse. It just worked out that way.

I'm drawing a long bow in today's Hero of the Week, even if it's revisiting common themes persisting on the blog. How this relates to Catwoman is in the big questions raised by news Selina Kyle has recently become engaged to be married to Batman in DC Comics.

This won't be the first time Batman and Catwoman have said "I do".

The pair were hitched in the reality of Earth-Two in the late 1970s. It was the culmination of their relationship in almost forty years of publishing: part of an aging counterpart continuum to the modern Silver Age, designed to maintain and advance the Golden Age heroes on their own Earth.

The Bat & Cat spawned a precursor to today's Huntress: a vigilante daughter named Helena Wayne. She took up the costumed fight for a new generation when her mother was murdered by a former associate. Eventually all of this was undone by the hard reboot of Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Earth-Two had its fans and Crisis created many headaches in the decades that followed, but it was always somewhat justifiable for advancing the mission to create a definitive DC Universe. After all, the DCU as we know it wasn't planned. Many characters joined through corporate acquisitions, and were created completely disparate from one another, without a plan to be everlasting cultural icons.

Crisis brought it all together in one place, at a time when refining the definitive vision of characters was still a work in progress. Much of what was done in the eighties is still underlying in modern incarnations. Minor adjustments along the way restored and refined elements decided upon in the eighties, to create what I would argue was close to a definitive DCU in the 2000s.

Then came the much maligned New 52 and a reprisal of the line-wide reboot with no real purpose, and few benefits. A self-made problem, an arbitrary breaking of the chain, now half-heartedly being addressed with the current Rebirth initiative. Results have still been very mixed, and Batman's proposal is one of the elements that raised a lot of questions about Rebirth's actual intent.

Eighty years of publishing tells us DC Comics is at its best when their heroes are iconic and instantly recognizable. Changes may occur over time, but the framework for advancement is limited within a clearly understood centre of the characters. Efforts to challenge this only divide the audience, create repetitive storytelling, and produce ever diminishing returns. Verisimilitude fading.

So, can Batman and Catwoman be married without plunging the DC Universe towards another unwanted wiping of the board?

Doomsday Clock and the expected intrusion of the Watchmen universe is keeping an apocalyptic feeling about DC Comics, who've spent far too long selling the world on the concept of their own death. One hopes Geoff Johns is returning to his best to create a way forward that is iconic and positive, but will he need to break everything to do that? Can another break really make things stronger?

The Batman/Catwoman romance has been enjoyable in the past, but it raises some big questions about the future of DC Comics as we know it. Maybe they won't really get married. Maybe it's just a passing story. Or maybe it's another cheque written that can't be cashed. A foolhardy decision that can only end in the kind of total and utter failure that leads a company to need a hard reboot.