As we left off on Monday, Nightwing’s beloved home circus burned to the ground thanks to that jerk Firefly. Dude’s sort of a mercenary, getting paid to ignite whatever his employer wants. Still, that doesn’t mean that Firefly doesn’t deserve to be punched into a unconscious heap by our young vigilante.
As we finish our story today, we pick up in the middle of the Batman event War Games. Once again, the city’s at war and aflame. Gotham City gets blown up a lot when there’re ten Batman comics to write every month.
Luckily, with ten Batman comics every month that leaves lots of manpower to protect their fair city. All non-powered, but a bunch of them anyway. As each member of the Bat posse (Batman, Robin, Nightwing, Batgirl, Onyx, Catwoman, Oracle, Orpheus, etc.) receives a section to beat criminals in, Nightwing finds his inhabited by someone who he still bears a serious grudge.
Oh yeah, despite this occurring a good year or two after Nightwing allowed Tarantula to kill Blockbuster, he’s still riddled with guilt, as most superheroes who commit immoral actions tend to be. Except Punisher. After an evening of gutting and murdering criminals, he soundly goes to sleep counting tiny machine guns jumping over corpses.
We must remember that last time they met, Dick Grayson wore his circus outfit and not that black and blue beauty he currently wears. So Firefly, while he knows of Nightwing and has been kicked by him plenty of times, doesn’t know he incinerated Nightwing’s home. Well, that and one more reason to be fearful of the former Robin. Bad guys are a superstitious and cowardly lot, after all.
Like I said in part one, everything’s way more suspenseful with the background on fire. Symbolism and all that jazz. While Nightwing didn’t actually kill Blockbuster, a little Firefly pantswetting should shift momentum to our hero’s side. More importantly, Nightwing has had fifteen years of training in Batman-style intimidation and fear. Soon, Firefly’ll soil himself on both ends.
Unfortunately, Nightwing’s plan to punch Firefly until his face turns into something resembling a jello mold takes a sharp turn when Gotham’s finest show up.
The relationship between the Bat posse and the GCPD changes every other year or so depending on who’s in command, the horrible tragedy going on, and how much of a jerk Batman’s currently being. When Spoiler (one of the costumes) accidentally sets off a city-wide gang war destroying much of Gotham and taking scores of lives, the relationship between the superheroes and the police has chilled a tad. Like cops shooting freely at anyone in a mask chilly. Luckily, our hero is too fast and skilled to get hurt by measly police bullets.
Okay, so not that fast and skilled. Unfortunately, Grayson’s costume doesn’t contain the armor his adopted father’s contains. More difficult to cartwheel into flying headstands when one has to pack several layers of Kevlar. While our adventure today ends in a cliffhanger (though with Firefly thoroughly punched), it’ll lead up to Friday’s article: an admission of that pesky and total disregard for Batman’s ethics and code that Nightwing passionately broke.
It’s difficult to believe Nightwing has achieved his level of popularity. Not that he hasn’t proved himself as Batman’s partner, Teen Titans leader, etc. But the dude’s good-looking, cocky, over-emotional, dated every DC superheroine, and doesn’t have any superpowers besides an Olympian-level gymnastics ability. Most importantly, Nightwing lacks a fatal personality flaw that endears him to readers. We need that fatal personality flaw — it helps comic book readers relate (who are usually not good-looking, cocky, and able to join Cirque du Soleil). Yet we adore Nightwing (the first Robin, Dick Grayson), maybe because we grew up with him — or more importantly, we saw him grow up within the comic pages themselves — or maybe it’s just nice to see a member of the Bat posse emerge untraumatized and still able to form long-lasting, meaningful relationships. Still, while I don’t know why, I do love Nightwing.
Today and Wednesday, we’ll take a look at a few occasions Nightwing and Firefly tangled over a span of six years, leading up to Nightwing’s Blockbuster confession to Batman on Friday. Please enjoy:
Detective Comics #727, written by Chuck Dixon and drawn by William Rosado
Nightwing #88, written by Devin Grayson and drawn by Shane Davis
Nightwing #98, written by Grayson and drawn by Sean Phillips
Nightwing #99, written by Grayson and drawn by Zach Howard
We’ll start back at the lead in to No Man’s Land, when Firefly makes a horrible mistake.
Meet Firefly (real name Garfield Lynns), a fairly dumb pyromaniac. He possesses no superpowers and no super genius, just a flying battlesuit that shoots fire. And now he has no skin. Firefly’s been buzzing around since 1952, when he premiered as a special effects guy. Eventually, his origin retconned him into the fiery psychopath you just saw here accidentally explode himself.
Lynns didn’t always look like Gollum. But a toxic waste/flamethrower combo can do wonders for turning the human body into a boiling goo pile. Nightwing and Robin battle Firefly for a while before the situation gets infinitely worse for dear Firefly. The best part of having a Firefly fight is the background always gets covered in flames. It makes the scene far more dramatic.
So now you know where Firefly gets the 90% body burns that’s stated in Batman: Arkham Origins. From his own incompetence. Luckily, Robin saves his life, because that’s the obligation superheroes have to obey.
Day saved, moving on. But then we skip ahead a few years, and this is where Firefly burns a searing hole in Nightwing’s heart. Something that will definitely give him an escrima stick to the face later. In Grayson’s occasional visit to his hometown (the circus), he gets recruited for nostalgia’s sake.
See our buddy in the corner? I figure security must be light if a bug-shaped battlesuit can get past the metal detectors or gypsy psychics or whatever the circus uses. And now everything goes bad. Grayson has horrible luck with life tragedies while on the trapeze.
Also, Irving, he’s a superhero, no matter what tanktop and leggings combo he currently wears. Though we mustn’t forget the difference between Nightwing and his brooding mentor. While Grayson proves himself faster and more agile than Batman, he’s also less armored, less protected, and with less tricks on the utility belt. Especially now, because a batarang and grappling hook pouch make quadruple flips difficult to complete.
Our protagonist emerges unharmed. Physically, anyway. He breaks down into a heap of tears on the next few pages. In part two on Wednesday, Nightwing’s vengeance will comes to fruition — he’s going to beat the crap out of Firefly.
That’s not entirely accurate — I’m stretching the truth to shamelessly attract more interest. We’ll be talking about the DC supervillain, as the store Blockbuster got taken down years ago by that superhero Capitalism. But today’s article deals with the climax of a story building up for just about ninety issues. Oh, and Blockbuster gets killed.
So back in the mid-1990s, Nightwing (the first Robin, Dick Grayson) decides to set up shop in Gotham City’s neighbor Blüdhaven. Same crime-ridden city with far less Bat people running around. But like always when a superhero finally becomes content in their life and just in reach of that elusive happiness they so desperately deserve, that inevitably triggers the spiral towards tear-soaked despair. We’ll see parts of that (and a bunch of kicking) in Nightwing #89 and #92-93, written by Devin Grayson and drawn by Patrick Zircher & Manuel Garcia.
Hey, remember when Daredevil’s house blew up back in Frank Miller’s famous run? That’s a far more common comic book theme than you imagine.
Keep in mind, this deadly blast follows Blockbuster’s previous actions (Barbara Gordon breaking up with Grayson and his circus burning up). Once you start kicking a superhero when he or she’s down, you can never stop. That’s when they get up and break your face. Here’s some more explosion aftermath to further build your hatred of Nightwing’s current arch-nemesis.
You see the dirt and grime smeared on our hero? I don’t think he bathes once until this arc finishes. Not even a paper towel in the mirror or anything. The Bat family doesn’t react well to deaths they indirectly cause, but at least we get to see Nightwing defeat one of his most dangerous and powerful foes: the media.
As a solution to the Blockbuster problem must now be found (as mob bosses tend to be vindictive and resilient), Grayson and his crimefighting partner Tarantula brainstorm some ideas. Philosophical ideas. Y’see, despite Grayson being more emotional and light-hearted than his mentor, every once in a while Nightwing flashes into a younger, cape-less version of Batman. The scary, brooding, super-strict-code-of-morality-that’s-inflexible-with-no-exceptions version of Batman.
Of course Nightwing won’t kill, no matter what the title of this article says. So much as to prevent Tarantula from offing dudes who have killed enough people to fill a basketball stadium. I’ve thought about this before, and I have a feeling that more readers agree with the Punisher’s methods of superheroes mowing down evil than those who frown on it. As a society, we’re taught to accept an adaptable code of morality that most superheroes do not. Mainly because they’re fictional. And as Blockbuster serves his final dish in this crazy destruction parade, he’s not going to inspire us to think any differently.
Meet Blockbuster — he has a gigantic head, a gorilla heart, and totally no conscience or soul. If you ever need proof of why superheroes need secret identities, it’s to protect them from stuff like this happening:
Dick Grayson, despite his prodigious agility and combat ability, is a normal guy with no fancy superpowers or magic or laser eyes. It’d essentially be a U.S. Olympic gymnast attempting to save everyone he has ever come into contact with. Not really possible or realistic, even for a universe with superpowers, magic, and laser eyes. That code of ethics that Nightwing so desperately clings to comes into question.
Nightwing doesn’t kill Blockbuster. But he does something just as egregious. Despite it being the best possible option. Despite it ultimately saving hundreds of lives. Superheroes always win the fight, but never their guilt — though Nightwing’ll sure as hell try.
After this scene, Tarantula rapes Nightwing. Not a joke. She takes advantage of him in his traumatic state. It’s one of the strangest and most frustrating scenes in DC comic history. I personally hate it and I’m not going to show it to you, but you do deserve to know that it happens. We’ll cover Nightwing’s reveal to Batman and his emotional healing from his own personal betrayal on Wednesday. Next time, Grayson battles Firefly!
False advertising. Batman doesn’t love anything but the sound his batarangs make when they connect with a criminal’s skull. And Alfred. And the Robins. Okay, so he probably loves lots of stuff, but his affection for his closest civilian ally constantly teeters that emotional line. Their friendship and partnership (both words discussed today) can be best summed up with the issue-long conversation in Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #125, written by Greg Rucka and drawn by Rick Burchett.
As No Man’s Land reaches its midway-ish point, Batman finally shows his face once again. Turns out that when Bruce Wayne spends his time in Washington D.C. desperately lobbying for funds to get his city back from the post-apocalyptic wasteland it currently resembles, his alter ego won’t be patrolling the dimly lit streets of destroyed Gotham City. And really, as effective as one man can be in containing an entire collapsed city, his symbolism speaks far more volume than his grappling hooks. So when he arrives to apologize to Commissioner Jim Gordon about his absence, the two have an actual conversation. Like with feelings and stuff.
Okay, not yet. Neither of the men can really do small talk, but it is refreshing to hear Batman awkwardly discuss gardening. Most of the time he’s growling about murder victims and police inadequacy. But with Gordon no longer tolerating this facade, the real drama finally begins:
Gordon’ll make his point clearer in a few pages. Look, we as readers know Batman has friends. Superman, for one. But his anti-social personality leaves the Dark Knight a little abrasive with his relationships. And frankly, Gordon demands more from their friendship than occasionally accepting hand deliveries of gagged and unconscious supervillains.
When Bane broke Wayne’s back a few years back, Wayne let his insane buddy Azrael take the mantle for a while. He didn’t tell Gordon. When No Man’s Land was announced, Wayne ran off to gather political pull and money. He didn’t tell Gordon. Rinse and repeat the entire run of Batman comics.
The two are stuck with each other, and they know that. Gordon’ll never leave the Gotham police force (despite temporary setbacks) and Batman’ll never stop fighting Gotham crime (despite temporary setbacks), because comic book status quo demands that the two remain together. Forever and ever. Gordon understands that, and he figures after 60 years of adventures (10 years of time passed in the DC universe) that he deserves to at least to be treated as an actual friend. Not an easy task. I mean, even Robin doesn’t get told what Batman’s up to half the time. You’re witnessing Batman’s “hey buddy, it looks like you put on a few pounds” conversation but for his personality. Also, that last panel perfectly sums up decades of built up rage.
You can’t get any more trusting than the secret identity reveal. Though he did tell Joker his real identity in the New 52 and that turned out horrifically. Can we at least just be proud of Batman taking a positive step in one of his relationships? That man has some serious emotional damage. Instead of spending years in intensive therapy, Batman spent his youth learning how to break ninja arms. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices.
Gordon’s response believably expresses his latent frustration while still maintaining that precious status quo. Rucka has been a confirmed genius for years now.
Gordon totally knows Bruce Wayne is Batman. Like Perry White knows Clark Kent is Superman. When our heroes surround themselves with brilliant investigative minds, the truth can’t slink away for long. But luckily the supporting cast also embraces the wonderful compassion that comes with ignoring that your local billionaire/star reporter also lives in a giant Justice League space station. Loved ones get hurt when secrets spill and all that jazz. Oh well.
Anyway, friendship repaired! Next step: saving a depraved and ruined city filled with millions of people from collapsing in on itself in terrifying violence, immorality, and anarchy.
While I normally like to cover stories that may not get the publicity the famous ones do, the famous ones receive that fame for a reason. Usually because they’re expertly written, wildly exciting, or heartbreakingly sad. We hit the last category today. The gigantic Batman event No Man’s Land comes to a close in Detective Comics #741, written by Greg Rucka & Devin Grayson and drawn by Damion Scott & Dale Eaglesham.
Gotham City Police Commissioner Jim Gordon, despite always chain smoking and looking as if he just got off a three-day shift, has had his fair share of paramours. Not as many as Bruce Wayne, but Gordon also isn’t a gorgeous billionaire who dresses as a giant bat to punch muggers off rooftops. Actually, I didn’t much research Gordon’s love interests. But the main two (and really the only two necessary to know) will always be his two wives: Barbara Gordon and Sarah Essen Gordon. In Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One arc, Gordon and Sarah begin an affair. Even Batman’s red-headed buddy has his morality crushing vices. Anyway, cut to many years later, with both Gordon and Sarah divorced, they start dating and get married in Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight Annual #2, written by Dennis O’Neil and drawn by Michael Netzer:
It had been a rough night for both of them. We cut eight years later to the end of No Man’s Land in early 2000. One final scheme from the Joker. As usual, it’s twisted and’ll end with readers’ tears soaking the pages of their comics. Make sure your keyboards are waterproof.
Y’see, the Joker lies. A lot. The heroes split up to cover the city — but every baby just turns out to be dolls that explode on contact. Cue lots of destruction and close calls. Joker totally hoarded the babies himself. Unfortunately, when they figure out exactly where he’s hiding, only one person happened to already be on the scene.
Beautiful art showing the horror on Gordon’s face mixed with a nauseating angle. We forget that as gimmicky and silly Batman’s supervillains can be, they’re also almost all unrepentant and dangerous killers. Killer Croc eats people, for goodness sake. And the Joker? Nothing funny about his body count. [Ed. Note: Sorry, that type of joke won't happen again.]
Look, the majority of you have read this before and everyone else can probably guess what’s about to happen. I’m not great at subtlety. But I didn’t pick this issue for the upcoming trauma — it’s the reaction from Gordon and Batman that grabbed me. To see Gordon at his weakest and Batman dropping all facade of scary criminal puncher puts both characters in a human light the DC universe sometimes lacks. But let’s continue — and this next scene pains me (and I’m sure you) every time I have to reread it.
When Flashpoint occurred a few years ago to reset the DC universe, Gordon’s marriage to Sarah no longer happened. Any record of her has been erased in the annals of “official” DC history. I don’t mind, they’re fictional characters after all, but it doesn’t erase the emotional impact of Gordon’s immediate mourning and rage. Especially the rage.
I’m fascinated by Batman’s declaration — we know he wouldn’t let Gordon kill the Joker. After all, the commissioner’s partnership with Batman relies on Gordon forever being that one incorruptible cop. We really don’t give Gordon as much credit as a supporting character as we should. He serves as Batman’s father figure just as much as Alfred does. We end today with both a bang and a whimper. Wipe those tears away.
If you haven’t read the gigantic Batman crossover event No Man’s Land, good luck. I mean, of course you should read it, but it’s over a hundred issues encompassing like eight different series and the New 52 wiped the event from history anyway. Still, as I consistently go back and scour the NML issues, I always find new gems to show you. Like Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #126, Batman #574, and Detective Comics #741, all written by Greg Rucka & Devin Grayson and drawn by Damion Scott & Dale Eaglesham. For reference, that’s simply part one, two, and three of a single arc. The ’90s were a weird time for comics.
Anyway, as our year comes to a close and Gotham City (wrecked by a massive earthquake that turned the place into an inhospitable gang-infested post-apocalyptic wasteland) seems to finally reach the bright light of hope and redemption.
The foreshadowing serves for Monday’s article. Luckily, with the government, Lexcorp, and Wayne Enterprises stepping up the resources and financial aid, Gotham has a chance to return to the bleak, crime-ridden city it used to be. Really, the same as NML just with electricity and running water. But as our story ends, one major player never had his chance in the spotlight.
We’ll see part one of his plan today. Hint: it involves killing lots of cops.
Some background: Gotham police captain Billy Petit used to be a be a loyal and honorable cop. But traumas change people, man! He rules/protects a portion of Gotham through tough love, just with that troublesome love part switched out for huge doses of crazy. Huntress, former schoolteacher and mob daughter Helena Bertinelli, has spent the past year desperately holding sections of the city together. Many times through just sheer willpower. She became an unofficial Batgirl to scare bad guys when Batman disappeared for a few months. She clawed and arrow’d most of the Dark Knight’s rogue gallery. She remains the sole voice of reason in a large area of Gotham wrapped around the finger of insanity. And finally, the powder keg bursts, leaving poor Huntress to pick up the pieces. Also, Batman doesn’t like her.
I’m going to skip Petit and gang’s battle against the Joker. Essentially, Joker has both cops and henchmen dress up in identical Joker costumes, forcing Petit and friends to kill their own men attempting to shoot the real deal. Finally, Huntress stands alone. Against a dozen criminals and two supervillains. Did I mention she has no superpowers?
Well it seems I’m mistaken. She does have one superpower: that icy cold glare. Seriously, doesn’t Batman’s Bat posse possess the coolest female superheroes? Huntress, Catwoman, Batgirl (Barbara Gordon, Cassandra Cain, and Stephanie Brown), The Question, Manhunter, etc. And now watch Huntress fight Joker’s entire army by herself.
Unfortunately, the no superpowers thing comes with a weakness for bullets. You’re still proud of her, right? She did pretty well until Joker did the whole gun shooting.
You can figure out what happens next. Batman, known for his theatrics, swoops in just in time to save the day. But Joker has just begun to terrorize, and if you remember the finale of NML, it’s going to be crazy heartbreaking. Also, truckloads of babies.
I bring this story to your attention mainly because the next big Superior Spider-Man arc’ll deal with his war against Green Goblin which has been building up since the series began. Our dear cop and former Spider-Man roommate Vin Gonzales counts among Green Goblin’s ranks and I figure if he’s going to show up again (no guarantee, but good chance), we should all take a look at why.
In Amazing Spider-Man #587, written by Marc Guggenheim and drawn by John Romita Jr., our hero policeman gets arrested. For a crime he actually committed.
Notice all that shenanigans involving the “tracer killings” and conspiracy and other complicated words? Y’see, when the police would investigate murder scenes in their fair city, the bodies would consistently contain a spider-tracer (the GPS device Spider-Man uses to track bad guys) on them. Well, turns out some of the officers who had a bit of loathing in their heart for the dear web-slinger planted them on the dead dudes they came across. Some officers like Vin Gonzales. He explains himself in Amazing Spider-Man Extra #3, written by Guggenheim and drawn by Fabrizio Fiorentino & Patrick Olliffe.
Remember yesterday’s article? To throw suspicion off, Spider-Man lies that he uses Gonzales as a decoy secret identity. Because of that, Gonzales gets kidnapped and beaten by Ana Kravinoff. Well, not because of that, but that’s what Gonzales believes and Spider-Man let him believe.
Gonzales goes to jail for six months. You know how some inmates find religion in prison? In Amazing Spider-Man #647, written by Fred Van Lente & Zeb Wells and drawn by Max Fiumara & Michael Del Mundo, our supporting character returns to the pages of the comic he premiered in. If you remember my previous article, that’s also the same issue Parker and Carlie Cooper become an official couple. The same Carlie Cooper that Gonzales used to totally crush on.
Unfortunately, he can only make apologies and not confessions of love. Cooper’s into Parker now. And by the way, Parker also slept with Gonzales’ sister Michelle a few dozen issues back. No wonder Gonzales hates Spider-Man. During Harry Osborn’s farewell/Halloween party — he’s taking his newborn son and going underground to escape his father — Gonzales has a goodbye as well.
Look, the Green Goblin name still carries with it a certain amount of dread and fear. But to Harry Osborn? That man has been through way too much crap with his father to be scared anymore. We’re talking drug addictions, revenge plots, supervillainy, chemical overdoses, faking death, kidnappings, etc. His father even steals Osborn’s girlfriend Lily Hollister (the mother of that baby attached to his chest). So while his father can parade around in his wild schizophrenia to accomplish whatever delusional goal he’ll eventually bungle, Osborn will not let Norman dictate anymore aspect of his life. Time to send a message, and Harry knows the only way supervillains listen.
Vin hasn’t shown up in comics since. But at least now if his face pops up in the next few months, you’ll know why. And my goodness, can Harry Osborn be horrifically terrifying.
To make up for the delay of today’s article, I promise it’ll be super long. I’ll combine two articles into one and resume normal schedule on Wednesday. Thanks! I love you guys and girls.
Instead a lengthy introduction (which I’ll still do), let’s pick up as the two best friends Spider-Man and Daredevil hang out/club criminals:
Today, I hope you enjoy Amazing Spider-Man #565-567, written by Marc Guggenheim and drawn by Phil Jimenez. We’re sitting in the perfect late-2000s Spider-Man. His marriage has been freshly dissolved by devil fistbumps, and he still struggles to maintain a successful (and financially stable) personal life now without a supermodel waiting at home to ease his major emotional baggage. I know dear Peter Parker makes jokes in costume, but y’know — tears of a clown and whatnot. Though a little less than a hundred issues after this (and they pump out a new issue every other hour, so it’s like two years of real time), he finally gets that fancy job and beautiful girlfriend he so badly deserves. I mean, until he dies a few dozen issues later.
Anyway, Spider-Man currently faces another problem all too familiar and wildly annoying: a Kravinoff.
Comic book rule: if a supervillain’s offspring shows his or her face in comics, there’s a 100% chance he or she is either horrifically emotionally or mentally damaged. Most likely both. Seriously, think of supervillain children: Harry Osborn, Scarlet Witch/Quicksilver, Sin, Cassandra Cain, Jericho/Ravager, Talia al Ghul, etc. And now meet Ana Kravinoff, the lovely daughter of Kraven the Hunter. And like hunting lions in the African savannahs, first you have to weaken it by forcing the lion into unemployment. Then ruining its lion roommate’s life. Finally drag the lion deep into those African sewers for a fun game of run-or-be-speared. Probably. I’m not really much of a hunter.
Speaking of Spider-Man’s roommate, you should learn about Vin Gonzales — a NYPD cop, all around good dude, and with a horrible hand dealt by the oozing aura of Parker’s awful luck.
I think you may have a vague idea of where this is going. The dark lighting and article title pretty much give away Kraven Jr.’s mistake.
Cool eye makeup, right? It doesn’t do much for camouflage, but I figure that matters little when she can just cut out the heart of anyone who gets too close. For reference, Vin has no idea Parker’s Spider-Man. And he’s also wearing Parker’s only outfit. Our hero can’t fight crime in street clothes — Luke Cage already claimed that costume. Though remember in Ultimate Spider-Man when Venom battled Parker in a hoodie in the rain on his school’s football field? That was a great arc.
I know there’s a grammatical error in that last panel. It bothers me too. More importantly, the Daredevil costume looks strange with eyes — and it took me years of reading comics before I even realized Daredevil’s outfit doesn’t include eyeholes. But even as Spider-Daredevil rushes to save his roommate, poor baby Kraven keeps making mistakes. Y’see, New York City includes hundreds of superheroes and supervillains who scurry over every block of the city. Including underground. Like this nasty fellow:
I agree that “interloper” and “defiler” are big words for a giant rat man. Vermin shows up every once in a while when superheroes traverse sewers. Mole people too. Occasionally the Lizard. Luckily, he also provides enough time for Spider-Daredevil to receive information necessary to save poor Vin’s life. And unlike Batman, Spider-Daredevil uses kindness — a far more effective weapon than concussing thugs on rooftop ledges.
MGH gives its user superpowers for a brief amount of time. The same stuff that lil’ Kraven injected Vin with and the same stuff that definitely flows in Ana Kravinoff’s evil veins. Also, with Vermin an established part of Spider-Man’s rogue gallery, we shouldn’t allow our antagonist as the only one who gets to rumble with the huge talking rat.
To up the embarrassment for Vermin, did you know Ana Kravinoff’s only about twelve years old? I’m serious. The very last page of this arc (which I skip) lists her birth date as 1996, making her twelve when this story came out. I know she looks like an adult, but kids hit puberty more quickly when they spend their childhoods killing elephants with their bare hands. We shouldn’t sweat the details — Parker has been in his late twenties for like four decades by now.
Baby Kraven’s game has simple rules. Spider-Man runs around the sewers until she impales him. It’s a hunt! Though despite Vin being just a normal cop (usually cannon fodder to showcase supervillains), he still gets his moment. His very brief moment.
Remember, Spider-Daredevil just kicked a preteen in the face. While Parker’s a fantastic fighter, he relies mostly on his speed and spider sense and not really any formal training, which is all Kraven Jr. has. That and a full dose of MGH, I guess.
The full extent of Ana Kravinoff’s superpowers sort of rely on the writer’s wishes. Essentially, MGH serves as comic book technology, which like comic book magic, has potentially no limits to what it can do. Honestly, I’m making the assumption she shot herself up based solely on her matching Spider-Man’s superhuman agility. She could just be simply the world’s most sober and impressive seventh grader. Either way, the fight rages on. Our dynamic duo’ll need some assistance from man’s best sewer friend.
Happy ending for all! Except lil’ Kraven mauled by a human rat, but she totally survives to stalk another day. Still, the next scene (and one necessary to prevent a cop’s natural inclination to question oddities), sets up Vin’s destiny and his eventual fall from grace. But more on that Wednesday.
To be fair, that was a pretty terrible explanation by Spider-Man, but at least the curious stench has faded from Vin Gonzales’ mind. The anger and frustration, though? Oh, that never goes away.
In honor of Doc Ock Spider-Man’s battle against the Sinister Six next issue in Superior Spider-Man Team Up #7, I figure we should check out his first fight against the sextet. And buy the next issue, it’ll be awesome!
See? Spider-Man and his buddy Sun Girl versus Sandman, Vulture, Electro, Chameleon, and Mysterio. Notice only five supervillains? Y’see, Doctor Octopus (currently inhabiting Peter Parker’s body) assembled them to form his own superhero team. It turned out badly.
I adore Superior Spider-Man. It’s perfect Doc Ock — all his potential and all the wonderful things he’s attempting as a superhero slowly falling apart by his own ego and brutality. While he may be a better crimefighter than Peter Parker, he’s not a better person, and that’ll eventually be his downfall. Morality tends to matter far greater than talent when it comes to longevity in the comic book world anyway. With his upcoming arc against Green Goblin, I’m a giddy schoolgirl every time a new issue comes out. That and I prefer the comfort of dresses.
Way back in 1964, Spider-Man (actual Peter Parker) first met the Sinister Six led by Doctor Octopus (actual Doc Ock) in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1, written by Stan Lee and drawn by Steve Ditko. The success and praise from this issue comes from a brilliant artistic choice: every time Spider-Man lands the finishing blow (or close to it), we get a gorgeous full page punch. You’ll see.
There you go, the original lineup. We have Doc Ock, Sandman, Electro, Mysterio, Vulture, and Kraven the Hunter — actually pretty close to the current lineup. Kraven’s currently off stabbing dinosaurs with spears in the Savage Land somewhere. Also, he’s cursed with immortality due to the sacrifice of an imperfect clone of Spider-Man in his resurrection ritual, but that’s a different story entirely.
First on the agenda: bait Spider-Man into going through a gauntlet of supervillains.
So if you’ve been reading the beautifully cheesy 1960s dialogue, Spider-Man has no superpowers. I don’t know why, but that side plot gets resolved in two pages, so I wouldn’t think too much on it. Also, I love that J. Jonah Jameson assumes Spider-Man’s illiterate.
To save you from my rambling mid-fight, I’ll post each battle in full (usually three or four pages) and then I’ll ramble.
Round 1: Electro
Yessir (or ma’am), you’ll be getting six of those beautiful full page smackdowns. Electro, like many of Spider-Man’s supervillains, has received some major upgrades in the past two decades or so. Now he can travel through electrical currents and he no longer looks like an ornate Ku Klux Klan member. Though to be fair, he’s still just as punchable.
Round 2: Kraven the Hunter
For reference (and I had to look these all up), Spider-Man talking about Thomas E. Dewey, the Republican candidate for president in 1944 and 1948. Gunga Din references a 1939 movie based on a poem about an Indian Bhishti. I can’t tell if Spider-Man’s being racist or not. Sometimes I get jealous I can’t appreciate name drops back from my grandparents’ day.
Round 3: Mysterio
Beast has a good eight years left before he becomes that blue furball. Also, remember the good ol’ days when a superhero’s power could only be flight (Angel)? Nowadays, if a dude can fly, his wings also double as a portal to a lost dimension of angry giant pterodactyls or something. Also, could someone write that for me?
Round 4: Sandman
In the right environment, Sandman should truthfully be the most dangerous of all Spider-Man’s baddies. You can’t really punch sand. I mean, if he stays away from a hose, Sandman’s pretty much invulnerable. Though he does lack breath-holding spider-strength.
Round 5: Vulture
No one tell Vulture that an old man in a bird costume doesn’t classify him as “the most dangerous of all.” Also, add spider-lassoing to Spider-Man’s set of skills. The 1960s were really a wonderfully silly times for comics. Now while Spider-Man obeyed the conditions of the fight, Batman would have just slammed Vulture’s head into the sidewalk until he talked. Different strokes and whatnot.
Final Round: Doctor Octopus
Oh yeah, and Aunt May declares Doc Ock a gentleman. Sure, he kidnapped two women to lure Spider-Man to his death, but he minded his P’s and Q’s around the ladies. I realize a more effective Sinister Six plan would have been to sic the whole team on Spider-Man all at once, but this way ups the drama. Remember next month to see how Doc Ock Spider-Man deals with his old team. If I were to guess, he’ll probably use webs and punches.
Superman would just punch it into space. City saved, make out with Lois. But poor Green Arrow, with no superpowers, has to take out the mythical creature the old fashioned way — lots of running and praying. Today, Connor Hawke, the Buddhist Green Arrow and Oliver Queen’s son, gets to prove his worth in the heart of China against an unstoppable and unbeatable monster in Connor Hawke: Dragon’s Blood #4-5, written by Chuck Dixon and drawn by Derec Donovan. Though just because Hawke can’t throw the dragon into the sun, how bad can it be? He’s in the Justice League, for goodness sake.
Well, still super scary then. The dragon possesses all those normal dragon qualities. It doesn’t talk like the Hobbit one, but I think Marvel claimed that turf a long time ago. Marvel dragons can be surprisingly wordy.
Speaking just from an artistic standpoint, this miniseries (which is fantastic and you should read all of it) gets notice for restoring Hawke’s Asian features. We keep forgetting he’s a quarter African and a quarter Korean to go along with Queen’s lily white genes. If you noticed in the past story I featured, while Hawke still does lots of cool stuff, he looks just as white as Queen, and that’s not fair to readers who grew up with Hawke as a multiracial role model. Though full disclosure, I’m quite pale myself so my opinion doesn’t really hold much ground in this matter.
Actually, as I edit this piece, I’m not done with my soapbox. Look, I don’t talk about myself much (because I don’t wear a cape and punch bad guys), but I’m an inner city school teacher. And my students love superheroes as all preteens do, but their favorites — Batman, Spider-Man, Thor — are as white as they come. Kids originally read comic books for the fantasy, the escapism of wearing a costume and capturing criminals. Why do so many superheroes have teenage sidekicks? Why did Captain Marvel outsell Superman in the 1950s? And with kids’ attention today competing with iPads, TV, and pop culture — a large chunk of their morals are developing outside of their parents’ influence. Seeing superheroes who look like them acting for the good of the people, protecting not just their family and friends but complete strangers as well, has a much larger effect than you can imagine. Thank god for Miles Morales. Thank god for Luke Cage. Heck, bring on more Vibe. The girls even enjoy Wonder Woman, who like modern literary protagonists (Katniss Everdeen, Hermione Granger, etc.), will always remain a far superior role model than the current celebrities sticking stuff up their butts and molesting dwarfs.
Oh yeah, and Hawke was battling a dragon.
Did you know rats can do that? They can also run up walls. Sleep tight tonight. Strategically, Hawke retreating from his arena into a position where he won’t get incinerated sounds like a good move — but bringing the fight to the civilians creates far more challenges than just sticking the dragon in the heart with a single holy dragon-killing arrow.
The best part of having ancient evils meet modern technology is seeing a subway car slam into a dragon. It’s a joy that leaves my adolescent self to crawl out of my agape mouth and cartwheel around my living room. Ready for the exciting showdown? With his opening created, Hawke finally gets to show off his dragon-slaying skills.
Okay, that’s bad news. If you read the legend earlier in the miniseries which I have totally skipped, the dragon’s hide can’t be penetrated. The old timey archers defeated only after a single scale broke off during a previous sword attack. Luckily, we once again get the beauty of ancient evils and modern technology combining. No swords necessary this time.
We forget the importance of a supporting cast. I know having Robin swing in and kick the bad guy right as he’s about to shoot Batman usually results in less suspense and more deus ex machina, but it also creates more storytelling options than Batman mustering up the final bursts of his strength to overpower the Two Face with a knee in the face for the eighth or ninth time. Though I would never get sick of seeing that.
The city’s saved. Once again the people stay safe, along with a heavy dose of overtime for the clean up crew. Because while Hawke’ll rescue the citizens from certain death, he’s far too busy to pick up a shovel and help dig. That and one more issue of this miniseries left to go. On Friday, get ready for a thrilling surprise, because I don’t know what I’m covering yet.