Punisher vs. Thor

For a man like Punisher who’s so grounded in human limits and reality (to a certain extent), he’s more similiar to Thor — a Scandinavian thunder god who can fly and shoot lightning — than we think. Thor’s hammer isn’t for carpentry, after all.  Ever since Punisher’s teenage years and when Thor was an adorable godling, these two have been entrenched in the soldier lifestyle.  Hell, I bet Thor’s killed more people than Punisher could dream of.  But today, they have to fight, as (are you sitting down for this?) the Punisher is currently on the run from the law.  Time for Avengers to take care of this matter, hence our upcoming conflict from Punisher: War Zone #3, written by Greg Rucka and drawn by Carmine Di Giandomenico.

Frank Castle currently hides in Nicaragua, and by hides I mean wrecking havoc on every weapons trader he comes across.  For a man wanted by every enforcement agency in the known world, he leaves quite a mess everywhere he travels.  So, after the Punisher bested Spider-Man and Black Widow, a more powerful force needs to be called in.  All that’s left is for Thor to find his prey.

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We can be honest here, right?  The Punisher doesn’t stand a chance against Thor.  Not a freakin’ chance.  No weapon or device in his arsenal can even scratch Thor, much less take down the strongest Avenger.  Seriously: Castle could shoot with him with every bullet, rocket, grenade, mine, and whatever alien guns he’s using — it wouldn’t even make Thor bleed.  So being the smart soldier, knowing his time with Thor holds only one conclusion, he’ll have to use the thunder god for something useful instead.  After all, Thor’s better against these weapon traders than every bullet, rocket, grenade, mine, and alien gun the Punisher possesses.

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You remember that scene from Avenging Spider-Man #4 where Hawkeye explains to Spider-Man that he can never, ever miss an arrow shot, because on a team with gods, wizards,  Iron Men, super soldiers, and more, a single missed shot would only make him a normal man instead of a superhero capable of competing on the same level as his other teammates?  It’s relevant.  Punisher most likely spent weeks tracking these men down, finding their weaknesses, engaging in long firefights, watching out for flanking, etc. – and Thor takes down the whole camp in seconds with a single lightning strike. Damn right Hawkeye never misses.

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Now comes the philosophy part of our battle.  I guess the “vs.” in the title is misleading, huh?  No more punches get thrown, but we do get a very revealing moment as we all realize that of course Thor understands everything about Punisher’s mission.  Captain America understands the horrors of war, and Wolverine understands the necessity of killing, but Thor gets why he fights.  While our thunder god may not be on the same intelligence level as Tony Stark, he has a wisdom gained in his thousands of years that the others occasionally lack.

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I’ve made it my personal mission in my own life to never take advice from anyone wearing a cape, but Castle will just have to obey.  It’s not like he can run away.  And that al-Qaeda beard of his won’t let him book any escape flights anyway.  Let Thor rant about war for a while, because it’s most likely the topic he knows the most about anyway.  That or mead.

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“I fight in a war,” the Punisher states, but how amazingly poignant is Thor’s response to that line? “No, you have made a war so that you may fight.”  Just as that exact same reasoning can apply to a multitude of heroes (Batman), we know the end result.  The Punisher’s comics must continue and thus any sense Thor makes will be thrown to the wind.  And oh my goodness does it.  Two issues later and Castle fights Iron Man, Spider-Man, Black Widow, Captain America, and Thor all at once. It’s an eight page battle, which is seven pages longer than Superior Spider-Man lasted when he tried to same thing.

Thor’s plea falls on deaf ears to the Punisher.  As Plato puts it, “Only the dead have seen the end of war.”  That’s more Punisher’s style.


Invincible vs. Conquest

You know Invincible, right?  Normally I only cover DC or Marvel (if just because that’s where the entirety of my knowledge lies), but we forget that on the fringe edges of the comic book universe, other superheroes fight baddies in their own fictional worlds as well.  Like Invincible, the teenage Superman-esque superhero created by Robert Kirkman (who you know as the writer of the Walking Dead).  It premiered in 2003, and is still going strong over 100 issues all linking to one coherent and beautiful story (both those statements also apply to the Walking Dead).  But since plot seeds get planted dozens of issues before they sprout, a cast of characters that would take many paragraphs to explain, and twists that break and repair your little heart time and time again, it’s sort of difficult to find a good Invincible story to show you all.  Luckily, my dear friend Mark Johnston pointed out something that I can touch upon — the primal emotional brutality of the fight scenes.  Let’s take a look today at one of those from Invincible #61-65, written by Kirkman and drawn by Ryan Ottley.

Luckily, the beginning of this arc gives us a thorough explanation of the past few issues.  Y’know, the arc where Angstrom Levy sent dozens of evil versions of Invincible to totally wipe out large portions of the population.  One of the joys of a world not attached to DC or Marvel is that ability to destroy it and reshape it as much as the writer wants.  This should take care of any major back story:

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There’s Invincible (real name Mark Grayson) sitting bedside next to his girlfriend Atom Eve, who received some injuries during the last battle.  Think of Invincible as a younger Superman-type half-alien superhero — definitely the strongest on his planet, but with a surprisingly more complicated family life than the Man of Steel.  His girlfriend’s a human with pink forcefield powers.  There.  No more beating around the bush, let’s get to the set up.  I really shouldn’t write these things at midnight.

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Long story, but think of the Viltrumite people as Kryptonians and this dude as an uglier General Zod flunkie.  Time for some punching, but if you haven’t done so, you should stop here and read the first twelve issues of Invincible.  It’s not as if you won’t understand today, it’s just that the first twelve issues are really, really good.

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Doesn’t this remind you a little of the Man of Steel movie finale?  In about five images, it won’t, but hasn’t enough time passed that we can admit the movie wasn’t that bad?  A great Superman story? No, not really, but as a standalone action flick?  Totally awesome.

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I’m always secretly excited when the bad guys are drawn to be physically imposing.  Conquest (the supervillain’s name) dwarfs Invincible, despite somewhat comparable abilities.  Good.  I don’t think it’s a jock-versus-nerd mentality as much as simply that bigger dudes are scarier dudes.  How frightening would Galactus be if stood only five-foot ten?  That and it would take him way longer to devour the world.  But I promised you brutality.  Blood and gore, right?  Here’s your first taste:

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Remember when Superman died fighting Doomsday?  It wasn’t as if his buddies weren’t around, it’s that Superman was the only person on the entire planet who stood a chance of defeating this behemoth.  And trust me on this, because Doomsday’s first six issues or so consist entirely of the monster tearing superheroes in half.  So when Conquest flies down to Earth, Invincible has no choice — he’s legitimately the only one with enough power to take this dude down.  There’s no Kryptonite in the Invincible universe, my friends.

Still, what sort of superhero fight would it be if our protagonist’s loved ones didn’t intervene?  Miracles can happen and whatnot, especially when the world is watching Grayson getting his face caved in.

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Time for our hero’s lady to save the day!  She’s a superhero too, gosh darn it, and deserves a piece of action just as much as the Grayson does.  If Invincible and Conquest equally match each other’s strength (maybe Conquest a tad higher), the best plan would be to throw a wrench in the fistfight with some other type of cool superpowers.  Let’s watch.  Remember, even godlike Superman sometimes needs to be saved by the human Batman (though Invincible and Atom Eve tend to make out a bit more than Superman and Batman).

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Oh.

By the way, if Superman decided not to hold back, that’s exactly how his fight against Batman would go.  You can imagine Invincible’s response to Conquest shoving his arm through his girlfriend’s body.

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Listen, Atom Eve isn’t dead.  She doesn’t die here.  But Jason, you say, isn’t that a huge spoiler that ruins almost all the suspense of the story?  Kind of.  But she lives, and I’ll tell you why it’s important you know that: if you want to go back and read the series Invincible, you’d start at the first issue.  But I’m showing you sixty three issues down the line — that means every time you see Atom Eve, her relationship with Invincible, and all the phenomenal build-up, that gnawing little thought burrowed in the back of your brain tells you that she’s going to die.  Why get too attached then?  It’s a spoiler that ruins the experience, so she totally lives.  I promise.

Unfortunately, I’m not giving you the end of the story — go buy the book for that.  Here’s a taste:

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I love this series, and I get just as excited each month about this as my Marvel/DC comics.

Have a great weekend, you deserve it.


Aquaman’s Eel problem

About four years ago, I remember watching Saturday Night Live discuss one of President Obama’s triumphant debates over the Republicans.  I forgot the context and the reason, but Seth Meyers made this joke:

Come on, Republicans … you thought you could take down Barack Obama by debating him?  You realize debates are why he’s President, right?  Seriously, all you guys do is complain how Obama is “all talk,” and then you invite him to a forum that is literally all talk. That’s like saying, “Let’s see how tough Aquaman is when we get him in the water.”

Y’see, each of the DC superheroes has their strengths and weaknesses — some physical, other personality — but those downsides are what make the characters so interesting.  And Aquaman?  So maybe he’s not so great to plop down in the Middle East, but may the DC gods and goddesses help whoever decides to challenge him in the ocean.  The supervillain Eel learns this lesson the hard way today in Aquaman #21-22, volume six, written by Will Pfeifer and drawn by Patrick Gleason.

So currently, Aquaman patrols the city known as Sub Diego.  It’s part of San Diego when an earthquake submerged half of it and all of a sudden its inhabitants could breathe in water and no longer breathe air on the surface.  You can read an old article I wrote on it for more details.  But much like all other great DC cities, the mobsters, criminals, and supervillains still make their home there — even if they now live underwater.  Time for Aquaman to show these baddies who they’re dealing with (spoiler alert: Aquaman).

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I’m not saying that a killer whale makes for a better sidekick than, say, Robin, but Hollywood did make four Free Willy movies.  So let’s consider Sub Diego simply a wetter Gotham City.  They even have their very own criminal mastermind, out to take control of the city’s underworld (though isn’t everything sort of considered the underworld now?).  Meet Eel (real name Mortimer Coolidge), a telekinetic so insignificant that he only appears in six issues total.  Three of those are alternative reality Flashpoint issues, so they don’t even count towards canon.  But despite his lousy future, he’s still full of delightful supervillainy ambition.

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When Aquaman has to face the new head of Sub Diego’s mafia — an experience he probably didn’t have to face often in Atlantis — who does he turn to?  Who in the DC universe has fought mobsters more times than Superman’s saved Lois?  And it’s a bunch, because she falls out of a lot of buildings. Aquaman turns to the only other humorless member of the Justice League who, unlike Aquaman, cannot ride his sidekick.

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Can we take a moment and appreciate the cool upwards angle of the Batcave in that first picture?  But let’s talk about Batman’s comment (and ignore him handing Aquaman a deus ex machina) before we continue.  I kinda do think Batman enjoys the “chase,” but that’s only because his entire self revolves around fighting bad guys.  Batman can’t exist in a world without crime, and his claim does apply to most of the Justice League as well.  Hal Jordan lives for the “chase.”  So does Wonder Woman. Green Arrow needs it.  Definitely Nightwing.  Probably not Martian Manhunter, but he has other major issues to deal with.  It’s hard to be a superhero and not enjoy the adrenaline rush that goes with it. Either way, time for Eel to realize the folly of his ways.  Water plus Aquaman equals this:

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Eel’s telekinesis only works around water, but when the local superhero bursts through walls like a fishy Kool-Aid man, what chance does Eel possible have?  On that note, our dear Aquaman makes the mistake all good superheroes do once in a while: he underestimates his opponent.  Mainly because what type of fight would this be if it’s over in a single page?

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Round two, my friends.  Despite Coolidge’s second wind, his opponent wildly outclasses him.  Since I already shamelessly plugged another one of my articles earlier, have you read the article I wrote on mismatched superhero battles?  I should tell you that my self-esteem relies entirely on my blog’s hit count.  Oh yeah, and Aquaman pounds on Eel.

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Look, all these other pages still likely hasn’t convinced you of Aquaman’s water superiority.  It’s just a normal fistfight at this point.  But y’see, Aquaman can’t lose.  Like he had the fight wrapped up from the moment Eel dropped into the water way back in Sub Diego’s origins.  We’re in Aquaman’s house, and his house is disgusting.

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I hope Batman’s taking notes.


1980s Cyclops battles, Pt. 2

We continue our ongoing series where Cyclops has to laser eye blast his fellow X-Men (and a sentinel).  Scott Summers, ever the formidable leader, realizes that sometimes being in command means kicking your team members in the face — though that probably is more effective on a superhero team than, say, an accounting office.  Still, today in two more battles Cyclops has to face all by his lonesome, he shows once again why he’s the undisputed champion of the greatest genetic mutated team of superheroes in the Marvel universe.

Well, maybe not undisputed.  Y’see, in Uncanny X-Men #201, written by Chris Claremont and drawn by Rick Leonardi, Cyclops adjusts to married life outside the X-Men.  He achieved the dream — he escaped the superhero life, let those he mentored continue the legacy, and happily married the love of his life.  But you know that fine line shatters the second it’s stepped on.  Storm wants his title, and Cyclops’ll have to fight to keep it.  It’s like the UFC only with illusions, no rules, and far less humping.

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Punk Storm aside, Cyclops doesn’t stand much of a chance against Storm.  She can summon lightning, fog, blizzards, hurricanes, electromagnetic fields, cosmic storms, hail, and so much more. He’s quick on his feet, but optic blasts can’t take down the Hurricane Katrina of X-Men.  I’m serious, he’s tried before – Cyclops forms a rainstorm in his underwear.  But here’s the catch today: Storm’s de-powered.  No weather control, just face punching.  It’ll be embarrassing if the original X-Men loses to Storm’s kung fu — mohawk or not.

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Most UFC fighters don’t think about philosophy during their fights.  Probably.  Look, Cyclops has a lot going on right now, maybe too much to handle leading the team he originated on.  Or maybe like any good leader, he’s just multitasking his problems.  Optic blast here, marital problems there, Storm laser blasted here, the wife cool with his yellow underwear there.  But Storm, not having to worry about angering her significant other, takes the initiative — superheroes are always too kind to blatantly destroy huge sections of buildings to win minor battles.

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While I early went on a full paragraph about Cyclops’ leadership skills and deserved command of his team, he “retires” for five years until 1991.  He hangs out with the X-Factor team in the mean time, a spin off giving the original five X-Men (Cyclops, Jean Grey, Beast, Iceman, and Angel) a chance to shine one more after getting overshadowed by Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Storm, Kitty Pryde, Colossus, Rogue, etc.  But embarrassing lost to Storm or not, Cyclops retains his awesomeness in X-Factor #14, written by Louise Simonson and drawn by Walter Simonson.

You know about the sentinels, right?  Mutant-hunting killer robots that zap X-Men into dust, right? Meet Master Mold, the ultimate sentinel.  This baby’s a walking talking armory with defense capabilities far beyond those normal boring sentinels.  Think of the best Decepticon and the least angsty Gundam mushed together into one giant ass-kicking robot.  Cyclops has to solo this thing.

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Cyclops’ power gets frequently misunderstood.  Think of it as a long-range punch in the face instead of anything melty.  Concussive energy instead of heat.  But for all the intensity of his laser eyes, he’s going up against an enemy powerful enough shoot off Cyclops’ pants.  Thank goodness he wore his uniform underneath.

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Cyclops, currently under police investigation and possible arrest for blowing up a house (long story) only increases his eventual bail by elbowing a policeman.  I know it’s to save the guy’s life and whatever, but superheroes don’t “chonk” law enforcement — that’s part of the deal of being superhero. Cops’ll occasionally shoot and slander superheroes, but our good guys’ only option is to dodge the bullets and shed those tears underneath the masks.  Though to be fair to Cyclops, he does make a fair (though grim and pessimistic) point in the next few panels:

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See the lesson here?  Save the cops from a deadly giant robot and they’ll forgive your crimes. Education doesn’t end when school does, y’know.  On Friday, we venture over to DC for a few weeks. I figure we should try to even the two companies’ coverage a bit.


1980s Cyclops battles, Pt. 1

Cyclops has a tough job — we don’t give him enough credit.  The X-Men are a wildly diverse, ragtag group of superheroes forced together solely because of that mutation floating in their genetics, and Cyclops (real name Scott Summers), whose job can be best described as attempting to herd cats, must keep his people from clawing each other as much as dodging battleships Magneto occasionally throws at them.  Thankfully, Professor X chose well.  We’ll take a look at four of Summers’ leadership decisions/fist fights from the glory 1980s X-Men days starting with Uncanny X-Men #127, written by Chris Claremont and drawn by John Byrne.  I know this issue came out November 1979, but that’s close enough, right?

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Get ready for some tough love.  Wolverine, a character mostly defined at this point by his irrational confidence, has finally faced that precious fear that other mutants feel when they can’t fully heal within minutes.  I know that growing back organs and hair and skin for Wolverine is supposed to be just as painful as losing them, but it’s not as if he makes much of an effort to dodge anything.  Y’know how the fastest way to a point is a straight line?  It’s like that with him, only with having to dig bullets out of his shoulder later.

But Cyclops, desperate to pull his team back together — as leadership demands — hits Wolverine’s immediate nerve: his masculinity.  Though, if you want to make Wolverine angry, it’s not as if it’s hard. Say a few mean words about Jean Grey, Canadians, his past, his height, his body hair, motorcycles, leather jackets, beer, meat, the outdoors — pretty much anything, really.  The dude has anger issues.

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Cyclops realizes the best way for his team to regain that fighting spirit is to fight with spirit is to chuck X-Men at other X-Men.  It’s not a good plan on paper, but it’ll work itself out.  Plus, I’m sure Cyclops has wanted to punch Wolverine for dozens of issues by now.  Still, all it would take for Wolverine to start flailing is to talk some smack about Nightcrawler, Weapon X, his costume, his breath, his claws, his accent, wild animals, the time he fought the Hulk, grilling, classic cars, etc.  I’m saying Wolverine’s always angry.

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See how easy they all forgive Summers for his stunt?  Wolverine admits Cyclops’ awesomeness!  In front of other people!  With complete sincerity!  Cyclops decides to attack his team as a way of saying, “Look, we lose all the time.  But see?  We still have some fight left in us, so get it together.” And then they go beat up Proteus, even Nightcrawler who took an optic blast to the chest.

In our second story from Uncanny X-Men #175, written by Claremont and drawn by Paul Smith and John Romita Jr., Cyclops gets married to Jean Grey clone Madelyne Pryor.  More importantly, the X-Men get mind-zapped into believing Cyclops is the evil Phoenix out to destroy them.  So Summers, being a man of action, makes the only correct decision — he kicks all their asses.

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We know Cyclops isn’t a powerhouse.  His optic blasts can do insane amounts of damage (see Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men), but the guy doesn’t have any super strength or agility to back it up. Luckily, our hero leads the X-Men.  That helps with strategy when having to fight the X-Men.

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Mohawk dog-collar-wearing Storm is right.  Phoenix could ignite the planet into a second sun if she had one really bad day, so losing an X-Man or two to stop the crazy woman from destroying all life would be an acceptable sacrifice.  Y’know, except that it’s not Phoenix they’re fighting.  And Cyclops pulls some serious Batman-mojo pre-planning to defeat his entire team of people whose powers all outclass his.

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While yes, Cyclops does control the shape of the Danger Room, he doesn’t control the car-crushing steel fist of Cylcops going into his skull.  So illusions can be useful in the initial attack, but if Cyclops can’t laser blast his way past five violent X-Men at once, he’ll be spending his honeymoon confined to a hospital bed.

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Want to learn some Russian?  The word “tovarisch” means comrade, as in the never before uttered sentence, “Can you scent our quarry, tovarisch?”  When did Colossus start talking like a Victorian British nobleman three whiskeys into his annual fox hunt?  Remember his earlier scream, “Murderess! Have you come to gloat over your butchery?”  Colossus must have learned all his English from Shakespeare plays.

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And success!  By the way, it’s fascinating to see how Russian-born Colossus talks compared to American-citizen Rogue.  She uses words like “ah’d’a” while Colossus’ vocabulary stems entirely from SAT booklets.

On Wednesday, Cyclops continues punching X-Men — this ol’ timey stuff is fun to read.


The Atom takes on the Titans

Size-changing superheroes don’t get the credit they deserve, like not being in the Avengers movie, for instance.  But we always forget that shrinking means more than cartoonishly running away from your own house cat.  If heart disease kills more people than any other cause of death, why would a superhero not fear a little man surfing a red blood cell into his aorta?  Today, one supervillain team learns this the hard way by going up against the Atom Ryan Choi in the controversial Brightest Day crossover Titans: Villains for Hire Special one-shot, written by Eric Wallace and drawn by Fabrizio Florentino.

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Major supervillains hanging out in your home never ends in coffee and Grey’s Anatomy marathons. Especially Deathstroke, who spends most of his time in comics fighting seven or eight Teen Titans at once.  And while Choi doesn’t know this yet, this issue’s Titans title implies a team effort.  So in a fight against Deathstroke that he may (slim chance) be able to win, it’s about to get exponentially harder.  Plus, lots of trips to Ikea to replace all the destroyed furniture.

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Some of the suspension of disbelief in superheroes remains in the usefulness of martial arts. Batman goes into combat armed only with batarangs and an overbearing sense of justice, but if he destroys a small battalion of soldiers, we don’t even bat an eye.  I wonder the effectiveness of kung fu against high-powered rifles and such, but I also don’t question when a man can shrink and grow at will, so my priorities may be lopsided.  But while a trained fighter like Cheshire (well, including Deathstroke to be fair) can totally karate chop Atom into a defeated mess, it’d help to have some extra muscle around.

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The size-changing powers make for some cool fight scenes.  Though I figure if a man can make his tattoos come alive, he’d have more than a mere handful.  Cover himself head-to-toe in laser guns and body armor and giant bears and pterodactyl wings.  But then again, the only thing a tattoo would bring alive in me would be regret.  I’m old fashioned, as in, I don’t know how I would explain my full Captain America back tattoo when I’m in the nursing home.

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The next step would be to go microscopic and leave the house through the floorboards.  Atom could gather up Superman to throw them all in space before they can attack again.  Size-changing seems to be a more defensive than offensive power, but then again so is Kitty Pryde’s phasing ability and she’s destroyed enough sentinels to fill a small city.  Unfortunately, Deathstroke survives by being evil Batman — being prepared for every possible situation no matter what.  That and a few more friends.

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I’m no scientist, but a few well-placed kicks in the brain should be enough to defeat Cheshire.  No amount of judo or karate can protect the brain from a small superhero climbing in your naval cavity to uppercut your noggin.  Especially when Choi keeps his normal strength even while tiny.

In one of the strangest twists, Deathstroke then does something noble.  I mean, he did break into Atom’s house and is currently attempting to murder the superhero, but like supervillain-level of noble.

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And with that, no innocent bystanders will be hurt as Deathstroke’s Titans claw and ignite the Atom. Also, can we talk about how ethnically diverse Deathstroke’s team is?  He’s an elderly man leading an Asian woman, an African-American man, and a woman made of lava.  Plus, let’s not forget the final member of his team: the Middle Eastern magic Superman:

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Poor Atom, he may be a member of the Justice League, but I can’t think of any Justice Leaguer who could solo the whole team now.  That and Deathstroke hasn’t lifted a finger yet.  Shouldn’t the man in charge have his moment in the spotlight?  He is, after all, the main jerk here.

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Choi loses.  It’s inevitable.  But we’re talking about a Brightest Day crossover — an event that’s own name implies a sense of happiness and relief.  Sure, superheroes get beaten up all the time, but we must trust that help will come for dear Atom — every superhero story builds suspense that way. Because while Choi lies bloody on his floor, we know that good will always triumph over evil, fate will always reward those who fight for justice, and bad guys fail every time they try to emerge victorious over the world’s true heroes.

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Oh.

Or not.  Say goodbye to Choi, who never shows up in a comic again after his unfortunate death here. What a total bummer, right?  I’ll try to find something more uplifting for Monday — or at the very least no superheroes impaled on swords.

 


Kitty Pryde vs. Emma Frost

One of Cyclops’ lovers has once again become evil.  How sad.  That man likes a certain type of lady, I guess. With Cyclops out of the picture, today it’ll be Kitty Pryde who’s going to punch the crap out of Emma Frost.  As a quick reminder, notice the similarities between the famous panel from last article and today’s homage?

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Seriously, superheroes spend more time in sewers than sanitation workers.  Sit back today and enjoy some of the good stuff (though there’s nothing bad in the entire run) from Astonishing X-Men #15-16, written by Joss Whedon and drawn by John Cassaday.

Some quick back story if you don’t mind: Emma Frost always had ties to the Hellfire Club, the billionaire socialite evil X-Men-antagonizing club that shows up every now and then to annoy whoever’s currently at the school.  Actually, their premiere, which the last article touched upon, also introduced Emma Frost for the first time.  And now the White Queen’s betrayed the X-Men to side with her Hellfire Club buddies once more (well, it’s actually way more complicated than that, but I don’t want to spoil the twist).  As the baddies target the X-Men one-by-one, Kitty Pryde meets Negasonic Teenage Warhead. I didn’t make that up.  That’s her actual supervillain name.

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Shoving Kitty into the deep layers of the earth should take care of her for a while.  Not permanently, of course, as that would require something drastic like a gigantic planet-killing bullet.  Sadly, Emma Frost’s psychic attacks and creepy Hellfire buddies have successfully taken down the X-Men.  I know I’ve given you no context and zero scenes to appreciate him, but Victorian child Wolverine may be the best part of the entire arc.

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Just like her mentor Wolverine’s solo raid on the Hellfire Club, Kitty’s ready for her own lone wolf vengeance.  And this isn’t scared 13 year-old Kitty Pryde anymore either.  She’s a trained ninja (Wolverine-certified), tech genius (computer savant), professional dancer (Step Up 3D: Breaking Emma’s Nose), and possesses over a decade of in-continuity butt kicking.

The quotes below reference Astonishing X-Men #2, where Emma shares her feelings with dear Kitty.

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Now, Emma’s going to be punched in the face.

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See?  Told you.  Kitty’s fan appeal comes from the same place Dick Grayson’s does.  We’ve seen Kitty grow up over the years from inexperienced kid to established hero to bonafide leader.  In the DC and Marvel comic universes badgered by the ever present status quo, it’s such a rare opportunity to see real, lasting growth in the characters we love.  And I get it — young, sexy Batman sells far more issues than old, decrepit Batman.  Though both will be equally curmudgeony.

Look, Emma Frost shines as a fantastic character, and I enjoy every moment she shows up.  But she deserves this.  So badly.

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The White Queen stays down there for two more issues, thinking about what she’s done.  And just like all good superheroes, Kitty Pryde quickly puts aside her hatred and resentment of beaten Emma to once again embrace her as a teammate and a friend.

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Okay, maybe not.  But don’t feel bad for Emma, she really did deserve this.


Famous panels: Wolverine

So to summarize my ongoing series, I came across Comic Book Resource’s list of The 70 Most Iconic Panels in Marvel History about a year ago.  Every few months, I like to pick one of the panels and explain the stories behind it.  Think of it as a comic book version of Behind the Music, just with no music whatsoever.  In honor of Wolverine’s starring role in the new movie opening today, I picked Most Iconic Panel #4 that came from Uncanny X-Men #132, written by Chris Claremont and drawn by John Byrne:

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And truthfully, this panel (and the subsequent comic) has been analyzed by many people and websites far smarter and more credible than I am.  But like Wolverine says, it’s my turn.  And also like Wolverine, I’m writing this in a sewer.

The Hellfire Club, a secret organization of billionaires and other high society folks who enjoy pummeling X-Men — as some rich folks enjoy yachting or fine caviar, these socialites instead prefer to wreck superheroes — attacked our heroes and destroyed them.  A bad guy’s credibility depends on an initial success.

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So Wolverine had been in the X-Men for about 30 issues at this point.  It hadn’t been a terribly successful run for him, to the point that his destiny lied nearly in cut-from-the-team obscurity.  Until this issue.  He propelled to stardom because of this issue.  The Hellfire Club, a shadowy group with the worst facial hair in comics, just took down the whole X-Men with gloating ease.  Well, one man survived.  One man’s willing to take on the entire bad guy team by himself.

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Full disclosure: Wolverine never actually solos the Hellfire Club.  Not even close.  Actually, he gets his butt kicked almost immediately upon reaching them.  But the lead up ranks among one of the great Wolverine moments, just for the sheer pants-wetting honesty he delivers to the poor henchmen who cross his path.  Though he first has to slash some of them up.

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Besides his natural musky odor of beer sweat and unwashed back hair, you figure the added sewer drenching would cause the henchmen to gag as soon as they walked in the room, much less allow Wolverine to ambush the squad.  And I know they’re all going to die, but the Hellfire Club’s wealth and status must be the Google of companies to hench for.  They spend all day in air-conditioned mansions eating hor d’oeuvres, listening to Beethoven, and working with bosses who don’t mind doing their own dirty work.  Or growing mutton chops, apparently.

For the last baddie, Wolverine asks him the most important question the dude has ever been asked. Even more important than, “Are you sure this is a good career choice?”

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On a related note, Jean Grey premieres as Dark Phoenix in this same arc.  She’s the redhead in the dominatrix outfit on the far left.  Still, only Wolverine would bust into the room wearing henchmen like scarves, giving the X-Men that vital distraction to begin round two.  I love that little man.

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You can buy the book for the rest of the story.  It’s worth it.

On Monday, we’ll look into the Kitty Pryde vs. Emma Frost fight from Astonishing X-Men.  Not just because it’s totally great and I can’t stop talking about it, but it’s an arc about the Hellfire Club attacking the X-Men, leaving only a battered Kitty Pryde capable of saving the entire team from certain death.  A familiar plot, right?  Very familiar:

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The end of the Hood’s reign

Loki died during the Marvel event Siege.  But he died in that Asgardian god way, as in he came back to life a few issues later.  Unfortunately, Loki’s demise meant the loss of the supervillain Hood’s (real name Parker Robbins) evil magic wizard powers as they were tied to/gifts from the evil magic wizard Loki.  Bad news for the Hood.  Luckily, the Avengers spent most of the battle thumping other supervillains and the Hood manages to escapes with his girlfriend Madame Masque (real name Whitney Frost).

As the end Siege brought forth the beginning of the Heroic Age, it’d be a terrible ending if the former kingpin of New York City flees his crimes to live a happy life in Latveria or Madripoor or other seedy bad guy-friendly places.  So for their final mission as the New Avengers, our protagonists join forces one more time in New Avengers Finale #1, written by Brian Michael Bendis and drawn by Bryan Hitch & Stuart Immonen.  Oh, and while I sort of spoiled it already, I figured I’d leave in the warning — have you read Siege #4 (or looked up what happened on Wikipedia) yet?

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Count Nefaria (a name that obligingly forces him to be a supervillain like his peers Mr. Sinister and Doctor Doom) possesses the superpowers capable of solo-ing Thor.  He’s pretty much invulnerable, and since he lives in Los Angeles which only had one superhero at about that time — the insane non-powered Moon Knight — he rules Los Angeles’ crime unhindered.

Yet to save his daughter, he’ll have to go up against the full New Avengers roster: Luke Cage (team leader, unbreakable skin, no longer wears a tiara); Ronin (Hawkeye pretending to be a ninja); Captain America (the metal-arm’d Winter Soldier); Mockingbird (super gymnast); Ms. Marvel (energy blasts, flight, super strength); Spider-Woman (energy blasts, flight, gross pheromone spray); Wolverine (small, hairy, drunk); and Spider-Man (a requirement that he joins every team during the 2000s).

To find the missing Hood, the New Avengers’ll have to do some ol’ fashioned detective work.  Since none of them are Batman, it mainly involves threats of physical harm.

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With that, the team heads to Los Angeles — the city of Brotherly Love or whatever it’s called — to punch the Hood and Madame Masque until they cry tears of submission.  John King, the Hood’s cousin and current captured fugitive, brings up a fantastic point in the next scene: why bother?  No seriously, why go to all this trouble?  It won’t even take a full scroll across the TV news crawler announcing the Hood’s imprisonment before another flamboyant supervillain takes command of New York’s underground.  But Luke Cage answers John’s simple “why?” with a simple response: because, gosh darn it.

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With Marvel’s sheer amount of mad scientists running around, you figure every person in the Marvel universe would be equipped with a full supply of magic powers to shoot lasers or teleport around, but apparently much like good healthcare, the possibilities only go as far as the cash available:

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Note: it’s not sunset.  With the intensity and bravery that only the powerhouses like Magneto and Doctor Doom can match, Count Nefaria fights all the New Avengers.  At once.  By himself.  Wearing a suit and tie.

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You can click the above picture for a larger version.  Supervillains must really hate the Avengers.  They show up usually with hordes of government vehicles and toys.  There’s always a ton of them, and that sometimes includes Thor who can mop the floor with Spider-Man’s entire rogue gallery in a single hammer swing. Then there’s all the pre-fight trash talking, mid-fight trash talking, and post-fight rubbing-salt-in-the-wound trash talking.  I mean, at least the Fantastic Four take time off to explore the Microverse or Negative Zone.  The Avengers just hang out specifically waiting to roundhouse kick the next disaster.  Count Nefaria doomed himself the moment his daughter poorly chose her new boyfriend.

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Goodnight, sweet count.  May your dreams be filled with not getting clawed open by Wolverine before Ms. Marvel smacks you with the explosive equivalent of a nuclear blast.  As for the Hood, he eventually gains one more shot at supervillain stardom — until he gets hit in the face by a Hulk.  It happens to the best of us.

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The end indeed.


Green Lantern and the Fatality problem

It all started in 1988′s Cosmic Odyssey.  Green Lantern John Stewart, in a moment of weakness, chose ego over help and doomed the planet Xanshi to destruction.  It’s a long story and I’m sure we’ll cover it soon.  But one sole survivor still traveled the stars — Yrra Cynril, now known as the warrior named Fatality.  And when you name yourself Fatality, you’ve pretty much resigned yourself to supervillainy.  Now she travels around and slaughters Green Lantern.  That’s her entire life plan.  While it’s totally Stewart she should be hunting down, she’s fought Kyle Rayner far more.  Here’s one of those times (and my favorite battle between the two) in Green Lantern #177-178, written by Ron Marz and drawn by Luke Ross.

After a really bad day for Rayner, where he loses both his girlfriend and apartment, he must have realized what was about to happen next — every bad day for superheroes must contain a certain quota of bloodshed.

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This is their fourth or fifth fight which Rayner has won every time, including two separate fights she loses one of her arms and replaces it with a robot version.  I guess like if you hit a tree with an axe enough times, it’ll eventually fall over.  Fight Rayner enough times and hopefully you’ll win one. Maybe get robot legs too.

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I always admire the arrogance of supervillains.  They never win.  Not once.  Yet every time they meet their respective superhero, the man or woman or alien who has defeated them in the dozens of encounters they’ve faced over the years, they still feel like they should gloat and talk trash.  In a way, I’m jealous of that wildly high level of (albeit fictional) self-esteem/delusion.

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Poison.  If a battleaxe won’t work, try a subtler method.  Or maybe a battleaxe made of poison.  This is probably why I’m not asked to write comics.

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Willpower’s a tricky concept, it being an abstract concept and all.  Sure, a bad guy could null Green Lantern’s willpower, but that’s the same idea as Scarecrow’s fear gas.  Anything that doesn’t have a numerical value can be changed or manipulated back to normal at any time.  All it takes is a writer to have his or her character announce, “I’ve overcome these feelings!” and we buy it because we don’t have a choice.  Anyway, Rayner gets smacked around a bit more.

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Have you noticed Rayner’s constructs lean on the cartoon-ish side?  Former artist turned space cop cliché.  Oh, let’s talk a bit about Fatality.  Soon, she joins the Star Sapphires, the New Guardians, and totally began a real relationship with Stewart — the Green Lantern who genocided her people.  If I’ve gotten messages from match.com girls who won’t date me because I’m Jewish, how the hell does she get over her boyfriend killing all of her people?  Sure, it was an accident and we’ve forgiven him for it, but for me, I’d find it’d hard to look past his faults and develop any romantic feelings for, say, someone like Hitler.  Like full-on making out in public with the Führer — it would never happen and his mustache would tickle.  Look, I get the symbolism of their coupling and I’m totally willing to suspend disbelief, but we all agree it’s a bit weird, right?

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Victory once more goes to Rayner, as it always will.  Truthfully, I picked this article mainly because of the giant cartoon throwing an airplane at Fatality.  I made a good choice.


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