Iron Man is dead. At least in this point in the comics. It allows War Machine to take over the title for a few issues, but it mainly consists of James Rhodes angrily stomping his feet in frustration at every single situation that comes his way. Seriously, for starring in his own superhero comic for these precious few issues, Rhodes has more angst than Spider-Man’s worst day. Anyway, in Iron Man #285-288, written by Len Kaminski and drawn by Kevin Hopgood & Barry Kitson – Iron Man obviously not “dead” dead – our hero hallucinates about his past. Mainly about his relationship with his father. Nowadays in current continuity, Tony Stark’s dad acts much like Batman’s dad: a paragon of the community and a role model for our superhero to aspire to be. But not in these four issues. Let’s meet a very different Howard Stark.
Iron Man has been sober for about a hundred issues or so. But all that previous alcohol fried his brain enough for him to repress all those awful memories of the domestic abuse committed by his boozy father. We know this story as a constant theme in comics — terrible parents force the prodigal son to begin his never-ending quest seeking the approval of people who will never give it to him. But this story factors so much into Iron Man’s personality: his love of machines, his superhero fantasies, his maniacal self-improvement, and his relentless drive; everything pretty much goes back to his father being a dick.
I know he’s called Iron Man and his first two armors were made of iron, but let’s chalk his father’s proclamation up to a coincidence. By the way, is it just me or is it weird to see Tony Stark without his mustache? Even as a child. That ten year-old needs to be rocking that pencil-thin mustache for me to be completely comfortable with this flashback.
You see what happens when you let kids be exposed to fantasy? They become billionaire playboy superheroes who gain the whole world’s adoration and love. Off topic, but I do hold a firm belief that superheroes are America’s King Arthur. Britain has their fictional greater-than-life heroes, complete with adventures and so on. We Americans created our own fictional greater-than-life heroes, just with spandex and who punch mobsters as opposed to slaying dragons. Though, if I can shamelessly plug, Green Arrow has totally slayed a dragon, so take that Lancelot or whoever.
You should feel bad for Iron Man, and not because he lost his parents. No, y’see, Iron Man is so amazing that nothing is difficult. He’s good at everything. He has no weaknesses. He’s a god among men. So shed your tears now, my friends. Can we all take a minute and proclaim what a genius Stan Lee is? He created Iron Man, a superhero literally no one can identify with (except maybe Elon Musk), injected into him the ego of an entire professional sports league, gave him everything the readers weren’t getting (like girls), and then somehow made this man a comic book superstar.
You know what happens next. Terrorists kidnap him or Vietcong or whatever’s the current group Iron Man first gets kidnapped by. I know nowadays his superhero origin relies on an abduction somewhere in the Middle East, but that changes depending on what decade the Iron Man story takes place in. But that incident propelled him to become a good person, warrior of justice, etc. May we all hope that our own physical, mental, or emotional transformation doesn’t involve building a suit of armor to blow up terrorists. But we should definitely hope that we can one day we could wear a pencil-thin mustache and still be called cool. That’d be a decent enough transformation, I guess.
Iron Man’s back to life! On Monday, get ready for a surprise (because I don’t know what we’ll be reading at).
Four months after Batman and Punisher’s first team up, they get another shot, and Punisher even gets top billing this time. But unfortunately for our dear Frank Castle, he’s not dealing with the raving craziness of pseudo-Batman/Azrael, a man who does not prepare for everything no matter how inane and weird. But despite the real Dark Knight jumping across rooftops, the Punisher’s still hanging out in Gotham City. His only supervillain Jigsaw teamed up with the Joker to do evil stuff, so he’s going have to stay for a while. In Punisher/Batman: Deadly Knight, written by Chuck Dixon and drawn by John Romita, Jr. & Klaus Janson, the issue goes pretty much like you’d expect.
Batman and Punisher, each not fond of the other, get two short fights. It’s bound to happen, y’know, because the Punisher shoots people once while Batman prefers instead to have bad guys get jump kicked over and over again for decades. More importantly, without all of Azrael’s armor and claws, we’re going to get a fair fight – at least as fair a fight from two fictional characters each with rabid, loyal fan bases who’ll rise up against the opposite comic book company if their boy loses.
Look, let’s be honest: the Punisher has probably saved far more lives than Batman has. Not in terms of catching civilians from burning buildings, but just in the sheer thousands of mobsters and criminals the Punisher has taken off the street. And it is in the thousands. Every issue he mows down at least one crowded restaurant or party full of bad guys. So with the climax of the book over complete, and all Punisher has to do is clean up whatever trash remains – you know what’s going to happen in the next three pages as soon as you take a look at the first. Of course Batman’s not going to let Punisher kill Joker, and of course it’s done in a very non-Batman way, but what else could possibly happen? The end result always ends with the status quo. That’s good business.
You’re about to witness a punch so full of rage and frustration that it needed a two-page spread. But rest easy knowing that you and the Punisher likely have the same opinion of Gotham City: it’s an insane, illogical, mess of a widly broken city filled the most insane, illogical, and definitely broken people. Plus, in New York City, superheroes dress as spiders instead of bats, the way a civilized society should be.
On Friday, we’re delving into some of Iron Man’s daddy issues!
Finally, right? You know you’ve been clamoring for it – Batman does many things, but fighting non-powered dudes who shoot guns isn’t one he does often. By that I mean every ten pages as opposed to the entire issue cover to cover. But this team up carries a far different weight than the last article, due to the whole Batman and Punisher disagreeing violently over their very moral cores. So when they have their inevitable fight, it’s for real. No genital measuring contest here. Except in Batman/Punisher: Lake of Fire, written by Dennis O’Neil and drawn by Barry Kitson & James Pascoe, you might notice something different about this Batman. Hint: this comic came out in 1994.
That’s right, my friends. It’s Mecha-Batman. The lunatic Azrael still reigns over Gotham City as their forced caped crusader since Bruce Wayne’s back remains still broken by Bane. Azrael’s cult brainwashing and inferior complex to the real deal drives him further into those insanity depths he jumped in long ago. But since I introduced Azrael, I’ll give you Punisher’s intro as well. Spoiler alert: religion doesn’t come up as often with him.
I know that going into “stats” or superpowers is a useless discussion. The writers determine many of the imaginary limitations for the imaginary characters, but it won’t stop me from attempting it – it’s very late, and I have space to fill. Azrael’s suit makes him stronger, tougher, and faster than Punisher. But Punisher, usually armed with only silly weapons like guns and bullets, takes on Marvel supervillains frequently enough for that to negate all of Azrael’s benefits. Plus, the Punisher fights dirty. Don’t go expecting a long drawn out ordeal – it’s a six page fight – but I hope it’s bloody enough to satisfy your superhero bloodlust.
Punisher isn’t cheating. He thinks he is, but he’s not. If Mecha-Batman can use super strength and giant claws to fight a man clad in just spandex, it’s not against the rules if the Punisher pulls out a pistol. Actually, the fight should have probably started this way. And also, since when is the Punisher against cheating? The only reason the team up had to include Punisher’s baddie Jigsaw is because Jigsaw is the only bad guy Punisher has. He has a rogue gallery of one. His oppenets tend not to last more than single issue when Punisher’s modus operandi is to murder them. Almost always by cheating.
Good news. There’s a second team up, and Punisher fights the correct Dark Knight next time. We’ll read it next time to finish up our crossover articles, as it’s hard to find enthusiasm for all those Silver Surfer team ups.
[Ed. Note: I’m feeling better. I promised myself I would get to 500 articles, so I hope you’ll enjoy the final fifty articles as much as I’ll enjoy writing them! Until I’m back to 100%, I’m going to cut down to two articles a week – I appreciate your support far more than you would ever imagine.)
Last time the Man Without Fear and the Dark Knight crossed pathes, they basically spent the entire issue seeing who had the bigger wiener. We all know the winner: Superman. His perfection doesn’t end at the belly button, my friends. In their second team up, Batman/Daredevil: King of New York, Daredevil begins our story by traveling the mysterious dimensional gap of DC/Marvel cities to Gotham City. I know the story’s called King of New York. Just go with me here.
Daredevil’s following Catwoman, who stole something valuable or whatever. But because all good team ups must begin with fisticuffs, Batman’s going to show up to wreck whatever information party Daredevil hoped to figure out. Cue the initial brawl:
These two constantly seem to forget that they’re normal dudes who can’t do stuff like fly or land safely on the ground without transforming into superhero goo. And while I know Daredevil attempted to interrupt Batman, the crooks are going to figure out who’s on their tail when Daredevil tackles his superhero counterpart in clear view while they both fall to their deaths. Truthfully, Daredevil’s actions only serve for us to witness a cool acrobatic free-for-all between Batman and him. And it’s awesome. I never need context for stuff like that.
Thus begins round two of their big wiener contest. The stakes are just as high as last time (nothing). But here’s the summary of their current squabble: both Gotham City and New York City are awful places that create the most unnecessarily toughest people to ever walk the comic book universe. But it’s their super awful places.
The story takes Daredevil’s bad guy Kingpin and Batman’s bad guy Scarecrow to New York City where the Scarecrow plans to unleash a mega bomb of fear toxin that will destroy the tough people of New York City. Earlier, Kingpin betrayed Scarecrow – y’know, because they’re both supervillains and that’s why every time the Injustice League gets formed, it eventually dissolves into infighting and misery – and now Kingpin’s getting his revenge. These next two pages aren’t important to the story, but they’re important for my heart and soul.
As required in a team up, our two superheroes face their buddy’s supervillain. I’m skipping Batman versus Kingpin, but only because the Daredevil versus Scarecrow fight is so much better. The baddie can’t beat Daredevil in a fistfight, so he has to use that magical fear gas of his. But Daredevil’s the Man Without Fear, right? See? I told you their fight was better.
Victory for our heroes, who never meet again. Luckily, I found a bunch of other crossovers, so next time we’ll have Batman team up with another Marvel superhero. Hint: this one doesn’t banter or smile. He only wears shirts with white skulls. His name starts with “P” and ends with “-unisher.”
I tend to keep my personal life out of this blog because you come for the comics and the images, not me. We read superheroes in the first place because they’re so much more fascinating than our own lives. But I have to take a few weeks off. I can’t keep this blog going right now. I promise to continue as soon as I can. Thank you for reading and I love you.
Daredevil #9-10, written by Mark Waid and drawn by Chris Samnee
This is a weird one, let’s not beat around the bush. Not the two paired together — that I can see, but the circumstances of the pairing. In this (obvious) non-canon adventure, Matt Murdock (Daredevil) and Harvey Dent (Two-Face) knew of each other as fellow lawyers. There’s no explanation or mind-warping needed. The two former best lawyers in their respective cities were buddies or acquaintances back in the day. DC’s Gotham City and Marvel’s New York City both exist, they both occupy this same universe, and the Batman/Daredevil duo will beat up bad guys together in the one-shot Daredevil and Batman: Eye for an Eye, written by D.G. Chichester and drawn by Scott McDaniel. These two wrote and drew Daredevil together for about three years in the early ’90s, back when Daredevil was happy and his whole life hadn’t shattered into the thousands of tiny miserable pieces that occurred about a decade later. Let’s take a look at their initial confrontation, which of course involves a fight – can you imagine the outrage if those two didn’t try to concuss each other?
It’s drawings like that above that remind me just how scary Batman is supposed to be. Strangely, for someone with the name “devil” in his superhero moniker, Daredevil’s costume may be one of the least scary in comic books. Maybe Daredevil just needs a cape, something Marvel superheroes severely lack in their ranks. Actually, while we’re on this subject — of the original Justice League members, three of the seven have capes (Batman, Superman, and Martian Manhunter). That’s a 42% capes to no capes. But of the original six Avengers (and I’m counting Captain America), only Thor is brave enough to wear one. That’s only 16% of members wearing capes. And honestly, this is almost certainly the most useless information you’ll read all week.
Oh, and now Daredevil and Batman have their brief tussle:
Here’s the beauty of Batman: he knew from the start that Daredevil was working on the same case he was. There is absolutely zero reason for him to fight Daredevil, and it should be noted, he did it anyway. Because he’s a crazy person. You can blame his ambush on wanting to “test” Daredevil or whatever, but our Dark Knight just felt like punching another superhero. Seriously, he made a claim of wanting to ask Daredevil questions, but he also didn’t ask anything before attempting to tackle him either. And you see how they both enjoyed it? Two insane superheroes are going to team up to hunt down two insane supervillains.
They’re not done being jerks to each other. Actually, it never stops the entire fifty pages of this issue.
I wouldn’t say Batman’s against rehabilitation as he admits above — he is the same man who brings escaped supervillains back to the mental hospital they stay at every few months they break out. The main story line involves DC’s Two-Face and Marvel’s Mr. Hyde teaming up to do something with poison or bombs or technology or whatever — I didn’t read the non-superhero parts that carefully. Instead, I became fascinated by Daredevil and Batman’s neverending crusade of seeing who has the biggest schlong. We get it — you’re both alpha males and the very best of the best of superhero-ing. Isn’t it about time the two of you kissed?
That’s right — Batman doesn’t even give Daredevil a ride. Luckily, our Marvel superhero jumps from rooftop to rooftop to get to the same crime scene at the exact same time as Batman’s fastest car in the world. But I don’t want to write 100% snark. Despite their differences (mainly the cape), they’re both still kind-hearted superheroes out to protect the innocent, dish out justice, and punish the wicked. This page sums it up nicely for me in the melodramatic fashion I look forward to in my comic book stories:
I’m skipping thirty-ish pages to the very last scene. As you can expect, they win. Two-Face and Mr. Hyde are safely locked up once more thanks to the tireless detective work/skull bashing of our two protagonists. But as they celebrate their victory, why not end their time together like most crossovers do, with the two warmly embracing a bro-hug as Batman softly musses up Daredevil’s hair. Right? Please?
Then they kiss.
One more smaller article won’t hurt. We continue our short stories from the beginning of the Marvel event Dark Reign with another piece from the Dark Reign: The Cabal one-shot, written by Jonathan Hickman and drawn by Adi Granov. Y’see, Norman Osborn can’t get superheroes to work with him due to his past as the Green Goblin and his present as a conniving jerk. That means his allies have to be his peers, and other supervillains have a long history of not working well together. Mainly due to egos, psychopathy, megalomania or whatever other evil plots they can think of. Each time a supervillain betrays another supervillain, he gets a gold star on his record. Whoever has the most gold stars win. Especially since they can’t seem to win against the good guys.
Anyway, Norman Osborn picked a secret “cabal” to help him rule the world and stuff — Emma Frost, Loki, Namor, Doctor Doom, and the Hood. Of those five, four end up betraying him, so y’know.
Note the upcoming color change from normal to a shade of blue. That’s important later. Now as you know, Doom’s right — Osborn does soon implode. But you want to know how things would go down if Osborn actually succeeded in his delusional plots? Of course. The Green Goblin made the terrible decision to make deals with supervillains, after all.
You can see where this is going. While Osborn may rank in the top five of most influential supervillains in the Marvel universe, he’s no Doctor Doom. By the way, can we all agree Doctor Doom is a silly name? There’s no way he’d be named that if he wasn’t created in the early 1960s. Plus, wouldn’t his royal titles supersede his PhD? Emperor Doom, right? Oh, and Doom murders the Hood.
Doom now rules the earth and Namor the seas. I know this isn’t canon, but that’s for a good reason:
So Doom enslaved Emma Frost and (female) Loki, who I assume the latter can turn back into a dude anytime he feels like it. My only guess: Loki has a secret fetish. But look at the genius of this story: the blue shaded panels are all simply Doom daydreams, like we have when we’re staring at our computer screens at work. Under that mask still lies an adorable human mind, just really evil and stuff. Plus that whole naked Emma Frost and Loki thing? As weird as this sounds, it sort of humanizes Doom further to know he’s just as perverted as his other fellow supervillains, because I promise you, that’s all Namor daydreams about.
You know about Attuma, right? Not that Street Fighter character. Don’t worry, I don’t know who he is either until I looked him up about an hour ago. He battles Namor every now and then in his delusional attempts to conquer Atlantis and whatnot. If Aquaman gets a rogue gallery, Marvel’s Aquaman gets one too — that’s how competition works. In this short story from Dark Reign: Made Men one-shot, written by Frank Tieri and drawn by Rafa Sandoval, we get caught up on what happened to Attuma since his head exploded in Sentry #1.
Attuma, an Atlantean warlord, used some giant octopus creatures/mechs/whatever to take down New York City, where 50% of Marvel’s superhero population lives. As you can see, it ended badly. Keep in mind that bottom panel is the entire fight from that issue — Sentry simply flies down, beheads the supervillain, and continues about his day. So it may be hard to imagine why anyone would want to bring Attuma back to life. Well, there is that one guy.
Comic book science might as well be comic book magic — its only limitations lie in the imagination of the writer. Drink a serum and now you have pterodactyl wings! Take a pill and access time travel! Touch an orb and become a god! We don’t even question it. So yes, now Attuma is far more powerful than before simply because Doom said he is. We’re cool with that. Oh, and regarding Attuma’s refusal to Doom’s request.
It’s sort of like making a deal with the devil, except eventually the Fantastic Four will go to Latveria and punch the devil until there’s blood in his stool. I know this ends on a cliffhanger, but don’t hold your breath: Attuma doesn’t show up again in comics until the Marvel event Fear Itself occurs two-ish years after this. At least then, he gets one of the magic hammers and finally gives Namor the challenge our speedo-rockin’ monarch deserves.
I know what you love most about Namor: his abs. And second? Punching, most likely. But we all know the third admiration on that list: his political problem-solving. So in a short story from Dark Reign: The Cabal one-shot, written by Kieron Gillen and drawn by Carmine di Giandomenico, we get to see Namor in the position we always prefer to see him in: king (and a lazy sex joke).
Namor sits like I do at work. Seriously, these Atlanteans should know better. Namor almost certainly left two mermaids and a DVD copy of Poseidon back in his chambers. To have to solve petty arguments is what biblical kings do, not scantily-clad sea monarchs. I’m saying Namor’s royal jewels are firmly on display, just not on his head.
Just like Game of Thrones, right? Shall we recap Marvel’s Atlanteans? They’re blue as you’ve noticed, complete with slightly stronger, tougher bodies and a longer life-span than humans. Also, they can’t survive out of water for more than a few minutes. Luckily, Namor’s half-Atlantean and half human, so he can do that whole breathe air thing. Though stick the Sub-Mariner in a desert and he’s useless — the dude still have to be moist all the time. All the time.
Oh, and with one more twist about this kid’s superpowers about to revealed, shall we revel in Namor’s judgement? If anything, he has plenty of practice in bossing people around.
Meet Crosta. I looked him up. That’s the kid’s name. He has appeared in sixteen comic book issues, all as a minor character. And truthfully, this story’s more about Namor imposing his will than anything related to Crosta. And of course Namor makes the right choice, because (sometimes) he’s a superhero. Currently in comics nowadays? He’s acting as a mini-Galactus, so y’know, not well.
Now if you’ll excuse Namor, he has some mermaids to bang.
If you don’t mind, let’s have shorter articles this week. I’m busy with stuff (and things), you’re busy with stuff (and things), and just like a rerun of your favorite TV show — sometimes it’s an off week. So today, we’re taking one of the multiples stories told in Dark Reign: Made Men one-shot, written by Frank Tieri and drawn by Khoi Pham.
We jump back to the beginning of the Marvel event Dark Reign, where Norman Osborn has taken control of the nation’s security allowing him freedom to spread his corrupt and evil influence all throughout the country’s stuff (and things). First order of business? Petty revenge. What kind of supervillain would he be if it wasn’t? Oh, and meet Spymaster.
As you can expect, his name pretty much summarizes everything you need to know about him. He usually annoys Iron Man, he has no superpowers, and he mostly does espionage. There. You’re caught up. And speaking of caught, Osborn has a few tricks up his sleeve to find his man. And by that I mean the entire computer databases of all information in the United States.
When Osborn asks you for a favor, you don’t have much of a choice. Those lasers from earlier? Looks like Spymaster’s reenacting that laser dance scene from Ocean’s Twelve. When it comes to refusal or failure, Osborn’s predecessors Nick Fury would yell and Iron Man would mope, but the former Green Goblin has no problem ruining. Hell, we’ve seen what he did to his own son, much less a C-list supervillain trying to stay under the radar. So the purpose of this job? Remember how Osborn disgraced Iron Man to get his job? This is called rubbing salt on the wound:
On Wednesday, we’ll continue our Dark Reign short stories with Namor! He wears his speedo.