Crossover Week or Crossover Weak?

DC VERSUS MARVEL #3, DC Comics/Marvel Comics, April 1996
As promised during Aquaman Week, here's a review of the bigger battles that were DC vs. Marvel/Marvel vs. DC. The two companies' characters fight it out, and the loser stops publishing (as if!). It's all part of Company Crossover week, in which I take a look at various comics crossovers between... umm, companies. I guess it's pretty self-explanatory.

Anyway, as I mentioned before, DC and Marvel's heroes were pitted against one another by two giant gods, and the set-up is that the universe who wins the most match-ups, gets to be THE universe. The twist is that the outcome of the 5 biggest battles is to be voted by fans. If comics written by committee reek (i.e. most crossover events), then imagine comics written by democracy. The People got it right when they voted Jason Todd (Robin II) dead. But the People can't be right 100% of the time (just look at our world leaders). Expect a higher level of cursing than you may be accustomed to on this blog.

Things that are inherently wrong with this crossover:
1) Too many heroes left behind/ill-chosen. Where are Daredevil, the Fantastic Four and Iron Man? Don't they count as some of the Marvel Universe's greatest heroes? No. Instead, we have Wolverine's sidekick Jubilee, and Storm and Quicksilver. Over in the DC corner, they're doing better, but Lobo? Superboy? They always leave the Martian Manhunter behind in things like this.

2) The match-ups suck. Too often, the heroes are not even in the same league. Quicksilver is hypersonic, but Flash is hyperphotonic! And so it goes. If there's controversy with the 5 voted-on battles, it's because they made someone win a fight in which they were clearly outclassed. Some of these were basically Galactus vs. Zeep the Living Sponge, and Zeep won (in my version anyway)! I think the reason is that Marvel has too many street level heroes, and DC too many cosmic powered heroes, so the popular ones can't really be mixed easily.

3) Finally, any of these could have been knock-down, drag-out fights, but they can't last more than 3 pages each. Ridiculous, because when the match-up could be close, one hero wins in moments, making it a decisive victory. Just terrible and disrespectful to any of these heroes. Except Jubilee. There's no way she could have lasted AS MUCH AS 3 or 4 pages.

The first three matches were in issue #2, check 'em out now... Ok, you done? Alright. That means it's 2-1 DC, and we have 8 left, 3 of them actually decided by a writer. Unfortunately, it's Ron Marz this time. Surprisingly, he'll give his own character the shaft. But let's do this in order of appearance.

Fight Number 4: Robin vs. Jubilee. I bet this is the one you bought the comic for. Sadly, because Jubilee recaps what has gone before in her diary, this is the longest sequence. Now, I was a DC fan at the time, Marvel having been purged from my buying habits in the early 90s, so I'm rather peeved that there is a Marvel-centric view going through most of these fights. It's annoying. Here, Robin is obviously the better fighter and he wins hands down against the girl who can make fireworks. But he's called a cheater for hiding in shadows and springing a batarang on her. 3-1 DC
After that, it's all about teen sex. Protect yourselves, kids.

Fight Number 5: Green Lantern vs. Silver Surfer. With Marvel down by 2, they need a good victory. Two victories in fact so that the 5 big battles start when the two universes are tied. Although it also looks like the fights here might more easily be said to "go either way", so that regardless of voting results, the story could be manipulated to tighten the competition. Only 2 pages for these cosmic-powered guys, and Green Lantern, being the rookie Kyle Rayner, goes down hard. The fight is lame, but the result appropriate. 3-2 DC

Fight Number 6: Catwoman vs. Elektra. Really? These two? Well, they have plenty of things in common: Both are heroines that have been criminals (or vice-versa), both are women with long dark hair, and both used to be drawn with much more modest breasts. Geez, how did they keep their balance in those days? But really, neither are part of their respective universe's greatest champions. Catwoman even questions it! Again, a 2-pager, and it ends with Catwoman taking a dive in a sand box. Stupid. They have a cat-motif character NOT fall on her feet. 3-3 all (should be 4-2 DC)

Fight Number 7: Lobo vs. Wolverine. It's all tied up as we head into the "most popular character invariably wins" phase of this thing. There is no way Lobo can lose this fight. He's kicked Superman's ass and he cannot be killed (cuz no afterlife will admit him, he causes too much trouble, I'm not kidding about this). He is "cosmic" level. Wolverine has his healing factor, but can he regrow a body under his ripped off head? Worse still, this is at a point when he's been stripped of his adamantium skeleton and has BONE claws. Here's how the fight ends, after both tumble behind a bar (note: there is no way Wolverine could have pushed him over the counter, therefore this must all be a dream or illusion):
BULL-FUCKIN-SHIT! Of course they can't show it, cuz no writer could think of a way it could happen! It's obvious that Wolverine should have been pit against Batman, but then, who knows who would have won the vote? BULL-FUCKIN-SHIT. If this was a stupid commercial exercise before, it just jumped a number of space sharks right here. From now on, I cannot agree with any result, no matter how fair. 4-3 Marvel (should be 5-2 DC)

Fight Number 8: Wonder Woman vs. Storm. Another bullshit match-up, only summoned up cuz they're both women. Storm is nowhere NEAR Wonder Woman's level. The Amazon Warrior can keep up with Superman. But nooooooooo. Look at this panel...
This is where Storm should lose. If this were not a dream (see above), she'd be knocked out (1) and have her leg ripped clean off (2). That's a 1-2 combo from which you do not get up. Next page: Storm just floats there unharmed and zaps Wonder Woman twice. She's out. FUCK THAT SHIT!!! Even if they handicap WW by mislaying her magic lasso (it's nowhere to be seen), she should still win that fight without breaking a sweat (not that there's anything wrong with a sweaty Wonder Woman). I haven't mentioned the first page of this fight because it makes me really angry, but I can hold my tongue no longer. In the previous issue, they have Wonder Woman get her hands on Thor's hammer (it's not what you think! His actual hammer! Mjolnir!). In the first page of her fight, she gives it up because "it would not be fair". This implies that the writers (oh fuck, let's just say editors from now on, because I can't blame the writers for this tripe) didn't believe Wonder Woman WOULD win this fight even if she won the vote. So they boost her up so that she has an excuse to beat Storm (the hammer controls the weather too). That is insulting. 5-3 Marvel (should be 6-2 DC)

Fight Number 9: Superboy vs. Spider-Man. Now this is a bullshit match because it isn't Peter Parker. It's the clone Spider-Man, Ben Reilly, that was popular in the mid-90s. Popular? I'm kidding. He was reviled! And yet he still won the popular vote. So it's clone against clone, and though I might normally accept a Spider-Man victory (even from Ben Reilly), I've been in serious denial since Fight 7. Well, it's the way it's done. Faux-Spidey entangles Superboy in webbing, Superboy forgets his tactile telekinesis can get him out of it, and he lands in an electric box and electrocutes himself. He should be tougher than this. Might I also mention this is the third fight to end with an electrocution? That's what I like about crossover comics: the diversity. But let's say I do accept the Spider-Man victory... 6-3 Marvel (should be 6-3 DC).

Fight Number 10: Superman vs. Hulk. Superman once fought a guy like the Hulk (big, strong and angry), for 4 whole issues. And he DIED, man! In the DC vs. Marvel version, the fight lasts 4 whole PAGES, and he wins easily. That's not the Hulk I know. The Hulk I know would have just gotten angry. Superman wouldn't like him when he's angry. Indeed, he would be dead again. Yes, I could accept a Superman victory easily. He's got a lot more tricks up his sleeve. But that would take a battle royale that lasts the better part of an 8-issue mini-series. There's no way the Hulk folds after 5 hits. Here's an idea, show them going at it for days (night falls, etc.), then I'll buy it. Next time, have Superman fight Thor. Now that would be a worthy match. 6-4 Marvel (should be 6-4 DC)

Fight Number 11: Batman vs. Captain America. There are two Batmans, so this is a hard pick. There's the street Batman who has a relatively tough time of the Joker, the Riddler and the Penguin. And then there's the cosmic Batman who hangs out with the Justice League and can defeat alien invasions single-handedly when his chums have all been downed. The common opinion is that the second Batman is all about preparation. Give Batman prep time and he can destroy you before he's even met you. Sneaky Batman. Bastard Batman. Gadget Batman. Goddamn Batman.

This isn't that Batman. There's no prep time, it's just a fist fight in the sewers between Bats and Cap. Now a few words about Captain America: He's the epitome of the human physique, artificially boosted to be the ultimate human. He's been fighting Nazis since your grandpa was chasing skirts. Detective competition? Batman wins. Science fair? Batman wins. Intimidation games? Batman. But a true blue fist fight? Sorry, I've got to hand it to Cap. Batman could conceivably have tricked Cap into submission, yes, but this is how it actually ends:
THAT'S UTTER BULLSHIT!!!! Water comes suddenly sludging through the sewers, putting Cap off-balance (remember, Marvel characters cannot lose because they are somehow outmatched, there has to be some "excuse"), his shield misses (this has happened, like, twice in his entire career) and rams his head into a batarang. COME ON! How can we possibly get excited about these fights? How can we really say later "X is stronger than Y"? (Dark Horse's X vs. Y the Last Man would be a great crossover, now that I think about it.) Final score: 6-5 Marvel (should be 6-5 DC)

So now what? Warner Bros. close down their comics division? Nope, cuz they made sure to create this guy Access who belongs to both universes and can merge them into the Amalgam Universe:
Ok, so you'd think from this that Cap and Batman would be Amalgamated into the American Knight or U.S. Bat or something, but no, that would have to make sense. Look instead:
Cap and Superman, Batman and Wolverine... What is this? Well, tune in tomorrow, same Bat Time, same Wolverine Channel for a look at what this crossover "evolved" into.

12 comments:

De said...

I admit to buying all of this series, voting, and then purchasing the All Access spin-off afterward. There's already a special place in hell for people like me.

At the time, I was sort of hoping that some fun would be had with this "event" like having Alfred face off against Jarvis or Henry Pym take on the Atom. Oh well.

Matthew Turnage said...

My reaction at the time was that this was the worst comic I'd ever read. Thanks for bringing back the bad memories.

You're right about how ridiculous the match-ups were and how poorly the fights were executed, particularly the Wolverine v. Lobo one. It's like Ron Marz just said, yeah, this is so unbelievable I can't even think of a plausible way this could happen, so I'm just not even going to bother.

In Superman's defense, post-resurrection his power levels rose noticably, so I think his performance against Doomsday isn't necessarily a fair indicator of how he'd do against the Hulk at that point. Plus, with his package deal on superpowers, I'd say Superman should have a major advantage. If Iron Man could beat the Hulk in two issues (Iron Man 131-132), Superman could do it in one.

jayunderscorezero said...

I remember loving this series as the time, and Ben Reilly, for that matter. Then again, I was eleven years old when this was published, and probably judged comics by a completely different standard from the one I use now.

*Sigh* Ah, for those innocent days when cloning heroes seemed like a really cool idea.

Siskoid said...

De: For me, Amalgam yes, All-Access no.

Matt: What makes you think I don't consider the Hulk/Iron Man outcome a rip-off too? ;) Actually, my main beef is that the fights are so short and easy. I can believe Superman or Batman would win, but it's got to be harder than that.

Jay: I have nothing against clones. My best friend is a clone.

Jack Norris said...

I just remember flipping through the Marvel Vs. DC books in the store, then returning them to the stands like they were going to poison my fingers. I then purchased whichever Amalgam books whose combinations I found amusing at the time. I actually enjoyed some of those, in a light "that's kind of a cute notion" kind of way.
What was All-Access?

Siskoid said...

Mini-series starring Access (co-owned by Marvel and DC) where other M/DC crossovers could occur, and even other Amalgams be created.

mwb said...

Oh, god. Lobo and Wonder Woman were so ripped off. Like you said, it's patently obvious that both fights should have gone the other way. Just embarrassingly poor plotting.

Stephen said...

ever since i got into comics i've read hints and snippets of the amalgam universe stories never spoken of fondly but it's peeked my interest. so thanks for the recap.

Siskoid said...

Since everyone's played the who can beat who game in the schoolyard or cubicle (hey, I don't judge your workplace), this series was a natural.

They really dropped the ball.

Jon said...

"How can we really say later "X is stronger than Y"? (Dark Horse's X vs. Y the Last Man would be a great crossover, now that I think about it.)"

I think I love you.

Siskoid said...

It's just a crush.

Tomi Adewole said...

Glad I stumbled upon this analysis - it was pretty friggin funny. Wonder woman vs Storm is insulting. I like Ororo Munroe; but let's be serious - she'd have problems with any Amazon princess. Superman takes Hulk out fairly easily though, so I disagree slightly with that. Remember - Doomsday was invulnerable, and moved at hyperspeed. Those two things makes him a good deal harder match-up than merely a strength-creature. Plus he; couldn't be killed by energy (the Radiant already did that to him). Doomsday would curbstomp Hulk.

 

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