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JohnMcMahon

Superhero Fight Comics

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The general concensus these days would seem to be that superhero comics now are of a higher quality than those published during the 90s.

 

That may well be true but, after sifting through a few weeks of DCP packs, I've been left quite disappointed with the level of ACTION to be found in current superhero comics. I'll give Mark Millar this much, the boy doesn't disappoint in the beat-im-up stakes.

 

Can anyone recommend, with issue numbers, superhero comics that are driven by decent scraps ? To give an example, I have a grand total of one Spider-Man story in the flat - Revenge Of The Sinister Six....

 

The Sinister Six reform, beat the shit out of Spidey, forcing him to team up with a number of other heroes including Deathlok and Ghost Rider to return the arse-kicking favour. The highlight was probably the bit where Doc Ock, boasting Adamantium arms, smacks the Hulk around. The story is pretty rubbish, the art from Erik Larsen is average but the relentless pace of the thing holds everything together.

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Well, Mark Millar had a run of Marvel Knights Spidey which was action galore and I absolutely loved it. It's really the only Spider-Man run I ever liked, I always found his other stories rather bland and boring, but sign me up for whenever Millar decides to write a Spidey series again. :)

 

I also hear Invincible have tons of action, but I never get to read any of it even when I borror some trades from the library, but yeah. Thats all I got. I'd recommend the fantastic X-Factor simply because its my favorite book out right now, but its really character driven and hardly any action.

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I thought Supreme Power built up to a fantastic (albeit far too Miracleman ish) scrap.

I think it was about #15 or so, but I'll check.

Subsequently, it's newer incarnation Squadron Supreme has just built up to what is sure to be a full on scrap issue (So far it's still grim enough sans the MAX rating).

 

But yeah your observation stands.

Even the fisticuffs of the Ultimates have been a tad underwhelming.

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As far as Millar's concerned, his Wolverine run (Vol.Whatever, #20-31, ignoring the crappy post-script issue #32, which didn't have any punching hardly at all) was essentially a twelve-issue series of awesome fight scenes, with virtually no plot to distract from the punching. The first six issues are rather a lot better than the second, I thought, but if you're after a quick kick-punch-fight-EXPLODE buzz, without having to do too much thinking, you should get a kick out of it. One issue consists entirely of Wolverine fighting Elektra through the flooded corridors of a sinking SHIELD carrier, complete with huge man-eating sharks.

 

With all due respect to Balthazar, I thought the Marvel Knights: Spider-Man run was a bit crap. Sorry.

 

I agree that it's not been a particularly good few years for fight comics - going back a few years, Ed Brubaker's run on Batman (#582-586, 591-607), as well as being generally-excellent, frequently featured some pretty decent action before it all got bogged down in tedious crossover guff. Don't think there's a trade of the pre-Bruce Wayne: Murderer issues, though, which is a shame.

 

I should probably take this opportunity to offer up my customary plug for Gail Simone's Birds Of Prey (#56-101, and counting) - not only is there wickedly funny dialogue, great characterisation and well-paced stories, but each arc has featured a fairly sizeable quotient of ridiculously T&A-themed female characters kicking seven shades of awesome kung-fu hell out of each other. I really think you'd enjoy it - the first trade, Of Like Minds (collecting #56-61), is well worth a gander, at any rate. It's even got a little bit of Batman in it.

 

From back in the day, I'll admit to still being fond of the David Michelinie/Todd MacFarlane run on Amazing Spider-Man (#298-328, give or take, which immediately predates the Larsen stuff you were talking about in your post). It's pretty mediocre in many ways, but MacFarlane's anatomy-lite, dynamic-energy-rich art, before Spawn and the like, still really works to the stories' favour (in a way which none of his subsequent output ever seemed to, for my tastes). Lots of suitably-athletic fighting, too.

 

For all that he's been pretty well-served in terms of quality runs/miniseries over the years, Batman's never really excelled at pure action comics - most of the really great Batman stories tend to be more about the detective work than the punching, although most of 'em still feature plenty of the latter. So far as the classics go, though, Steve Englehart/Marshall Rodgers' Strange Apparitions trade features a couple of fantastic fight scenes (including a truly classic Batman/Deadshot scrap over a gigantic typewriter in a museum exhibition), while the O'Neill/Adams stories from the '70s are pretty reliably action-packed - the Tales Of The Demon TPB, collecting the earliest appearances of Ra's Al-Ghul, is particularly awesome, including as it does the legendary (and frankly magnificent) SHIRTLESS BATMAN WILL ROCK YOUR TINY WORLD sword-fight, along with plenty of other Batman-versus-ninjas scraps, and one issue where he takes on a leopard.

 

The not-so-great The Last Arkham is, sadly, the only non-Knightfall-related TPB collection from the under-rated team of Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle, and while it's a long way from the pure magic of their earlier late-'80s/early-'90s work, it does feature some wicked brawling between Batman and the entire cadre of Arkham inmates. Which is sort of fun. However, the real meat of their collaboration (and probably my favourite Batman run by any creative team, ever) lies in their initial run of Detective Comics #583-594, and #601-621. These two blog entries do a pretty good job of explaining precisely why you should CHECK THAT SHIT OUT RIGHT NOW, MOTHERFUCKER, but the short version is this - it's Batman stripped down to the bare essentials. No Robin (well, Tim Drake turns up for the final 4 issues, but doesn't really do much), very little Bruce Wayne (he appears enough to remind you that the character has a daytime life too, but not enough to distract from the more serious business of crook-punching), a few cameo appearances by Jim Gordon which largely amount to "here's the crime scene...go get the buggers wot done it, Batman", and LOTS AND LOTS OF PUNCHING. The whole run consists largely of short, 1- to 2-issue stories, with a heavy emphasis on gritty, street-level crime, and with a wonderful sense of the grotesque. Roving street gangs get subjected to the mighty Wrath Of The Bat on an every-few-pages basis, in-between some superlative encounters with a fantastic range of imaginative, largely new-to-this-run villains. Grant's writing isn't polished by modern standards, but he brings enough of his hard-edged Judge Dredd stylings to make it work, while Breyfogle's flat-out awesome art is the real draw here. His Batman is pretty much the best version of the character ever to see regular print in an ongoing Bat-title, and still looks fabulous even through the limited colouring and poor-quality paper of the era. Dark, impressionistic, smoothly-flowing, and with a wickedly-convincing physicality to the violence which you should enjoy. Get right on it.

 

Finally, staying on the "'80s Batman comics from Mark's collection" kick, this time from a few years earlier, the Jim Starlin/Jim Aparo Ten Nights Of The Beast collection is badly-dated in plot terms (a Soviet super-soldier turns up in Gotham to assassinate President Reagan!), but does feature some of the most ridiculously/awesomely over-the-top fight sequences of any Batman story, ever, nicely-drawn by Jim "punches like a .38 slug" Aparo. He was past his prime by that point, sadly (his run on The Brave & The Bold is constructed of purest comics gold, and if you ever find any Aparo-illustrated issues of that title in the back-issue bins, snap those fuckers up pronto), but there's still a lot of fun to be had with the book, if you're willing to overlook some slightly lame writing in favour of epic rooftop-spanning punch-ups. Which, really, you should be.

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Hell yeah on Ten Knights of the Beast.

Aparo's Batman rendition is still my favourite.

 

I've slowly been piecing together my Alan Grant Detective and Batman collection.

Once completed I'll give it a go.

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Damn, Mark now I'm going to have to dig out the big box o' 80's comics. I've been meaning to read that Denny O' Neil Question run. Now I'll dig out my Detectives and Batmans as well.

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Gosh...I did use the word "awesome" a lot in that post, didn't I?

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For all that he's been pretty well-served in terms of quality runs/miniseries over the years, Batman's never really excelled at pure action comics - most of the really great Batman stories tend to be more about the detective work than the punching, although most of 'em still feature plenty of the latter. So far as the classics go, though, Steve Englehart/Marshall Rodgers' Strange Apparitions trade features a couple of fantastic fight scenes (including a truly classic Batman/Deadshot scrap over a gigantic typewriter in a museum exhibition), while the O'Neill/Adams stories from the '70s are pretty reliably action-packed - the Tales Of The Demon TPB, collecting the earliest appearances of Ra's Al-Ghul, is particularly awesome, including as it does the legendary (and frankly magnificent) SHIRTLESS BATMAN WILL ROCK YOUR TINY WORLD sword-fight, along with plenty of other Batman-versus-ninjas scraps, and one issue where he takes on a leopard.

 

That shirtless Batman image (which I first viewed in the mid-70s) is among the select group of comic panels that are forever seared into my memory. Absolutely stunning.

 

Finally, staying on the "'80s Batman comics from Mark's collection" kick, this time from a few years earlier, the Jim Starlin/Jim Aparo Ten Nights Of The Beast collection is badly-dated in plot terms (a Soviet super-soldier turns up in Gotham to assassinate President Reagan!), but does feature some of the most ridiculously/awesomely over-the-top fight sequences of any Batman story, ever, nicely-drawn by Jim "punches like a .38 slug" Aparo. He was past his prime by that point, sadly (his run on The Brave & The Bold is constructed of purest comics gold, and if you ever find any Aparo-illustrated issues of that title in the back-issue bins, snap those fuckers up pronto), but there's still a lot of fun to be had with the book, if you're willing to overlook some slightly lame writing in favour of epic rooftop-spanning punch-ups. Which, really, you should be.

 

The problem with the art in that run wasn't so much Aparo being past his prime, but that he wasn't inking himself -- that is if my faulty memory isn't feeding me the wrong data -- I think it was DeCarlo with the pens. As much as I absolutely loved Jim's work (as I've waxed on about on this forum before) he was always at his best when he was doing his own inking and lettering.

 

Oh, and I'll agree with you that MacFarlane's early Spider-man was a bit of a treat. It was a little more light and fun and free than his Infinity Inc. work, and you're right, he never was as good afterwards.

 

It's funny, considering the nature of comics themselves, I've never really been a fan of the big hero fight scenes. Yes they can be fun (Bats popping Guy Gardner) and even beautiful (the O'Neil/Cowan Question certainly qualifies on that account -- I loved Denys' slow motion approach to the punch ups) I can't say I've ever gone looking for a bunch of fight comics to read. I guess I've always treated a good fight scene as the icing on the cake.

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That's the way I feel, Question.

It's taken me a few days to think about this question.

I was trying to think of comics that revolved around fight scenes that I really enjoyed. I can think of some cool fight scenes in comics, but the issues I've enjoyed, the plots have revolved around characterization.

Even O'Neil's The Question, when there was a great fight scene, the rest of the issue involved a lot of talking.

 

The only issue of gratitous fight scenes that really springs to mind as a guilty pleasure is the issue of Wolverine where he finally has enough of Sabretooth and does something very evil to him.

I still mark out for that issue, even though it's just pure 1990s Marvel.

Surprisingly, besides that issue, I can't think of any Wolverine issues to recommend to John....I thought that series would spring to mind as being full of great fight issues.

 

The X-Men:Mutant Massacre story-arc would be my recommendation. I don't think there's too much continuity involved in that story to take away from the slaughter.

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The problem with the art in that run wasn't so much Aparo being past his prime, but that he wasn't inking himself -- that is if my faulty memory isn't feeding me the wrong data -- I think it was DeCarlo with the pens. As much as I absolutely loved Jim's work (as I've waxed on about on this forum before) he was always at his best when he was doing his own inking and lettering.

 

Generally, I agree with you - I really do love Aparo's self-inked work from the late-'70s/early-'80s, and I don't think DeCarlo's inks do him a lot of favours - but I still think there was a marked decline in the quality of his work from the late-'80s onwards. I still enjoy a lot of the art Aparo produced for his late '80s Batman run with Doug Moench (not a classic run, by any means, but with a few enjoyable issues), but by the time of Knightfall, by which point Aparo was inking his own work again, his art is, to my eyes, genuinely poor. Some of the immediately pre-Knightfall issues are just dreadful - blandly cartoonish, with Aparo's distinctive style reduced to a broad, unappealing caricature of its earlier power and impact. I don't know if it was simply a lack of interest in the material he was being given to work with causing him to cut corners (if so, it'd be hard to blame him), but comparing some of those classic Brave & The Bold issues with, for example, the first part of Knightfall (just to pick an example which I happen to have handy), and the contrast is glaring.

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The only issue of gratitous fight scenes that really springs to mind as a guilty pleasure is the issue of Wolverine where he finally has enough of Sabretooth and does something very evil to him.

I still mark out for that issue, even though it's just pure 1990s Marvel.

Surprisingly, besides that issue, I can't think of any Wolverine issues to recommend to John....I thought that series would spring to mind as being full of great fight issues.

Was that the issue that featured some fold out poster layout battles too?

I dont know it's exact issue number, but it was the Wolverine issue directly before the Age of Apocalypse kicked in.

 

What about Claremont and Frank Milller's Wolverine mini?

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The problem with the art in that run wasn't so much Aparo being past his prime, but that he wasn't inking himself -- that is if my faulty memory isn't feeding me the wrong data -- I think it was DeCarlo with the pens. As much as I absolutely loved Jim's work (as I've waxed on about on this forum before) he was always at his best when he was doing his own inking and lettering.

 

Generally, I agree with you - I really do love Aparo's self-inked work from the late-'70s/early-'80s, and I don't think DeCarlo's inks do him a lot of favours - but I still think there was a marked decline in the quality of his work from the late-'80s onwards. I still enjoy a lot of the art Aparo produced for his late '80s Batman run with Doug Moench (not a classic run, by any means, but with a few enjoyable issues), but by the time of Knightfall, by which point Aparo was inking his own work again, his art is, to my eyes, genuinely poor. Some of the immediately pre-Knightfall issues are just dreadful - blandly cartoonish, with Aparo's distinctive style reduced to a broad, unappealing caricature of its earlier power and impact. I don't know if it was simply a lack of interest in the material he was being given to work with causing him to cut corners (if so, it'd be hard to blame him), but comparing some of those classic Brave & The Bold issues with, for example, the first part of Knightfall (just to pick an example which I happen to have handy), and the contrast is glaring.

 

It has been a long time since I've looked at the Nights of the Beast issue, but I thought there was still a spark of Aparo magic in them, although I'm willing to admit that I could be wrong about that.

 

As for Jim's skills falling off in later years, especially during the era of that Knightfall/KnightQuest/KnightShit mess, that could very well be the case. I've tried to block that mess out of my memory entirely. That run was pretty much wrote finis to my time as comic collector and reader.

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It has been a long time since I've looked at the Nights of the Beast issue, but I thought there was still a spark of Aparo magic in them, although I'm willing to admit that I could be wrong about that.

 

Oh no, there's still more than a spark there. It's just not really on a par with the brilliance of his earlier work, to my eyes, and I don't think that's entirely down to the inking (which, admittedly, probably doesn't help).

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The only issue of gratitous fight scenes that really springs to mind as a guilty pleasure is the issue of Wolverine where he finally has enough of Sabretooth and does something very evil to him.

I still mark out for that issue, even though it's just pure 1990s Marvel.

Surprisingly, besides that issue, I can't think of any Wolverine issues to recommend to John....I thought that series would spring to mind as being full of great fight issues.

Was that the issue that featured some fold out poster layout battles too?

I dont know it's exact issue number, but it was the Wolverine issue directly before the Age of Apocalypse kicked in.

 

What about Claremont and Frank Milller's Wolverine mini?

Yeah, that's the issue Test. It's Wolverine #90. It's the last issue in Essential Wolverine vol. 4 in fact. I just checked.

 

Good call on the original Wolverine mini.

Also, Warren Ellis' story-arc on Wolverine, "Not Dead Yet". I'm not sure if it was ever traded though.

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