Saturday, April 08, 2006

Top 5 Marvel Superhero Heroic Stands Against Insurmountable Odds

One of the reasons why I like Marvel's superheroes more than DC's is that they have a real tenacious streak in them. It feels like they have to work for their victories. I don't get the same feeling from the DCU's pantheon of gods. Superman and Batman never seem like they're really in danger, while there's always a possibility Spider-Man will get the shit kicked out of him in a given fight. Of course, none of these characters are ever in any danger, what with that revolving ressurection door and all, but I can suspend my disbelief a lot better with the Marvel characters. Here are five of my favorite reasons why:

1. Spider-Man lifting the machinery to save Aunt May- Duh. The single greatest "overcoming insurmountable odds" scene in superhero comics ever, Steve Ditko rendered Spidey's struggle in the intensely operatic way that only he could, and Stan provided matching dialogue. The zenith of one of the best superhero runs in history.

2. Captain America, shieldless, against Thanos, who was wielding the Infinity Gauntlet- This stands out to me as the ultimate in defying the odds. Cap knew he was going to die. He had no defense. Thanos had godlike powers, with which he slaughtered every other superhero who had stood against him. But Cap still wouldn't back down, no matter what the cost, because it was the right thing to do. Now, his noble sacrifice wound up being meaningless in the grand scheme of things, since Warlock got the gauntlet eventually and hit the reset button, but that is still one damn powerful scene, idn't it?

3. Daredevil vs. the Namor Submariner- Stan Lee and Wally Wood doing widescreen fight comics about 30 years before they were in vogue. Well, not really, but this is easily up there with the most intense fight scenes that the subsequent 30+ years have produced. This is also up there with anything Frank Miller ever did with the chaacter. Because, in a single issue, Daredevil shows an amazing amount of tenacity in his attempt to stop Namor from declaring war on the surface world (again); so much so that old point ears comes to respect him and calls the whole thing off, showing a good deal of nobility on his part. Of course, being a Daredevil comic, Matt Murdock winds up being Namor's lawyer, too, which leads to a great scene where Lady Dorma shows up in court wearing a fish bowl on her head. But never mind that; this issue is all about the fight, and what a fight it is.

4. Daredevil vs. the Hulk- This is from an issue that Frank Miller and Klaus Janson drew, which was written by Roger McKenzie. What is it with hornhead and getting nearly beaten to death in order to do the right thing? He does it very well. He's like John Cena, except most of the audience doesn't hate him. Maybe Cena needs to be turned in to a broody ninja with an evil Greek ex-girlfriend.

Anyway, wrestling wankery aside, this another damn great story/horrific beating for Daredevil, who tries very hard to lend Bruce Banner a hand, and winds up having to try to and stop a rampaging Hulk single handedly. The ending, the Hulk leaping off, a tormented look on his face, still resonates with me to this day.

5. Spider-Man vs. Juggernaut- Yes, it's a Spider-Man sandwhich. Or Spider-Man bookends.

This is referring to the "Nothing Stops the Juggernaut" two parter by Roger Stern and John Romita that Wizard mentions a lot, from what I've seen in between bouts of ignoring them. They're right about this one. This is pretty much the only time that I can remember the Juggernaut living up to his unstoppable reputation, as he methodically destroys everything in his path on the way to kidnapping Madam Web, and only Spider-Man can stand in his way. It's a titanic battle that ends heart wrencheningly, with Spider-Man taken to his limit but vowing revenge. And that's just part one. Spidey's last ditch effort to deal with Juggernaut's threat doesn't use the cop out I remember from most of his X-Men appearences (ie, get his helemet off!), and this really feels like an epic, life or death struggle. This, along with "The Kid Who Collected Spider-Man", are the two best reasons why Stern deserves to be remembered as one of the best Spider-Man writers in the history of the strip.


Blogger Jhunt said...

Great list!

What about Spider-Man versus Firelord, though? Spidey took on one of Galactus' heralds and won. That's just crazy.

4/10/2006 12:37 PM  
Blogger Chris Arndt said...

Spider-Man pounded the crap out of someone who purportedly had at least five times his own strength and multiple times his durability.

Firelord duels with Thor. Spider-Man is not on par with Thor.

Spider-Man pounded the crap out of someone who purportedly had at least five times his own strength and multiple times his durability off-panel.

At the end of the Firelord v Spider-Man story it's pretty clear that under that writer Spidey wasn't facing insurmountable odds as he basically pounded the crap out of what ended up being a helpless opponent.

It was like Ralphy beating on the bully in a Christmas Story. Clearly the odds were not insurmountable.

Then again, what other ending could the have been? In the issue prior it certainly seemed like Spidey was screwed. He pissed off Firelord who was surely intending to roast Spidey's beef. Then in the next issue Firelord's power decreased.

It's crazy, alright. And part 2 violated the rules of part 1.

It's crazy enough to not be good Heroic Stand Against Insurmountable Odds... because Firelord was obviously surmountable.

4/21/2006 8:05 PM  

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