For those of you who came late to the party: The Grandmaster and Metron are working together to set the Justice League and Avengers against each other in a competition to gather 12 powerful items, six native to each universe. Topping that, Superman is accusing the Avengers of being lazy and Captain America is charging the League of being fascists. (I still say accusing them of being glory hounds would have been better.) While each team wonders why their default leader is being so judgmental, Thor decided the only diplomacy is at the end of his flying hammer and clobbered Superman. However, there’s more at work as we’ll see this episode.
Marvel/DC Comics (November, 2003)“A Contest Of Champions” (what did I say part 1 reminded me of?) WRITER: Kurt Busiek ARTIST: George Pérez COLORIST: Tom Smith LETTERING: Comiccraft LOGO DESIGN: John J. Hill ASSISTANT EDITORS: Andy Schmidt & Mark Sumerak ASSOCIATE EDITOR: Stephan Wacker EDITORS: Tom Brevoort, Mike Carlin, & Dan Raspler
We begin with a prologue, as Krona tells his story to the Grandmaster. He was a scientist seeking to prove that there was something prior to this universe. As I mentioned in a review last week, this is gaining strength in science fiction and I don’t care for it but I have no personal issue with it, either. His people believe his actions to be dangerous and since they are against killing they decide, instead of stripping him of his immortality, to turn him into pure energy. So he uses that power to destroy universe after universe to seek his answers. Good going guys. I’m making a note here, “huge success”.
Grandmaster lets slip that he knows someone who was here around the time of the Big Bang and may be able to give him the answers he seeks, but instead of giving him the answer he decided on the game we saw being started last issue, because Grandmaster is obsessed with gambling. When he first saw him last issue he was watching a galaxy form as part of a bet.
We then join where we left off, with Avengers and Justice League fighting each other. Because this is one of the Marvel-published stories. (That joke never gets old, does it?) We see Hawkeye try to use a boomerang arrow on Flash because it worked on Whizzer and he’s still going on about Squadron Supreme knockoffs. I hope this isn’t going to keep happening. It was cute the first time but I see it getting old eventually. I trust Busiek, though. Not that it matters because the Flash has fought a guy who uses nothing but boomerangs and it doesn’t work. This is the only fight we focus on.
Instead we go to Batman and Captain America. If you recall yesterday I said that I thought Batman would have been the better choice to accuse the Avengers of laziness and whatever is planned next I still stand by it. Again, I know it’s a plot point and is going somewhere but I’m just as confused as Steve and Clark’s friends but nobody is throwing hammers at me so I can focus a bit more on it. The two heroes don’t so much fight as test each other and then somehow realize they’re pawns in a larger struggle. Except Cap is supposed to be one of the big pawns like Superman. He’s the one who declared the Justice League fascists and Batman is in the Justice League. Don’t get me wrong, the parts with Batman and Captain America working together will lead to some nice moments later, while they let the others play Grandmaster and Metron’s game. I don’t know. Maybe this is where I let the modern version of Batman (even before the New 52) make me cynical but I believe he’d be that big a jerk but Cap not pulling his team back when he thinks he’s got them fighting heroes? Maybe I don’t know enough about Captain America (the only comics I have are the Adventures titles, the Asthma Monster story, and the excellent team-up with Batman in an Elseworlds story–plus a few horrid “Heroes Reborn” titles I’m planning to expel from my collection) but that seems odd to me. Then again, Cap’s been odd since this began. Somehow Batman isn’t a fascist. It’s not like he’d create a satellite to monitor everyone and have it turn into Skynet.
What I’m saying is this is confusing. Why does Batman get a pass? Yes, I’m sure it’s a plot point. I got called out on that yesterday. Folks, I can only review the issue I have in front of me and the previous issues, like if I was collecting this month to month as it was originally released. Yes, some things will make sense at the end. These are my thoughts as I go through the comic an issue at a time, just like I do with novels in the “Chapter By Chapter” series, where I review a chapter at a time. Things may be explained later and it may make perfect sense. I will praise it when it does and Busiek is one of my favorite writers. Remember, I called this my favorite team crossover. I am doing this issue by issue in longform reviews, which I rarely do in a Scanning My Collection article. (And this is way better than Liefeld’s Galactica. Then again, I wrote comics in middle school that are better than Liefeld’s Galactica. Okay, high school, but the point is I’m happy to have a special edition of Scanning My Collection that isn’t making me weep.)
I know or at least trust things will be explained and will make sense before we’re done with the primary reviews on Friday and I’ll admit when and if they are in Saturday’s wrap-up. I can only go by what I’m seeing now. These are the thoughts I have as I read this, just as if I were reading this before the next issue came out. Just bear with me, as I have my reasons and methods as much as the writer did. I bring up the questions in search of the answers. I’m deconstructing the daylights out of this story and these are the questions I have at this point in the story.
Let’s shift instead to Wanda. The magic here is crazy, kind of like Orko trying to use magic on Eternia but back home he’s a powerful wizard. The fun of a multimedia examination blog is I can pull things from anywhere, and before anyone mentions my rear end the analogy works. Eternian magic is different and harder to control. Orko’s magic fluctuates rather than being stronger or weaker. In Wanda’s case however….
I find it interesting that in the DC Universe magic (or at least chaos magic) is more powerful than the Marvel universe. Does Doctor Strange hold it in better check as part of his job as Sorcerer Supreme? I guess I think of DC so often as more sci-fi leaning that I forget about all of the magic users that at this time were shunted to Vertigo. She can also sense where all of the objects are, giving the Avengers the advantage, which she screams out so the JLA know she knows it before she whisks her team away. Except for Cap who already left with Batman. In fact the Leaguers note that both Batman and the Atom (who as you may recall snuck off with the Avengers thanks to somehow not being sent back and then hitched a ride with Metron and is now spying on our gamesmen), but Manhunter tells Superman that the objects must be their first priority. So J’onn calls the other members not part of the comic thus far and tells them to guard the DC objects while Flash sends the other back to the Marvel Universe, telling Kyle he’ll protect the Battery. (Spoiler, he fails.) The other Avengers not in the story before now also move out when they detect the JLA pop back in.
And here we have the same goof from Contest Of Champions if you remember my review of that in “Yesterday’s” Comic. Iron Man and Hawkeye get the Power Battery, which doesn’t reappear with Iron Man and Hawkeye when they’re teleported away, and Grandmaster declares a tie. Except last issue Hawkeye also swiped the Ultimate Nullifier from the League, which means the Avengers are actually two ahead. I’m starting to think Grandmaster is the worst scorekeeper in history! That or he keeps handicapping his own score on purpose. If I’m missing something in this one, please share it in the comments so we’re all up to speed. Maybe it was declared to the League because they actually found it before Hawkeye nabbed it?
Anyway, they note that the Marvel Earth appears smaller than the DC one, which makes sense. While both have their share of fictional nations (which would make them both larger than our Earth unless Latveria or Qurac replace some of our nations), DC has a lot of their own cities while Marvel may have a small town or two. DC can blow up Star City but Marvel had to take out Stamford, CT. Which means there is no WWE in the Marvel Universe anymore. Not surprising, they’re all WCW fans. (Let’s see who got that joke.) Superman then sees a smashed statue that appears to be Giant Man and someone I can’t recognize due to the lack of a head and Superman complains that they aren’t inspirational enough and for some reason, while he’s still rightly called out for racing to conclusions it seems a bit more natural here. I’m writing close to bedtime so maybe it’s just my brain. They’re interrupted by Warbird and the energy version of Wonder Man.
Back in the DCU Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver stop in the Flash museum and Petro wonders if he can tap into the speed force. But Hawkman, Blue Beetle (Ted Kord) and Black Canary drop in. This is why I don’t have a roll call for this issue. Way too many guest stars. Meanwhile, Wonder Woman can apparently sense the artifacts the same way she can find her way to Olympus. Except where they are is Asgard. Oddly, the Rainbow Bridge isn’t guarded by any color Heimdall but Hercules and She-Hulk. Fun fact, depending on your definition of “fun”: the DC version of Hercules is a bit different from the Marvel version. As in he raped the Hippolyta of the DCU. You know, Diana’s mom. For once Hercules is going to be beat up by a woman, and sadly he isn’t the one that deserves it. Aquaman is able to get past She-Hulk and gains the prize. Officially it’s two for the JLA but as I mentioned that’s actually the first one they held onto. Kyle grabs the orb for another point of the JLA side putting the official total at 3-1 but actually tied at 2. Then Wanda grabs the Wand Of Watoomb for official 3-2 and unofficially. So at least that’s balanced. This is all going a bit slow for Krona but Grandmaster notes that Batman and Captain America are gone, leading to my favorite scene in the issue, within the Batcave.
It’s a subtle tie between the two. Both lost partners, and after this both partners will magically not be dead and become their enemy. Except Winter Solder gets better and Jason Todd gets on my nerves. The two compare notes with help from Oracle. Batman notes Metron isn’t acting like himself since gaming isn’t his thing. He doesn’t even have Angry Birds on his flying chair. Now this one I know, since Metron is trying to help Grandmaster out with Krona and finds who the scientist is after…Galactus! He may have the answer Krona seeks. So why not just bring them together? You’ll see why before the issue ends.
Cap calls on the Fantastic Four, and while Batman isn’t happy about the Thing suddenly popping up uninvited (Batman has a thing about uninvited guests), Cap was ready beforehand and using the time bike the team journey to Grandmaster and Krona’s current digs, reuniting with the Atom. Meanwhile, Wanda is having a hard time controlling the chaos magic, and Zatanna notes the lords of chaos aren’t really happy right now. Also, Green Arrow, Captain Atom, and Firestorm are getting use to Uatu. Sort of. Steel makes a harness that can collect Speed Force energy in case Flash has to go back to the Marvel universe while Superman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman are starting to wonder about items appearing in the wrong dimension. Now they start to suspect something else is wrong. Wanda sends her team to the next item and Zatanna tracks them. Not that it helps since we missed the fight where Iron Man took out Captain Atom and Green Arrow while Clint snagged the Casket of Ancient Winters. We get the score of 4-4 and maybe it’s because it’s late but I’ve lost count anyway so I’ll take their word for it.
On Paradise Island Flash breaks the tie and out runs Quicksilver for the Evil Eye, while Steel holds Vision at bay and Wanda looks worse than ever. Interesting that Busiek calls it Paradise Island instead of Themyscira, the preferred name of the time. The Amazons are rather confuses by all this. Iron Man is helped by Photon and Quasar in getting the Spear of Destiny on the Marvel Moon’s “blue area”, tying things back up.
Back at Grandmaster’s place we get Batman noting that he’s fought guys with the same compulsion for games Grandy has. Then Atom gets a live feed from Grandmaster’s computer (because of course he’s recording this) and as Aquaman tries to compliment the Avengers for stronger odds than they have and Superman just saying they need to work harder but they aren’t working hard enough. Geez, Clark, lighten up! But what Atom really wanted to show was the rest of Grandmaster and Krona’s deal. Krona’s chosen the Avengers as his game pieces with Grandmaster taking the League. Meaning if the Avengers win, Krona is free to question Galactus, even if he has to torture him until the Marvel universe dies.
The game moves to Apokalips as Firestorm, the Flash, Steel, Hawkeye, Thor, and Quicksilver have kicked Parademon butt (oh I wish I could have seen that one) to get the Infinity Gauntlet bearing Soul/Infinity Gems…but they don’t work in the DC Universe so he just tosses it and tosses in some Omega Beams because he’s Darkseid. Flash gets past Quicksilver again and grabs the Gauntlet, putting the JLA ahead again. Then we come to the last item as everyone is teleported to the Savage Land for the Cosmic Cube. I realize a lot of these scenes are three panels but this is a fun three panels.
And then we get the biggest showdown of the issue. Now Superman and Thor not getting along I seem to have less of a problem with for some reason. They’re the mightiest of their teams maybe? There are some good pairings in this fight, like Vision and Martian Manhunter and of course Green Arrow and Hawkeye, but why is Scarlet Witch fighting Plastic Man instead of Zatanna at first? (I can’t even tell who Zatanna is fighting.) Or Iron Man and Firestorm when Steel is a better option? Maybe save Iron Man/Steel for a larger panel? Sadly, we’ll never get an Iron Man/Steel crossover and I would love to read that. And then the impossible happens. And the Impossible Man is nowhere to be seen.
This causes some of the Avengers to go apeslag on Superman until Aquaman uses a sea monster to knock them away. While that was going down Photon drained Kyle’s ring, and there is only one place to recharge from…the Cosmic Cube. Sadly we will never see what he can do with his Cosmic Cube-powered ring in this story. I guess it would be too awesome for even Busiek to imagine. Finally we get a game of keepaway with the cube and Quicksilver manages to get on the Flash…until Captain American knocks it over to Batman, giving the win to the Justice League and Grandmaster. (Personally I would have shot for the stalemate and hope to get everyone up to speed before the tiebreaker in case what happens next would happen.)
So Krona will obviously abide by the rules and…yeah, who are you kidding? He blasts Grandmaster and demands Galactus appear. Instead of kindly asking for his help he goes right to the “answer my questions or else” mode because he’s kind of an idiot that way. Just because you’re a genius doesn’t make you a smart guy. (Masters of the Universe, pro wrestling, Portal, and the Powerpuff Girls. I’m just an influence sponge right now.) But here is where Grandmaster’s true plan came into play, to sneakily gather the 12 items to stop Krona by…you’ll have to wait until tomorrow for that.
Analysis: This was the big fight everyone hoped for and it ended here rather than extending through all four issues. While I still don’t understand why Cap didn’t lump Batman with the “fascists” he thought the other Justice League member were, we wouldn’t have had that good team-up of the two. I’m not complaining, I’m just confused. There were some fun and great moments in this issue and I enjoyed it. Well, as much as I can since I don’t like seeing heroes beat each other up. Tomorrow we…well, that would be telling, wouldn’t it?