B&B 2-in-1 Round 1: Wildcat vs. Liberty Legion

Back in the bygone age we call 2007, Batman and the Thing fought a 21-round battle they only way they could - by contrasting their team-up work in Brave and the Bold and Marvel Two-in-One. The fight ended when I reached the end of the first B&B Showcase volume, with a devastating score of 13 to 7 for the Capes Crusader. Well, Ben's taken the last four years to train, and he's back for a re-match. Bruce Wayne has accepted the challenge, taking time off his previous Batman Inc. to face the Blue-Eyed Thing most Saturdays here on the SBG. Ben wants first blood, and to do so, he doesn't just attack with a single issue, but with two Annuals as well. Can Batman and Wildcat win against the assembled forces of the Thing, the FF, and every single Golden Age hero Roy Thomas could think of? The new Round 1 starts... NOW!

In the black corner... we've got Batman and Wildcat, written by Bob Haney and drawn by Irv Novick and Mike Esposito, Brave and the Bold #88, Count Ten... And Die!

In the orange corner... it's the Thing, the Fantastic Four, the Invaders and the Liberty Legion, written by Roy Thomas and drawn by Sal Buscema (with the help of many inkers), Fantastic Four Annual #11, And Now Then... The Invaders, Marvel Two-in-One Annual #1, Their Name Is Legion!, and Marvel Two-in-One #20, Showdown at Sea!

DING DING DING!

The Stars
Batman is a master manipulator in this. As Bruce Wayne, he pays off some ruffians so they'll assault him and give Ted "Wildcat" Grant the courage to come out of retirement to coach a youth boxing team for the Junior Olympics in Vienna. Yes, he wants the old champ to get back on his feet, but it's also part of a ploy to smoke out spies selling space station secrets to the Commies. When Ted gets forced into an exhibition match with a coach from across the iron curtain, Batman allows himself to be beaten up by Ted to give him his confidence back, then arranges for the lights to go out during the match with a remote timer to give Ted an advantage (the outage lasts just long enough for Ted to come out and rescue him from a river barge trap and return to the ring). And when Ted still seems to go down for the count, he throws a batarang engraved with just the thing to make the champ get up.
All that AND he catches the spies before the information about America's 1970 space station changes hands. But he does get pwned by a schnitzel vendor.
+9 bat-points

As for Ben, he's really working double time to get his points. Before we go into it, it should be mentioned that he's lost his powers at this point and is wearing a Thing armor. It looks pretty neat.
And he's also a lot older than you think. It is EXPLICITLY said that he and Reed Richards were enlisted men in 1943, that the FF formed in the 60s, and that the present adventure happens in 1976. Marvel's sliding timeline be damned, if these guys were, say, 18 in 1943, this makes Ben a well put together 51! (So he's now 86, correct?) Anyway, a temporal accident has sent a vibranium gadget back in time has changed history and helped the Nazis win the war. Ben and the rest of the FF are encouraged to go back in time and retrieve it before this possible timeline becomes a probable timeline. They do and team up with the Invaders against Baron Zemo, but it's Ben who saves the day by learning to love the vibranium bomb and riding it away from London and back onto Zemo's castle.
The heroes survive and are brought back to the present, but all is not yet right. Only half the vibranium thingy was recovered and Ben must return to the past alone... or so he figures out on his own by playing 20 questions with a silent Watcher!
Those are some impressive Twenty Questions skillz. This time, he teams up with the Liberty Legion (who?!) against some Nazi supervillains and retrieves the hardware while also preventing an attack on 1940s New York through the usual means, mostly clobberin' and throwing himself at flying objects with no idea how he'll come back down. +10 points

The Guests
Ted Grant may be washed up at the start of the story, but he makes a bold come-back both as a boxing champ AND (unseen by Batman) as the costumed hero Wildcat (an Earth-1 Wildcat - kids, don't stare too hard at a Haney story; you'll do yourself harm). In Vienna's there's a pretty cool motorcycle race in the sewers, though it ends badly.
That fight Batman throws against Ted? He has to admit that he almost got beat for REAL. The cold war, Rocky IV fight against Koslov? He wins it in the dark and then has to win it again when the lights are back on. And the only reason that one is iffy is because he's dead tired from having just saved Batman's bacon. You will believe a man can drive a motorbike without removing his boxing gloves! +9 bat-points

The Thing teams up with three entire teams in this story, but do they do as well as a single, aging boxing champ? The FF don't do very well, actually. The whole situation comes about because Reed's a slob and put some gear where it could roll into his time machine. He forgets to tell the team about the auto-recall back to their time, letting Ben believe he's sacrificing his life at the end, and compounds things by not realizing half the vibranium is still in the past and the mission isn't complete. The Invaders - Captain America, Bucky, Submariner, Human Torch and Toro - at least manage to live through a pivotal moment in Marvel history: Zemo getting his mask stuck to his face!
As Marvelites know, this will lead to his "killing" Cap and Bucky, i.e. preserve them in ice for later generations. On his second trip, Ben meets the Liberty Legion, apparently an assemblage of Golden Age characters who aren't in the Invaders: Whizzer, Miss America, Red Raven, Patriot, the Thin Man, Blue Diamond and Jack Frost. Roy Thomas has just created the team to resurrect many of the characters. They appeared in the Invaders, in Marvel Premiere and in Marvel Two-in-One throughout 1976. They may be old characters, but that doesn't make them old-fashioned. Miss America gets points for changing in a busy street!
Their main strategy seems to be to have the team's flyers drop the non-flyers atop attacking planes. They had guts in 1943. I also like Jack Frost putting down a ice patch and the rest of the team bouncing U-Man from one end to the other.
Their war cry, "Let's go, Legion!" needs some work however. +7 points

The Villains
Batman and Wildcat go up against a cold war plot that includes freelance spy Schimmerling, crooked boxing coach Koslov and of course, lots of goons. The plot almost works, but it's hard to give a lot of style points here. Koslov ain't no Drago. +3 bat-points

On the first trip, Baron Zemo is the main heavy, and his plan is to use vibranium bombs to blitz London but good. As the Watcher reveals, without the FF's intervention, this wins the war for Hitler! But the heroes do meddle and he gets his mask crazy-glued to hi face instead. On the second trip, there's a little more variety. We've got the Skyshark, a pilot ace who operates from a u-boat aircraft carrier shrouded in fog. I really like his shirt - very NHL expansion team.
We've also got Merrano AKA U-Man, an Atlantean Nazi sympathizer. And we've got Master Man, your typical Aryan supervillain. Their plan is to steal prototype airplane parts, which would be combined with the vibranium gadget to make super-aircraft. They are not the masterminds, however. No, that role goes to Brain Drain "the supreme intellect of the Third Reich"! Just another evil brain in a jar.
And you gotta love his personal plane.
Just when you thought the Reich put one too many swastikas on their stuff... Of course, they fail, but half of them escape to fight another day. +7 points

Odds vs. Ends
From Brave and the Bold:
-Haney really advances the space program. Just a year after we put a man on the moon, the U.S. has plans for this puppy:
+1 bat-point
-I won't pretend Vienna is used exceptionally well as a location, but the set pieces do have interesting environments. A chase in the sewers, a rescue on a river barge, and a fight that for no apparent reason takes place on a Ferris wheel.
+2 bat-points
-Wildcat borrows the motorcycle from the Olympic bicycling team, which seems like quite a big luxury item NOT related to their sport. And then he borrows it AGAIN, but with a sidecar! -2 bat-points

From Marvel Two-in-One:
-Really, Ben. The equivalent of 5 normal-sized issues to take on the Batman? (Give or take a rather impressive number of recap pages in each.) -2 points
-Two out of three of those issues had Jack Kirby covers, however. +2 points
-Stories resonate differently through time. Watch as history is rewritten before Ben Grimm's very eyes:
+0 points
-In a story full of special guest-stars, there's a VERY special guest-star on Ben's second trip: John Romita Sr. as a kid!
And he helps Ben identify the players too. +1 point

Farewells and Scoring
Batman and Wildcat theoretically never cross paths, but Bruce and Ted do share a moment of "all's well that ends well".
This counts as what the Comic Treadmill called the B&B "Friendly Farewell". +1 bat-point

Of course with Ben, I'm actually looking for a hard-luck "Unfriendly Farewell". He stays with the FF, so that won't count, and he never gets to say goodbye to the Invaders, so it's all up to the Liberty Legion.
That looks pretty friendly, but you have to consider that they never actually took him up on his invitation. Hypocrites. +1 point

Though it looked like overkill on Ben's part, Marvel's Golden Age beats Wildcat to the punch 26 to 23! Ben logs a victory early in the second match, even if it did take everything he had. Can he now build up a lead? Stay tuned!

5 comments:

Craig said...

"I dunno, are you?"

Genius.

Anonymous said...

Vienna ferris wheel isn't just a throwaway. It's a landmark and fighting on it is a callout to the classic Orson Welles post-WW2 spy drama 'The Third Man.'

Siskoid said...

Nice! Thanks for the tourism info!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, and there's a big chase scene in the Vienna sewers in The Third Man as well...

Siskoid said...

And Wildcat was... the Fourth Man!

 

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