B&B 2-in-1 Round 1: House of Mystery vs. Nick Fury

The first time these guys fought, the blog was practically in its infancy, and after a 21-round bout, the Dark Knight won. The rematch took place 4 years ago, and that time, after only 5 rounds, Ben Grimm was declared the winner (link back). Every four years, these heroes, these team-up masters, seemed destined to fight it out until either of their Showcase Presents/Essentials ends. Who will be victorious this time? By my count, we've got 16 rounds to find out: Ques es mos macho? Batman and his Brave and Bold guest-stars as often written by Bob Haney? Or the Two-in-One combo of the Thing and the hero who will be slightly mean to him as - oh cripes, why did Bill Mantlo abandon this book? - mostly written by Marv Wolfman? It's gonna be weeks before we know for sure...

In the black corner... it's Batman and the House of Mystery, written by Denny O'Neil and drawn by Neil Adams, Brave and the Bold #93, Red Water, Crimson Death.

In the orange corner... we have the Thing and Nick Fury, written by Marv Wolfman and drawn by Ron Wilson and Pablo Marcos, Marvel Two-in-One #26, The Fixer and Mentallo Are Back and the World Will Never Be the Same!

Ready or not... DING DING DING!

The Stars
if you're a contemporary Batman fan, I'm not sure you'll recognize this version, a driven vigilante who, after being nagged by Commissioner Gordon that he should take a MONTH OFF to rest...
...takes a month-long cruise as Bruce Wayne, and even dumps his costume, neatly packed by Alfred "just in case", overboard so he doesn't get into any Bat-shenanigans. Well, comics don't work that way, and after saving a child from drowning during a storm, Bruce follows the kid to his island home in the Scottish isles. Welcomed with open arms by the boy's family, he stays the night, but wakes up with his costume on. Spooky! Once he's the Batman again, he's slipping under falling gates in the nick of time, breaking chairs on a guy, and karate-chopping 2x4s like they're nothing.
Yes, he's awesome despite the mopey month off that, surely, plays havoc with the sliding time line. Points off, however, for the essentially being "guided" by unknown forces and not making all those correct choices by himself. +5 Bat-points

But then old Benjy the Thing isn't in full control either. The SHIELD boys more or less put him in witness protection - as if he couldn't take care of himself - and the villains still get at him, put him to sleep, and then turn him into a zombie.
He even loses the slice of pizza he was about to eat on the splash page, gets trounced by a non-powered human being, and gets told to shut up, like, 20 times. That one "Clobberin' time!" declaration isn't going to net him much more than... +1 point

The Guests
I love unusual team-ups, and matching Batman to the House of Mystery definitely counts. What does that actually entail? Two things, really. First, Cain is lurking about, breaking the fourth wall and narrating the story. He and Batman never actually meet, but sequences like this are my everything:
Second, it's as if Batman were in a collection of tales from DC's prime horror anthology. He doesn't know what's drawing the little boy to the open sea and then to the Scottish castle, nor what's guiding him to resolve the plot. It's a mystery. But thanks to Cain, we do. The ghost of King Hugh just doesn't appreciate villains taking his keep over for their nefarious ends. Batman is essentially forced into the Twilight Zone, doomed to suffer the tropes of such stories. Oh, and if you need a more literal team-up:
Ugh. O'Neil just forced his impeccable score down a point. +9 Bat-points

Nick Fury is a natural guest-star for Ben Grimm. After all, both are cigar-chompin' WWII vets. So why all the abuse, Nick? He's the one who keeps telling Ben to shut up so he can get on with the business of delivering exposition (I suppose that would make me grumpy as well), and once the action starts, he does fairly well, busting through a Baxter Building window and fighting a dude that can bench-press about 80 tons (according to the Marvel Universe Handbook) with no super-powers whatsoever.
He would eventually lose, of course, but his quick thinking allows him to free the Thing from mind control, saving both their asses. +7 points

The Villains
Batman fights a few Scottish thugs who are soon deterred, and destroys the holographic demon defending the castle. The real villain is Aloysius Cabot, an evil industrialist who's causing perpetual red tides around the island with his polluting ways. As I said, King Hugh's ghost is none too impressed, and after saving Batman from Cabot's poison, he drops his own picture frame on the guy's neck, guillotine-style.
As a nice wink to the House of Mystery/House of Secrets line, Cabot looks a lot like Cain's long-suffering brother Abel, which surely warmed the narrator's heart. +3 Bat-points

For the Thing, it's twice the villainy when Mentallo and the Fixer team up. A natural pairing, they both look like each other in different color schemes, and complement each other, one controlling people, the other machines.
Then again, maybe Ben's assessment of their capabilities is right: One clobber would do the trick for these "morts". And what kind of scheme would they hatch? Here's some incriminating SHIELD footage of the Fixer changing a light bulb.
Well, this time, it's a little more involved and impressive. They grab the Thing from the SHIELD Helicarrier, taking over half the staff with ridiculously large facial mind control devices, bring him to their sweet ski lodge HQ...
...reprogram him and use him to get into the Baxter Building, where they can get access to Dr. Doom's time machine. Their ultimate plan is to bring Deathlok back in time to help them commit more crimes... or something? But isn't he a hero? And how did they hear about him? Well, ok, it's not the soundest plan, though maybe it'll get redeemed in the next issue. Also: Mister Miracle called, he wants his flight disks back. +6 points

Odds vs. Ends
From Brave and the Bold:
-Neal Adams art. 'nuff said. +2 Bat-points
-Despite all the strangeness, there is nothing so strange to me than O'Neil's dialog when Batman must explain why he's dressed as a bat to Scottish hooligans:
+1 Bat-point

From Marvel Two-in-One:
-SHIELD has amazing top secret Pizza-Parlor Contact Quarters, just for meet & greets, ya know? Cross-section please!
It's basically just a halfway house where you can take a high-tech car to a high-tech helicopter to reach the high-tech Hellicarrier. +2 points
-Marv Wolfman's purple prose was a problem for me on Tomb of Dracula - and that's one of his biggest hits! - so in Two-in-One, it can be a real distraction (-1 point). Check out an example on a panel I have to give BONUS points to. An appearance by the FF's favorite postal worker, Willie Lumpkin!
And now you know why Baxter Building security is so terrible. +2 points

Farewells and Scoring
Friendly farewell: To recap our methods - it's been a while - the "friendly farewell" is a trope identified by The Comic Treadmill blog to describe Batman's final interactions with his guest-star in B&B. In this case, there is no farewell per se, because Batman never actually meets Cain, but his meditation on his inability to understand what the heck's going on will have to do.
It's not friendly, just mysterious. Another entry for the Black Casebook. +1 Bat-point

Unfriendly farewell: When it comes to the Thing, his guest-stars don't treat him so nice. He'll always be scored on how BADLY he's treated in that final interaction. But not this time, because there ARE no farewells. The story is to be continued, and Nick Fury's going to stay on a little longer. +0 points

Round 1 of this tie-breaking match-up goes to the House of Mystery 21 to 17 against Nick Fury, and Ben has only himself to blame. It's HIS poor showing that's managed to beat a story where Batman lets Gordon and King Hugh bully him into doing whatever the plot needs him to do. He better pick it up if he hopes to beat the Batman in what promises to be a 16-round punch-up!


Anonymous said...

"I dress as I do for ... personal reasons!"

These days he can just tell people "I'm a furry"; the term didn't exist back then.

Anonymous said...

"Cain's long-suffering brother Adam"


Siskoid said...

Neal Adams brain freezed me, presumably.


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