B&B 2-in-1 Round 5: Wildcat vs. Spider-Woman

Batman still leads 3 to 1 in the overall picture, but that means there's still hope for the Thing. It's not easy not being written by Bob Haney, you know. But at least the contest plays out on common ground. Two stories about villains on a quest in a country other than the U.S.A. and guest-stars who are not quite themselves...

In the black corner... it's Batman and Wildcat, written by Bob Haney and drawn by Bob Brown and Nick Cardy, Brave and the Bold #97, "The Smile of Choclotan!".

In the orange corner... we have the Thing and Spider-Woman, written by Marv Wolfman and drawn by John Buscema and Pablo Marcos, Marvel Two-in-One #30, Battle Atop Big Ben!


The Stars
Great hook! Bruce Wayne is watching cliff-diving in Acapulco when he spies the glint of a gun aimed at the diver. He somehow has time to get up above and dive himself, in such a way as to knock away the rifle!
Unfortunately, Batman never quite outshines that moment. He has a couple of good fights against machete-bearing banditos, but nothing special. He stops a few more assassination attempts on the kid who happens to be Wildcat's waterboy and only later reveals the Mexican government asked him to look into a national treasure smuggling operation, which just HAPPENS to be who's trying to kill the kid... Either Bob Haney isn't playing fair with the readers or Batman's a big fat liar. Extra point for the drip-dry suit that allows him to walk away cleanly from the dive, but his relative lack of agency in the story is a problem. +3 Bat-points

Ben Grimm's big stunt is also a dive - onto a hydrofoiled tour boat in the Thames while he's chasing Hydra-controlled Spider-Woman on foot.
He follows it up with climbing up the Tower of London to reach the high-flying arachnid, making the villains' terrorist strike on Big Ben a neat pun ("Big Ben's out!") when Ben Grimm goes down into the drink as a result. Bonus points for whistling at taxis with those big fat fingers of his, and bargaining for Cuban cigars with Nick Fury. +8 points

The Guests
Ted Grant has been reduced to boxing in piss-poor conditions (except that ancient Aztec amphitheater, that gig is boss) as "El Tigre" because he's lost his memory. It's the kind of amnesia that'll only come back when he gets the right kind of beating (i.e. the one just before the plot needs him to reveal what's going on). Amnesia or not, he's still a tough boxer, but we see him lose two fights. The first because he's been poisoned, the second because the guy is so much bigger than him. And then he gets ANOTHER knock on the head from his own sidekick Luis, who thinks he's a traitor to his dead father's memory.
But Wildcat really isn't, and he was sending the bad guys to their doom, not betraying Luis' dad and giving the baddies the treasure. (Haney used the same kind of traitor hero element in his last two stories, how about we shake things up, Bob?) +2 Bat-points (terrible for one of my all-time favorite Golden Age heroes)

A historically important story for Spider-Woman, this is only her second appearance! She's still a woman who thinks she's a super-evolved spider, something that will soon be retconned away over the course of the next few issues, you watch. And she's still a villain, an assassin for Hydra, but already showing signs of having a moral compass. She pulls her punches, etc. Good or bad, she shouldn't have kidnapped Alicia Masters...
Villains sometimes get cover billing in a team-up book, but everything seems to point towards making Spider-Woman a heroic headliner by the end of this story arc. For trademark purposes, you understand. +4 points

The Villains
Meh. The machete-bearing smugglers are led by El Grande (Mr. Big) who is OF COURSE the old bandito who pretends to be a friend of Luis' dad's. While his gang is mildly colorful, their best moment is surely when they go into Choclotan's cave and get flushed away by an ancient Aztec trap.
 Oops! +2 Bat-points

Aside from Spider-Woman kidnapping Alicia for her Hydra masters, the real villains of the piece are a couple of stereotypical British bombers called Chauncy and Trevor, the first a posh older gentlemen, the second a younger man with a Cockney accent. They only seem to bomb London landmarks, and make sure they don't hurt anyone. Everything's synchronized, they use sleeping darts or gas guns on police and beefeaters...
...and don't steal the crown jewels when they get the chance. Meanwhile, all the Supreme Hydra really does is send Spider-Woman to her room.
See? But there's enough confusion and mayhem in old London town for a goodly score. +6 points

Odds vs. Ends
From Brave and the Bold:
-Chocotlan, the Aztecs' laughing god? Sounds made-up. And delicious. But just follow the giant jaguar prints covering Mexico (apparently) and you'll get to his smiley secret temple! +1 Bat-point
-And an extra point for Luis' description of the rest of the Aztec pantheon as "sourpusses". Choclotan alone wears a smile! +1 Bat-point

From Marvel Two-in-One:
-Question: How long are Ben and Alicia staying in London? Because that's a lot of hair growth in between issues!
It's almost as if they changed artists on the book... ;-). -1 point
-And while we're on the subject of hemorrhaging points, I'd like to criticize Marv Wolfman's purple prose by showing an annoying example of UK-related narration:
Bloody terrible, wot! -1 point

Farewells and Scoring
Friendly farewell: Luis is sorry he doubted Ted, Choclotan will go to a museum, and even the gods smile down on our heroes' farewell. +2 Bat-points
Unfriendly farewell: Ben and Jess will likely say goodbye later, but for now, her last words to him are that he's WEAK, and then...
...they plunge into the Thames, Jason Bourne-style. +2 points

Spider-Woman blows Wildcat out of the water 18 to 11 allowing the Thing to climb slowly but surely up the river bank, inching his way closer to Batman. The score stands at 3 to 2 for the pointy-eared one for now, but it looks like Benji has some momentum...


SallyP said...

Oh,I fear that I must go with Batman. Not because I like Batman all that much, but I do love Wildcat.

Siskoid said...

All things being equal, yes, Wildcat wins all.

Anonymous said...


Siskoid said...

Don't you know, Bob Haney's B&B stories almost always take place on Earth-B-minus? Where Bruce Wayne was a member of Easy Company, and Black Canary is his secretary?

Anonymous said...

Earth B- sounds way cooler than anything DC has done since Crisis!


d said...

1. I wrote several letters in the late 70's to the JLA Mailroom asking when the Earth-1 Wildcat seen here would join the League. None were even printed but I did once get a nice postcard with the JLA logo thanking me for commenting. Still have it somewhere.
2. I love love love the Thing & Alicia's London adventure and wish Marvel would get around to collecting it like they did the far inferior Project Pegasus storyline.

Siskoid said...

It's in the Two in One Essential (vol.2) if you don't mind getting your fingers dirty (MAN it's a cheap format).


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