Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Old-School Civil War, Day Five: Like the Battle of Secessionville, But With The Swordsman

I'd be remiss if I didn't check in with the prime movers in this whole ridiculous slap fight, so let's see what the Dread Dormammu and the Currently Blind Loki are up to in their Honeycomb Hideout, which is a rock floating through one of those weird dimensions that looks like a planetarium some foolish curator hired Steve Ditko to design. Maybe they're rolling on a kidney stone inside of Eternity, I don't know.I always found it weird that Dormammu yells out his sister's name plus an alliterative accompanying insult as his go-to exclamatory ejaculation. I guess it's no stranger than half the Superfriends busting out a mention of their city of origin whenever something caught them by surprise, like they were Mick Foley out for a cheap pop - like a bystander's going to go, "woo! I'm totally from Gotham, Batman! And you're right, it is great! OhGodtheJoker!" - but it still strikes me as a stone bitch thing to do. Which might be the point, now that I think about it.Dormammu's scheme here, such as it was, was to trick the Defenders into getting all the chunks of the Evil Eye together so he could grab it and do horrible things to our dimension. Loki's only in on it because he somehow went and got himself blinded - and won't quit bitching about it - so he's looking to have Dormammu fix his divine eyes up. Dormammu needed Loki's absurdly ill-defined powers to aid him in the initial tricking-the-Defendersery. It'd be mutually beneficial if they weren't, you know, villains.

Dormammu pretty clearly has no intentions of actually helping Loki, but Loki can't see that - you see what I did there? With the blind joke? - so the god of mischief is forced into a position of constant whining. But that's beside the point; Loki worked out that if Dormammu got the Eye, Asgard'd be hosed along with earth, which is what prompted him to trick his usual crew of unwitting flunkies, the Avengers, into this mess. Because all his stuff is in Asgard, see.

Anyway, Swordsman's rolling to Bolivia to grab a section of the Evil Eye. He chose to head down to South America because he "owed them a debt." Thing is, up until, like, a day and a half before this story started, Swordsman was a bad guy. Not even a particularly good bad guy, if that makes any sense. He first popped up right after the Avengers reformed as a team of three former villains and Captain America, and promptly joined the team as a plant for the Mandarin. Initially, it was generally agreed upon that Swordsman had trained Hawkeye back when the two of them were both carnies - of course, that's insane, as one of them is the world's greatest swordsman and the other is the world's greatest archer, and those ain't exactly overlapping skillsets. Later on, a guy named Trickshot (real name: Buck Chisholm. In his spare time, he appears in romance novels and upon paper towel packaging. Seriously, what a fantastically manly name. I bet he shaves with a blowtorch. Or just leaves himself stubbly and uses his face as sandpaper) was retconned into Hawkeye's origin so the whole circus backstory would make a hair more sense, but when you're dealing with a dude who shorts arrows at Iron Man for sport, how much logic are you really looking for?

Swordsman's deal was that he made the already angsty Hawkeye, like, orders of magnitude angstier - Hawkeye had to prove that he'd surpassed the master and all that - but, eventally, Clint beat the living Hell out of Swordy, and Swordsman was left as hired muscle for Captain America to beat the crap out of every couple of months.

Eventually, Swordsman fell back in with the Mandarin, who had an astonishingly stupid plan to do something evil that required the aid of the then-entire Avengers rogues gallery - Enchantress, Executioner, Living Laser and Power Man. This is where Bolivia comes in. Swordsman was dispatched there to score some diamonds, so he held a city that looked like it was made of giant juke boxes hostage.

With a giant flying scimitar. Seriously. I wasn't kidding about the flying sword.

I offer visual proof because I'm reasonably sure I wouldn't believe it if somebody said, "dude, and then the Swordsman busted a giant flying sword out of nowhere! And then threatened to drop it!"

Oh, don't worry about the city - Iron Man ended up catching the giant sword with his repulsor rays. Because he used to do heroic stuff, see, instead of being an epic douchebag.

But that's neither here nor there. Point is, Swordsman, post-villainy, became sort of half-hearted wishy-washy hero for a while, popping up in Avengers Mansion and hanging out with team before getting whacked by Kang, and then sort-of-kind-of getting resurrected as a plant that looked like him before marrying Mantis, fathering a child and disappearing into Comic Book Limbo. Spoiler alert!

Swordy, back on topic, apparently feels guilty about that time he almost cut a city in twain, so he pops off to Bolivia in a Quinjet, which gets whacked out of the air by Valkyrie and her appallingly named flying horse, Aragorn, right after Swordsman had spotted a great big castle from the air.

Pulling in for a miracle landing, Swordsman heads off, as mustachioed rogues armed with blades are wont to do, to the castle. Here is a list of people that you, under no circumstances, should trust:
  • Any man with a wispy mustache, a panel van and a love of Disney movies
  • Politicians
  • Owners of abandoned Nazi castles in Bolivian jungles who "cherish solitude"

Just keep that in mind, because Swordsman didn't.
Sew buttons, bitch, 'cause it's ON.

Now, the problem with these two in Code-approved comics is that swords are sort of a playing-for-keeps weapon. They're not Wiffle bats; these things cut people parts right off, and they're all described as being, say, "impossibly sharp" or "able to carve the electrons off an atom." So they're always limited to doing that super-lame "I am now hitting you with the flat of my blade, rendering you unconscious, instead of dead!" Hell, Black Knight's sword, were it to draw blood, would turn all curse-y, so he may as well have been fighting with a length of pipe or a snowshovel or something.

Same thing happened with the Ninja Turtles - I have friends who (mistakenly) believe Donatello was the best turtle solely because he was the only one that ever really got to use his weapon on the show. But come on, that guy had a stick. Screw that noise; Raphael's the best. Because he's cool but rude, damn it.

Anyway, what this means for us is that this fight? Is going to suck. I may as well link you to a clip of a bunch of LARPers duking it out while literally hundreds of Cheetos go uneaten, because these two could very well be armed with similar Nerf and it wouldn't make a lick of difference.Since we have to keep the conceit of "the Avengers think the Defenders are evil" going, Val casually mentions that she's carrying the Black Knight's sword, which immediately tweaks Swordy's evildar, as he knows the Knight's currently serving as a pigeon roost back in Steve Strange's bitchin' bachelor pad. He's apparently so incensed that he forgets that his sword has all sorts of neat Mandarin-added crap in it - it spits hot fire and shoots rays and stuff, so as to render Swordsman not-entirely-useless - so he just parries and thrusts and leaps about like Errol Flynn while Val internally-monologues about whether or not she can actually die.

The pair flip about in a weird bit of business involving hanging from a tapestry before falling a good distance into a room outside a vault, which the castle's owner immediately tries to lock so as to keep the heroes out. Val beans Swordsman with the handle of her thrown sword - because that's how swordfights work when you can't use the Goddamn blade, see - before rushing Creepy McNaziCastleOwner. She spots the Evil Eye, but a conscious Swordsman dives for it first, prompting the story to fall in line with that whole "if you've got a creepy Nazi castle owner over the mantle in act one, it'd better fire in act three" rule.What a surprise! Twists like that usually only come on roller coasters!

Dispatching the unnamed gunman, Valkyrie checks on Swordsman's wound - she decides he's okay enough to leave in the hands of crack Bolivian paramedics who use psychic powers to determine when people are injured in the depths of the jungle because she sure as Hell doesn't seem to call anybody. Luckily for Swordsman, magic jungle cops in full America-style police regale pop in not a half-page later.She lifts his section of the Evil Eye. But at least she salutes him as a gallant foe.

I almost scored this a push, since the clear winner is the guy with the weird sci-fi pistol who capped Swordsman in the back, but for the purposes of bracketing, it's another victory squarely in the Defenders column.Kinda starting to look like a trend, isn't it?


CalvinPitt said...

It just so happens that Avengers comic where Swordsman threatens the city with a giant scmitar is the only Avengers comic I ever found amongst my dad's collection.

Looking back on it, I love the fact that the first time I read through it, and saw a giant scimitar above a town, I didn't bat an eye. It just seemed like a perfectly normal villain negotiation trick to me.

Anonymous said...

Val's "Threats? From a man with a pretty mustache?" still cracks me up.

The Mutt said...


Thanks for this recap. These were the greatest comics off all time when I first read them. I carefully tracked down each chapter at the spinner racks. I totally marked out for the Swordsman, poor little whipped puppy that he was.

ABS said...

Give me a break! Michaelangelo is a party dude.

MarkAndrew said...

Very cool series of posts. I haven't read this in years and forget who wins.

I can't belive that the dumb 'ol Sub-mariner beats Cap, but maybe it was all Defenders. Or was Hulk vs. Thor a tie? That seems right.

Jon said...

I think we can all agree that either Donatello or Leonardo is the lamest Turtle.