Sunday, January 31, 2016

Amalgam Comics Gallery!

When Marvel and DC announced plans to do another crossover in the 90's, we had the experience of the late 70's and early 80's to give us a sense of how it would go. The series Marvel Versus DC (or DC Versus Marvel if you prefer) was produced by some of the best talent available at the time, a time admittedly wrought with stylistic limitations.

What we get is a massive competition with reader participation as some of the more famous heroes of both companies clashed with their most analagous counterpart.

The battle raged for three issues as faces we knew battled one another. Some of the costumes of the time were somewhat adrift from the iconic, but in the broad scheme the heroes were least for a while.

The conceit of the series was that two impossibly massive cosmic brothers existed side by side, apart from one another and then they come into conflict. Each brother embodies one of the comic book universes, one brother the DCU one for the MU.

And then suddenly the two cosmic brothers have a meeting of minds as well as fusion of bodies and the two mighty universes they embody are abruptly blended.

Out of that merging came the Amalgam Universe, a weirdo off-kilter mix of Marvel and DC as two heroes were suddenly blended into one, their look and histories merged and altered. The Amalgam Universe event came out of nowhere, at least as far as this reader was concerned. I was completely taken by surprise, a very pleasant surprise as I was informed that instead of one comic to finish off the crossover, I would be greeted by a dozen which gave a glimpse of this new Amalgamated universe. Amazing! Loved it!

Here are the first dozen comics from 1996.

And then in 1997, the two companies did it again giving us another twelve comics from the Amalgam Universe.

Out of the original crossover two four-issue limited series emerged. The second of those gave us another peek at some new Amalgamated heroes.

But back in 1996 we see the two brothers separate and that which had been one again becomes two. The DCU and MU move back to their original settings.

Aside from the two times already alluded to, this was the last we'd see of some very intriguing heroes, made possible for a time because the "Big Two" as they are known cast aside their differences and worked together for the benefit of the fans of both. It was very very cool. 

The Amalgam Universe titles have been collected, in volumes from both DC and Marvel, that period of detente is fondly remembered by this fan at least.

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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Avengers Versus JLA - The Brave And The Bold!

The greatest team-up in comic book history reaches its climactic enc with this fourth installment. It has been a ferociously wild ride as we have seen two Earths explored in the first part, two super-teams clash in the second and imaginary worlds galore in the third.

Now as Krona makes his final move to destroy two universes so that he can find the "truth", the Avengers and the Justice League of America work together at last to defeat this most fatal of threats.

The teams begin by bringing their powers together in remarkable ways. They first agree that Captain America will lead the combined forces as they plunge into battle.

They use one of Aquaman's undersea craft as the basis for a vehicle to pierce the barriers between them and Krona. They use the Vision as the command center and Iron Man and Green Lantern among others work tirelessly to give the ship both the power and the navigation to find Krona's hidden lair. Once all the work is done, Cap gives over his shield to Superman since he will reside in the command seat using the mental telepathy of the Martian Manhunter to mentally order his forces into their respective tactical roles. With everything prepared the jaunt to Krona's fortress.

They are shocked to see that Krona has built his fortress on the bones of Galactus who he has killed to plumb his secrets. That information has allowed him to capture the avatars of the two universes and he proceeds now to destroy them out of revenge for being denied his "truth" for so long. Metron, who has been a hidden player in the game leaves Krona to watch the drama play out.

The Avengers-Justice League attack Krona and his assembled forces which draw from the broad array of enemies of both teams from across the years. Hydra forces, Kobra soldiers, AIM agents all attack. Later we see enemies such as Amazo, Attuma, Despero, the Masters of Evil, the Royal Flush, and countless others.

Surprisingly the time waves which have plagued both universes in previous installments continue and the ranks of the assembled Avengers-Justice League teams change and change again and again as the battle rages. Always they move forward directed by Captain America and led by Superman with Batman and others performing different missions.

Heroes arrive fight and then disappear. Costumes change and identities alter but always the heroes press the fight as more and more enemies appear to stall the effort.

Even the loss for a time of the Martian Manhunter and his mental contacts don't stop the battle. Clint Barton and Barry Allen fall, but the battle continues.

Then it all goes smash as Krona emerges empowered by the assembled might of the twelve objects collected so long ago now it seems. He seeks finally to destroy the two universes and rip from their corpses that which he relentlessly seeks. But just as victory seems to be in his grasp Hawkeye and the Flash reappear and literally throw a bomb into the works, destroying his instrumentality at that critical moment. It passes and Krona is defeated at long last.

Galactus begins to re-emerge as the very ground beneath the heroes erupts. The Spectre appears to push the two universes apart for the final time as the two teams pick up their wounded and exchange kudos over the outcome. With the universes now apart for seemingly all time, the teams bid one another farewell as they fade away and return to their homes.

Then the scene shifts to Metron and a revived Grandmaster who reveal that they have been the gameplayers all this time and that bringing Krona into the mix was merely a gambit to see what would unfold, including the seeming death of the Grandmaster himself. Now they congratulate themselves on a game well played and go their separate ways, leaving Metron to keep an eye on the "Chronal Egg" which now contains the energy once held by Krona and which seems contained...for now.

And that's a wrap for this outstanding four-issue run. Was it worth the wait? Hard to say, but it was certainly a stunning story, and it was a ton of fun to read it again after all these years. The epic yarn is fantastically illustrated by by the great George Perez, the best possible choice to do the book. The story is a rich resource, composed by people who have a supple and complete understanding of the two teams. We get beats for just about everyone we care about, we get to visit many of the hangouts, and we get to understand, maybe a little, the differences between these two stalwart groups of superheroes.

George Perez hard at work -- the greatest talent of two Earths.

It's that final point that seemed to be what Kurt Busiek most wanted to focus attention on, the way in which the Marvel Universe and the DC Universe, though both overcome with costumed types, are different worlds. The MU is a more rugged place, somewhat closer to the sometimes harsh realities of our actual world. The DCU is more idealistic, a haven for heroes who find ways to change their surroundings for good and ill. The MU is about flawed human beings who strive to be heroes in a world that is mostly indifferent to them. The DCU is about noble men and women who heroically strive to maintain ideals that elevated all around them, making the world a better place. Both art worthy, but they are different.

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