DC vs. Marvel
Marvel vs. DC

Peter David & Ron Marz, writers
(DC/Marvel, 1996)

It was touted as the biggest superhero bash in comic book history.

In some ways, it was. Tell me, what devoted comics fan hasn't wondered at some point who would win in a match between Superman and the Hulk? Batman versus Captain America? The Flash against Quicksilver?

The DC vs. Marvel mini-series (a.k.a. Marvel vs. DC, depending which publisher was handling the book) delivered all that and more. But in other ways, it was a great disappointment.

In their own titles, these heroes have duked it out with villains in battles lasting for entire books, or at times spanning multiple issues. Here, however, the fights are concluded quickly, neatly and, in several cases, without a clear resolution. Take the clash between Marvel's Silver Surfer and DC's Green Lantern, for instance. The two heroes collide in a flash of light, and in the next panel Green Lantern lies unconscious. How did that happen, exactly? When Wolverine mixes it up with Lobo, they seem evenly matched until both fall out of the readers' view -- and only Wolverine gets up. What did he do to win? The writers don't tell us.

Other bouts are disappointing in their brevity. A clash between Superman and the Hulk, for instance, could have been an epic on its own. Nope, just three pages before one of them is K-O'd. Rather anticlimactic, if you ask me.

The cause for all these squabbles is a pair of cosmic brothers, all-powerful beings who have, over the past millenia, forgotten each other exists. Each brother holds within himself the essence of a universe, and when they discover each other's existence, they decide only one can survive. To decide which it should be, they recruit the heroes (and a few villains, too) to fight for the prize.

The dialogue can be sappy, too. Nearly every fight has some version of "We should be friends, not enemies" or "We would make better partners than foes" or "Woe that we must be forced to fight instead of sharing camaraderie, alas." Oy. At least Marvel's Jubilee and DC's Robin had the good sense just to make out before and after their little fight.

The series did preserve a few interesting moments in several characters' development. It was Superman's all-too-brief long hair period. The Hulk was big, green and smart. And Spider-Man wasn't the Peter Parker we all know and love; it was his short-lived clone, Ben Reilly, who at the time believed he was the real deal.

It also led to an interesting series of spin-offs called the Amalgam Universe, in which various characters from both universes were merged. (Batman and Wolverine became Dark Claw, Superman and Captain America became Super-Soldier, etc.)

DC vs. Marvel (and vice versa) is a fun read, and it's a clever blend of characters. But, ultimately, the story is unsatisfying. Perhaps the two publishing giants should have preserved their alliance for a 12-issue maxi-series instead of trying to cram it all into four short books.

[ by Tom Knapp ]



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