It isn't often when the mortal characters in comics can hold their own, or even manage to survive, when facing the super-villains who couldn't care less about causing collateral damage (human or otherwise) when battling the hero(es) they face. If the bystander is lucky, they're able to escape the carnage--or perhaps the hero on the scene is able to save them from meeting an untimely death. But there are others who aren't content to be bystanders, and instead take a more active role in a conflict where lives are in danger--such as Wyatt Wingfoot, or Eric Masterson, or Rick Jones, or certainly those on the police force whose duty and dedication puts them in harm's way.
One officer who excels in both duty and dedication is Lt. Marc Stone, who went on to propose and lead the Code: Blue special ops unit of the force but whose commitment to collaring criminals had already made him a respected police detective, whose job always came first. But a year before he would form the group that would pit himself and those he led against the some of the fiercest super-villains in New York, Stone was reordering his priorities in order to appease his wife's wish that he leave his dangerous job. Is Lt. Stone the type of man to walk away from the force? For a man who values commitment in doing what's right and what's necessary--a man who also made that commitment to his family--it would seem so.
Yet the true turning point for Stone comes when Ulik, the fierce rock troll who has challenged Thor on many occasions, is loose on the streets after a battle with the Thunder God that forced him to withdraw, leaving the police on the scene to try to contain him. It's no surprise that Ulik is too much for any mortal force to deal with--but one mortal is determined to try, and, more than that, determined to succeed.
It was the first improbable contest between Stone and Ulik--a heroic feather in Stone's cap, though clearly Stone's thoughts are focused on what his wife's reaction will be to his resignation forms being hurled to the wind. Yet apparently the clash between these two struck such a chord with writer Tom DeFalco that he followed up with the pair three years later, when Stone led Code: Blue to Asgard itself in response to a member of his team being injured during Ulik's escape from custody.
When the team locates Ulik and the assault begins, Stone is separated from the rest of the unit--but to no one's surprise (and certainly not the reader's), he presses on by himself.
By this point, there is enough history between Ulik and Stone that Ulik now feels enmity for his mortal pursuer, though it contrasts with Stone's single-minded goal of recapturing this "criminal" and not allowing him to get away scot-free in light of the callous injuries he's inflicted. The only thing they share in common as a result is their intent to prevail--which, along with the overwhelming advantage one of these combatants has over the other, makes this struggle a riveting one. In the end, it's hard to tell which of these two exhibits the most tenacity.
Stone would have no choice here but to resolve himself to the fact that his "suspect" got away--though no one could argue that he didn't acquit himself with distinction.
And speaking of mortals who take on Ulik...
Thanks to alert reader M.P., who had pointed out Ulik's clash with another mortal gunning for him, let's take a quick look at a Marvel Knights story from 2000, where we find Daredevil and the Punisher dealing with a group of trolls (led by Ulik) who are trying to recover an Asgardian artifact by bringing down the New York building where it's being held. Apparently the suits upstairs aren't keen on parting with it, even with their building crumbling all about them--and so Daredevil heads off to convince them, while the Punisher assesses the threat of his targets, as only he can.
It stands to reason that the Punisher has similar experience to Stone's when it comes to weaponry and tactics, and he's probably packing a good deal of heat and ammo to spare, though the Punisher of course has no interest in 'cuffing Ulik and taking him in--quite the opposite. But can the Punisher's methods of "punishment" inflict the damage on Ulik that the hammer of Thor is capable of? Probably not, but it isn't for lack of trying.
It's safe to say that the writing is on the wall as far as the Punisher's chances of pulling this one out. He's running out of options, out of ammo, and out of time. But you know Frank Castle--if he's going down, he's going to take the Punisher with him. Again, probably not. Fortunately, Daredevil's time has been productive, and the Punisher will live to fight another day, though with Ulik's gloating words ringing in his ears. But that's better than a detonation at point-blank range.
Lt. Stone's clash with Ulik offers an opportunity to size up two full-page KA-POWs between artists John Buscema and Ron Frenz--the latter artist appearing to
The debut of Code: Blue!
Will they make a difference? Will they spin off to their own comic?
(Yes and no.)