Thursday, July 30, 2015

"Nobody is unbeatable! ...Especially you!"

We're well into Swordsman Week, the PPC's look at the creation and evolution of the man heralded as the Best Blade Artist In The World--and recently, we've seen him lend his blade and his good right arm to the causes of villainous employers and teaming up with other costumed criminals. For awhile, it seemed that the Swordsman had been joined at the hip with Power Man, the bruiser created with the same technology that was first used on Wonder Man (and, incidentally, appearing on the comics scene just after the Swordsman's first appearance). But now, fresh out of prison for his part in the Mandarin's worldwide power play, the Swordsman has hitched his wagon to the group formed by Batroc the Leaper--the charter grouping of what would become known as "Batroc's Brigade." And even Batroc is impressed by how the Swordsman keeps his skills as sharp as his blade:

Batroc has been hired to retrieve a new weapon hidden by an enemy agent within New York--a "seismo-bomb" of immense power, capable of wiping out the entire city. All government intelligence knows is that the weapon is in the process of charging, and will initiate three small but powerful seismic shockwaves before a deadly, devastating fourth shock is released. Captain America is tapped to locate and neutralize the bomb, conducting his search where the agent was captured by S.H.I.E.L.D. Writer Stan Lee cuts to the chase with dizzying speed in this story, failing to make clear why S.H.I.E.L.D. isn't taking the lead on this case in light of the fact that they've been handling this operation since the beginning; a lot of field agents, which likely would include bomb experts, can probably produce results much faster than one man, even if that man is Captain America.

Regardless, the search is on, and Cap discovers that others are aware of the bomb's existence and seek to lay claim to it for their own purposes.

As we can see, the Living Laser rounds out Batroc's group, which, when factoring in the skills of both Batroc and the Swordsman, make this first incarnation of the Brigade a formidable teaming. But it's the Swordsman who's been tapped to hold off Cap while the others search for the bomb--and thanks to artist Jack Kirby's artwork which excels at hand-to-hand combat, we get a Swordsman/Cap fight to rival their first.

By now the Swordsman is well aware of Cap's fighting ability and tactical savvy, which is probably why he often welcomes the opportunity to engage with him again. And as the Swordsman has usually had difficulty making headway against Cap as long as the Avenger carries his shield, he has the foresight to disarm him, as he's done before. The result is a struggle which allows the Swordsman to meet Cap fighter-to-fighter--though with the Swordsman increasingly resorting to the technology that's been added to his sword by the Mandarin, their fight resonates only with echoes of that original battle where they were more evenly matched.

Frankly, with the skillful and brutal assault the Swordsman has offered, it's difficult to see what's keeping Cap on his feet; a barrage of bricks is no less battering than the crates he was pummeled with that took him out of action in that warehouse fight. But with a city's fate in the balance, Lee knows the dramatic value of having Cap strive on; and so the Swordsman's rematch with his old foe is concluded sooner than it otherwise might be.

The seismo-bomb, if you're curious, was found barely in time, with Batroc seeing reason and joining forces with Cap to locate it. Aside from the fact that the seismo-bomb has no mind-damaging properties, it may remind you of Kirby's "madbomb," a similar concept which featured three powerful devices which emitted force waves affecting successively larger areas.

As for the Swordsman, it looks like the man is about to face another prison term. Either his sentencing judge owes him a few favors--or he has one resourceful lawyer on retainer!


The Swordsman's invasion of Avengers Mansion!
(the bladesman's next appearance, already reviewed in a prior post)

AND NEXT UP, as Swordsman Week continues:
Should auld acquaintance be forgot? The Lethal Legion--and the return of Power Man!

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