In 1996, a rivalry dating back 30 years (or more, depending on how one counts) finally came to a head.  And then, it all got complicated…  Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Marvel Versus DC #3 awaits!

marvelversusdc3coverMARVEL VERSUS DC #3
Writer: Ron Marz/Peter David
Penciler: Dan Jurgens/Claudio Castellini
Inker: Joe Rubinstein/Paul Neary
Colorist: Gregory Wright/Digital Chameleon
Letterer: Bill Oakley
Editor: Mark Gruenwald/Mike Carlin
Publisher: Marvel Comics/DC Comics
Cover Price: $3.95
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $4.00

Previously in Marvel Versus DC: One upon a time, there were two universes.  Each was quite similar to the other, but separate and distinct, until a young man named Axel Asher realized that they existed.  Somehow, the two universes became linked, and their denizens began switching places: Clark Kent found himself working not for Perry White, but for J. Jonah Jameson, while Bane’s back-breaking tactics failed miserably against the super-soldier, Captain America.  But the real test is yet to come, as the “brothers” have chosen a handful of their finest inhabitants to battle for the fate of both worlds.  Whichever universe loses will cease to exist!

(As a reader at the time, I can also tell you, it’s where the fans started to call BS.)

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A momentary aside: I really hate cursive script in comic books.  Even when it has a narrative explanation (as in this case, where we’re seeing the “Previously On” written by Jubilee in her diary) it is incredibly difficult to read and make the captions look overcrowded, making me want to skip them.  In this case, that would be a mistake, as Jubes explains what has brought us to this point in the proceedings, including the results of the first few hero versus hero bouts for the survival of a universe…

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For those not in the know, Disco Bondage Fabio in the first panel is Thor, Goddathunda, arguably the Marvel Universe’s most powerful figure, having just defeated a fourteen-year-old boy.  Aquaman, in his armored shirt is probably more recognizable, having used the arrogance of the Sub-Mariner against him, while Quicksilver stood literally no chance against Wally West, The Fastest Man Alive Because Barry Is Dead In 1996.  These three bouts, while somewhat controversial, make logical sense, and while you could argue for Captain Marvel, having Thor reroute his magic lightning is pretty clever.  Jubilee relates her utter frustration, not just at having to fight for her whole universe, but at having to fight the cutest, prettiest, most perfect boyfriend she’s ever met…

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Somewhere, Ashley Victoria Robinson just squeaked and she doesn’t know why.  These panels illustrate the true brilliance (and retroactive cruelty) of the Marvel Versus DC concept, positing a romance between two mega-popular characters, knowing that the odds are strongly against them being able to pursue it outside of these pages.  Having prepared for battle, Jubilee leaps in, mutant powers blazing, commenting on how unfair it is to Robin, since he has no superhuman abilities.

“Who says I need ’em?”, replies the cocky young Robin…

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Oh, Timothy.  Timmy, Timmy, NO!  You can’t…  just…

I’m going to move on from the implied bondage make out session (which is cute and inappropriate in equal measure) as we turn our eye to deep space, where the Cosmic sector prepares for their joust.

Literally…

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Laying aside for a moment the fact that the story gives two pages to this majestic outer space conflagration and four to Tim and Jubilation’s Hormone-Fueled Double Entendre Extravaganza, this fight also makes sense.  In 1996, Kyle Rayner was still a rookie with the Green Lantern ring, and while his willpower is impressive and his courage undeniable, it would be a difficult case to presume he could overcome the Power Cosmic.  Had this battle featured Hal Jordan, I expect it might have been longer, but with a similar outcome.

Of course, that brings up one thing we haven’t mentioned until now: All the battles in THIS issue, unlike the previous story, were all voted upon by comic-book fans, and thus were subject to the whims of the audience…

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Since 1996 was smack-dab in the middle of the Bad Girl Comics trend, we are treated to a fight between Catwoman and Elektra, where fans decided that the deadly assassin could take out the jewel thief easily.  This result is one that makes sense, much like Robin defeating Jubilee, and give Elektra a chance to show mercy in not murdering Selina the way she almost certainly could.  While the heroes battle around the globe and beyond, two weirdly muddled worlds wait to see who lives and who dies…

…but that doesn’t mean that Peter Parker isn’t on the lookout for love.

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Unfortunately, Peter’s target is the cute new reporter, Lois Lane, who is at least nice in shooting him down and sending him scurrying away.

(Continuity Corner: This single Peter Parker is actually Ben Reilly, during the time when it was believed that the Peter we had known since the Clone Saga was actually the clone and Ben the real Peter Parker.  The Pete who married Mary Jane was on the run during this time period, though later events would change all that.  In short, the attempts to get Peter back to being a swingin’ single have actually been more awkward than sacrificing his happiness to the literal devil…)

Meanwhile, at a sleazy bar, somewhere in space…

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So, here’s what we just witnessed: Lobo, an intergalactic bruiser who has gone toe-to-toe with Superman, has a healing factor, superhuman speed, strength and is a skilled combatant, is defeated off-panel by Wolverine, immortal short due from Canadia.  (Bonus points if you noticed that Wolverine has his bone claws, and NOT adamantium in this sequence, thanks to Magneto ripping the metal from his body during a previous big X-crossover, meaning that he’s not even at full deadly strength.)  On the face of it, it’s a ludicrous proposition, one that it feels like the creators knew was going to be a hard-sell, thus settling their beef it off-screen.  Since the votes of the fans mandated the story-points, there was really no way around it, and to be honest, I have to feel for the creators…

Until, a couple of pages later, they are forced to do it again, on an even more egregious scale.

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Storm defeats Wonder Woman with the superhero equivalent of spamming Hadoukens, after Diana refuses to use the hammer of Thor for an unfair advantage.  Of course, in 1996, Wonder Woman didn’t have the cachet that she has today, as both universes were in a cycle of “New Is Always Better”, where the characters who sold the most units were the ones deemed best.  Indeed, the battles in this issue are full of examples of 90s excess and reboots both successful and strange: Hook-Hand Aquaman, Bone Claw Wolverine, Mullet Superman…  Did I forget one?

Oh, right!  Clone Saga Spider-Man!

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As a fan of the brash, over-confident Metropolis Kid, I rather enjoyed seeing him get his butt kicked by Spider-Man (although the use of impact webbing and electrocution to do so felt perhaps like overkill), especially given Peter/Ben’s anger at being taunted about cloning, showing real creativity on the part of the creative team.  The same can be said when post-resurrection Superman goes head-to-emerald-head with the reconstituted “Professor” Hulk, the rare fight where Kal-El doesn’t have to hold back his might…

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I will say that I don’t like Claudio Castellini’s art in these pages, making even Superman look elongated and bulbous, and making his stylin’ 90s mullet hair look truly goofy.  Speaking of the long hair, therein lies one of the greatest tragedies of this comic book tale: It used the contemporary versions of the character, many of who were in the midst of or just emerging from states of creative flux.  Would a battle between pre-Crisis Superman and the unfettered Savage Hulk been different?  On the other hand, I’ve heard my fellow fans discussing how it wasn’t the “REAL” Green Lantern or Spider-Man in these pages, allowing them to mitigate any disappointment at their favorite losing the match, which becomes important in the final battle…

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Trapped in a sewer, The Batman and Captain America are constrained, forced to improvise, as the setting helps to abrogate Cap’s super-acrobatics and limits Batman’s resourcefulness in combat.  In the end, neither hero defeats the other, as they are washed away by a wave of disgusting sewer water, and Batman abandons the fight to save his foe from drowning…

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I actually like this ending, and wish that more of the fights had more of this sort of ambiguity in them (though not so much as the Wolverine/Lobo battle.)  Climbing from the sewers, Captain America worries that his world will be destroyed, when both heroes bump into Axel Asher, now transformed into a being of great power called Access, who has an idea that might save BOTH universes from destruction…

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…merging the warring cosmic embodiments of their universes into one combined world: The Amalgam Universe!

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Man, I love some of those character designs so much.  Amazingly, all critique aside, this book is still an exciting read for me, 20 years later.  It’s flawed technically (the coloring is over-rendered and garish, the production uses full-bleed effects that hide parts of the action in the gutters and folds of the physical comic-book, the cursive lettering is damn near illegible and the paper-stock has a tendency to allow ink-smears during physical reading) and narratively (because Wolverine beats Lobo?  C’MAAAAHN!), but the earth-shattering nonsense of the plot makes it possible to see the greatest heroes of two worlds in action, and also Elektra and Lobo.  Marvel Versus DC #3 is a memorable reading experience, a historically important story for comic-book nerds, and paves the way for the wonderful collection that is Amalgam Comics, making it one of those comics that I love regardless of its flaws and earning 2.5 out of 5 stars overall.  No one can argue that this is great storytelling, and the fan votes make for some hard-to-justify plot points, but I’d still hand it to anyone as an example of the impossible goofy fun of comics…

In 1996, a rivalry dating back 30 years (or more, depending on how one counts) finally came to a head.  And then, it all got complicated...  Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Marvel Versus DC #3 awaits! MARVEL VERSUS DC #3 Writer: Ron Marz/Peter David Penciler: Dan Jurgens/Claudio Castellini Inker: Joe Rubinstein/Paul Neary Colorist: Gregory Wright/Digital Chameleon Letterer: Bill Oakley Editor: Mark Gruenwald/Mike Carlin Publisher: Marvel Comics/DC Comics Cover Price: $3.95 Current Near-Mint Pricing: $4.00 Previously in Marvel Versus DC: One upon a time, there were two universes.  Each was quite similar to the other, but separate and distinct, until…
An ugly comic from both a production and art standpoint, forced by a gimmick to do a lot of unnecessary narrative heavy-lifting. And yet, I still can't help but enjoy it...

MARVEL VERSUS DC #3

Writing
Art
Coloring

An ugly comic from both a production and art standpoint, forced by a gimmick to do a lot of unnecessary narrative heavy-lifting. And yet, I still can't help but enjoy it...

User Rating: 3.28 ( 2 votes)

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The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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5 Comments

  1. September 18, 2016 at 12:31 pm — Reply

    I will have to say, Wolverine does not beat Lobo, in any situation. no way to spin it.

    • September 18, 2016 at 5:46 pm — Reply

      The fans of 1996 had spoken. The die was cast.

      It’s a bummer, but whaddaya gonna do?

  2. OverMaster
    September 18, 2016 at 3:47 pm — Reply

    I have heard (although I haven’t ever been able of reading it myself) that a later Lobo comic vaguely referenced this issue saying Lobo had been bribed by ‘a bald guy’ to throw a fight to ‘some runt’. Of course, it’s never explained when Charley contacted Lobo, but then Lobo’s comics were mostly pure insane comedy. And it makes sense for Lobo to accept a bribe even if it means a whole universe will die (granted, he might die as well, but odds were he was confident his absolute immortality clause would cover that).

  3. September 18, 2016 at 6:59 pm — Reply

    I have some issues with Aquaman defeating Namor. None at all with Thor defeating Captain Marvel or Storm defeating Wonder Woman.

    Hal giving Surfer a run for his money or even defeating him could be interesting, but this is the time if kewl-would-be-lantern Kyle Rayner, and he deseves no more than a quick defeat.

    Batman being a match for Captain America, though, does not really make much sense. He would have to use brainpower to even have a chance.

  4. September 18, 2016 at 7:52 pm — Reply

    I still love this series. Sure, it was a bit of a mess in terms of writing and artistic style, but it was still a fun read to see the characters of the Big Two together in this magnitude (there had been the previous smaller team-up specials, including the Spider-Man/Batman crossover that was referenced by the Joker in the first issue of this series, but it was usually one on one).

    But I am quite glad that for the second go-round, “All Access”, they didn’t go the fan voting route and instead just made a story involving both universes (as well as time travel) and some “new” amalgamated characters (like the JLA/X-Men merges such as the unexpected merging of Superman and Bishop). I think the fan voting was the biggest fail for this series and put the creative team in a bit of a spot. Silver Surfer beating the still rookie GL Kyle? As much as I love GL, that made sense to me as Surfer is not only more powerful, he’s also had more time to hone his powers. But Wolvie beating Lobo? How does that make sense? Even as the Wolvie fan I was back then, I still rolled my eyes and groaned about that for months.

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