This time around, the best superhero fights of all time. I got bogged down compiling this one, as there were so many to choose from. The breakthrough came when I determined what made a great fight.
1) The hero(s) overcome great obstacles and adversity to eventually triumph.
2) The fun in seeing a match-up between two similar characters or characters you’d like to see duke it out.
3) A well choreographed fight.
The battles that made the Top 10 didn’t meet all three but they’re all good clashes in their own right. These battles fall into three categories: just plain FUN, some emotional impact, or something about the battle made it memorable– clever use of a character or something that was never done before.
Interestingly enough, since I submitted this, Comicbookresources.com ran a poll asking fandom its opinion on the best 25 battles of all time. There are quite a few choices in common.
1. The Hulk vs. The Thing in Fantastic Four #25-26
For my money the best superhero battle ever. While actually the second time the Hulk and Thing tangled this one wasn’t a short tussle. It was an extended no holds barred punch up over two issues. This one had it all– Hulk vs. the Thing, Fantastic Four vs. Avengers, and then everyone vs. Hulk. While these two titans have tussled many times since then this is still the best of their battles, pretty much two solid issues of carnage. Also notable in this was the first time The Thing was soundly defeated. While The Thing was overmatched he never gave up and battled greenskin to a draw in the end. Great fun.
2. Batman vs. Superman in The Dark Knight Returns #4
The ultimate battle between the ultimate tactician and the invincible foe. Even on his BEST days, Batman would have trouble taking down Supes. You wouldn’t expect a geriatric Batman to have much of a chance. In their best battle ever Bats soundly and unequivocally defeats Supes. (Of course he cheats). This is Batman at his best, the master planner going into battle with all the angles covered. I’ve read and re-read this fight many times. It’s a great sequence that’s subversive, funny, nasty, and FUN!
3. “Avengers Under Siege” in Avengers #270-271,273-277
The Masters of Evil have always been among the Avengers toughest challenges. In this storyline, an exceptionally organized team of Masters come within a hair of beating the Avengers once and for all. The Avengers were pushed to the very brink. Hercules was put into a coma, Jarvis left for dead, and the remaining Avengers scattered or wounded. It took all their resources and members to pull this one out. This was probably the toughest battle ever for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and one they barely escaped with their lives. Also interesting is the Masters of Evil employed in this storyline was a typical Thunderbolts team– lots of future T-bolts in this story.
3A.” The Avengers / Defenders War” from Avengers #115-118 & The Defenders #8-11
The ultimate tussle between two of Marvel’s greatest teams. Teams of Avengers faced off against teams of Defenders. While some weren’t fair fights (Dr. Strange vs. Mantis and Black Panther) there were some classic matches– Iron Man vs. Hawkeye in a reprise of their earlier duels, Sub-Mariner vs. Captain America, and one of the best ever Hulk vs. Thor battles. The two teams matched up well and the battles were excellent. (Having Dormammu take out the entire Defenders team with a wave of his hand was hard to take though.)
3B. JLA / Avengers #1-4
The ultimate battle between the best of the two Universes. In usual team-up fashion they fight and then they team-up. Busiek and Perez manage to manipulate events so just about everyone who wore either teams’ colours appears in the story. The nicest touch is they swing it so that the original Avengers and original JLA Members are together at the end of issue #3 (despite Hal Jordan and Barry Allen being dead at the time.) While the story was flawed it’s still one of the best series of fights ever in comics. (And lots of great gags– the best being Hawkeye accusing the JLA of being Squadron Supreme knock-offs and then having Flash easily defeat a boomerang arrow.) Batman Vs Captain America was a bit of a cop out but then Superman defeats Thor and is ganged up on by ALL of the Avengers’ heavy hitters, including Hercules, She-Hulk, Iron Man, and Wonderman. Getting up after all that was proof who the greatest hero of the two Universes is. The entire story was crafted with wit and love and is a homage to what makes both teams great. Many clever and fun moments by two creators at the top of their game.
6. Identity Crisis #3
Deathstoke battles the JLA to a standstill. For years Deathstroke has been considered one of the deadliest individuals in the DC Universe, but has never demonstrated it until now. In this issue he reaches his full potential, easily taking out a squad of JLAers, including the heavyweight Flash and Green Lantern. He exploits every character’s weakness with ease and if not for the strength in numbers would probably have won. Only a REALLY nasty trick by Green Arrow saves the day. Best Deathstroke story ever and the way he takes out all the JLA members was brilliant.
7. Spider-Man vs. The Green Goblin in Amazing Spider-Man #122
What SHOULD have been the ultimate battle between Spidey and his arch-nemesis. After the Goblin kills girlfriend Gwen Stacy, Spidey is out for blood and it’s a battle only one walks away from. One of the best written and choreographed Spidey sequences ever. Short, brutal, but dripping in emotional power. This storyline rocked my young fanboy world to the core. Resurrecting Osborne was one of the worst ideas ever, totally devaluing this epic battle.
8. Superman vs. Captain Marvel in Kingdom Come #4
Two characters that are evenly matched in sheer power. While they’ve clashed a few times– usually to a draw– this is the best battle as it was more than just the two of them duking it out. This one was special because of the clever use of the magic lightning bolts to break down Superman gives Marv the edge in this fight. Captain Marvel fighting dirty? Who would have thunk it. Short, but sweet.
9. Daredevil #182
Two BRUTAL battles– Bullseye vs. Elektra with Elektra being impaled by her own sai in probably one of the most grisly superhero scenes ever drawn. This wasn’t something that was expected and pretty shocking in its own right. Then for dessert, Daredevil exacting revenge on Bullseye in another brutal battle.
10. Superman #75
Doomsday, the Death of Superman. Yes, it was a stunt. Yes, it was overblown. But a several issue knockdown, drag out battle that Superman doesn’t walk away from deserves a place on this list. The actual death scene packed plenty of punch. Even though you knew that it wasn’t for good, it was still strong.
Daredevil #7: You see what happens when one adversary outclasses the other. DD gets his head handed to him by the Sub-Mariner who doesn’t even work up a sweat.
Batman #342: The sword fight between Ra’s Al Ghul and Batman by Neal Adams is a classic.
Justice League #5: Batman vs. Guy Gardner. Bats takes the blowhard out with one punch in one of the funniest sequences in modern comics.
The Authority vs. the Avengers knock-offs. Don’t remember the issue numbers but this was a fun clash to see.
The Kree / Skrull War in Avengers #89-98. This really should be in the top 10 what with the Neal Adams pedigree and lots of fun stuff. But the final issue with all these Golden Age Superheroes coming out of Rick Jones’ brain to save the day was a major letdown and felt like a cheat to me. (Ken Boechler)