By owie 0 Comments
A list of my respect threads:
A list of my respect threads:
I’ve got a respect thread for Moon Knight, but it’s mostly focused on his “unpowered” versions. Of course, if you read that thread, you’ll see that I don’t believe Moon Knight is almost ever really unpowered, he’s just amped to different degrees by Khonshu, depending on Khonshu’s whims, the need of the situation, and other considerations.
Moon Knight’s recent Serpent War/Age of Khonshu story arc is clearly a powered version, so I’m putting this analysis of that arc here in a separate blog, rather than in the “unpowered” respect thread. Of course, for much of that arc, Moon Knight is vastly powered not only by Khonshu, but by the powers of Dr. Strange, Iron Fist, Thor, and Ghost Rider. That means that many of the fights in that arc can’t really be used for other Moon Knight battles. There are just too many asterisks. But as you’ll see below, I do think the Iron Fist and Black Panther fights can be fairly used for Moon Knight fights when Moon Knight is stipulated to have his “moon powers,” as long as all the context is properly appreciated.
So: Marc’s involvement in the Serpent War with Conan, and then the fear of a big army of Mephistos, led Khonshu to upgrade Marc through (perhaps) some direct enhancement by Khonshu, and also the stealing of the other Avengers’ powers. This led to Marc taking the powers of Iron Fist, Doctor Strange, Ghost Rider, and Thor. Khonshu took those other characters’ powers from Marc, and Marc then gained the power of the Phoenix. He lost the Phoenix power after a (mostly off-panel) fight with Thor, and is now presumably normal again—perhaps even more bereft of his standard level of Khonshu amps than usual, given their problematic relationship at the end of the Avengers arc.
Let’s look at the details.
The first example is from the last pages of Serpent War. Marc can see ghosts and walks incorporeally through a glass window. This implies that Khonshu is powering him directly in a new way, but, these powers are not seen again in any of the fights below.
Marc shows up at K’un-Lun to take Danny’s power. There is no sign that Marc has been amped by unusual powers like intangibility in this fight. What’s not clear is how much, if at all, Marc is amped in terms of strength, speed, and durability beyond his normal level of enhancement.
Marc starts off praying. He is clearly in communion with Khonshu. My overall sense is, he is getting an amp in physical stats from Khoshu—but as I’ve noted, I believe that is the standard for how Moon Knight works: Khonshu gives him the power he needs to accomplish his goals, within reason, and sometimes in a fickle way. This is usually not explicit, but it’s the best explanation for how Marc, for example, falls out of an airplane and survives. There are many other examples like this.
Back to the fight: Marc punches Danny twice, and Danny blocks them. Danny hits Marc in the chest solidly, and Marc is pushed back but largely shrugs it off. Danny eagle claws his throat, and Marc punches Danny in the face, turning his head and clearly causing some hurt. Danny hits Marc four times in a row, knocking him down. The moon becomes brighter. Marc punches Danny in the face again twice, and again Danny is clearly hurt by this and knocked down.
For the first time, Danny breaks out the Iron Fist, and hits Marc in the face, knocking him back. That’s the last time he hits Marc. Marc then kicks Danny, and then punches him, again turning his head back, and Danny misses Marc for the first time. Then Marc pummels Danny in a flurry of punches (16, if we go by the number of afterimages).
Danny is still standing, and his Iron Fists are lit up, but he is bent over and can barely speak. Then Marc uses Khonshu’s ankh to steal his power.
Lessons: I believe this is a pretty straight version of Moon Knight, meaning that he is clearly enhanced by Khonshu (for instance, he’s praying to him at the beginning, and Danny points out the increased glow of the moon), but not in a way that is radically different from other levels of enhancement that he has received from Khonshu in the past. What we see here from Marc is his standard skill level. If we just go by hits that contacted, before that flurry of 16, then Danny landed 7 on Marc and Marc landed 5 on Danny. That’s a reasonably appropriate number for their respective skill levels.
Marc shows a level of strength that is pretty normal for him when his strength is enhanced—Danny did take 18 straight hits from him at the end and was still standing, after all, so his striking power was not that different from usual, especially when Marc’s classic “moon” strength is enough to do this or this. And Marc’s durability was not radically higher than usual—Danny only hit him with the Fist once, plus 6 normal strikes. I think a normally-powered Marc could take that, considering he's been blasted by Kang, repeatedly clawed by Werewolf by Night, ignored a hatchet blow directly to chest, burned, taken massive claw hits through the torso, been hit by a van thrown by Mr. Hyde, etc. Marc’s speed may be a bit higher than usual, given the flurry of blows at the end, and in general his capacity to hang with Danny’s own ability to enhance his speed with chi. But given Marc’s proven bullet-timing in the past (for example one, two, three, four), even that flurry may just be a combination of Marc’s normal speed plus Danny’s level of woundedness making him incapable of responding.
The one point of context I will make in Danny’s defense is that he didn’t break out the Fist until late in the fight, partly because he didn’t know Marc really wanted to beat him up. But, that’s also in part a matter of character. Danny is often a little more carefree kind of a fighter and doesn’t get serious until he realizes he has too, at which point sometimes it’s too late; Marc goes into a fight intending to pound the other guy into submission no matter what.
Bottom line: Whatever level of enhancement Marc got from Khonshu, plus his own skills, was enough to defeat the level of enhancement Danny was capable of getting from Shou-lau, plus his own skills. This was a pretty straight fight between two skilled characters and their attempts to use their mystical enhancements to their advantage, and Marc’s skills and enhancements beat Danny’s skills and enhancements.
The next couple fights have less to tell us about Marc’s normal abilities. Khonshu brings a legion of his sorcerer-priests and mummies to attack Doctor Strange before Marc hits him and takes his power. Marc just steals Ghost Rider’s car from outside his house, presumably using a mix of Khonshu, Strange, and Shou-lao’s power to do so. Then he beats Thor by setting the fight on the moon, where he has the advantage, and by surprising Thor (and the readers) by explaining that uru is made of moon rock, and thus under his control. Presumably his other amps help here too. He beats up Thor with his own hammer and then squishes him between a bunch of crushed-together moons. The use of multiple, or larger, moons throughout does echo to an old West Coast Avengers fight where, in a dimension of numerous moons, he was able to trash a robot supposedly immune to powers at Wonder Man's level. He also briefly fights Carol Danvers and Iron Man and destroys an incarnation of Mephisto. But again, all these fights are only possible due to his various extra amps and Khonshu's priests so they don't matter much to the battle forum.
Inexplicably, from my perspective, he is unable to steal Black Panther’s power when he can steal all these others. I get that the power is a part of T’Challa, and that he has a really strong will, but those don’t seem like radical differences from others whose powers were more easily stolen. In any case, Khonshu goes nuts, and in Avengers 36, Moon Knight no longer has any of the ankhs that give him the enhancements when he fights Black Panther. He has, however, talked with the Unseen and learned about how to summon the Phoenix.
Point being, this is normal Moon Knight, enhanced to, at best, the degree he was when he fought Iron Fist, and potentially less than that since Khonshu is now busy with other things and needs to marshal his power. I present the scans of this fight in chronological order instead of how they appear in the comic, which intentionally told the story out of order.
There are three points of context to look at throughout this fight, as I’ll discuss along the way: Moon Knight thinks T’Challa is Mephisto for a good portion of the fight, and so certainly fights him a different way than he would if he knew he was fighting Panther. Panther is probably holding back to some degree while trying to convince Moon Knight to stop. And Moon Knight’s real plan is not to win, but to feel enough pain that he summons the Phoenix.
They jump at each other, and Marc punches T’Challa, which he partially blocks but still says “Hnngh!” in pain. Panther throws some energy blades at Marc, which Marc dodges, and Marc throws some crescents at Panther, which Panther breaks with his claws.
Marc hits Panther with his nunchucks. On the one hand, T’Challa’s armor absorbs kinetic energy, so none of Marc’s hits can really hurt him. On the other hand, T’Challa is sitting on the ground, his right arm up in a pretty defensive stance. If you want to argue that Panther is always really in control and is just holding back, it’s hard to explain how he would let himself get into this position, it’s the kind of position you only get in if you’re forced into it. Panther blasts Marc with a kinetic energy blast, which pushes Marc back a distance.
Panther takes the nunchucks and Marc grabs a sword. Panther sort of runs through the air and kicks through the sword, and then flips around, kicking Marc in the chest and getting some vibranium foam incapacitant on him. All this time he is telling Marc he wants to help, so that is an argument in favor of him not going all out. Marc easily cuts and rips off the goo off his chest.
Panther hits him in the face with what looks like the hilt of a laser dagger as opposed to the blade, although Marc does complain about the heat. Marc punches T’Challa in the face, then knees him in the face, and then kicks him in the shin, all of which again only charges Panther’s armor. T’Challa punches Marc in the face, eliciting a “Guugh!” from Moon Knight.
At this point in the fight, as the dialog shows, Marc still believes Panther is Mephisto. T’Challa says “So be it,” and again lending weight to the idea that he was holding back and that he is now going to take it more seriously. At this point, they have both hit each other five times, if you count both the nunchucks on the arm and T’Challa breaking the sword as hits.
T’Challa hits Moon Knight 3 times, really knocking him around. Marc hits him, then T’Challa hits Marc, then Marc hits T’Challa. The times when Marc hits Panther, again really he’s just charging up Panther’s armor, but Panther’s head does get knocked about too, so there is some effect.
Panther hits Marc 3 times in a row, and Marc is now down on the ground holding his head. It is around this point where Marc starts talking about praying to a god, and as we ultimately understand, this means he is praying to the Phoenix, not Khonshu. So, really, his strategic goal here is NOT to beat Panther, but to goad Panther into hitting him enough to summon the Phoenix. At this time, he also says he stopped thinking that T’Challa was Mephisto a few dozen punches ago, presumably exaggerating the number of punches since we haven’t seen that many; I personally think he figured out who Panther was around “so be it.”
Marc punches T’Challa with zero effect, and Panther hits him back twice, leaving Marc splayed on the ground. Panther won’t fight him any more, so Marc punches himself at least one more time, which is finally enough to summon the Phoenix.
We have what I hope that I have shown is a straightforward fight in one sense—Marc, with possibly some stats enhancement from Khonshu, but possibly less than normal due to Khonshu’s distractions, plus Marc’s normal skills and gear, fights against Black Panther, his normal Panther god/herb enhancement, T’Challa’s normal skills, and his normal gear.
There are then the following contexts: (1) Marc thinks Panther is Mephisto for a good chunk of the fight. (2) Panther is trying to convince Marc to give up rather than going all out for a good chunk of the fight. (3) Marc’s real goal is not to beat Panther but to get Panther to hurt him enough to summon the Phoenix.
The effect of (1) is for Panther to do better than he would otherwise, because Marc isn’t adapting his fighting to his actual opponent. The effect of (2) is for Marc to do better than he would otherwise, because Panther isn’t trying as hard as he could. The effect of (3) is that Marc is letting Panther hit him, and thus Panther is doing better than he would otherwise.
Personally, I think (1) and (2) probably mostly cancel each other out. (2) may have a little more weight than (1). But (3) is a pretty major factor on its own.
Let’s look at the tale of the tape again. Up until the time Panther said “so be it,” which I think is also around when Marc realized that he is T’Challa and not Mephisto, they had both hit each other 5 times. That sounds pretty even, but again, Panther’s kinetic-absorbing armor is a pretty massive advantage, so even with 5 hits each, Panther is doing more damage to Marc than Marc is to Panther.
After that, Panther hits Marc 9 times and Marc hits Panther 3 times. This is a pretty big difference from the first half of the fight. I think it shows that Panther has stopped holding back, but I think it also shows that arc is putting his Phoenix-summoning strategy; into full effect; he has now goaded Panther into unleashing on him, and largely stops fighting back.
So: who won the fight? Panther, clearly. But, partly because Marc wanted to get hit, in a sort of reversal or embracing of the Taskmaster fight where Taskmaster says Moon Knight never knew a punch he didn’t want to take.
Who would win a fight between Panther and Moon Knight without all this context? I think in a straight fight, Panther would still win. His gear is a massive, almost insurmountable advantage all by itself. I think their stats are about even when both are enhanced by their respective gods, but Panther also has a clear skill advantage over Moon Knight. This is not to say that Marc is a bad fighter; he is actually quite skilled. But in my estimation, Panther is one of the top-3 martial artists in Marvel (along with Iron Fist and Shang-Chi) out of the people we have consistent feats for (which is to say, excluding Marvel’s cosmic women Gamora, Moondragon, and Mantis, and a variety of Iron Fist and Shang-Chi secondary characters). So, with Panther’s skill and gear advantage he would win anyway.
I think the two differences between Marc’s fight with Iron Fist and his fight with Black Panther are (1) Marc fought with the intent to win against Danny, and fought with the intent to absorb pain against Panther, at the very least in the second half of the fight, and (2) Panther’s superior gear.
One impressive lesson to take from all this is how well Marc can do against either of these top-level martial artists with what are more or less his base stats when he’s enhanced, and in particular that he was able to take that many hits from Panther before he went down.
There are a lot of Moon Knight respect threads out there. This one is idiosyncratic. It focuses on only certain time periods, and brings a sharp focus to certain aspects of his fighting style that I have noticed in reading him, which may or may not be of interest to others.
In short, it focuses on the time from his inception up through the end of Moon Knight: Fist of Khonshu, and including his time in the West Coast Avengers (1987-89), but skips over Marc Spector: Moon Knight (starting 1989) and largely everything else up until 2014, where I pick up with his eponymous volume of that year and continue on to the present. In other words, it basically covers 1975-1989, and 2014-2021.
Why? It came about when I was doing a CAV, using the Moon Knight who, in the terms of the debate, was non-powered. I believed that both the 2014 Moon Knight, as personified in his Mr. Knight identity, and the Moon Knight of his first volume, were non-powered.
However, the deeper I read, the more I realized that was not exactly the case. I will use this RT to parse some of the details of the state of his powers (and lack thereof) in both eras. I am also including the 1985 Fist of Khonshu volume since it intentionally introduces the fact that the Moon Knight of that volume gets powers for seemingly the first time. This makes it seem like the first-volume Moon Knight (and earlier) did not, a concept which I shall interrogate.
In addition to the volumes I noted above, I will also go into some of the volumes in-between to a totally arbitrary degree, partly as a further commentary on the state of his powers.
I should note that, in general, his powers change on and off quite a bit from volume to volume, as each writer changes his circumstances in an explicit in-universe way, but also picks and chooses which parts of his history to acknowledge and which to ignore.
In addition to the powers/no powers question, I also wanted to highlight certain aspects of his fighting style, just because I think they are interesting.
The main appearances that I cover here are: Werewolf by Night 32-33, Marvel Spotlight 28-29, Defenders 47-51, Spectacular Spider-man 22-23, Marvel Two-in-One 52, Hulk! Magazine 11-15 & 17-20, Marvel Preview 21, Moon Knight volume 1, Fist of Khonshu, West Coast Avengers, the 2014 Moon Knight volume, and the 2016 Moon Knight volume. Plus a little extra here and there. I haven’t gotten a few issues in volume 1 and WCA yet, those will be added when I do.
Of course, Moon Knight is about to become the Big Bad in Avengers starting next week, so that will presumably involve quite a change to his powerset. See the final example in “Other Powers” for a hint.
Marc has Dissociative Identity Disorder, or DID, popularly known as having multiple personalities. His personalities are Marc Spector, mercenary; Jake Lockley, a cab driver; Steven Grant, a millionaire; and Moon Knight. He also has dipped deep into violent psychosis at various times. His multiple personalities were originally presented as an intellectual strategy to infiltrate different parts of society, but soon it because clear that he was psychologically unable to avoid his different selves. Recently this has been explained as being, at least in part, due to his exposure to a Nazi child-abuser. In addition to his DID and psychosis, he also has an extremely strong will, even for a comic character. Overall, his mental state varies from stable to unstable, from somewhat moral to ridiculously vicious, depending on the writer/volume.
He considers himself a sadist. "The broken part of me is made of bleak, pitch-black fury. So, the blood-spray and bone-breaking...I won't lie, I enjoy it. I look forward to it, sometimes."
At one point, he carved the moon into 47 people’s foreheads.
See also the links under Durability/Endurance, showing his ability to will himself back to being able to walk after a severe spinal injury, his ability to will himself through gale-force winds right after that, and his ability to force himself through sonic attacks that put the Thing down.
Marc’s past history has changed slightly over time (X vs Y years in the marines, etc.) but it has stayed largely the same:
His gear has varied VERY widely over the decades, with a costume ranging from cloth to adamantium armor, and with gear ranging from very simple to fancy dart guns and Hawkeye-ish style weapons, etc. I’ll show a couple of those examples, but in the eras we’re looking at, it has been pretty simple:
• Crescent darts—his most classic weapon
• A truncheon, which can release a grapple.
The crescents have always been pretty sharp; here one cuts through a gun.
• A golden ankh that glowed when danger neared.
• A boomerang with protective charms.
• Wristbands (like those he already had, and used to deflect bullets).
• Scarab darts and throwing irons to replace his crescent darts
• A lasso/grapple/axe
• A bola
He also has, more uniquely, magic armor that allows him to fight incorporeal ghosts.
Moon Knight’s strength is fascinating to me.
In his first appearance, there was no comment on his strength, but he contended equally with Werewolf by Night. Later, it was brought up that he gained enhanced strength by being bitten by Werewolf by Night, and that strength waned and waxed with the moon. I had no idea about this, previous to doing this research.
This wasn’t really commented on much later, and I would say he seemed to be strong, but more like Captain America strong instead of truly superhuman, for a while. But then they made a point of saying that his werewolf-strength had faded away (volume one, issue 6), maybe just because they had forgotten about it before, and were coming up with an explanation for that. He continued to be more or less peak human in strength in volume 1, but even in the letters pages, the editors said that whether he was superhuman or not was an open question: “Some of the stunts he’s pulled have been nigh impossible…maybe it all comes down to a system of beliefs (‘It’s all in the mind’)—or maybe it simply depends on one’s definition of ‘supernatural’—or, finally, maybe MK really does have transcendant powers which he simply hasn’t tapped yet.”
Then eventually, in the second volume, he gained a more direct connection to Khonshu, and explicitly got superhuman strength that changed with the moon—fascinatingly the same as with the werewolf strength.
But also fascinatingly, in this volume he was constantly having problems getting used to his now-enhanced strength, as if that werewolf strength had never existed.
At various times since then, he has switched back and forth between having enhanced strength or not, depending on the writer. For instance, I’d argue that in the two most recent volumes, he has not had enhanced strength, despite having a direct connection with Khonshu—his powers have been more nebulous in this era, with Khonshu helping out when needed, instead of giving a constant amp. At least, that’s my interpretation.
When Moon Knight was in an alternate dimension fighting a robot, there were “untold thousands” of moons. The aliens that made this robot kept sending it out against different West Coast Avengers, and each time it lost, they made it proof against the previous one’s abilities. This meant it was impervious to Wonder Man’s strength, for example. Moon Knight’s strength was amped by each extra moon to the degree that he was able to rip the robot apart.
(everything after his first issue where he was bitten by Werewolf by Night, up through volume 1, issue 5 where he says his werewolf strength is gone):
Bends metal bars with a kick (which “came faster than the committee could gasp”).
Breaks a rifle over his leg. (issue 5, right before he says his werewolf strength is gone)
(His professional mercenary days, and volume 1 from issue 6 on):
Falls enormous distance down cliff, but is able to stop his fall by grabbing a small branch. Given the speed he was falling, it would take a lot of hand-muscle power to stop that fall; clearly the thin branch is also superhuman in its ability to cling to the cliff J
(Fist of Khonshu, West Coast Avengers, and also Marc Spector: Moon Knight, although I am not including MS:MK scans here)--Khonshu has directly amped him and by the time of West Coast Avengers, fully possessed him:
When amped by Khonshu, he has “more than human strength.”
Khonshu “strengthened me.”
Khonshu says his “strength will increase with the moon by night.”
(2000s-2012)--he still has superhuman strength here; I am not including scans from this period, but did include some for comparison’s sake:
Holds on to his line (with separate lines attached to each arm) while Valkyrie’s horse lifts him, a team, and a big circle of concrete. Also, note that his crescent somehow slices a circle through the concrete.
Throws a guy through a car windshield—it’s impressive enough to throw a 200-pound guy, but a windshield is damn tough to break, this takes a lot of power, as specifically pointed out by some first-responders in a later panel.
(2014-now)--his strength is inconsistent, but he generally does not display superhuman strength on a significant level:
Moon Knight’s durability is infamous. I won’t go into some of the more well-known examples that come from the 2000s, which have been well-documented elsewhere.
While fighting Werewolf by Night the first time, Russell hits him numerous times, and is amazed at Marc’s endurance: “It was impossible. I’d slashed, clawed, mauled, and choked him—and he wanted more, still more--!”
This one takes some context. Marc was previously injured with a “severe” spinal injury. He has surgery, but his doctor says he “may never walk again.” It’s bad enough that Marc thinks he may need to retire as Moon Knight. But then later he sees a villain, Bora, kill a famous ballet dancer. She uses super-cold winds to buffet and freeze him to death. While that happens, Marc can’t help him, but he is inspired by the guy’s determination—the guy dances his way to death. So Marc gets all his folks up on a roof and just wills himself back into being able to walk. I have to emphasize that everything in this comic up til now made that seem impossible. This foreshadows future times when he has massive injuries like when Midnight tortures him and his spine.
Then, immediately after this, in the same issue, he fights Bora. He gets the X-men and Fantastic Four to help, and uses other stuff to distract her. I mostly cut out those parts, and focus here on just when Marc forces his way through Bora’s winds—which as we saw in the last scene can go to -60 degrees Fahrenheit. So again—just previously he was totally unable to stand. Now he is able to force himself through gale-level winds. That is crazy pants. Xavier even points out his pain tolerance. Finally Nightcrawler distracts her and gets her to shut the winds off briefly so Marc can take her out. But overall, Marc goes from being paralyzed in his legs to pushing his way through winds that the other characters can’t get through in a ridiculously short time.
This one also takes some context: Crossfire gasses Marc and the Thing. However, Marc’s mask mostly helps him avoid the gas, and so he is awake when he is chained up. Crossfire explains his weapon, the Sonic Mind-Warper. It can “kill with swift and painful effect.” But he leaves them alone and later they get out, and Marc explains about the gas and mask. Still, the gas did affect him and he is somewhat woozy. Crossfire uses the Sonic Mind-Warper on Marc and Thing. Thing goes down, but Marc pushes through, in part due to his training against torture and brainwashing. But this is a physical attack too, not just “brainwashing.” Anyway, Marc makes it where Thing doesn’t, and takes out Crossfire.
Speaking of gas, the whole “not affected by gas” thing is somewhat inconsistent. Here he is affected by a smoke bomb, and as we see here, he is affected by gas, but Khonshu controls his body so he doesn't have to breathe for a while.
Marc is blasted through a wall by Kang and survives. Marc is temporarily stunned, but Kang’s weapons are top-notch, and even surviving is impressive.
Marc takes a hatchet straight in the chest. He still eventually beats the guy. I don’t know if this needs explaining, but a hatchet in the chest ought to open your ribcage right up. That’s a crazy wound to just get up and survive.
Finally here he gets shot by Bushman, then totally ignores the bullet wound while he blitzes Bushman and smashes his face into a wall, dodges some fire blasts, fire-pantses Sun King, and knocks Sun King out the glass door before he can react. So he basically has four speed/agility feats in a row right after getting shot; getting shot is like another day at the office to him.
A bunch of ghosts (whose hits were physical) whaled on him for a while, just stomping on him because he couldn't hit them back, and he got right up at the end of it.
This lady who says she’s another avatar of Khonshu claws him twice, quite seriously, in the side (which based on the depth of the claws goes quite deep) and the back, and he keeps fighting enough to punch her out.
He was right next to a bomb (with 2 seconds left on the timer, we can see that he’s right above the bomb) when it goes off. He survives and we next see him (a day later at most) spryly vaulting a barrier.
He fell from a plane, at terminal velocity, into a frozen lake, and survived—clearly with the help of Khonshu, but what this underlines is that Khonshu will help him when he needs it. Not only should the fall have easily killed him, but he should be completely frozen and not be able to even move. But he wakes up, pulls himself on the boat and talks just fine.
But consider that he was hit by a van thrown by Mr. Hyde, a guy who can fight Thor. Marc went on to beat up Mr. Hyde immediately after.
He beat this sniper up after getting shot in the side, and basically ignored it, as you can see in the end of the fight. (Also, we see that the sniper was surprised by how hard it was to shoot him, since he also missed Marc a bunch of times. And yet, we know the guy was a good shot, since he just sniped several people at once.)
Then he’s thrown in a combat circle with the pyrokinetic Sun King. The durability he shows here is insane. He takes severe burns on his hand and head, has teeth knocked out and fingers broken, and still takes down Sun King.
(How powerful a pyrokinetic is Sun King, the reader may ask? Powerful.
I always have a hard time dividing these up, but I’ll do my best. Often one category relates to another.
While it’s hard to say whether volume 1 Moon Knight is a true bullet-timer, in the sense that he can see the bullet moving and dodge specifically out of its path, he dodges the hell out of bullets on a constant basis. There are a number of statements that comment on his speed, and he is clearly extremely agile. 2014 Moon Knight steps beyond the “constantly dodge bullets” line into bullet-timing territory.
A guy (actually a vampire, who should have enhanced speed) attacks him from behind. Marc turns around and hits him first, and the vampire says, “He’s too fast!!” (This is in his Khonshu-enhanced era.)
Marc dodges a bullet a point-blank range, and the guy says, “It ain’t possible—no one can move that fast!!”
Still in the Khonshu-enhanced era, the Green Goblin, who also has enhanced speed, says, “You are quite fast.”
A branch falls down toward a woman, and Marc knocks it out of the way. As seen in the first scan, Marc is a distance away when the branch starts to fall, and it is like 6 inches above her head before he moves, but he still gets to it in time. That’s a lot of ground to cover in almost no time.
Here, a guy is on a rooftop, shooting at Moon Knight, who is on the ground. Then the guy jumps down and is suddenly disarmed (twice) from hits from above. He finds that Moon Knight was able to scale the building in the time it took him to just jump down. That’s pretty fast.
Marc executes four moves in the time it takes a guy to swing a baseball bat. Notice that the heavy guy on the left starts swinging his bat in the first panel, and completes it in the third. In that time, Marc kicks a guy, punches a woman while simultaneously blocking a hatchet chop with a crescent, and then turns completely around and, switching his crescent to his other hand, slices the guy with the bat. An excellent example of how much faster he is than a typical person.
Marc cuts a bullet in half with a crescent in mid-air. I’ll be honest, when this first came out I was all over it, pushing it as bullet-timing. Then in recent years I was less hot on it, feeling that it was a high showing for him and less in sync with his other feats. But upon reviewing his earlier feats, I think it is actually fully in line with his speed as seen elsewhere.
In a perfect example of comic bullet-timing, multiple frames on the left are synched with others on the right, showing that the right-hand panels take place between the left-hand panels, and providing a total time period in which all the action takes place. In the time it takes to pull a trigger and for the bullet to leave the barrel, Marc is able to reach behind himself, grab a crescent, and put it precisely in the right spot to intercept the bullet. This shows true bullet-timing speed and the accuracy to put it in the right spot.
Moon Knight has always had been very gymnastic.
Moon Knight can dodge like it’s his job.
Bushman shoots at Marc; Marc is distracted by Marlene squealing, but he STILL dodges a point-blank shot with a speed that Bushman has to exclaim, “No! No one could dodge like that!” (I’ve edited two panels together to be next to each other instead of on separate rows.)
In a blitz, disarms a cop with a crescent, then knocks two down, then dodges multiple shooters shots, throws another guy, and runs off dodging more shots. One cop says “I’ve never seen anybody move like that,” and another specifically says, “Nobody can dodge bullets forever,” pointing out that he is dodging them and they’re not just missing.
Dodges shots while gliding (upper right corner).
In an amazing show of agility and dodging, he leaps up a complex set of platforms that are pretty high and far from one another, with ropes all between them that make it hard to get a clear path (as seen in the first scan), while dodging numerous shots, ending by closing in and disarming him.
The lady who shoots at him at the bottom was trained to be a killer by a highly successful hitman from the time she was a baby. She had to fight for her food growing up, so she has plenty of training and experience. She killed before puberty, and was near 100 kills by the time she was 20. Eventually she killed her own teacher. So she’s a great fighter and a great shot. But as we saw, she misses Moon Knight from close range—while he disarms her.
Then in a later fight she once again shoots from point-blank range and again can’t hit him.
Moon Knight fights Sun King, a pyrokinetic. He dodges some flame, but his pants are on fire. He manages to kick his flaming pants onto Sun King! That takes skill and speed! I know this is a ridiculous feat, but consider what has to happen here. Marc is wearing pants on both legs; he has to pull them down, and while balancing on one leg fling them at Sun King. This would normally be totally awkward to do in the first place, and easy to dodge, so it shows how fast and nimble Marc is for Marc to hit Sun King with such an awkward attack! :)
This is probably a little hyperbolic, but he does unquestionably use a lot of skill, both in a highly trained “using difficult martial arts techniques” sense and in a “targets vulnerable body parts” sense.
Uses esoteric weapons like a three-piece staff (an extremely awkward weapon) and claws.
This move shows ridiculous skill and agility. Kicks two guys over his head while doing a hand-stand. Think just how hard it would be to target these kicks.
Uses throws pretty often. Here he throws a guy who comes at him from behind, another guy who comes at him from behind, another guy on his back, the skilled fighter Midnight Man, the skilled fighter Conquer-lord, an LMD of Nick Fury, and the very skilled fighter Shroud.
Has an overall brutal fighting style, where “the cacophony of snapping collarbones and pit-pattering plasma is like whale-song to him.”
He specifically targets weak points in a body:
He knows nerve strikes and weak points:
Also see Multiple Simultaneous Attacks and Accuracy below for more detail.
Especially in volume 1, Moon Knight regularly uses simultaneously attacks on multiple people. He might kick one person while punching another. Or kick two people. Or throw one person while kicking someone. He also often hits multiple people with one strike. And again, yes other heroes do this. But it is clearly a part of his fighting style, and it would take a lot of coordination and technical skill to do it.
Moon Knight is renowned for his near-Bullseye-level throwing accuracy. He is most known for using his crescent darts, but also has a lot of feats throwing his truncheon. He often disarms people as his opening gambit.
In one of his most impressive examples of skill ever, He shoots an arrow so it intentionally splits on a guy’s sword and then shoots through the hands of the two people on either side of him so they can’t use their guns!!!!!
One thing I noticed is that Moon Knight, in volume 1, one-shots bad guys constantly. Sure, they’re fodder. Sure, other heroes do this too. But it was a pattern that stood out to me.
Here is an accumulated set of his one-shots. I know you can’t see the effects of every one to “prove” he knocked them out. You’ll just have to trust me, these are all people he knocked out with one hit. Some pages have multiple people who are one-shotted.
Again, yes I know other heroes can do this too. But it’s more of a pattern for Moon Knight than it is for most others, in my opinion. And it’s also fun to see all in one place.
(This is only a small selection of his gliding feats, which are pretty ubiquitous.)
His multiple personalities, his sometimes-possession by Khonshu, and his significant willpower have given him the ability to resist the Voice’s control (a powerful mind-controller) and hypnosis by a special-tech set of keys.
His experience with his multiple personalities, and mental instability in general, also allowed him to enter the “mind” of the Contagion that was taking over New York. Contagion took over an enormous host of heroes, including those with psychic defenses like Dr. Strange and Elektra. Moon Knight, however, survived mentally intact, and rescued several of them from the Contagion’s mental control while inside its mindscape. He was eventually overwhelmed, but was finally rescued by one of the people he had freed earlier. Regardless of the fact that he was overwhelmed at the end, he was the only hero who was able to resist the Contagion’s control.
Marc has clearly gotten some new powers from Khonshu as of the Conan crossover, Serpent War. He can see ghostly images and walk through a window’s glass. These and other new powers will presumably come into play in his role as the antagonist in the Avengers next week.
Basically, when Marc was first resurrected by Khonshu, he might have amped his strength, dexterity, and durability a bit, but not to obvious levels. He also occasionally gave him a sense that there was something he should do, but mostly he left him alone. Then he was bitten by the Werewolf by Night, and had increased strength under the moon for a while. Then that slowly went away, and he was normal again. Then he hooked up with the priests of Khonshu, and they amped his strength to new levels. Eventually, Khonshu straight-up possessed him in West Coast Avengers. Then Khonshu completely left him. His powers varied a bit from volume to volume after that. By 2014, he didn’t seem to show superhuman strength at the levels he had before. However, Khonshu now became more of a guide, giving him various buffs when needed. For instance, he gave him mystic armor to fight ghosts. And while it wasn’t explicit, I think it was through the intervention of Khonshu that Marc survived a fall from a plane, and a bomb in a house. His relationship with the moon god has continued to vary. However, I have tended to see Khonshu’s relationship with Marc as being more of a patron who steps in to help Marc out when needed than someome who gave him continual gifts of strength, etc. In his most recent appearance in the Serpent War, however, Khonshu has given Marc some new amps, and we’ll see where that leads.
I’ve kept to the time periods I am focusing on for these battles. There’s no Taskmaster here, for example.
Marc fights fodder constantly. He’s always fighting some criminal goons or soldiers or guards. Sometimes these fights are worth looking at because there’s just so many of them, and sometimes he just beats them up in a cool way.
This is just one nice example of seven guys who are clearly very strong. He one or two-shots all of them in a nice display of his simultaneous-attack skills.
In a nice early fight with some criminals, Moon Knight uses many of his signatures moves: simultaneous attacks, throwing someone, blocking someone form shooting, and dodging gunfire.
“Raid” battle. Moon Knight infamously invades a tenement in a style similar to Raid. These guys are all fodder, but he kicks their asses in an awesomely cinematic and brutal fashion. Beating the crap out of no-names has never looked so cool.
Marc fights a guy who is putatively his brother, but really he is a random guy that was brainwashed into thinking he was Randall. Keep in mind that Marc was already hit straight in the chest with a hatchet before this. Marc throws him, then dodges and “Randall” is killed.
Here Marc fights an LMD of Nick Fury. LMDs are generally supposed to be pretty close to the actual abilities of the character; this one was made by Jake Fury, his brother, a highly skilled LMD creator.
Three Killers. Early Moon Knight often featured him fighting against a character with no other appearances, but who was said to be an expert in one particular form of combat or another, thus showing off Marc’s versatility in beating them all. Of course in our feats-based system of debate, this often doesn’t mean much. But if you take the statements as truth, here he defeats a gun-master, a master of knives filled with acid, and a strong guy specializing in sumo.
Conquer-lord 1: Marc interrupts Conquer-lord’s assassination attempt. They got back and forth a bit. The next issue then recaps that whole fight, with Conquer-lord running off.
Conquer-lord 2: In the rematch, Conquer-lord has set up a chess board with pieces that attack, and spaces that explode. Marc avoids multiple attacks by the pieces before closing. Conquer-lord again runs off, this time in his ship, but Marc follows and throws Conquer-lord out the door, holding him pinned in place.
Moon Knight beats Druid, an exceptionally strong but somehow not superhuman guy. As you can see, he’s capable of ripping a desk out of its attachment to the floor and throwing it, and kicking apart a massive stone column, lifting it, and surviving it falling on him.
Lupinar—Lupinar shows off his skills by quickly disarming three men in one strike. He mentions that Moon Knight has “mastered virtually every weapon devised by man.” They clash a number of times, then Lupinar kicks Marc back. Marc uses a crescent to disarm Lupinar and bounce his sword back to Marc. Lupinar, beaten, then impales himself on the sword.
The Truth. The Truth is a big physical fighter and also a mind-controller of sorts. Moon Knight takes him on physically, then shocks him with the distressing contents of his mind, and ends up putting crescents in his eyes.
This is a snippet of a big series of trials he has to go through, but this one page encapsulates this entire trial. His opponents are: two sadists who are not necessarily big fighters (the guy with the hatchet and the guy with the mohawk), plus a guy who is a mass murderer and a successful serial killer over decades and is thus presumably a good killer (the guy with the bat), and the woman who is an extremely successful professional killer (as described in the Dodging section above). So a mix of skill levels. One reason to believe they are decent opponents is that it’s the fifth trial to get into an elite sadists’ club, and each trial is supposed to get progressively worse. So this is intended to be a hard fight. Regardless, it’s a worthwhile scene for the clear grace, ease, brutality, and efficiency with which he beats them, and especially the supportive text, “Trial? Nah. Spanking.”
SHIELD cyborg. Marc takes on an ex-SHIELD agent who is now a cyborg in a nice example of tactics, speed, and accuracy. First, Marc throws a crescent away, pretending to disarm himself but really banking it off a wall and messing up the guy’s machinery. Then he bullet-times the guy’s shot, blocking it with his crescent and deflecting it back at the guy, taking him down.
Werewolf by Night 1: This is Marc’s first appearance. According to all the explanations of the time, Marc should have no enhancements here. He gets his first enhanced werewolf-strength after this fight, and has no Khonshu powers yet. However, he manages to fight on equal footing with the decidedly superhumanly-strong, -fast, and -durable Jack Russell in an protracted battle. He does this partly by using silver weapons, which are a weakness for Russell, but he is also obviously just a good fighter, and knocks Werewolf by Night out. However, Jack wakes up and they fall into the water where Marc once again temporarily takes him out and pulls him onto the pier. They battle again with multiple hits on both sides, WWBN noting that “It was impossible. I’d slashed, clawed, mauled, and choked him—and he wanted more, still more--!” Finally WWBN gets the advantage this time, but then he turns back to human. Overall, Marc beat him solidly once, temporarily again, and was losing the final clutch—an impressive score for any human, even with silver weapons.
Werewolf by Night 2: Marc and Jack again trade several blows, and are eventually both knocked out after falling off a roof.
Black Spectre 1: when Marc first fights Spectre, a military vet who has been training intensively due to his inspiration by Moon Knight, Marc takes a spiked glove in the face, a mace in the shoulder, and then a kick in the face. It’s not a good scene.
Black Spectre 2: When they meet again, Marc has already been shot in the shoulder. Then Black Spectre kicks him in the back, and stabs him in the chest. Marc then wills himself up, takes out some fodder, and knocks Spectre off the building. They fall several stories into a spotlight. Only Marc gets up, despite his multiple serious wounds. This is not so much a win by skill as by guts and endurance.
Bushman 1: Bushman is Marc’s main adversary. Marc dodges a shot, then basically beats the crap out of Bushman.
Bushman 2: In this fight, Marc takes him out pretty quickly after just a bit of a struggle.
Spider-man: Marc and Peter fake this fight to trick some criminals. Note that Marc manages to hit Spider-man on the head with his truncheon, clearly surprising him despite his spider-sense—and it is a hard enough strike to make Peter yell out, so it was the kind of attack his spider-sense should have warned him of.
For comparison, here Marc and Pete fight for real in their first meeting. Peter knocks Marc away from a criminal he’s interrogating. Marc dodges his webs, then slices another web with his crescents—both despite Pete having superior speed and spider-sense. Peter shows that speed, dodging Moon Knight’s first punch. Then Marc turns his attention to the criminal, and Spider-man jumps on Marc from behind. Moon Knight throws Peter off his back, and the fight ends when Cyclone shows up.
Marc fights the Bogey Man. Marc flips over a really tall creature, shooting upside-down. He takes a hit to the head from the superhumanly-strong monster, but Marc just shoots the hell out of it. I would note that Marc is supposedly doing this without Khonshu, but that’s a pretty serious flip for a baseline human.
Shroud: Shroud is a highly-skilled martial artist with Darkforce powers. They go back and forth several times, but Moon Knight ultimately takes him down.
Daredevil: A context-heavy fight. Moon Knight impressively cuts Daredevil’s line, despite his radar sense. Then they go in an arcade, where Daredevil’s senses are confused by the sounds. They both tag each other a couple times before realizing they’re on the same side. A decent showing for Moon Knight regardless of the distraction of Matt’s senses.
Black Knight: Black Knight, impressively, blocks some of Moon Knight’s throws, but then Marc throws several at once and trips Dane up. The Black Knight gets out, and destroys Moon Knight’s axe, but then Marc tricks him into thinking he got stabbed, and bonks Dane on the head for the win.
Moon Knight takes on the Thunderbolts. He dodges multiple attacks from the superhumanly-fast Venom, trips him with his grapple line, then disappears on him. He throws crescents at Moonstone, but those are blocked by a field from Songbird. Then Andreas von Strucker comes out to fight. Von Strucker used to be one of the two members of Fenris, but now he uses the Swordsman identity. He cuts Marc, then Marc blocks the next strike and sweeps him, then knees him to the ground. (Those last two panels are Radioactive Man preparing a blast, but being hit by an attack from the outside; since he also wears a hood it sort of looks like Marc is being hit by the blast, but it’s not.) I’m including this because I used to think this was the original Swordsman, and it’s not, and I wanted to correct my record on that.
Marc has a rematch with Von Strucker. Marc closes in pretty quickly and starts choking him out. Von Strucker in unconscious when Venom attacks, giving Marc a huge claw strike and knocking him into some cannisters. Marc, however, is still well enough to do a flip out of the way. A bomb goes off and Marc escapes, getting all the way back to his base before collapsing. It should be noted that Venom is a multi-tonner and his claws are very serious weapons; for Marc to survive this is impressive.
Hyde. I’m just including this because it’s ridiculous, really. This is the 2011 volume. Hyde is able to fight Thor. Marc is able to cause him pain by punching him, is hit by a van thrown by Hyde without dying, and ultimately knocks him out.
Having finished the Fights section, I realized I didn’t include all of Marc’s fights from his last two volumes. I’ll add more of those later.
This is kind of an appendix. Marc’s erstwhile girlfriend (and now mother of his daughter, Diatrice) Marlene’s skills are sometimes ignored. She was rarely just the girlfriend in distress. She often went on missions with him and was a fairly good fighter. These are only some of her feats.
I thought I had this stuff pretty much complete, but in writing it up I’ve found areas where I want to add some more material. So I will do that in the coming months.
It is also possible that I will slowly backtrack the periods I am covering. For instance, I put in a few feats from 2000-2013 in here, but not a ton. I may eventually put in all of the 2011 volume, and then Secret Avengers, etc. We’ll see how I feel. But overall I like the “mostly unpowered version of Moon Knight” that I’ve presented here, with some Fist of Khonshu/West Coast Avengers for contrast.
Prepare for many words.
Hellcat, aka Patsy Walker, is a fascinating character for many reasons. She is unusual because she was originally a mega-star in Marvel’s pre-Marvel romance comics, starring in multiple long-running series. These were similar to the Betty and Veronica stories in Archie comics. Her first appearance was in 1944. More than a third of her total appearances are from these romance comics.
The romance comics actually crossed over into Marvel modern (post-Fantastic Four) era, but were dwindling. Then in 1965 Marvel decided to have her show up in the Fantastic Four annual where Reed and Sue got married, bringing her into the 616 universe for the first time.
They soon had her interacting with Beast in Amazing Adventures, where she left her romance-era husband Buzz Baxter and blackmailed Beast into letting her hang out with the Avengers, which was her dream. She managed to find a copy of Greer Nelson’s original Cat costume (Greer is now known as Tigra) and, putting it on, became Hellcat.
She went on a couple adventures with the Avengers, but turned down the opportunity to join permanently in order to instead take Moondragon up on her invitation to train Patsy’s mind and body on Titan. She did so, learning fighting skills and mental powers under Moondragon’s tutelage. She returned to Earth and joined the Defenders, where she became one of their core members for years (1977-83; issues 44-125).
Her Titan-trained psychic powers lasted only a little while; Moondragon took them back during an adventure involving Omega the Unknown. However, they occasionally showed up afterwards on a somewhat random basis.
During that time, she met and fell in love with Daimon Hellstrom: America's daughter, "the girl who could be you," was paired up with the Son of Satan. Both she and Hellstrom went through a phase where they wrangled with their real and believed parentage. For a time, Patsy believed she was the daughter of Satan, just as Daimon was the son of Satan. However, this turned out to not be true.
This story with her mother was the first in-universe explanation of Patsy’s long sojourn in romance comics. Those comics, which were printed in actual reality, were also printed in-universe. In 616, Patsy was a child star, the focus of a whole world of comics and cross-platform publishing. Patsy’s mother controlled her in this career with a domineering hand. Eventually Patsy left that career, and her mother; hard feelings existed on both sides. Eventually this led to her mother trying (and failing) to sell Patsy’s soul. Today, Patsy continues to be famous in 616 for her work as a child star, as well as her more recent career as a popular author.
Back to the story: Patsy eventually married Hellstrom (a wedding which was marred by the appearance of her ex, Buzz Baxter, now a supervillain called Mad-Dog). Patsy and Daimon left the Defenders and started a paranormal investigation business. This went well for a while, but Daimon became more unstable and eventually regained his Darksoul, which Patsy helped to happen. The reality of his dark side turned her insane and she killed herself.
Patsy spent years in hell, fighting in the pit of the damned, often alongside fellow-deceased-Avenger Mockingbird. There she gained even more fighting skills. She was resurrected due to a scheme by Hellstrom that involved tricking Hawkeye into thinking he was rescuing Mockingbird.
Alive once more, her powers changed. She now had the ability to sense and avoid magic. She was involved in several solo or small-group mini-series, including Hellcat, where she solved a war between Mephisto, Dormammu, and Hellstrom; Patsy Walker: Hellcat, where she had magical adventures with native Alaskans as part of the Avengers Initiative; Marvel Divas, where she, Black Cat, Firestar, and Monica Rambeau took on Hellstom and other issues as a group of Sex and the City-like friends; and Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat, which portrayed her at a younger-seeming age and was told in a more all-ages format.
Normally a respect thread wouldn’t go into all that history. But it’s important, because there is confusion about where she gets her powers.
Except that that wasn’t actually the case. Greer Nelson got her original Cat powers through an experimental treatment that directly affected her body. She had the powers long before she wore the suit. So wearing the suit should not have given Patsy any powers.
But, that’s how they explained it, so that’s what happened. Except, after a few years in the Defenders, they pointed out that Patsy had replaced all the parts of her suit many times due to wear and tear, so the suit couldn’t be the origin of her powers, and that she was just as athletic without the suit on. They showed her wearing one pair of the uniform while holding another pair and talking about how it got wrecked. There was not much of an explanation for how she got so athletic, other than that she surfed a lot as a kid. This also didn’t explain her clearly-super strength.
The first OHOTMU follows this explanation. It says "she believed that the costume had somehow enhanced her agility and speed, and by the power of suggestion more than anything else, it had." It then goes on to say she has "no superhuman physical abilities," which you will see is clearly not true.
Soon after the previous scene in Defenders, Patsy came to believe she was the daughter of Satan, and Satan explained that the suit did sort of have powers, but it really just brought out the natural athleticism she always had. Seemingly, the suit transferred its powers to her, or in any case its effects permanently affected her.
But, then it turned out Satan was lying about being her dad (here, here, and here), so he could well have been lying about her suit, too. However, she was still seen leaping around without her costume in Defenders after that, so seemingly Satan's "the suit prodded her natural abilities awake" explanation was still the explanation for her powers. Years later, when Patsy was on a talk show, she seemed to support this idea, saying that she was “naturally athletic,” and the costume “augmented that.”
This would all change again. Shortly after leaving the Defenders, in an arc of West Coast Avengers, Patsy meets Greer Nelson, now Tigra. Nelson loses her Tigra form, so Patsy gives her the Cat costume, since it originally belonged to her. The story specifically explains how, by putting on the suit again, Nelson’s stats are increased, and she is able to defeat an enemy with similar stats. Then Nelson turns back into Tigra, clearly destroying the suit as one of the main plot points of the story.
So, if the suit is the source of the power, Patsy should definitely not have any powers any more, because that suit was definitively destroyed.
But, Patsy showed up again not long after, once again wearing the same kind of suit and still exhibiting her powers. I have seen an explanation online that this is possible because Nelson and the original suit-designer (Dr. Tumulo) saved multiple copies of the suit when it was originally made. But the original comic is very clear that Dr. Tumulo only took one, as seen in the original and a flashback, and anyway this doesn’t jive with the fact that the suit didn't give Greer Nelson her powers anyway, or with Patsy’s original explanation that she just replaced the suit parts as they wore out with normal cloth.
Very long story short: there have been specific plot-points, with concomitant feats, that have pointedly explained that the suit the source of Patsy’s powers. There have also been specific plot-points, with concomitant feats, that have pointedly explained that the suit the source of Patsy’s powers.
One other powers-related inconsistency/evolution: remember that Moondragon trained Patsy to have psychic powers, which did not ever come from her suit—although they somewhat replicated powers the original Cat had (see The Cat's powers at the very bottom of this thread). Then Moondragon took these powers away. But, Patsy still used those powers on occasion anyway, without any real explanation as to how, other than that she was possessed by a demon at one point, who again, like her costume, may have woken up her natural abilities.
Later on, after she died and was resurrected, she got new, clearly innate powers—the ability to sense and deflect magic, but also the kind of random ability to magically and instantly change into her costume. So even though these magic powers were innate, they were still connected to her costume! This also made a nice link between the Cat’s original “intuition” power, Patsy’s Titan psychic powers, and her current magic powers.
Since then, there have been a few instances where they say her costume is the source of her powers—which makes no sense since there really is no normal physical costume that she puts on, she just creates it, and can use her agility without it. And this panel from Models, Inc. seems to make fun of the idea that her, or anyone's, powers would come from a costume.
My personal explanation, which is not at all backed up on-panel, is this: Greer Nelson gained her powers from an experimental machine. When she wore the original Cat suit, her body’s power-radiance transferred the aura of her powers to the suit. Patsy wore the suit, which then transferred its powers into her. Even though she kept changing the suit, Patsy’s powers would transfer themselves back into any new suits she wore—in addition to also staying in her own body. Thus, when she gave a suit to Nelson, it once again radiated its powers back into Nelson—but Patsy never lost her powers. (Nelson, however, lost her Cat powers when she turned into Tigra.) Then when Patsy came back from hell, she internalized the idea of the suit as the symbol of her powers, and changes into it as a mental reinforcement of her innate abilities. Even that doesn’t fully explain it all, but I think it’s the best shot.
All clear? Don’t care? No problem. Let’s get to the feats. I will say ahead of time, this will involve a fair amount of scaling, partly to dig into the Cat/Hellcat relationship, and also because a lot of Patsy's opponents are not well-known.
Alright one last detour we get to powers. Let's revel in Patsy's happy-go-lucky spirit, which I think is best encapsulated here as she punches out an Einstein clone and looks for an Oppenheimer.
She has enhanced dexterity, to near-Spider-man or -Beast levels; enhanced speed; enhanced strength, to around 1-5 tons; and enhanced durability, especially to blunt force.
She can magically change into her costume, sense magic, and deflect magic attacks.
She used to have mind-blasts and telekinesis. She also temporarily had a Shadow Cloak like Devil-slayer’s.
Her costume has claws on the hands and sometimes feet, and a grappling claw on a line that she can use to swing around or tie people up.
She is a fairly skilled fighter, with Avengers training; training from Moondragon, one of 616’s most-skilled martial artists; and years of combat experience in hell. Her signature move is a double kick.
Patsy’s official stats have always underestimated her actual feats to some degree.
However, in the '70s and '80s, Patsy was throwing couches and breaking concrete with Hulk's face.
This modern data page (2005) describes Hellcat’s skills as being “an exceptional athlete and martial artist.” Her intelligence is 3, “learned.” Her strength is 3, “peak human,” up to 800 pounds. Her durability is 3, “enhanced.” Her fighting skills are 5, “master of a single form of combat.”
In this era, Patsy was drop-kicking giant wolves, tilting over SUVs, and swinging trees like baseball bats, so peak human is still low, but the other numbers are more accurate.
The current History of the Marvel Universe says that she has "notably enhanced agility."
Patsy's agility and acrobatics are her prime ability. She is close to Spider-man or Beast agility levels.
Her agility is enough to work out alongside Beast, a regular gynmastic partner in both the Avengers and Defenders. She was capable of being thrown an enormous height in the air and landing on one hand, balancing on Beast’s one foot. (Notice she does this without her Hellcat uniform.)
Has a friendly competition/playful game of agility with Tigra. See "Comparison with Tigra," below, but TD;LR is that Tigra should be more agile than her, and is herself spider-level in agility.
Flips around a machine Nighthawk designed to catch him, for training, including doing a one-handed flip and dodging rings, until finally being caught and then doing flips while her legs are caught. It should be noted that Nighthawk is also a highly trained acrobat (that’s what he did before he had wings) and has superhuman speed at night, plus he has wings, so anything designed to catch him is a real challenge.
Because of her agility, Patsy can dodge pretty solidly. She's not a bullet-timer, but can dodge energy beams and bullets effectively.
Dodged punch from Hulk and charge from Namor, who both have enhanced speed. They are in a ghostly form here but if anything are amped rather than hindered by it.
Patsy's speed is not as obviously enhanced as her agility, but she is fairly fast. Remember that Spidey said she was nearly as agile AND as fast as him.
Hank Pym is thrown off a skyscraper. Patsy, a distance away, see him mid-fall and is able to swing to him in time before he hits the ground. Someone reaches 150mph after 10 seconds of falling. He wasn’t falling that long, but it gives a general sense of how fast she must have reached him.
Patsy and Tigra catch Whirlwind, who is extremely fast. They make a note of the speed of their reflexes. He notes that almost no one is able to lay a hand on him. Whirlwind moves so fast that cops trying to grab him can’t see where he went. Whirlwind is fast enough to run up the side of a building.
He tries to attack her with his spinning moves, but she dodges out of the way. Tigra, whose speed should be fairly comparable, although higher, than Patsy’s, makes Whirlwind exclaim, “Nobody told me you really could move so fast!” He is shocked by her, and presumably Patsy’s, speed.
Patsy is able to hold her own with Tigra while climbing up a building; granted she uses her grappling claw.
Patsy is superhumanly strong. Her strength has varied over time, and her post-resurrection feats are somewhat better than before. I would overall rate her at a 1-5 tonner.
Hellcat has slightly-enhanced durability, especially for blunt force.
Orka, who is around a 90-100 tonner, is treated in this story as a team-buster. He takes out Vision, Iron Man, Hellcat, Captain America, Beast, and Scarlet Witch in one single punch. They are captured. Patsy is the first one, out of all of them, some of whom have extremely high durability, to wake up. She then beats up her ex-husband.
Patsy and Nighthawk are open-hand slapped by Dracula. Dracula was able to catch punches from Colossus at this time. Patsy falls to her knees (Nighthawk is prone and seemingly unconscious), but is up and about minutes later.
Tigra (mind-controlled) guts Patsy with her claws. Tigra’s claws can cut through steel and concrete. Patsy falls, but then gets up and is able to hold herself together long enough to KO Tigra. She is in the hospital later, but is OK.
After her resurrection, Patsy has various magic-related powers.
When She-hulk implies Patsy is a normal human, Patsy points out that She-hulk asked her to use her powers two days ago.
Her powers can resist blasts from the wearer of the Serpent Crown, an incredibly powerful magic artifact. Notes how she can “slip free” of magical attacks. The attacker backs up the existence of this ability.
Was trained by Moondragon in “the powers of the mind," which includes psionic blasts and telekinesis.
While Overmind, a powerful psychic (this is his “7 merged psychics” version), tries to read her mind, she accidentally blasts him backwards. He describes her mind as “quite formidable” and said the blast caused him “much pain.”
The original Hellcat costume had lenses so the wearer could see in the dark. To my knowledge, Patsy has never specifically said her costume can do this, but it would be strange if it couldn't, since it has all the other capabilities of the original costume. Patsy can see things like invisible lasers just by using her mystic senses, however.
She has claws on her fingers, and sometimes on her toes. She can use these claws for combat, for climbing buildings, and for destroying hard materials.
Claws are on the hands, and sometimes on the feet.
She has grapple-claws that she can launch off both hands; they are connected by a strong cable. She can use this to swing around the city like Spider-man or Daredevil, to disarm, or to wrap up people's legs and trip them.
For a while, she wore a Shadow Cloak just like the one Devil-slayer uses. She eventually got rid of it due to the danger it poses. You can teleport by wrapping the Shadow Cloak around you, you can control its ends like tendrils, and you can reach into it and pull out any weapon you want.
Pulls a monster out of the Cloak—the only time this has been done.
Uses her psychic connection to the Cloak to teleport through it, even when she’s not wearing it--something Devil-slayer never did.
On a couple of occasions, Patsy drove a convertible sports car she called the Hellcatmobile. It had no discernable special features.
Her skill comes from three sources: the Avengers, Moondragon's personal tutelage, and fighting for years in the pits of Hell.
Accepted Moondragon’s offer to train on Titan. Moondragon is one of the most technically skilled martial artists in the Marvel Universe.
She often fights using double-kicks, seen also under striking power. The following are all examples of attacks that use technical skill.
Moondragon, an extremely skilled martial artist, describes a demon as “faster than he looks.” Patsy grabs the giant demon’s hand and flips with it, locking him. Patsy says she’s “not your pupil any longer,” and Moondragon agrees, saying “I…see that, Patsy!”
Simultaneously fights with two very unwieldy weapons that are used very differently--a polearm and nunchucks—while also kicking. Manages to target specific areas, like blocking incoming attacks, or hitting throats, while doing so.
Hellcat has not gotten in a huge amount of one-on-one fights, but the ones she has been in have shown off her abilities well.
Patsy beats a mind-controlled, bloodlusted Tigra. Tigra slashes Patsy in the shoulder. It’s not clear if Patsy throws her or if Tigra jumps away. Tigra slashes through a chair and Patsy pops her on the head with it, collapsing Tigra to the ground in pain. Tigra severely guts Patsy with her claws. Now Patsy is on the ground in pain. Then Patsy knocks Tigra on the head with a rock and knocks her out, and keeps her from falling off the roof. Patsy wins, and stays awake long enough to call for help.
See "Comparison with Tigra" below for why this is impressive.
They fight evenly, but with context.
Patsy pulls a sword out of the Shadow Cloak, and manages to hold her own in sword-fighting against Valkyrie, one of the most skilled warriors in Asgard. As she notes, “I don’t know the first thing about sword-fighting, and Val practically invented it!”
Patsy uses her agility and speed to dodge Val’s strikes. Even Val is amazed how fast she is, saying “How can you move so swiftly?” Val eventually disarms her, then Patsy is able to remind Val of her true self.
One reason Hellcat can keep up with Val is because Val is cursed by a spell from the Enchantress, which keeps her from fighting women. By fighting Patsy, Val becomes weaker. However, Val is still a 45 tonner to start off with, and has been able to find ways to win against women in other situations. When she fought this woman on the first page, Val moved faster than the eye, employed her enhanced strength, and used pressure points to avoid having to use more direct violence; on the third page she uses her durability in a tactical way; she dodges effectively, and causes harm by using a trip and by causing damage through the medium of a chair instead of directly.
For Patsy to do as well as she does here, it requires great skill and speed.
To give a baseline sense of Valkyrie: she was fast enough to routinely deflect bullets at the time (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8). She beat (at least for a temporary take-down) the highly-skilled Lady Deathstrike, and was strong enough to throw tanks. So even when fighting a woman, like did with Hellcat, Val still had plenty of options to take her out. It's a solid feat for Hellcat.
Beats Black Cat.
Patsy jumps on Felicia. Felicia throws a kick which Patsy grabs. She throws Black Cat against a wall and grapples her.
Patsy beats Black Cat again.
Black Cat, who has defeated and fought evenly with numerous Spider-man villains such as Scorpion, and is both agile and skilled, stabs Patsy.
Patsy quickly leaps over her, grabs the knife, and puts her in a submission hold. Patsy is then sucked into a magic bag by someone else.
Felicia's pretty quick wins over Black Cat are pretty solid. Black Cat, who has multiple black belts, is often underestimated, so here's a quick run-down on some of her fights:
• Felicia stomps Silk when Silk is tired; then beats her again, then beats her again. I don’t know a lot about Silk's exact abilities in relation to Peter, but my understanding is that she is not as strong as Peter, but is more agile and has a better Spider sense.
• Felicia beats an early Sabretooth; like Wolverine, his healing factor back then was not as good as now, but he was still a formidable foe even then.
• In maybe her best fight, Felicia fights equally with the Lizard, who is stronger and faster than Peter, and he definitely does not hold back here. She eventually wins by kicking him off a roof, but she was fighting absolutely equally—claw for claw—with him throughout.
Given the dexterity and skill that Black Cat already shows in her first fight with Patsy--for instance when she flips through a laser grid, deflecting lasers off mirrors on her arms and legs to specific targets--Patsy's two clear wins over her feline foe are excellent testaments to her fighting ability.
Valkyrie, Nighthawk, and Hellcat each fight a copy of Lunatik. Lunatik is superhumanly strong, durable, and agile. Patsy beats him.
Val’s fight with a Lunatik shows that he is strong enough to break a lamp-post and knock down Valkyrie, skilled enough to fight the sword-master Valkyrie in weapons-fighting, can take two hits from her and still fight, and agile enough to balance on the end of his pole and bounce off a tree.
Here’s an earlier, longer fight between Valkyrie and Lunatik, a later one with multiple Lunatiks against Valkyrie, and a fight between Lunatik and three Defenders plus Spider-man, to give more of a sense of Lunatik's abilities.
Patsy easily beats Buzz Baxter when he is a normal human.
Buzz gets powers and becomes Mad-dog, and attacks Patsy’s wedding to Hellstrom. He fights a whole team of Defenders and loses, but succeeds in drugging Patsy.
He is a couple-tonner, with enhanced agility, durability, and drugged fangs.
He is tough: he is hit twice by the master martial artist Moondragon, then psi-blasted by her. He is able to throw her and knock her out. Then he tosses Hellstrom and is about to hurt Patsy when Moondragon psi-blasts him again.
He punches Patsy, but she shrugs off his superhuman blow. She kicks him, then he drugs her with his fangs. Luckily Moondragon and Hellstrom finish him off.
Mad-dog kidnaps Patsy but she beats him.
Baxter drugs Patsy again. She wakes up, still affected by the drug.
She elbows him, but he locks her arm. He kicks her on the ground. She claws him multiple times on the chest, then he punches her off. She bites him, then kicks him off, then knocks him out by smacking his head into a crate.
This fight shows she can beat someone with similar levels of enhanced strength, who is a trained soldier, and she can absorb superhuman blows—all while drugged.
In her first major superhuman fight, Patsy and Beast team up against against multiple Squadron members. Patsy takes out the superhuman Amphibion on her own, but is caught in some glue. Beast finishes off the others.
While in Hell, Patsy and Mockingbird spar evenly.
They aren’t trying to win, just talk while fighting, but fight at the same level. Mockingbird is a very trained fighter. They both dodge bullets at the end.
Defeats a sorcerer.
A sorcerer blasts at her, but she closes in past his attack and claws him cruelly in the face. He hits her with a blast and she shrugs it off. She dodges several more blasts, disarms him, kick-throws him, and has him at her mercy.
Patsy beats five magic demon-ninjas, who are all armed.
They try to capture her with magic, but she escapes it. Then she puts on a master class of fighting unarmed against multiple armed opponents, taking their weapons and using them against them, with great precision. Most impressively, she simultaneously wields a polearm and nunchucks, which would be incredibly awkward, and deflects five shuriken with one swipe of her nunchuks.
Patsy beats some demons.
She throws one demon and kicks another in the face. One demon grabs Patsy from behind. She double-elbows it, then knocks it off with her powerful butt! Then she throws Satan (in a semi-human form) and punches him several times, then lifts him to throw him once more—but transforms into a semi-demonic form herself due to his magic. He points out that no normal human could do to him what she has done, even before she transforms.
Defeats three demons.
Physically beats up muscular demon, and ends up gutting it with her claws. Ties another one up with her grappling line. Then physically beats up a third demon.
She beats a skilled, four-armed demon with multiple weapons.
She dodges numerous near-simultaneous attacks with weapons that have a long reach, then closes in past his many weapons and two-shots him with a kick and a face-claw.
Beats four super-strong, armed demons.
She dodges the first demon’s attack and uses a hand-lock to put him on the ground, uses a double-kick-toss to throw a second one into the first, dodges and then claws the third, and knocks the fourth off a ledge.
This fight doesn't look big, but features a nice combination of skill and ferocity.
Single-handedly destroys at least 22 Doombots, knocking many of their heads off.
Note that she is not wearing her Hellcat uniform.
These seem to not be the most powerful Doombots, but Doombots can be serious foes. For example, one Doombot took repeated blows and blasts from Luke Cage, Carole Danvers, and Jessica Jones. Another took repeated blasts from Victor Mancha and Karolina Dean. Others are more easily defeated. However, Reed Richards does say that a Doombot is supposed to be able to stand in for Doom, and be just as effective as him.
I don't want to make too big a deal out of this; I don't think these are top-of-the-line Doombots. But beating 22 of any robot at once is pretty damn good.
Patsy has the Shadow Cloak. At least 9 mind-controlled female scientists attack.
These women are not trained fighters. Patsy defeats them while having to hold back from hurting them, and one by one taking away their mind control. The end of the fight isn’t shown on panel but it is clear that she wins.
Helps She-hulk defeat a horde of zombies.
This took place while Patsy was in Hell. The fight doesn’t show all the details, but we see Patsy kick Scarlet Witch in the face, draw blood from Firestar with her foot claws, dodge a blast from Firestar, and break some heavy chains off Justice. These pages aren’t all sequential.
Patsy transformed into a more devilish version of herself on a couple of occasions, when influenced by demons like Satan and Avarrish. She was able to blast people with mystic power in this form.
Obviously, Patsy's powers and history are very intertwined with those of Greer Nelson, The Cat/Tigra.
First, Hellcat’s suit, which most stories describe as the source of her powers, was originally designed for Greer Nelson, when she was The Cat. (As described in the intro, the original Cat stories said Greer got her powers from scientific experiments that directly affected her body, but this has been ignored since then.) So Cat-era Greer Nelson feats should pretty much all be replicable by Patsy.
Dr. Tremulo, who made the suit, says it was “designed to give outworlders the powers of our people through artificial means.” It succeeded and made Greer “something very like an artificial Tigra.” So the suit is near-Tigra level.
However, Nelson has said that the Cat suit was “designed to extend any woman’s strengths, but especially mine!”, implying it might enhance other women less than it does for Greer. So the Cat may have abilities slightly higher than Hellcat.
Once Greer turned into Tigra, her abilities were enhanced.(somewhat contradicting the idea that the suit is Tigra-level on its own). Then they were enhanced again when she regained her Tigra form while wearing the Cat suit; seemingly the suit's powers and her Tigra powers were merged.
So, Patsy should have feats a few tiers below Tigra. However, this is not the case. When they fought against Whirlwind and Tiger Shark, they were equally effective. And when they fought recently when Tigra was mind-controlled, Patsy won.
Greer's powers as The Cat included enhanced strength and agility, enhanced intelligence and the ability to quickly absorb information. She had a sixth sense that was like intuition or empathy, where she could sense pain in other beings, as well as danger, and enhanced natural senses as well. These show the basics: one, two.
So Patsy should theoretically have all these abilities, at basically the same level. However, there are also Cat feats and abilities Patsy has never quite used, like Cat’s enhanced normal senses, or sense of intuition, or hyper-intelligence. Patsy’s magical senses are likely based on, but not the same as, Cat’s senses.
The Cat's Senses and Intuition
The Cat's Strength
The Owl notes that she is “amazingly strong.”
The Cat's Durability
The Cat's Agility/Dodging/Speed
Spidey says she “almost” caught him. She punches Spidey: he gets dizzy, says “that lady really packs a whallop.”
The Cat's Skills
The Cat's Gear
The Cat's Fights
She has a long run of fights against Kraven where she typically does fairly well but then he wins through poisons or traps (fights: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5), did OK against Spider-man with some context involved, and fought evenly with Spider-woman, who was holding back on her venom blast, but says about Tigra, "She's an acrobatic wonder! She moves better than I do!"
Tigra displays significant agility and endurance when Dr. Doom tests her and Moon Knight in a room full of weapons. They have to constantly dodge or destroy all kinds of weapons, including a swarm of missiles, bladed weapons, and flames, for about an hour and a half. (Note that Moon Knight intentionally lets himself get knocked out so the spirit of Khonshu can visit Doom and get them released.)
Since we've spent so much time talking about Patsy's costume, I thought it would be fun to just drop these pics in here. Patsy, on this show, is a whole other ball of wax that maybe I'll deal with somewhere else someday. But I enjoyed how much they focused on her in the show, and really brought Hellcat alive in the last season.
OK, actually this was in a Spidey Super Stories issue. But it was awesome! I am mostly just putting this here because, Thanos-Copter aside, not everyone seems to know this is a non-canon series. It was a kids' series sparked off the Electric Company show.
Hope you enjoyed learning about the happy-go-lucky Hellcat! Good-bye!
Devil-slayer is an ex-marine and ex-mob hitman with a long history of PTSD, alcoholism, insanity, and existential despair. He spent time with a demon cult, learning their ways before turning against them. He was a member of the Defenders, and then later was a member of the Avengers Initiative. Payne's long history of mental disabilities, stemming from his original PTSD and the trauma of working with and fighting demons, eventually culminated in a breakdown where he was situated in an asylum for a time. He has recently, and somewhat against his longterm character arc, had some brushes with criminality, working with Wonderman’s Revengers and being sighted in the Pleasant Hill prison.
Devil-slayer is a natural psychic, with telepathic, telekinetic, and “6th sense” (danger sense) powers. He can create limited illusions and has very limited mind control. He also has a Shadow Cloak, which he gained from the cult. The Shadow Cloak contains a portal to another dimension, somewhat similar to Cloak from Cloak and Dagger. He can wrap himself or others in the Cloak and teleport to that dimension, then reappear in another location in our dimension after essentially no time has passed (which is also how Nightcrawler's teleportation works). He can reach into it to grab weapons from other dimensions. He can also control the ends of his cape like tendrils, allowing him to grab people with them.
Devil-slayer, who is white, was married to a woman named Corey, who is black. This was a highly unusual interracial marriage both in reality and especially in mainstream comics publishing, for the time it was first shown in the 1970s, so the character helped break ground in that area. His marriage was also notable for the realism with which it was written, as it showed them having real strife and marriage problems, based partly on his violent nature, but also on her religious evangelism, which he did not share. They eventually divorced, and later she was killed.
I will be using some other characters to scale Devil-slayer's abilities, especially Valkyrie, and I will also show several other individuals who have used a Shadow Cloak. I will provide all the background information on these folks at the end of this post. The key thing to know about all the other Shadow Cloak wearers is that Devil-slayer is more experienced at using it than any of the others are, so he can do anything they can do. Devil-slayer does not have a huge number of appearances, so showing these subsidiary Shadow Cloak wearers provides useful additional insight into its powers.
Devil-slayer has multiple innate psychic powers. It is not 100% clear whether he always had them, whether he had them as a latent ability which was awakened by the cult, or whether the cult gives these powers to all its members. I tend to believe they were latent abilities awakened by the cult.
Interestingly, whether because of his powers or his expertise in demonology, Devil-slayer was among those considered for Sorcerer Supreme (when Brother Voodoo eventually got it).
His most prominent psychic power is telekinesis. He can use it to lift someone of approximately his own body weight, as he does here with cult leader Vera Gemini.
He has fine-tuned control over small objects as well, as he shows when he jams Deathlok’s gun:
He can also use it to fly with somewhat limited maneuverability:
He also uses his telekinesis to control the ends of his cloak like tendrils. He wraps the cape around people and holds them in place or throws them around. There is some ambiguity as to whether he does this entirely with his telekinesis, or whether the power is inherent in the cape.
The Cloak's tendrils are very strong: here he grabs the Hulk, lifts him up, and teleports him away:
Here he grabs Valkyrie (she has enhanced speed, as seen in Scaling at the bottom, so he is fast with the cape), Vera Gemini, Deathlok (who also has computer-enhanced reflexes), and the Agent of Fortune, who has the same Cloak (again, see Scaling at the bottom), grabs Dr. Strange.
His telepathy can be used to read surface-level thoughts, and to speak to others telepathically, within about 100’.
He can also use it in more abstract ways, as he did to connect Valkyrie’s spirit with her sword Dragonfang, or to help Dr. Strange find something while in another dimension.
He can create an illusion to make himself look like someone else. Usually he does this to hide his costume, as he does below and here:
But he can make himself look like anyone, and can hold it for a long time in front of a lot of people. For instance, when he was stranded in a South American village, he basically made himself look like Rambo for about a week straight.
Presumably he could create other kinds of illusions but he never has.
He has used his powers to make minor mental “suggestions,” as he does here when he makes the bar tender give him a drink:
This power has not been widely explored and he hasn’t used it in combat.
He regularly uses his “sixth sense.” This is a precognitive sense that warns him of danger or evil, and sometimes gives him an intuitive pull towards a place. It is nowhere near as developed as Spider-man’s spider-sense, and does not warn him of specific blows in the midst of combat. It’s more something that would warn him that combat is about to take place.
Here it warns him of an imminent attack of demons that are about to come out of his refrigerator, even while he’s drunk and fairly insane.
While fighting Valkyrie and the Hulk, he twice notes that he is surprised his sixth sense didn’t warn him about them—which is of course because it was a mix-up and they are not evil. But this supports the fact that his sixth sense would normally notify him of opponents’ presence.
His sixth sense draws him to graveyard where the Defenders’ enemy Null resides. This shows it has a locational sense--a general idea of where the danger comes from, which he can track.
In this same way, Clea uses her magic to draw on Devil-slayer's sixth sense when they are trying to find Gargoyle., showing again that there is a locational aspect to it.
So, his Sixth Sense may warn him of an attack well ahead of time, and then also immediately beforehand, and it may also be used to find the source of danger.
Devil-slayer's main abilities come from his Shadow Cloak, which he originally got from the demon cult he worked for. He lost his Shadow Cloak multiple times but either got it back or got a new one. Multiple Shadow Cloaks exist. Another assassin for the cult (The Agent of Fortune, see below) also had one, which Patsy Walker took from him. She eventually wrapped it up in itself so it disappeared.
I will show multiple people using Shadow Cloaks in this section. See Scaling/Comparisons for details on those people. All the Cloaks have the same abilities.
The Shadow Cloak is basically a portal to another dimension. It allows you to do two main things. If you reach into it, you can pull out any weapon you want. And if you wrap it around you, you travel to the other dimension, and then reappear in ours, in essence teleporting.
He can teleport pretty swiftly at short and long range by enveloping himself in his Cloak.
He not only uses it for transportation, but also tactically, during battle, and is able to do so quite quickly. Tactically, he uses it for optimal battlefield positioning, for BFR, and for evasion.
Here he swiftly teleports away as the Hulk rushes at him:
He teleports out of the hands of some guys:
Here a lizard creature pretending to be Devil-slayer tactically uses his Cloak for a quick “teleport-in and stab immediately” maneuver.
The Agent of Fortune avoids the Crimson Bands of Cytorrak, renowned for their speed, by using the Cloak.
Here another guy, called Slayer, uses Devil-slayer’s Cloak to swiftly teleport out of danger in the midst of falling during a battle.
He can also use it to tactically BFR someone. Here, the Hulk leaps at him and instead falls into the Cloak, where he is teleported back to Earth.
We also saw him BFR Hulk above.
The Cloak is capable of teleporting not only from one place on Earth to another, but also from Earth to another dimension; here they teleport to hell.
The Cloaks are also capable of penetrating mystic defenses. Here, the Agent of Fortune teleports directly inside Dr. Strange's well-protected Sanctum Sanctorum.
There do not seem to be any major limitations on how far Devil-slayer can teleport. He did become exhausted when he teleported a very large number of heroes in his Cloak multiple times in quick succession. However, he has otherwise never shown strain at teleporting.
Devil-slayer can grab all kinds of weapons out of his cape’s pocket dimensions in a way that has never been well explained. They can be literally almost any kind of weapon: melee weapons and guns; normal weapons and magic items; medieval and contemporary and future weapons. Seemingly they come from other places in the real world, not just in the Cloak itself, but this is not clear. It does not take a lot of skill to grab the weapon you want; Hellcat was able to pull weapons out without much training. The following is a list of known examples:
Devil-slayer often pulls out all kinds of classic melee weapons, for instance a morningstar.
Devil-slayer pulls out Dragonfang, Valkyrie’s fabled blade.
Devil-slayer can get weapons in huge numbers. Here he pulls out an entire arsenal of military weapons for a whole village to use.
Hellcat pulls out a dagger, also helpfully explaining how it works.
The portal can actually get pretty much anything, not just weapons. Here, learning how it works, Hellcat grabs a monster from another dimension.
Here he tells 3-D Man to pull something out in the middle of a fight; he grabs some kind of energy swords that he uses to kill a Skrull, again showing how easy it is to get a weapon you want from the portal.
Most uniquely, when the writers were clearly thinking about rebranding him as a character, he pulled a magic staff out of his Cloak, then lost the Cloak. (He later lost the staff and regained his Cloak). This staff allowed him to create a forcefield that protected him from a large explosion. He was also able to draw psychic energy from it to enhance his other powers.
Devil-slayer is officially a normal human in terms of physical stats, but in practice, like many supposedly normal humans in comics, his capabilities are beyond actual normal humans, especially his strength and durability.
Devil-slayer was a marine and a professional mob hit-man, so he has all the standard fighting and weapons skills one would expect from those careers.
Devil-slayer is particularly handy with weapons, and often fights two handed or with his off-hand:
Here he displays the skill and speed necessary to deflect a magic demon blast with his sword:
Valkyrie, considered one of the most skilled fighters in Asgard, says his skill almost matches hers. The narration backs up her reputation by saying that she is a grand master of fighting:
Valkyrie is superhumanly strong, so a normal human like Devil-slayer would require great skill to fight in such a way that his blows were not constantly dominated by her strength. She also exhibited superhuman speed a lot in this era. See Scaling below.
Although Devil-slayer is physically a normal human, he has shown surprisingly good durability. On multiple occasions, he has been hit by a traumatically damaging blow, only to recover very quickly afterward.
Here the Hulk throws him through a wall. He is stunned, but Hulk wakes him up and he fully recovers immediately after, to the extent that he is then able to defeat Hulk by grabbing him and BFRing him.
Here a super-strong Skrull (during Secret Invasion) punches him in the face. He is knocked out but recovers “soon” after, as the narrative bubble says.
Here he is just temporarily knocked down by a mystic blast from sorcerer Ian Fate, who is a good enough sorcerer that he can control demons, travel interdimensionally, and create illusions.
If he gets stunned, he may have the presence of mind to teleport away for a few seconds while he clears his head, then come back, as he does in this scene with Deathlok after he takes a third hit.
Devil-slayer is seemingly a peak human in strength.
Here, in what is probably an extreme outlier, he punches Thing, knocking his head back and breaking off a couple pebbles of rock. (That's him in the top panel.)
Devil-slayer doesn't have a huge number of high-profile one-on-one fights. Many of his fights are against hordes of demons. But he does have a few quality fights against Deathlok, Valkyrie, and Hulk.
Devil-slayer’s first fight is one of his best, against the original Deathlok. It should be noted that Deathlok back them was around a 1-tonner, nowhere near a contemporary ~100-tonner Deathlok. Still, Deathlok was a formidable foe with tech, strength, durability, speed, a computer processor brain, and skill. Devil-slayer telekinetically jams his gun, impressively grapples with him, takes some punches and kicks, notes Deathlok’s strength and speed, grabs him with his cape, gets hit again and tactically BFRs himself, then brings Deathlok to his dimension and hits him with an anti-matter mace, whereupon Deathlok sues for peace. (His internal computer thought a second hit from the mace would be fatal, showing its power.)
Devil-slayer also fought Valkyrie and Hulk. He telekinetically grabs his original target, Vera Gemini, then clashes several times with Valkyrie (whose skill is noted in the narration, as pointed out above) before she breaks his weapon. He is tossed by the Hulk, and eventually grabs the Hulk and BFRs him and himself. This shows his skill at arms and his variety of powers.
Much later, a pretty insane version of Devil-slayer temporarily rips apart the Man-thing. Note that, famously, “whatever knows fear burns at the Man-thing’s touch!” but Devil-slayer has no fear and is unaffected. Man-thing doesn’t fight back, so this is mostly about damage output.
Most of his other fights are against various demons. For example:
Here he fights a horde of demons ruled by a sorcerer named Ian Fate (see especially page 3, where he takes out 4 demons in one swipe of his morning-star, onwards) to save what Devil-slayer thinks is his wife Cory, with help from Beast, Wonder Man, and Dr. Strange.
Here he fights a bunch of demons across multiple dimensions, while drugged so he can’t use any of his psychic powers, ultimately killing a pretty major demon, Balthazar (and then reuniting Valkyrie with her sword).
Here he fights a giant bunch of small demons that come out of his refrigerator where he is hiding his Cloak, while he is both drunk and insane.
Here he fights a demon across various dimensions, using his Cloak.
And sometimes he fights military targets:
All together, these fights show a clear competence with martial combat, often against a large number of creatures that presumably have higher stats than him, as well as with the highly-skilled Valkyrie and the trained future-apocalypse-soldier Deathlok
I will also note that Slayer, another character who temporarily had Eric's Cloak, was able to defeat the skilled and Super-Soldier-Serum-enhanced Nomad twice in a row, and knocked out a slightly-serum-nerfed but still fully-skilled Captain America. And unlike Eric, Slayer was a completely un-skilled fighter. More on Slayer and all the details of his fights under Scaling, but it is an example of how effective the Cloak can be.
As noted above, I collected all the people I am scaling him with, and the other people who have worn a Shadow Cloak, here at the end in one place, so as to not clutter up his feats/capabilities.
They are: Valkyrie, who he fought with one-on-one for an extended time; Hulk; who he fought with and ultimately beat through BFR (twice); and Shadow Cloak wearers Agent of Fortune, Slayer, Hellcat, and a Lizard Man. In terms of the Shadow Cloak wearers, in each case, they're someone with less experience than Devil-slayer using his Cloak, or the same kind of Cloak.
Val’s reputation as an excellent fighter is well-earned, and not just statements.
Here she defeats Lady Deathstrike, after Deathstrike takes her by surprise. Deathstrike is a highly-skilled martial artist and long-time Wolverine nemesis.
Here she defeats Sif when they were younger, who is probably the next-best warrior in Asgard in terms of pure skill.
And here, just to show a completely different kind of fight, Val beats a giant snow worm monster, showing off various combat abilities.
Technical point: in the era that she fought Devil-slayer, Valkyrie’s spirit inhabited the human body of Barbara Norriss, and did not have the same level of strength as she does today. However she could still lift and throw tanks.
Valkyrie was also known at that time in particular for her bullet-blocking speed feats, so keeping up with her is impressive. Here Val shows her speed by spinning her sword fast enough to block fire, and to block bullets from single-shot and machine guns on multiple occasions:
The Hulk is also much faster than many people give him credit for. When Devil-slayer is able to grab Hulk, or teleport out of the way when Hulk is trying to get him, or get Hulk in the Cloak when Hulk is coming at him, that’s good reaction time on Eric’s part. Here are just a few of classic Hulk’s speed feats (from the same era as the Devil-slayer fight):
Jack of Hearts : It's impossible ! Nothing alive can move that fast !! (Jack can fly at interstellar speeds)
The Agent of Fortune belongs to the demonic cult that Devil-slayer was temporarily a part of, and which gave Devil-slayer his Shadow Cloak. This cult is super-hierarchical. Every job category can only be achieved by beating someone at the level above. This particular guy is at the “Agent of Fortune” rank, which is below Devil-slayer’s rank, “Reaper of Souls.” This Agent wants to beat Devil-slayer so he can become a Reaper. But he can't. So again, anything the Agent can do, Devil-slayer can objectively do better, given the Cult’s very pragmatic ranking system.
The Agent of Fortune used the Cloak to dodge the Crimson Bands of Cytorrak. The Crimson Bands are very fast. As it says here, “no possible speed of flight” could avoid them. Here we see that Silver Surfer could be caught by the Bands (even if he can break out after), proving that the Bands can catch even those with very high speeds. Now, I am by no means saying that Devil-slayer is faster than the Silver Surfer in travel or reaction time. But clearly, dodging the Crimson Bands is a great example of how fast the Cloak's teleportation can work.
Patsy Walker took the Agent of Fortune's Cloak and used it for a while. Ultimately she got rid of it. She used it capably as a source of weapons on a couple occasions, but mostly used it for its tendrils capacity.
This seems to lend credence to the idea that the tendril usage of the Cloak is inherent in the Cloak itself, and doesn't come from Devil-slayer's telekinesis, but other times he makes statements to the contrary.
Also, unlike Slayer (below), Patsy had extensive psychic powers in this era, due to her training by Moondragon on Titan. She was capable, for instance, of unleashing a psionic blast that knocked out all kinds of villains and heroes at once, or knocked back Dr. Strange, and also exhibited telekinesis on her own. She eventually lost those powers. Nowadays, she has a psychic magic/danger sense. This innate psychic potential, however, is certainly why she is able to use the Cloak at all, and may be how she used the tendril technique.
Slayer is Dave Cox, a friend of Captain America’s. He was a pacifist Viet Nam vet, and is not a particularly skilled fighter. Red Skull and Sin got ahold of him and mind-warped him to turn him temporarily evil. They gave him Devil-slayer’s cape while Devil-slayer was in jail. The Cloak can normally only be used by someone with magic or psychic powers, but they modified it with tech to be usable by anyone. (That modified version of the Cloak was later destroyed.)
Cox attacked Captain America and Nomad using the Cloak. This Nomad was the Bucky from the 1950s, and has the Super Soldier Serum himself.
Slayer ambushes Nomad and beats him (off panel), then all three of them fight, and Slayer knocks out Captain America—certainly a rare feat. Then Nomad fights him again immediately after, and Slayer almost kills him before stopping himself by remembering who he really is.
There is context: we later find out that Nomad had been hypnotized into poisoning Cap, thus diluting Cap’s Super Soldier Serum. This left Cap, as he put it later on, feeling like his reflexes were much worse.
To sum up: a guy with no combat skills and without Devil-slayer's psychic powers was able to use Devil-slayer’s gear to very quickly knock out the Super Soldier Serum-ed Nomad, and then a partially-nerfed Captain America, and then beat Nomad again. Even with Cap’s serum partially negated, Cap’s tactical mind and skills were still fine, and the Serum was not totally negated (he doesn't even realize it is weakened until later).
Clearly, Devil-slayer, who is much more skilled, has more powers, and is more experienced with the Cloak, could have done even better in this fight.
The lizard man is from a race of mystic ancient lizard people who tried to take over the earth. He and his people defeated the Defenders. He took Devil-slayer's Cloak, and used magic to make himself look like Devil-slayer. Then he tried to trick Spider-man into helping his people. Spider-man eventually figured it out and the Defenders helped beat the lizard people. Since the lizard guy had almost no experience with the Cloak, Devil-slayer should be able to do anything the lizard guy could do with it.
Devil-slayer is a skilled fighter with psychic powers, including telepathy, illusions, mind-control, a sixth sense, and telekinesis. He has a Shadow Cloak which allows him to teleport himself and to BFR others, which enables him to pull out any kind of weapon from an anti-matter mace to a magic staff to a wrist-launching missile system, and which he can use to ensnare others with its tendril-like tips. Although a human, he has shown peak human (at least) strength and superhuman durability. He has fought Valkyrie, Deathlok, and a lesser version of himself was able to successfully fight both Nomad and Captain America.
What is this?
I'm an artist, and I like making charts. I am also very interested in comics' character continuity.
I made twelve charts that visually chart every appearance of twelve sporadically-appearing comics characters. The idea was to see exactly what kind of patterns might exist in a character's pendulum of popularity. Do characters appear fairly continuously? Do they have big periods of popularity and big periods of nothing? Are the ups and downs more gradual? Does it vary by character? Can we link the events in a character's life--like them being killed and resurrected--with the ups and downs of their appearances? Can we link outside dynamics in publishing and other media to the ups and downs of their appearances?
I've shown these to other folks, and they liked them, but I figured Comic Vine is the place that would really enjoy the details of what's going on in these charts. And, of course, Comic Vine is the source of the information as well, since I got the appearance data from the wiki.
A word on process:
All dates are cover dates, not in-store dates. The appearances listed in these charts are accurate as of October 29, 2019. That happens to be the date where cover dates reached the end of the year (2019). Characters will obviously continue to have more appearances after this, and wiki-writers may find other old appearances that didn't make it onto the wiki by the time I created the charts. I defined "appearances," for the sake of these charts, as actual new stories or other new content. No TPBs, no handbooks, no other forms of reprints, nothing that was purely promotional. Thus, the number of appearances in the charts listed will differ from the number of appearances listed on the wiki. I got this information by combing through the wiki "by hand," writing down every comic appearance, and the month and year it appeared, and putting it in the chart; this is not the result of an algorithm scraping the data. I also designed the chart "by hand," meaning I didn't just type the data into a spreadsheet and it just built the chart for me; I made it block by block in Illustrator.
The charts have a black square for every single issue the characters were in. But the comics series listed in red under the charts are NOT every volume they were in. They're a subjectively-selected set of volumes that give you a good sense of what they were up to at that point. Generally speaking, the volumes listed in red are every series the character had 3 or more appearances in, and/or they were a recurring character/main team member/it was a solo series named after them. I do have the complete list of every issue for each character if anyone wants it.
See the charts for more detailed info on how to read them.
Why these characters?
I chose these specific characters because they had about a thousand appearances or less, to make it easier to do; because my impression before making the charts was that they appeared sporadically in comics and thus their appearances would make an interesting pattern; and because I wanted a diverse group in terms of gender and race, to see if that would make any difference.
They're all Marvel characters except Kite Man because Marvel is what I'm most intimately familiar with; but Tom King's use of Kite Man is one of the things that inspired me to do this project.
What can you get out of this?
I hope you all, as comics experts, have fun digging through the data and guessing at what made characters go up and down in their popularity. Just for instance, you can see the effect when Elektra died and (while being resurrected fairly immediately) went into seclusion when Frank Miller originally stopped writing her; when interest in Julie Power started up again after years of minimal appearances, due to the simultaneous explosion of the all-ages Power Pack books and her adult appearances in 616 in Runaways; or the way Groot's appearances exploded when the Guardians movies came out. Or, you can be curious about why, say, Misty Knight and Mantis didn't have big comics resurgences when they appeared in movies and TV.
Enjoy! Here are the charts, in order of the characters' first appearances. They're downloadable PDFs:
This is the current, updated, standalone version of a post I originally made on Fetts' "A Black Widow Respect Thread," which I kept adding to for years. However, probably due to the site's recent new redesign, the formatting got all screwed up and I couldn't fix it.
It had gotten somewhat convoluted over the years, and I had wanted to turn the thread into a more text-based-link format anyway, so I moved my post over here and updated it.
You may have heard that Natasha is "just a woman...and such a lovely one!" Well, there's a lot more to her than that. Sit back and enjoy a wave of her feats of skill, toughness, and agility.
Nat's general tier of peers would probably include characters like Moon Knight, Punisher, Crossbones, and Lady Bullseye (most of whom she's beaten), but she occasionally punches up to the Cap and Elektra level, and has fought more or less equally against Bucky multiple times now.
• Vs Captain America
Takes out Captain America with a Widow's Bite to the head. This is a heavy-context fight, with Captain American on drugs that increase his rage, so he's essentially in a bloodlusted state where he's thinking less strategically, but is more aggressive and morals off. This same Cap beats the crap out of Daredevil (who in more context is somewhat off his game) to the degree that Daredevil is lying on the ground and too weak to stop Crossbones from looking under his mask. Anyway as you can see, Diamondback and Black Widow are both fighting him with no major damage to anyone until Natasha blasts him full in the face to KO him.
• Vs Elektra
Fights Elektra after Nat had major surgery. Dodges Elektra’s strike after Elektra has shown her speed by cutting a bullet. Kicks Elektra and strikes her in the head with the pistol. Ends with weapons at each other’s heads. After Elektra leaves we see how hurt Natasha still is from the surgery.
• Vs Taskmaster
Taskmaster has been on the run from Nat throughout this series, explicitly saying that he thinks she would beat him multiple times (see Reputation, below). When they finally fight, it is fairly close, but Nat gets the majority of hits and has him at her mercy at the end. An excellent win against a top-tier streetleveler.
• Vs Punisher
Fights Punisher, more or less to a stalemate. Then Punisher runs off.
In a rematch, she comes after him again, this time with the rest of the Avengers. Granted that Frank has taken some punishment himself by this point, but Natasha kicks him before he can draw his gun, then disarms him, smacks him around a bit, and uses her Bite to shoot first when he draws a pistol on her.
Beats "Hydra Punisher" in Secret Empire: dodges his shots, hits him twice and jumps off him, he shoots her, she misses with touch-Bite, he hits her with butt of gun, he kicks and misses, she kicks him, she disarms him, he grabs her by the neck and kicks her, she blocks his knives and kicks him, disarming him again, he grabs her foot and pushes her back, knocking her to the ground. He goes to get his gun and she picks up his knives and disables him by stabbing him in both legs (somehow getting in front of him in the process). In all, she strikes him 5 times, and he hits her 4 times, BEFORE she incaps him.
• Vs Crossbones
Black Widow vs Crossbones. Wins via using her Widow’s Line as a garrote.
• Vs Bucky and/or Hawkeye
Fighting Bucky: granted that he is not fighting to kill and it’s broken off quickly, but she fights well against him, getting in two kicks to one tackle. He says: “What I didn’t know is how much she’s been holding back when we spar, how strong she really is.” “She’s gonna take my head off if I’m not careful.” This makes clear three things: one, when she has sparred with Bucky in the past, she’s so good she felt the need to hold back so as to not hurt him (what other reason would she have for holding back during sparring?). Two, he’s impressed by her strength, making it clear she’s not just normal. Three, even if he’s not fighting with the intent to hurt her right now, she’s good enough that she could kill him anyway—thus it doesn’t matter what his fighting intent is.
Natasha beats on Bucky pretty much at will as Hawkeye watches. There's context here: Nat has been resurrected in a cloned body after Secret Empire, and Bucky and Clint are shocked to see her alive. She is annoyed that they are unknowingly messing up a plan of hers. She attacks Bucky to stop them from interfering, and he fights back defensively. She basically runs all over him: she hits him, he disarms her, then she gets in every hit after that: 3 hits to his face, pulls his hair, grabs him with her legs and kicks him into Clint. Then she takes off. Even with the context, this is all in her favor: she is more serious in her intent, but doesn't want to hurt them; they are stunned and don't want to hurt her, but clearly they don't want to be hurt themselves either, and Bucky is fighting defensively as hard as he can, as shown by the fact that he needs to ask Clint for help: "She's gonna kill me in a second if you don't stop her!" I added the final page for Bucky's line about how she had the drop on them.
Nat and Bucky fight on a boat. Neither of them gets any major hits in on the other. What's notable is that they fight pretty much as equals, and her signature balletic fighting style, where she looks like she's dancing as much as she's fighting.
• Nat beats Hawkeye, although this was part of a plan and was staged to some degree. (Although since she let him actually shoot her in the side with an arrow right after this, they may also have been fighting to the best of their abilities to sell the fight's reality.)
• Daredevil and Black Widow vs Kraven:
First Natasha and Matt fight fairly well against him; Kraven notes his superhuman speed and strength. However, Kraven tags her with a poison dart and then he knocks out Daredevil physically.
In the continuation, Kraven is about to throw Daredevil off a cliff. Black Widow is still affected by the poison, as noted in the captions. She jumps at Kraven, who throws Matt off the cliff. A bunch of cops attack, and distract Kraven while Natasha comes from behind and one-shots him with a kick, knocking him out. Even as she does this, she notes that she is still “weak as a kitten” from the poison. Kraven is pretty durable, even in this era, and hadn’t taken too much damage in the first part of the fight, so taking him down with one kick, even by surprise, is pretty impressive.
• Vs. Lady Bullseye. Overall, they basically tie:
In the first fight, Lady Bullseye gets in the majority of the hits and is about to stab Natasha when the fight is interrupted.
In the second fight, Black Widow jumps into a train with some kind of protective energy net and gets Lady Bullseye on the ground, more or less at her mercy, when the train goes into another dimension.
In that dimension, after an unknown amount of time (maybe immediately, maybe much later), Natasha has Lady Bullseye at her mercy at sword point before being interrupted by a monster.
• Vs. Mockingbird
Natasha is attacked by an out-of-control Mockingbird and defeats her pretty easily, kissing her with an antidote to the nanites that made her go crazy.
• Vs. Spider-man
The first time they meet. This fight is full of context; Spider-man was feeling beaten up and tired, and almost like he was losing his powers. Even with that, she gets in some decent shots, but runs off. This is honestly not her best showing but I figured it was worth seeing.
One-shots Spidey after putting him through some tests: Recently, an offshoot of SHIELD hires her to test Spider-man's Spider-sense for what she thinks are good reasons. After running him through a gauntlet of attacks, all of which he dodges (not shown), she blinds him with a light, then attacks him in hand-to-hand. He dodges 3 times, saying his spider-sense can compensate, but she hits him on the fourth try, hard enough to take him down so he can't fight back. This is the first time he's hit the whole time, so it's impressive that she one-shots him, considering his durability.
• Vs Silver Samurai
Black Widow and Spider-Man vs Silver Samurai. First, Samurai vs Spidey. Then Black Widow joins in to help. Note Samurai's clear strength and speed in beating Spider-Man, and his claim to beating Daredevil. Since her Bite is not enough to penetrate his armor, Natasha spends what must be about a quarter of an hour dodging Samurai's katana while Spider-Man is wedging up the building--very impressive dodging. Samurai is consistently shown as being a serious challenge to Spider-man through this arc: one, two, three more confrontations.
• Vs Imus Champion
Fights Imus Champion. His strength here is unclear; in the past he had an exoskeleton and could lift planes and fight whole teams of Avengers (here's him--using gear--to take out the Avengers; two hightlights include Thor and Power Princess). Now he seems to be strong and fast but not as much, with no exoskeleton. Dodges, kicks in groin, kicks in head, uses Widow’s Line to garrote. He punches back at her, she shoots at him in h head, she dodges multiple times before being grabbed. Takes out his eyes with her thumbs, slashes his gut, kicks in face, has him at gunpoint. Then chops throat, and basically curb stomps him. TD:LR--she takes out a weakened version of a team-buster.
• Vs Jean Grey, Psylocke, and Viper
Smacks down Jean Grey, Psylocke, and Viper at once. (Note the details of her earlier fight with Viper, below.)
• Vs Weeping Lion
Black Widow vs the Weeping Lion. The Lion was presented as a pretty tough guy, although more through reputation than feats. Here she beats him fairly easily. In particular note the use of a touch-based Widow’s Bite (clearly influenced by the movies) and again, incap via Widow’s Line. She also gets up with no problem after being smashed against a wall hard enough for it to crack.
• Vs Iron Scorpion
She attacks Iron Scorpion (this is interspersed with flashbacks about sniping a guy way earlier), breaks his leg, throws him into an oncoming truck. Iron Scorpion seems to be enhanced—he easily cuts through pistols (twice), a thick log, and other hard objects with his sword, and has uncanny accuracy as well, throwing a dart into her pistol barrel earlier: One, Two
• Vs Recluse
Natasha and Bucky fight Recluse, who was trained in an updated Red Room. Recluse is tough enough to have captured Bucky in the first place, and then to fight both Nat and Bucky to a draw. Some nice acrobatics and unusual weapons use from Nat, also noted under Bite below.
Natasha has a rematch against Recluse, who notes again that it took her and Bucky to fight her to a draw before. This time, Black Widow beats her. (She comes back from the waterfall later, but Nat clearly has her at a disadvantage here.) Also note impressive strength feat holding back against the waterfall, also noted under Strength below.
• Vs Snapdragon
Sometimes I see assertions that Snapdragon could beat Black Widow, or beat her a majority of times. Looking at their full set of fights makes it clear that in a straight fight, Black Widow wins.
First fight: Widow is ambushed in the dark by Snapdragon when Natasha’s Bite isn’t working. Snapdragon, who has IR goggles, only beats Natasha because Natasha can’t see to fight back.
Second “Fight”: Black Widow kicks a guy while tied, but is subdued by Snapdragon with a pole. Not exactly a real fight.
Third fight: Black Widow is disarmed by surprise, while Snapdragon has multiple weapons. Natasha dodges and strikes, but is hit back. Then Natasha gets in four unanswered strikes, ultimately knocking Snapdragon through a hole in the walkway for a conclusive win in their only straight fight.
Brief fight, years later: Nat kicks Snapdragon in the back by surprise. Snapdragon misses Nat twice, and Nat shoots her in the leg, ending the fight. Nat seems to slash her in the stomach for good measure later on.
• Vs Alexi/Red Guardian/Ronin
She beats Alexi, the former Red Guardian, now Ronin. For context, Ronin/Red Guardian is the leader of a ninja group that killed over 80 people; they fear and respect his skills enough that they are willing to let him kill them if they see his face.
Here's a few Red Guardian feats for context: speed and throwing ability; throwing; Red Guardian takes on Hercules (Captain America wrestled Herc right before that too, Red Guardian's feat is intended to show their equality); Red Guardian vs Hawkeye, where first Hawkeye is faking being knocked out, but then actually is; Red Guardian lifts one guy with each arm; Red Guardian punches through concrete wall.; Red Guardian uses his boomerang to take out 5 guys.
• Vs Enhanced-speed assassin
Fights an assassin with enhanced speed and another guy. Quickly takes guy out with thrown pipe, is first beaten down by speedster. Then knocks her out.
• Vs. a Crocodile
Nat is dragged under water for a significant amount of time, and kills the croc by hand. Also a nice feat of strength when she throws it in front of Danvers and Strange.
• Vs. at least 15 Guards
This sounds like just a fodder fight, but it is intense. She starts off with 2 swords and was just poisoned and tortured; they have guns. She takes them all out; the fight is notable for its brutality and targeted, skilled strikes.
• Vs Red Room Girls
Fights off six highly trained Red Room girls. Looking at the panels, she seems to defeat them without ever getting hit. However, she must have been hit to be hazy at the end. Various weapon uses also seen below.
• Vs. Group of "World's Deadliest Assassins"
Takes on a whole group of powered assassins while tied up. Starting off tied up, she kicks one lady, then another. Kicks a pot at guy to KO him, kicks another guy (basically one-shorting four people in a row), then has a longer fight with a sumo guy. Does more tied-up fighting, dodges a bullet so it hits the sumo guy, dodges even more while rolling on the ground toward the shooter and takes him out. Is freed by Iron Maiden, whose armor tanks her blast and almost beats her before being stopped by James Woo from SHIELD (and later Agents of Atlas). All together, even given that these gimmicky assassins are mostly featless, an impressive set of moves for someone tied up almost the whole time.
• Vs Drug-enhanced General
• Vs Hand
Way back in the day when the Hand was just being introduced, she fights well against several of them, dodging throwing stars and swords, and getting in 5 unanswered strikes before being caught by poisoned caltrops.• Vs Ivan (as human)
This is just a minor fight, but is an interesting historical footnote. Here she defeats her handler/mentor/semi-father/friend Ivan, who also has the Soviet age-increasing serum, which as I note below may or may not also enhance their agility, durability, and other stats. She's mind-controlled here and not fighting at her best.
• Vs Ivan (as cyborg)
• Vs new versions of Darkstar, Sibercat, and Ursa Major
These are new people with the powersets of the classic villains. In this fight, she first dodges a couple attacks from Sibercat and then kicks it, and is hit from behind by some darkforce energy from Darkstar, who Nat didn't know was there. Note that this Darkstar thought she hit Nat hard enough to kill her, but it didn't. They all get separated due to some interference from Fantomex. Then in the third page, she ends up fighting Sibercat and Darkstar, plus now Ursa Major. She defeats them in five minutes.
• Vs Man-Mountain Marko
Efficiently beats Man-Mountain Marko in four hits--a disarm, a kick to the knee, boxing the ears, and a knockout palmstrike to the chin. Marko is a few-tonner, probably less than 10 (Powergrid of 4). Jessica Jones beat him too, but not how she pummels him repeatedly with her own superhuman strength (including also boxing his ears) and it doesn't actually knock him out. That shows a solid striking force for Widow, especially in that last palmstrike.
• Vs Viper/Madame Hydra
Solidly defeats Viper, who a couple issues earlier said the reason Silver Samurai obeyed her is because "he knows that in single combat, his skill is nothing compared to mine." I don't think most people would agree with that statement, but the important thing is that in this multi-comic story arc involving Viper, Samurai, and Widow, that's the way their relative positions are presented. Nat has just been through an enormously challenging series of events, is very tired, and just woken up out of brainwashing, and still "Viper doesn't have a prayer."
• Vs 100 Guards
Natasha takes out 100 guards over the course of a few hours. Basically she and Thing are stuck in a base, and she needs to take out all the guards so they don't distract Thing from a job he has to do. She does so by stalking them through stealth, and using tactics and skill. I don't care who you are, 100 guards is a lot of guards.
• Vs Viper's Personal Guard
• Kills at least 14 of Viper’s personal guard, while brainwashed and not knowing who she is.
Nat's fighting style is naturally very gymnastic. She does all kinds of flips and jumps as an innate part of her fighting that simultaneously works both offense and defense, in an extremely balletic manner that combines her H2H and weapons, often gymnastically hitting multiple targets at once.
Techniques, often including neck strikes and multiple simultaneous targets:
• In a fairly common one-shot move for her, she chops two guys in the neck at once. A very effective move.
• While literally disintegrating due to poison, she neck strikes a guy. (Again, a bit of a signature move for her.)
• Neck chops a guy so devastatingly, her hand cuts open his throat (see the blood spatter).
• In a slight variation, but still showing her tendency to strike vulnerable areas, she hits another guy on the back of the neck.
• Chops a guy in the neck twice while she's brainwashed and doesn't even know she has skills.
• And does another of her "hit multiple people at once" attacks, following it up with a crazy acrobatic break-dance spin-kick.
• Some chops and throws in a splash-page montage. These aren't really in a scene, but are obviously intended to show what she can do.
• Viciously takes out some street fighters: breaks an arm, jumps out of the way of a blade so a bad guy gets stabbed instead; slices a guy's throat.
• Takes one guy’s eyes out while shooting another with Bite.
• She uses a lot of throws: a double throw, a throw (jokes about how she won't throw him too far), another throw, throws again, and one more throw. (Also note the throws used above in combination with other techniques.)
• A disarm (also see more disarms under her Line)
• Closes and disarms a SHIELD agent (elsewhere described as one of their elite special forces) who is holding a gun directly on her with the intent to kill, while Nat is brain washed and doesn't even know she has skills. She is described as having "eye-blurring speed" and countering the woman "with deceptive ease" (again, she doesn't even know she can do this).
• Soon after, still brainwashed into not knowing her skills and after this group has shot and beaten down Spider-man, Natasha "tears through the elite strike force--they're the best SHIELD has to offer, yet against her, they haven't a prayer!" I want to emphasize again she is doing this with entirely subconscious skill.
• Takes out a bunch of guards, including throwing one over her back for a pretty good strength feat. She shoots a gun out of guy’s hand, uses a flash bomb, and shoots guy’s hand.
• She and Sharon Carter kick each other’s ropes off, which is presented as effortless and looks silly, but honestly would be really difficult to do.
• Knocks guy out by kicking handcuffs at his head, throat strikes two others (this is immediately after she had major surgery):
Examples of Particularly Acrobatic and Fast Fighting
• Multiple balletic kicks/flips, two against Bucky (one, two) and one against a random guard, and one that's a two-target upside-down double-split kick. You get the sense that she's fairly coordinated :)
• While in the process of killing a bunch of mercs, she uses a nice, graceful move to kill one: swinging her body up and around him while holding on to his head, thus breaking his neck in the process.
• She repeats this move later in the issue, where she jumps up and swings her body around a guy, breaking his neck as she swings around.
• In an older issue, Spidey sneaks up on her, but she is able to react, grab, and throw him without him being to react back, even given his spider-sense. (Compare this example of his speed and reactions in the same issue.):
• Spider-man and Widow are surrounded by armed henchmen. Spidey runs off to defeat the Owl, and is gone only a very short time. Then he runs back, clearly believing there are a dangerously high number of guys to fight, since he says she "has her hands full." However, she has easily beaten them all, saying Spidey took too long coming back. I count at least 12 guys. These guys aren't particularly tough, what's impressive is the speed with which she beats them, and that Spidey considers them to be enough to be a challenge.
• Acrobatically shoots Deadpool, incapacitating him until he's decapitated by another guy. (She's the blonde here.)
• Blitzes several guards including two of her classic neck chops.
• Takes out several muggers while she is brainwashed she she doesn't even know she has skills. This includes, among feats placed in other sections, showing her battlefield awareness by seeing a guy in the reflection of her bracelet and a close-in disarm with arm break.
• Blitzes three goons who were waiting for her, while she was brainwashed and was only slowly becoming aware she had skills, with her initial weapon being only a clothes hanger.
Nat is a very accomplished sniper and all-around highly accurate shot.
• Shoots a thin string or rope three times. First, while riding a motorcycle, she shoots two strings that come out of a trick arrow from Hawkeye. Second, she shoots a thin rope that Hawkeye is walking on, from a fair distance. Third, she shoots Hawkeye's bow string, from a decent distance away again. Each is a very small target, under difficult circumstances.
• Daredevil calls Natasha one of the only three people who could have made a difficult shot, the others being Bullseye and Punisher.
• Daredevil knows what he's talking about: she shot him in the chest, almost killing him. Some context: he probably didn't dodge as much as he could have because he didn't think she was going to do it. BUT on the other hand, not only did she shoot him, she purposefully ricocheted the bullet off a rib so it didn't kill him.
• While tied up, she uses her legs to grab and manipulate a guy's arm so he first shoots another bad guy in the head, then in a second shot she uses her legs to make him shoot the small rope holding her up, while she's swinging on it. This is a CRAZY shot for her to make, using his arm/gun and only using her legs to target it.
• In both these examples (one, two), shoots a gun out of a guy's hand while doing a complicated gymnastic activity (jumping in through a skylight and shooting in midair in one, flipping upside-down while dodging gunshots in the other).
• Simultaneously shoots two small objects in the opposite directions with her two different gauntlets.
• Shoots guy behind her without looking (here she has gone through surgery to look like Yelena Belova).
• While fighting two other Hydra agents in H2H, shoots another behind her without looking (the guy in panel 2 who is hanging over the railing) and then throws a knife in another’s head.
• Accurately shoots a small package of dynamite on a far-away ship. Despite its scope, this gun is not a style that is made for sniping.
• Accurately throws two knives, using one to knock a guy out with the butt end, and the other to pin a guy's hand to the wall.
In addition to regularly carrying firearms and knives, which she is quite skilled with, Natasha also uses the following weapons:
Natasha often uses her Widow's Line (normally a grappling line) as a weapon for incapacitation or entangling.
• Uses Widow’s Line to trip soldiers:
• Uses Widow's Line to disarm Stilt Man.
• Uses Widow's Line to disarm Red Room girl.
• Snares a telephone receiver with her line then brings it to her ear, which is actually a pretty nice accuracy/coordination feat.
• See fight with Crossbones (Line used for incap)
• Line used for incap against Weeping Lion (two pages edited together).
• See fight with Imus (Line used to garrote)
• Here she uses her Widow’s Line in two directions at once, disrupting the aim of an assassin and tying up her hand, and connecting the other end to a sign, pulling her off the car.
. The comics have recently started to copy the way her gauntlets can create a shock by direct contact in the movies as well. They weigh 4 kilos each, or about 9 pounds.
• Blasts two guys right next to her:
• Bite incaps Silvermane in one shot. For reference, Silvermane is a highly durable cyborg who, for instance, has shrugged multiple punches from Spider-man without a problem; it took several of Dagger's light knives to take him down.
• Blasts armored foe and is amazed that she isn’t taken down, as her Bite is "enough to stop ten men."
• Blasts through the helmet of a Federal Dynamo, basically a lower-level Crimson Dynamo.
• She fights Ivan, now in a robot body that is called “indestructible.” ... She defeats him by blowing a giant hole in his chest with her Bite.
• Takes out dude in an exo-suit. How tough is this suit? Tough enough to require four sustained shots from Punisher's van's minigun to take the same amount of damage as in one Widow's Bite.
• She again destroys a handgun. Spidey notes, "that Widow's Bite of yours is something else!" :)
• Multiple point-blank blasts, often to the face: one, two, three, four, five, six and seven, eight, nine (while entangled), ten. (In one, she notes how she helped write the SHIELD handbook on fighting.) Plus once to Hawkeye; that was part of a plan they made and may have been staged, but it still shows how point-blank attacks are a tactic). The Bite is a good ranged weapon, but is also a bonus to her H2H combat. Note that these blasts are different from her touch-based attach, which is shown farther below.
• Here, she uses it sort of like an unconnected taser dart, creating an electric shock, and here, like a classic taser, shooting out a line running electric current along it. It's sort of like a mix of her Line and her Bite.
• Blocks a point-blank shot and knocks him out with the Widow’s Kiss, a 24-hour knock-out gas:
• Gas grenade.
• Uses tear gas bombs against Hand.
• Uses smoke bombs.
She has used many kinds of bombs, hidden in her uniform in many locations. Back in the day, she uses a micro-bomb hidden underneath her thumbnail:
• She uses some small spherical bombs to blow up the wall of a helicarrier.
• Uses a time-delayed belt bomb.
• She also uses a slingshot bomb.
• Belt bomb blows the giant door off a safe and it flies for a significant distance.
• Exudes some kind of blinding oil from her gloves or gauntlets:
• Shoots what seems to be a power-disruption dart—in any case it’s some kind of dart that ends up disrupting the power.
• Pulls a gas mask up out of her suit's collar.
• Uses her gauntlets to open an electronic lock.
• Uses a tool in her wristlets to start a car.
• Uses a laser-cutter.
• Gauntlet has a flare (also an example of durability, in swimming underwater in arctic temperatures with no problem).
• Gauntlet has a homing signal.
• Here she has claws.
• She wears armored gloves even while in civilian clothes, enabling her to catch a knife.
• Using random objects as weapons: While she is brainwashed and doesn't even know she has skills, she turns her civilian necklace into a whip, striking the eyes.
• Using random objects as weapons: Blitzes three goons who were waiting for her, while she was brainwashed and was only slowly becoming aware she had skills, with her initial weapon being only a clothes hanger that she uses to hook and rip the second guy's cheek open (close up of previous scan). Then she uses a pot to take out the third guy.
• Using random objects as weapons: Uses one of the above guys' weird axe, which would have a really unusual balance, which she ties to a rope, to act as a sort of grapple-axe that disarms and pulls a guy out the window, and also uses a nail gun, while hanging upside-down and brainwashed so she is only slowly becoming aware she has skills. Full page, and close up that's a bit easier to see.
• Natasha’s suit has suction cups that allow her to stick to walls. A couple examples of sticking to walls even in her first costume, and her first appearance in her now-standard black catsuit, and again. Also does it recently. A variant explanation: it's "electro-molecular adhesers!"
Natasha is noted for her graceful agility, and is an extremely effective dodger. Her speed has been noted as superhuman. Also note some examples under FIGHTING SKILLS where she knocks away guns that are shooting at her from point blank range.
Numerous instances of dodging guns and other attacks, often machine gun fire, often from very close range. Note the grace with which she dodges--it's not hard for her to do this. In a couple examples her hair is blonde (this is when she was disguised as Yelena Belova):
• While she is mind-controlled, she dodges a bunch of close-range shots from Bucky. As it says, he's not trying to hit her, more herd her in a direction, but his comment about "she's too fast" implies that he probably couldn't hit her regardless. Also note the comment about her grace in dodging. And, she's playing him by actually dodging in the direction she wants to go. Slightly after he throws a knife and she dodges that too.
• Dodges three shots from Punisher.
• From a point-blank handgun.
• From multiple guns.
• Dodges Federal Dynamo's multiple close-range rapid-fire blasts.
• Dodges Hawkeye’s net arrow at point blank range (however this was part of a plan with Hawkeye and may have been staged)
• Nat tries to assassinate Taskmaster. Tasky shoots 3 arrows at her, using Hawkeye/Bullseye skills, and she dodges, with the arrows hitting her motorcycle instead. Taskmaster clearly is shocked that this is possible: “No way. No way!” He runs off and escapes with Nick Fury Jr.’s help.
• She fights Ivan. She dodges his point-blank gatling-style laser blasts.
• Gymnastically dodges multiple energy blasts from a robot.
• Dodges energy beams from Carol Danvers, among others, while simultaneously shooting two targets.
• Gymnastically fips through a host of lasers from a security system. It's not clear if they're shooting at her, or a static laser fence.
• Gymnastically dodges a giant robot arm.
• While fighting an alternate-dimension counterpart of herself, she dodges Cap's thrown shield three times, and Cap comments, "Damn, she's fast."
• Natasha often randomly throws in acrobatic flips and leaps that are beyond what is necessary to get from one place to another, as seen in the fifth panel here.
• A coffee tray blows off a high-rise, maybe 8' off the edge, and a brainwashed Black Widow who doesn't even know she has skills reaches out and grabs it by seemingly hooking one foot around a girder. Notice that neither of her hands is holding on to the building, at the angle she is at. Onlookers say "I've never even heard of anything like that."
• Drives a car on an overpass above the car she is chasing, leaps out of her car, off the bridge, and onto the speeding car below, in a feat of both timing and agility, then manages to stay on the hood of the speeding, swerving car with only her feet—no hands. This is totally beyond human ability.
• Jumps from a ridiculous height into water tower.
• Casually runs along a wire that is high above the city.
• A crazily high flip while fighting (upper right-hand corner).
• Jumps out of a Helicarrier. This is interesting to compare with Elektra’s jump out of a helicarrier. Before this, she steals some stuff from SHIELD, and fights past a bunch of agents. Then, as shown here, she blows up the wall with some bombs and jumps out with no path for survival. SHIELD agents follow in a flying car and jetpacks. In the air, she maneuvers herself into the car and ejects the drive. Then she ties one of the jetpack guys to the car, which falls. She pretends that she’s scared so one jetpack guy grabs her, then steal his pack. When the agent blows up her pack, she falls safely on a car and drives away on a stolen motorcycle. As the agent says, “she turns a 40,000 foot fall into a ballet.” It is impressive to have made the jump without knowing for sure what would happen, but more so it is the grace with which she did it—doing something with grace like that makes it clear how easy it is for her.
A lot of the Dodging and Fighting Skills feats above cover speed pretty well, but there are some speed feats that need their own subcategory.
• Is stated by Taskmaster to have superhuman speed due to Red Room conditioning.
• Blitzes several guards with very little reaction on their part.
• Blitzes three goons who were waiting for her, while she was brainwashed and was only slowly becoming aware she had skills, with her initial weapon being only a clothes hanger.Throws a knife so quickly it kills a guy before he hits a button. His hand is inches away before she even throws the knife.
I generally haven't focused too much on this area because often it takes a lot of supporting scans to really explain how stealthy someone is, but here's a few.
• There are so many examples of infiltration, I'm just showing this one example where she quickly infiltrates the new Red Room.
• Her white suit is invisible to cameras.
• After Spider-man sneaks up on her in one issue, she later sneaks up on him, and is able to tap him on the shoulder simultaneously with his spider-sense going off, and before he can react (also notable because when he sneaks up on her, she is able to grab and throw him, while when she sneaks up on him, he just flips away instead of being able to counterattack).
• Sneaks up on Conan, then in the second panel (which takes place later), leaves without him realizing it. Conan is known for his enhanced senses/awareness. In fact, Conan was able to perceive Elektra behind him, and normally I'd say Elektra is stealthier than Widow.While taking out 100 guards over the course of a few hours, "when she's seen, it's only when she wants to be." A few hours, when 100 guys are actively looking for you in their own base, is a long time to stay stealthy.
As seen below, Natasha has some pretty solid blunt force durability with multiple falls from a great distance, and some excellent pain tolerance. It is almost a trope now for her to let herself get tortured to get some information from the tormentors, then to break out and kill them, as if prolonged torture was nothing.
• See fight with Weeping Lion (smashed against wall, no pain)
• Stays awake during major abdominal surgery without anesthesia. She can’t move at all or they’ll nick her organs. This is a crazy display of pain tolerance and body control:
• This is a great scene not only for durability but also fighting style: she lets herself get beat up for a while, then takes out the guards while still tied up.
• She takes a knife in the shoulder to avoid worse injury; she has a bit of a history of doing this—stoically accepting an injury for tactical reasons.
• Intentionally takes a bullet in the shoulder to kick a guy; and then falls many stories to the street and is basically fine.
• Waterboarded, and is fine (also remembers other examples of torture). Beats the guy up right after.
• Is unusually tolerant of poisons.
• During Elektra’s first attempted resurrection, Natasha fights some Hand, taking an arrow in the shoulder without a peep (she does turn out to be pretty injured later, but in the moment, completely ignores it)
• Survives lengthy fall into water.
• Falls an enormous height out of building, bounces off sign and hits car, and is basically fine.
• After asking Hawkeye to shoot her in the side with a 3-bladed broadhead arrow, she is still able to agilely jump off a roof.
The Soviet Super Soldier formula gives her a “ramped up immune and cell repair system.” Her “wounds heal four, maybe five times as fast as a normal human’s would. [She doesn’t] hardly get sick, [she doesn’t] age as fast.” This immune system works so well that it sees a fetus as a disruption and miscarries it.
• Spider-man falls off what must be at least a 3-story building, although its precise height is not shown. Nat sort of catches him with her body, cushioning his fall. The both collapse on the ground, but get right back up.
• Stabs a fat guy and lifts him up at the end of a pole and tosses him:
• Holds on to a staff against a raging waterfall with one arm. (Last few pages in the scan) With this amount of water, the power of the flow would be incredibly strong, it would be very hard to hold on here.
• Grabs a fat guy and throws him out of a car window, mostly with one hand.
• See also Bucky comment about not realizing her strength.
• Spider-man falls out of a Helicarrier. She leaps out and snags him with her Line, then shoots another line up and snags the carrier. This is already a speed and accuracy feat. Then she goes with the momentum and swings Spidey up so he can grab the carrier. This is significant strength because she is: not only holding Spider-man with one arm, but one arm also arrested his speed from falling a decent distance. Then with her other arm, she is holding herself and Spider-man, and then is able to swing him up toward the carrier. That is a lot of muscle power.
• Two examples of hanging off the side of a building--once just using her arm to hold on, once while holding her line and wedging herself against the building. This looks easy but would take decent grip and arm strength.
• Jumps off the side of a boat and grabs onto a port-hole ledge, arresting quite a bit of momentum with just small finger-holds in that move. Then she holds herself up with one arm for a while.
• In this fight with guards she threw a guy over her back, not really seeming to use martial arts/leverage to do it.
• Not a huge deal, but crushes a metal remote control box.
Yelena is not as skilled as Nat, and has fairly similar gear, so generally anything she can do, Nat could do. I have not gone back to get Yelena's feats from the past.
Yelena uses the Bite from close range; it acts like a taser, convulsing the target.
Yelena grabs with legs, throws.
Yelena uses belt bomb
Yelena throws a guard
Yelena uses close-up taser-style Bite on two guys at once.
Yelena uses gas cylinders and has gas mask
Yelena has spray bottles of cyanide gas
Yelena has lockpicks in cylinders
Yelena wraps Line around guy’s neck
These are only a few representative examples. Black Widow is noted for long-term strategies and cons, and for breaking into challenging locations.
• Outsmarts Tony Stark. Stark is after her for kidnapping the guy who helped him first build the Iron Man suit when she was much younger. She plays on Stark’s weaknesses by using a fake phone call and make up, then KOs him and breaks into his computer system (and steals some of his tech, not shown here).
• Absurd prep—has fake skin on her back to cover a bow and arrow. Fingernail has electric charge (or something) to blow up plastic explosive. Also one-shots a mind-controlled Ivan.
• And she did the same thing earlier--she has a kit for a field disruptor rifle under a false back.
• She passes a lockpick to Daredevil via a kiss...which he then realizes she kept in her stomach.
• The entire plot of one miniseries is that she was willing to have painful plastic surgery done on her to look like Yelena Belova, and then have the surgery reversed after finishing the con. This is, just to point out, crazy! Then she does it again, this time using a drug.
• Works with Punisher to make complicated plan to fake Frank's death, where she shoots him off the side of a building, where he is caught by Ghost Rider.
• Vassily, who is connected to the Red Room, is repeatedly referred to as being tough, and in his one feat catches a thrown knife and then two-shots a trained assassin. They fight. He has a pheromone scent that Black Widows can’t fight against. He hits her four times (two was enough to take out the other assassin). But, she calculates that by letting him break her nose and fill her throat with blood, she won’t smell the pheromone. Then she gets up and two-shots him.
• This is more of a pure tactical move: she hides in the shadows and attacks from above.
• Says she knows how to take down a synthesoid like Viv Vision.
Stats: Intelligence 3 (learned), Strength 3 (peak human: lift twice body weight), Speed 2 (normal—“the ability to move over land by running or flight—next level, 3, is up to 700mph), Durability 3 (enhanced), energy projection 3 (short range and duration, single energy type), fighting skills 6 (master of several forms of combat).
Black Widow has kept her youth due to multiple treatments from the Soviet government, which also increased her physical stats, including strength, speed, and durability ("Government treatments slowed her aging, augmented her immune system and enhanced her durability”).
The Red Room physically and mentally conditioned the 28 Black Widows (of which Natasha was only one) in their youth in various ways:
• The Red Room conditioning gives her a “ramped up immune and cell repair system.” Her “wounds heal four, maybe five times as fast as a normal human’s would. [She doesn’t] hardly get sick, [she doesn’t] age as fast.” This immune system works so well that it sees a fetus as a disruption and miscarries it.
• They physically conditioned them to react to a pheromonal scent that locks into her biology. She is unable to fight or even disobey someone with it. This is how Nick Fury got her to defect. (However, see her fight with Vassily on how she can overcome it.)
• They also implanted false memories, such as of her training as a ballerina. These memories were unstable, and when asked directly by Red Guardian, she was unable to give a consistent answer. If a Black Widow tries to think directly about the memories, they get physically ill.
• Taskmaster, who is an expert at the training of assassins, said the Red Room built the Widows to be superhuman, including strength and speed.
Soviet Super-Soldier Serum: The Winter Soldier, who worked for the Soviets at the time, also provided Natasha and her caregiver Ivan with a formula which expanded their life-spans and also healed him enough to recover from a mortal injury. This was in 1956. It is unclear if this serum is in addition to, or the same as, the treatment the other Widow trainees received.
As I mentioned while discussing her resurrection by the Hand many years ago, she could have arguably gotten some of her physical enhancement from that as well.
Age: How old is Natasha? Deadly Origin shows her as an infant in 1928, and says she is 29 in 1957, which would also imply a 1928 birth year. The Avengers Roll Call handbook backs this up and says she was born around 1928. This is also supported by a plethora of stories, such as Uncanny X-men 268, a flashback where Captain America and Wolverine meet Natasha during World War II in 1941, when they were all alive (Natasha would have been, and looked approximately, 13).
However, in The Things They Say About Her (published before Deadly Origin), Yelena Belova says Nat is "nearly 40" (she would actually be 77 at the time TTTSAH was published) and that Yelena herself is "not yet 30." It is unlikely that Yelena would be so unaware of the history of the Black Widow program since she graduated from a later iteration. Perhaps we may take this to mean that Natasha looked like she was almost 40.
However, after the 2015 Secret War in which reality was rebooted, the Mark Waid/Chris Samnee Black Widow volume implies she is actually much younger. Natasha kills the uncle of a boy who later became the Weeping Lion when both she and the boy were children. Since the Weeping Lion seems to be a normal adult age, this is problematic. Further, only "several years ago," according to a caption, she captured Yinsen and brought him into captivity. Yinsen is the man who later helped Tony Stark build his first Iron Man armor when they were both captives. Natasha looks like a young woman in this story, which means that she is actually younger than Tony Stark at the time. The letters page in issue 8 takes on this confusion. It says she is 88 years old (at the time of the volume in 2016, thus a birth year of 1928), but then notes that there are some problems with how her age is portrayed in the story, and that they care more about the story than the math. It suggests a few possible solutions, such as that the Weeping Lion could have also had enhanced age, but basically leaves it open. The letters page to issue 10 follows up on this: a letter writer suggests that it was the reality-altering aspects of the Secret War that changed the timeline, and the editor gave him a No-Prize for the idea, seemingly endorsing the concept. The letters page in issue 11 continues the discussion, implying that it is not clear exactly when in her life she was in the Red Room.
Nat fights and kills pretty viciously under the right circumstances.
• Crushes a guy's head in a car door:
• While she was working as an assassin for the Soviets, she not only killed a good friend of hers in cold blood because those were her orders, she then proceeded to kill their cat just to tie up loose ends!
• Cuts a guy's arms off as revenge for what he did to a girl.
• Intentionally has Hawkeye shoot her in the side with a 3-bladed broadhead arrow, clearly causing significant damage, in order to fulfill a plan.
• Callous enough to assassinate a guy who did her wrong in cold blood. He's not expecting this at all, or aware of what's going on. She just walks up and drops a grenade in his lap.
• Ruthless: forces a guy to jump off a high tower at gunpoint, breaking many bones, then threatens to let wild dogs eat him (and does actually let them start to visciously chew on his leg).
• She promised two guys that they wouldn’t walk again, so after she beats them and the one guy is just lying on the ground unconscious, she breaks his back with a pressure point (which was completely unnecessary).
• Trains the Champions in “ethical adjustments” which are so hard core she makes them cry just by talking.
• Is interrogated by a man using hallucinogenic drugs. When she used these same drugs on him, he went nearly insane and gave up everything he knew, and kept having flashbacks much later. While it affects her strongly on the inside, she resists it unlike anyone else ("I've never seen resistance like this"), and is in fact able to act completely conscious soon after (and then get in a big fight).
• Good at disguise. Tricks Taskmaster, even though he can read movements, plus, knows that by wearing an eyepatch, no one can recognize her ;)
• Spits in a guy’s face, manipulating him into reacting in such a way that he drops a needle exactly where she can grab it and unlock the cuffs. Incredible timing, accuracy, and intuition, not to mention needles aren’t great for lock picking.
• She was resurrected by the Chaste after being killed by the Hand’s disintegrating poison. Sometimes people resurrected by the Hand in a similar manner have increased physical stats; this, in addition to her Super Soldier Serum, may explain her stats:
• Infiltration of high-tech security skills: Easily breaks into security of a Hydra base. She initially says their security would be an insult to a back alley safecracker, then revises that to an insult to Gambit or the Black Cat, implying that they are not very good compared to her in this area.
• Infiltration of high-tech security skills: Shuri's tech expert Flea (who has lots of on-panel feats proving his expertise) describes a satellite's security as incredibly hard--it would be easier to break into Stark Industries. Only a "top of the line specialist" could break in, and beating it "in the time they have would be impossible." Black Widow breaks through its computer security in about 2 minutes, as seen in the time stamps (from 2:18 to 0:06).
• Wolverine thinks it’s a joke that he’s supposed to be her protector; obviously he thinks she can take care of herself better than he can take care of her:
• Wolverine is cautious enough about her reactions to stay out of arm’s reach when she wakes up unexpectedly.
• She is described as “running circles around men and women who possess ten times her strength”
• Fighting SHIELD and Nick Fury. She breaks an agent’s neck and disarms him in one move. In fighting Fury, an agent says, “this is the Black Widow we’re talking about. There was never any questions about whether she’d get the upper hand, just how long it’d take her.”
• A Federal Dynamo, basically a low-level Crimson Dynamo, knows she's going to toast him as soon as he runs into her.
• This is more her own self-assessment, and certainly imbued with class Stan Lee hyperbole, but she describes herself as having "powers enough to be a challenge to Iron Man."
• Nick Fury Jr says Widow is “the greatest killer to walk the Earth at present. Better than the Winter Soldier. Better than Elektra Natchios.” Tasky, who has happily fought every top Marvel street tier, including Iron Fist shortly after, clearly agrees: "I’m going to die. You got to help me.”
• When Taskmaster sees her again, he flatly says, "I'm dead," and then "Just don't let her kill me." Then, "I could run, sure. But she'd be on me in a second. And then I'd be dead." He clearly thinks he has no chance in combat against her. Then, when he manages to take her (and the rest of the base) out with some prep by getting some psychics to release a massive psi blast, he stands there looking at her unconscious body wondering if he should kill her. "All I'd have to do is take two steps." But: "what if she wakes up before I get there?" Taskmaster, top-tier streetleveler, is paralyzed by fear at trying to take out even the unconscious Widow, and decides to leave instead of risking it.
This thread is a back-up and summary of my main Elektra respect thread. Comic Vine has recently screwed up its spoiler blocks, but they work in blogs, so I'm putting the content here where it can be seen in their correct format.
I am posting the main 616 summary thread here, plus the movie and Netflix summaries in the next posts.
The original posts may include more context on the feats and go into them in more depth (for instance, in the instance where she stabs Hulk in the eyes, the original post has a supporting scan that shows that same version of the Hulk was able to withstand Johnny Storm's Nova blast with no problem).
This post is where to find the main feats without context, but organized in a comprehensive, easier-to-use fashion.
Images/scenes will often be listed under more than one category, depending on their content. This is not an attempt to pad the list, but an attempt to be exhaustive about categories.
***Almost all of the scans in this post are mine, but I did include some from the Killer Movies respect thread in order to be more comprehensive, so credit for those scans goes to the creator of that thread***
Fights Iron Man 2099. She disappears in plain sight over a cliff’s edge, and is only picked up by his electronic detection. Note that this isn’t just normal Iron Man level tech, but future Iron Man tech.
While Daredevil is fighting some Hand, his enhanced senses (he is temporarily without radar sense) have a hard time picking up or identifying Elektra (for instance, he hears a Hand's heartbeat behind him, but then it disappears--he never picks up that Elektra killed that Hand)
Runs across the snow without leaving a trace (Assassin)
She runs on the snow without a mark at the age of 12, confirming Assassin’s similar scene.
She pranks Garrett on multiple occasions, using mind-clouding psi powers and/or stealth. Here she shot his beer can, stole his pistol out of his shoulder holster, and took a gun out of the floor and made it fall apart when he picked it up without him knowing she was there at all. Here she steals his gun again. Here she plants drugs on him and steals his plane ticket—while he is specifically looking for her. (Assassin)
In a dream sequence by Daredevil--where he would presumably not dream this if it were not true, he says "she never makes any sound at all. Not unless she wants to."
She leaves Daredevil: "Then Elektra's gone, silent as she came. Her ninja ways invisible to even his senses."
She throws a sai as a calling card when she arrives; Daredevil notes that "her heartbeat caught my hypersensitive ear a split second before the sai found its mark."
Even standard Hand are great at stealth. Here, two ex-Hand members are amazed that a whole troop of Hand appear as if "they're coming out of thin air."
An ex-SHIELD agent says, "She's fast."
Wolverine, who has enhanced speed, comments, "Man, she's fast."
Catches an arrow at 12, semi-confirming a similar scene in Assassin about catching a bird in flight.
She can catch a bird in flight as a child. (Assassin)
Here she kills six agents in six seconds. (Assassin)
Here she quickly punches a guy’s nose into his head and then breaks another guy’s arm more quickly than Garrett can see—while underwater. (Assassin)
Storms a militia camp. Blitzes two guards right in front of the child leader without him seeing her, then kills three in one run, looking like a blur without them being able to react. Then starts killing and intentionally scaring off the rest of the pretty huge army, being able to kill handfuls at a time without them reacting. By morning they are all dead or run off.
Jumps out of a helicarrier and steals the parachute off a HAMMER agent who jumped out 7 seconds earlier (while in terrible shape after continuous torture by Skrulls and HAMMER, and just having been shot twice and getting a broken ankle): one, two
Exhibits equal athleticism with Matt Murdock here, and then makes a fool out of him here, and then here she jumps off a cliff into ice, then when he follows her down, he suddenly discovers she is already back at the top of the enormous cliff.
While in terrible shape after being continuously tortured by the Skrulls and the HAMMER, she dodges double-machine gun fire from maybe 15' away.
Easily dodges projectile darts from some Hand-operated powered armor.
Perry shoots a laser at her, and she deflects it back at him with her sword. (Assassin)
When she finds out Lady Bullseye can become incorporeal, she lets her stab her in the abdomen with a giant longsword, moving her body so all the important organs are out of the way. She seems completely fine after this, and even goes on to easily defeat Jack O'Lantern, Tiger Shark, and Whiplash, and then kill the leaders of the Assassins Guild as if she is completely uninjured. I need to emphasize that no matter how you move your organs out of the way, being stabbed completely through your abdomen should be a lethal injury, the fact that not only did she survive this at all, but acted as if she was totally fine, is an amazing feat of durability, not to mention pain tolerance.
An enhanced Bullseye beats her down, to the degree that she can't move, her skull is broken, she has a brain hemorrhage, and is blind in one one, and eventually needs a steel plate in her head. This is the definition of beaten beyond the ability to fight. And then (full fight including getting hurt) she gets up out of pure willpower and beats the crap out of a bunch of Hand, their magical leader, and Bullseye.
Bulletproof when so desired: She deflects a bullet with the back of her hand—and moves fast enough to intercept it, for that matter, in a clear bullet-timing example. (Assassin)
She manages to hang on to a helicopter while it’s hit by a rocket. Then it’s hit by another direct hit, crashes, and she’s largely fine (I didn’t show the repercussions, but she basically just gets up). (Assassin)
After Perry breaks her leg and partially breaks her spine, she still ends up defeating him (the fingers through the brain scan above). (Assassin)
Holds on to stalactites, without sliding off, for a while, pretty serious grip strength.
Punches through a guy and the wall behind him (possibly my favorite of the various times she has punched through people)
From Elektra Lives! (non-canon, but fun for continuing the theme): punches all the way through a ninja's chest
She crushes a guy’s skull, or at least his jaw. (Assassin)
In the same context, she crushes a skull, likening it to an eggshell, and also crushes a throat. (Assassin)
While being tasered, she is still strong enough to punch through a guy’s body armor—not just his body—and was reaching for his heart. (Assassin)
She pulls out a guy’s heart. (Assassin)
Knocks out Morbius with double hits to the sides of his head with her sai handles. This era of Morbius has a significant healing factor, for instance being stabbed solidly through the torso by Stone, then being fine a few hours later.
This is an example of accuracy as well as speed: Deflects NUMEROUS continuous machine-gun-style shots from a giant robot.
Cuts a guy's arms and legs off so they don't fall off, and he stays in one piece, alive, until he's touched--which would take incredible skill
Flips over the running Nina (a ninja) and cuts her handband in half, without cutting her forehead at all--again, incredible weapons control
She shoots a guy in the neck with a crossbow from several hundred yards away while she is on a carnival ride rotating one direction and the target is on a ride rotating the other direction. The narrator emphasizes the skill it takes to do this. (Assassin)
She shoots an arrow into a gun barrel. (Assassin)
After stealing SHIELD security details, she goes behind the wall where her target is sitting and stabs him through the heart (without any direct physical sensation of where he is). (Assassin)
Unlike normal sai, they usually have sharp edges (just a couple examples: they can cut through a grenade or cut a bullet in half [you can see the edge of the blade there], or effortlessly cut this guy's shirt)
Although sometimes, as seen here, they're pointy but do not have sharp edges.
Uses poisoned shuriken (again)
She throws shards of glass and takes out multiple SHIELD agents. (Assassin)
Defeats all the guards of SHIELD's best prison, just with .
Nerve strike on a guy's face that makes him vomit out blood (while simultaneously stabbing another guy)
Stabs Wolverine in such a way that she knows it will take longer for him to heal and make it hard for him to fight back (as seen by the fact that he stays on the ground and she is up and about on the next page): one, two
Beats up a squad of HAMMER agents, with some aim dodging, despite being in terrible shape due to continuous torture by the Skrulls and HAMMER (as pointed out), and in the process then being shot twice and having her ankle broken. She also starts off with only a knife.
Beats up two ex-SHIELD agents, despite all the injuries listed immediately above, and again having only her basic hand weapons against machine guns and a rifle.
Fights with a pipe in one hand and a sword in the other--two very differently-weighted weapons, with very different styles
Defeats all the guards of SHIELD's best prison, just with .
A Chaste says "already, she is a mighty warrior" after only a year of training.
Disarms Chastity after surviving a crashed helicopter. (Assassin)
Here she quickly punches a guy’s nose into his head and then breaks another guy’s arm more quickly than Garrett can see—while underwater. (Assassin)
The Beast tries to kill her with its magic, but she resists and stabs it with a spear, temporarily defeating it. (Assassin)
A college-era Elektra brutally takes out five thugs, including throwing one guy at least 15' using only one arm, and potentially using one of her patented "punching through the body" techniques, given how the guy is bent over and bleeding from the stomach after she punches him in the belly, although that detail isn't clear.
First fight with Daredevil. She wins via prep, then throws sai into Ben Urich
Fights Wolverine in Enemy of the State. The fight starts with both of them knowing the other is there; there is no surprise. She incaps him with a nerve strike which he only gets out of due to an explosion, then strikes him again in such a way that it takes him a while to heal so that he is on the ground and she is up and about, and he comments on her speed and thinks that "another two seconds and I'm...", clearly implying "dead." Knowing he's going to lose, he runs off and decides to try to drown her, saying that's his "only way."
Elektra and Wolverine kill hundreds if not thousands of Hand. This is one of the most impressive fights against "fodder" that I've ever seen. Except they're not fodder, because these same Hand just defeated a Sentinel robot with just swords. Elektra clearly fights as well as Wolverine here, and in fact he would not have started the fight because he thought there were too many. (See post 23 above for estimates on their numbers).
In a montage, beats Blizzard, Crossbones, Whiplash, Shocker, Boomerang, Jack O'Lantern, Blackout, Whirlwind, and Tiger Shark in groups of ones and twos--all Iron Man, Spider-Man, Ghost Rider, Namor, and Captain America villains.
She fights enhanced versions of Whiplash, Tiger Shark, and Jack O'Lantern all at once, and pretty much one-shots each of them. These are Iron Man, Namor, and Spider-man villains, and they've had their powers enhanced by the Assassins Guild. Also, this is pretty much right after she was stabbed in the torso by Lady Bullseye. How badly did she beat them? The League of Assassins said she "dropped them like prom dresses" and that their "new abilities didn't matter a lick."
Easily beats and almost solos the Serpent Squad (she gets a little help from Matchmaker): Black Mamba, Sidewinder, Death Adder, and Anaconda, the last two of which are physically very formidable, and Black Mamba has tough psychic powers.
Fights multiple Skrulls with super-powers. She kills three: one with martial arts skills with Ghost Rider powers; one with Wolverine powers; and one with Daredevil, Nightcrawler, and Cyclops powers. She is finally beaten by one with Invisible Woman, Colossus, and Thing powers.
Elektra has fought against Bullseye four times in canon. I will include all of them here for comparison's sake. She was killed by him the first time, and has roundly defeated him each time since then. In the most recent battle, he admitted that "you were always better than me, Elektra." And "Me in my prime, you in yours? You'd beat me, every day of the week and twice on Sunday. So there is no question that she is currently far superior to him.
(Any other fights between them are not canon, and are either alternate universe fights like Elektra Lives!, or they are actually the Skrull Pagon, such as the fight in the Murdock Papers arc in Daredevil vol. 2. The following four fights are the only canon fights.)
Fight One: She has the advantage over him (7 landed attacks against 4) until he throws a card at her throat, disabling her, and then kills her. So it's kind of a cheap-shot win. Here is Daredevil's fight against Bullseye right after for comparison (5 hits by Daredevil vs 2 by Bullseye, not counting any of the bullrushes since it's less clear who gets the advantage from them, before they get on the wire and Daredevil drops him. So about the same hit ratio).
Fight Two: He trains for months specifically to defeat her, aided by a group that gives him holograms of her to spar against and an extensive database on everything about her. He knows everything about how she moves and fights. In short he is as ready as he will ever be to fight her. He wins for a while, then she trounces him.
Fight Three: She has just escaped from a HAMMER Helicarrier. Immediately previous to this, she had been tortured by the Skrulls, and then HAMMER, for months each, with many narrative notes about how she is in terrible shape. She just woke up at Night Nurse's place, got shot at, and then fights Bullseye. He tricks her into getting poisoned, which he notes is so lethal a poison that he can't believe she can stand. Then she falls off a four-story building (height shown in another scene). Then, when he thinks he's got her, she gets the hell up and acrobatically flips over Bullseye and stabs him in the back, in a mirror of how he killed her, completely defeating him. He's almost dead and only rescued by an ambulance.
Fight Four: Bullseye has been magically enhanced by the Hand to become faster and stronger. He admits (see links above) that he could normally never beat her. But, with his enhancements, he does beat her to the ground, severely, so she's half blind and has brain and skull injuries. Then she get gets the hell up and shakes it off (like in the previous fight) and proceeds to beat a bunch of Hand, the magic-powered white and black Hand leaders, and Bullseye (using the magic black ninja's skull to remove Bullseye's Hand enhancements and super-age him) for a complete victory.
Can slip out of a strait jacket even when in her Beast-mind-controlled semi-conscious state. (Assassin)
Successfully infiltrates SHIELD's best prison, just with .
She can make a healing poultice from jungle ingredients (Assassin)
She is somehow able to breathe underwater and gave Garrett the same ability. (Assassin)
Here she disguises herself as a prison inmate so she can protect Karen Page over an extended period of time while Karen is on trial.
Teaches feral Logan back into a "samurai" level of mind again, preparing him to use strategy again after previously only being mindless; she knows that he is trying to trick her with the final "sword-sheathing" gambit.
When she fights Lady Bullseye, who has been enhanced so she can become incorporeal, she tricks her into becoming physical and intentionally lets her stab her in the abdomen in order to beat her!
After stealing SHIELD security details, she goes behind the wall where her target is sitting and stabs him through the heart (without any direct physical sensation of where he is). (Assassin)
Shields herself from Jean Grey's psi-probe (in circumstances where Jean's powers are a bit fuzzy from the environment)
Her SHIELD/HAMMER file says she has powers of "mind transference" and "possession" (in a reference to Elektra: Assassin)
Is able to quickly shake off the Hand's mind-control from her (second) resurrection. This mind control worked effectively for a very long time on Wolverine, getting him to carry out effective strikes on the Fantastic Four and X-Men, and was only able to be removed via intensive and lengthy official de-conditioning, despite his psychic defenses and healing factor. It also worked on hundreds of supervillains. One, two.
Resists Black Mamba's formidable powers, saying "no one can infiltrate my mind--when I'm prepared."
She psychically visits Daredevil’s Beast-controlled mind and communicates with his true self.
Mind-controls several Hand very soon after joining the Hand.
Using her chi, she makes several stalactites fall off a cave roof.
Telepathically communicates with the Chaste, including Stick against his will. (Assassin)
Telepathically communicates with Garrett, a SHIELD agent she mind-controls. (Assassin)
When she has a vision of the Beast’s plans, she is able to send the vision “like a movie” to Garrett. (Assassin)
Switched places with Sandy, a girl in a coma. This meant BOTH inhabiting Sandy’s body with Elektra’s mind, AND making Elektra’s body look like Sandy. Eventually the Beast, the Hand’s super-powerful demon lord, helped Sandy, and Elektra was almost trapped in Sandy’s body. (This is just a selection of pages from a very long episode.) (Assassin)
Psychically kills Sandy, despite the Beast’s powers, and escapes.
Switches bodies/creates illusions around SHIELD agent Chastity McBryde. She made Chastity look like Elektra, so Garrett shot Chastity. Then they took “Elektra” into custody, did a bunch of tests, and only after a long time did they realize that it was actually Chastity, which shows the power of her illusions. (Assassin)
Confirmation of what happened while possessing/switching places with Chastity. (Assassin)
Creates a long-lasting mind control over Garrett (this is a non-sequential series of examples). (Assassin)
Confirmation that she can do mind control and hallucinations (Assassin)
She is captured by SHIELD and they try to read her mind with a machine. Instead she simultaneously mind-controls Garrett and probes their security details through the computer, learning everything she needs to know about SHIELD. (Assassin)
When she gets out, she kills the SHIELD agent using the machine through psychic feedback. (Assassin)
At the end of Assassin, she seems to switch the minds of Garrett and presidential candidate Ken Wind. Garrett then becomes president in Wind’s body. However, in Daredevil’s Fall from Grace arc, it turns out that she actually just created a permanent delusion in Garrett’s mind that he was president, and also imparted part of her own tainted soul into his body. (Assassin)
After stealing SHIELD security details, she goes behind the wall where her target is sitting and stabs him through the heart (without any direct physical sensation of where he is). (Assassin)
She pranks Garrett on multiple occasions, using mind-clouding psi powers and/or stealth. Here she shot his beer can, stole his pistol out of his shoulder holster, and took a gun out of the floor and made it fall apart when he picked it up without him knowing she was there at all. Here she steals his gun again. Here she plants drugs on him and steals his plane ticket—while he is specifically looking for her. (Assassin)
For context on what kinds of chi abilities the Hand have, here are some examples of the abilities of Hand ninjas Thought (a telepath), Pain (a little unclear, but it seems like his strikes cause added pain), and Shadow (stealth, doesn't reflect in mirrors).
Starts a fight with hundreds if not thousands of Hand about which Wolverine thinks, "You're out of your mind! There's way too many!"
When Bloody Lips absorbs her psyche, he goes crazy trying to deal with it all. This is after he has absorbed plenty of other crazy people's minds with no problem. And yet she is able to deal with this mental trauma as part of her daily life.
Made $400,000 a day when working for SHIELD
At the end of her fight with Wolverine in Enemy of the State, Wolverine clearly believed she was going to defeat him, saying, "Another two seconds and I'm--."
Wolverine thinks the only way he's going to beat her is to drown her. In other words he doesn't think he can win by fighting. If that doesn't work he has to hope he can run away: "Have to drown her. It's the only way. Hope it slows her down and gives me a head start at least." She clearly thinks she could beat him too: "You think a locked door is going to save you?"
Gorgon, who is a genius, and Elsbeth von Strucker, who is a genius, as well as Wolverine, want a new partner, and explicitly choose Elektra over Daredevil. (This is not due to her willingness to kill, as their mind control would make anyone willing to kill or fight their friends, as it did with Northstar and Wolverine.) So all these people think Elektra would be the most effective person in creating havoc in the world and attacking the world's super-teams and security forces. When they end up losing Wolverine but gaining Elektra, Gorgon and Elsbeth clearly consider it a net win, meaning they think she is better than Wolverine, despite the fact that he has been carrying out successful strikes against the Fantastic Four and X-men, and has had "half the the world's security forces on red alert."
Elektra and Wolverine vs Gorgon. While Elektra and Wolverine are thoroughly beaten, it is worthwhile to point out that Wolverine and SHIELD chose her to be his partner in this attempt out of all the other heroes in the world.
Is called an "Omega-level threat" to a helicarrier even while she is in terrible shape from extended torture from the Skrulls and HAMMER
Tony Stark, Director of SHIELD, calls her the "most dangerous assassin on the planet."
I wrote a Character of the Week feature for the Daily Debater where I examined the history of Owen Reece, the Molecule Man. This blog post takes on the same basic subject but breaks it down differently. There, I looked at the many ways he has changed over his history, in terms of his personality, body, and powers, and discussed them by the kind of change. Here, I'll discuss them chronologically.
Owen Reece is almost defined by change. He has very different phases within his history. Sometimes on the battle boards, we act as if there were maybe four versions of Reece--classic inorganic-molecules-only Reece, pre-retcon Secret Wars II Reece, post-Cosmic Cube retcon Reece, and current post-Secret Wars 2015 Reece. However, there are several more distinct phases, and some of them are quite different from the general understanding--especially the idea that he couldn't affect organic molecules before Doom enlightened him at the end of Secret Wars I. I'll also get way more into the idea of the Molecule Man's "son," an obscure but key phase in his history.
To try to show exactly how complicated these changes are, I’ve made a chart that shows his most important historical moments, and ties it in to big evolutions in his powers, his various origin stories, and his personality.
I’ll go through all these changes and inconsistencies below. The summary: Throughout his career, Owen Reece has been one of the most powerful beings in the Marvel Universe. He has gone from loser who was mad at the world to someone who found peace and self-acceptance in love in what I believe was one of the great character-development stories in Marvel. Then he somehow lost all his self-worth and went totally bananas, until he was once again redeemed in the 2015 Secret Wars storyline, and once again found peace in his post-Secret Wars adventures with the Future Foundation.
You know I can’t hold back when I’m writing about the Molecule Man, so get ready for a long but hopefully very elucidating ride!
Fantastic Four 20
The original version of the source of his powers is straightforward. In Fantastic Four 20, he is a social misfit working at an atomic power plant. There is an accident, and he gets powers. Pretty straightforward, basically just like Peter Parker getting bitten by a spider, or Hulk getting hit by a gamma bomb.
His power level at this time is significant—the Watcher breaks his interference oath to ask the Fantastic Four to stop him, saying “he has the power to destroy worlds, galaxies, yes…even universes!” and that with his power, “an entire universe becomes imperiled.” Indeed when the FF manage to short-circuit his powers, it is the Watcher himself who banishes him to another dimension.
He can only affect inorganic molecules, and in fact when he tries to affect organic molecules, it creates a feedback loop that knocks him for a loop.
He also needs a wand to use his powers.
Buuuuuuuutttttt…this whole “inorganic molecules only” thing is inaccurate even from the start, because he is able to control electricity (calling them “electric molecules”), bend a wooden water tower, and create magnets that are attracted to organic molecules (which, depending on how you look it may be only affecting organics by second-hand, but still that's pretty significant; in any case the wood tower is a first-degree effect on organics). See "The Wand Period" below for more on this subject.
Origin of Powers
His powers are a complete accident.
He’s an angry geek, out to get revenge on a world that done him wrong.
Marvel Two-in-One 1
This is where it gets weird. In this other dimension, time moves at a different rate than ours, and Reece eventually dies of old age—but not before he creates a “son” who then replicates Reece’s accident using machinery he has built in that universe. This son then goes to the 616 universe, where little time has passed, and wreaks havoc before the Thing makes him drop his wand. The son of the Molecule Man’s body then ages at an extreme rate before the Thing’s eyes, and he disintegrates.
He can affect everything, organic and inorganic, as for instance when he gives a guy Mr. Fantastic-like powers, and stretches him until he breaks, and turns the Thing and Man-Thing into their human forms. He can also teleport between dimensions and from place to place within the 616 universe. He needs the wand.
The son gets his powers from a machine he and the original Owen Reece made to duplicate his original accident. It was also made to specifically allow him to affect organic molecules as well as inorganic.
He’s an angry geek, out to get revenge on a world that done him and his father wrong.
Iron Man annual 3, Fantastic Four 187-8, Micronauts 23, Avengers 215-16
Noteworthy History, and a bit of Theorizing
However, his spirit seemingly goes into the wand and then over a series of random issues (Iron Man, Fantastic Four, Micronauts), his spirit possesses the body of whoever picks up the wand. (I'll show examples below under Powers.)
But—an important point. Since the original Molecule Man died in the other dimension, and the “son” is the one whose spirit seemed to go into the wand, and eventually made it out as we’ll see, then arguably every single issue after his second appearance is NOT the Molecule Man, but the SON of the Molecule Man!
However, this doesn’t seem to be the case, based on various handbooks and editorial comments, who have basically wished-away the son. What actually happened is not clear, but probably it is one or a mix of these things:
1) The Son of the Molecule Man was not actually a separate, different being from the original, but was just Reece’s own spirit, split in half. So in effect, the Son was actually a twin, or a clone, of the original, and so the Molecule Man that continued to appear past his second appearance was still essentially the same as the original. Arguably he started off crazier due to the trauma of having his spirit split in two, and slowly returned to normal over time.
2) The Son WAS a different being, but it wasn’t his spirit that went into the wand when the son died. Actually, when the original Molecule Man died, his spirit went into the wand (off panel, and in contradiction to the on-panel description of the son's spirit going into the wand), and then traveled with the son back to our dimension. So the spirit that possessed people who picked up the wand was really the spirit of the original Molecule Man. This doesn't really explain why he looked so much like the son in the next couple appearances however.
3) The Son was a different being, and the original’s spirit went into the wand when he died, but the son's spirit went into the wand too. The original spirit didn’t possess people right away. The Son was the one who possessed people over his next few appearances—which makes sense because in this wand era, he sure looks and acts a lot like the Son. But then in Avengers 215-216, when he gets out of the wand forever, it is the original Molecule Man’s spirit that finally manages to become dominant. This would mean that it is the original Molecule Man who appears in Fantastic Four 20 and all appearances from Avengers 215-216 onwards, but it is the son who appeared from Marvel Two-in-One 1 through Micronauts 23. Or, perhaps, if both of their spirits were in the wand, the original's slowly became dominant over its creation until finally recreating his body.
In the original comics, it seems to imply version (1) is the true case. In Iron Man annual 3, it says “at the instance before his ‘death’ [he] funneled his essence into his wand.” This caption is placed next to a picture of the Son dying, implying that the “Son of” Molecule Man's spirit is what went into the wand, and was the same “spirit” as all the later incarnations of them.
However, the handbooks tend to retcon this and go with option (2). OHOTMU A-Z 7 says the original Reece channeled his spirit into the wand "wielded by his construct, Molecule Man II." (Note that this text then attributes all future appearances to the original Reece.)
His Avengers Most Wanted bio is along the same lines: "Reece created a son for himself in his dimension of exile, and upon his death, transferred his powers and the wand to him. [Note: as we have seen, he didn't actually 'transfer his powers', the Son got his own powers by recreating the original accident with a new machine. So this is inaccurate regardless of the question of spirit transfer.] The new Molecule Man eventually returned to Earth and fought the Thing and Man-Thing, but his life-force was bonded to the wand, and he died when he was separated from it. The wand went on to possess others, acting as a host for the Molecule Man's consciousness, until it finally recreated Reece's original body." This makes it sound like the wand is a host for the original's consciousness. I also like the use of the passive, where "the wand" possessed the people instead of having to explain which spirit did it.
His Secret Wars 2015 bio says, "Reece used his powers to fashion a humanoid construct to serve as his companion, naming it his 'son.' As Reece began to die, he transferred his consciousness into his wand [again, we never saw this happen on panel] and gave the wand to his 'son.'" It then describes how the Son died and the wand possessed people. "Finally the Molecule Man's consciousness within the wand refashioned Owen Reece's original body and permanently transferred his mind into it." Again, while this plays fast and loose with how his spirit got into the wand, it implies that when he finally recreated his body, that was the original spirit (and it probably was during the rest of the possession period).
The '86 OHOTMU is perhaps the most definitive: "Reece created a humanoid construct to serve as his companion, and through unknown means endowed it with consciousness. Reece let the construct to believe itself to be his son....Reece transferred his consciousness and powers into the wand his 'son' carried [again, not on panel he didn't!]. ...However the consciousness and powers of the original Molecule Man remained within the wand, and the Molecule Man could overpower the minds of whoever touched the wand."
In fact, the first edition of OHOTMU uses the same text with one difference: "The consciousness of the true Molecule Man, as well as his powers, had been preserved in the wand."
All these make it sound like the Iron Man annual 3 on-panel text about putting his spirit into the wand before he died referred to the original putting his spirit in before he died of old age, instead of the Son putting his spirit in before disintegrating after dropping the wand--despite the way that panel is actually drawn. My take is that the various writers of these early issues didn't all understand what had happened in the others. You can see here that Jim Shooter himself, who wrote the Avengers story, felt that important parts of his character had been lost; which is to say, he tried to write those problems out of existence by making the spirit in the wand belong to the original, not the son.
Anyway, despite the handbooks, based on a reading of the comics themselves, where his first few wand-era appearances tend to use his muscled, hyper-aggressive Son's body and personality, I tend to go with option 1 (he split his spirit and it eventually reverted to normal) or 3 (the spirits were both in the wand and eventually the original's became dominant) myself.
But wait, you say, how does any of this make sense? Sure, the Son got his powers from a machine that replicated the original accident and allowed him to affect both organic and inorganic molecules, but the original Owen Reece could still not affect inorganic molecules. How could he create a separate son’s body, let alone create a spirit? Well, that’s a damn good question, and I think the answer is, (a) when the Son story was originally written, he really was meant to be a son, but later on they changed that. And (b) as we’ll see next under Powers, Owen Reece has been able to affect both organic and inorganic molecules, and energy, throughout his pre-Secret Wars history, albeit in an inconsistent way.
Importantly, at the end of this phase, Tigra persuades him to see a therapist, and he decides to renounce evil.
He can ostensibly only affect inorganic molecules, but can really affect everything, and needs a wand.
Examples of affecting other kinds of molecules/energy: he keeps possessing people’s bodies (for instance, this girl, Iron Man, this boxer [it happens in the last panel], this homeless man, and Mr. Fantastic) thus using some kind of psychic/spirit powers, or at a minimum control of organic brains; he can transform those bodies (as he does when he turns a lizard into a lizard-man, and a young girl into a woman; he turns a woman into a doll; he makes a mirror out of water and wood; he animates some skeletons; he turns the Thing into glass; he turns hubcaps into flowers; he controls electricity again; he creates his own body from random molecules; he disintegrates and then recreates the Silver Surfer’s surfboard and Mjolnir, including the Power Cosmic and Asgardian magic inherent in them; he drains the SIlver Surfer's power in what is technically a manipulation of a condition of matter but comes down to manipulation of the energy in that matter. And, of course, he created his own Son as already seen.
Interestingly, he is unable to affect the Impossible Man’s molecules, because he has greater control over them, can't possess the mindless Man-thing or the energy-based Klaw, can't affect the Invisible Woman’s forcefield, because it is not made of molecules, and the Fantastic Four’s uniforms, because they are made of unstable molecules. He also can’t make complex machinery like plumbing or Iron Man’s armor because he doesn’t know how they work.
He needs the wand for most of this period, until Avengers, where he recreates his own body instead of possessing someone else’s. From then on, he no longer needs the wand.
Depending on whether he is himself, and/or his son (and if that son is really himself), he got his powers either by a complete accident, or by intentionally replicating that accident.
He’s an angry geek, out to get revenge on a world that done him and/or his father wrong. By Avengers, he is pretty insane, with real obsessive and delusionary issues. But then, at the end, he decides to try to be a nice guy and see a therapist.
Secret Wars I, 1-12
At this point, Reece has his body and original spirit back, and he goes off to Secret Wars I. There, he mostly works with the villains, but not very enthusiastically, due to the effect of his therapist. He falls in love with Volcana, one of the most significant events in his life.
Eventually, Dr. Doom takes the powers of the Beyonder, and he provides enlightenment to Reece. He shows him that he has been subconsciously limiting his powers and that he is actually one of the most powerful beings in the universe.
Reece is now the second-most most powerful being in the multiverse, above all abstracts, and only below the Beyonder himself. He is explicitly able to affect all matter and energy.
He still got his powers completely by accident. But technically speaking, if his son was really a double of him all along, and it was that double’s spirit that continued to possess people and then eventually evolved itself to having the personality of the original, then that spirit got its powers on purpose by replicating the original’s accident. This is technically a possibility from here on out, but I’m not going to mention it again, partly because it is unlikely.
In part because of his enlightenment, and in part because he found love with Volcana, he turns into a geek who is at peace with himself and the universe.
Secret Wars II 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, Avengers 266
He befriends the Beyonder—one of the only friends Reece ever has—and then kills him. Then he saves the Earth from the fallout of the Beyonder’s destruction, in Reece’s most heroic act. This seems to leave him without his powers, so the heroes ignore him for a while, but really he still has his powers.
Still the second-most powerful being in the multiverse and able to do anything.
While it was still a complete accident that he got his powers, he now has a link with the Beyonder: when Reece got his powers, it was an event of such cosmic significance that it opened a pinhole into the Beyonder’s universe, and the Beyonder, looking in, saw it and started gaining his own self-awareness, having never been aware of anything but himself before.
Fantastic Four 318-19
Now things really change. Dr. Doom manipulates things so that Reece, the Beyonder (still alive in another dimension), Kubik, and the Shaper of Worlds all end up talking. Kubik and the Shaper of Worlds are Cosmic Cubes who became sentient. Cosmic Cubes each get their power from a pocket dimension of pure power controlled by a race called the Beyonders. These Beyonders release the energy from one of these pocket dimensions into the Cubes as part of their experiments with our universe; they are very interested in evolution and development. The Cubes start as pure objects, then gain personalities.
It turns out that when Reece had his accident, some of this Cube energy went into him, but more of the energy stayed in its own dimension and eventually developed sentience. This second part became the Beyonder. So, in this version, Reece has less than half the power of a Cosmic Cube, and the Beyonder has more than half—together they are equal to one Cosmic Cube.
At the end of this, Reece merges with the Beyonder and they go off with Kubik and Shaper to evolve.
Reece’s power is now redefined as being that of a portion of a Cosmic Cube. So, he can still do anything—and arguably now his power should no longer defined as matter/energy manipulation but reality warping, since that’s how Cubes work—but to a lesser degree than before. For instance, Kubik later notes that the Cubes are less powerful than the Celestials. Another appearance of Kubik notes that they are "minor omnipotents." He also says that the Cubes are "insignificant" compared to the main abstracts. Reece also notes how he is below Eternity and the Tribunal.
Kubik, as a whole cube, is much more powerful than the Beyonder alone, and thus more than Reece.
It’s also interesting because Dr. Doom is able to knock Reece out with some gauntlet blasts when taking him unawares, showing that he inhabits a normal human body when not actively using his powers (1, 2). On the other hand, his power did protect him automatically, and it has a rare example of him manipulating time.
Previously, when Reece got his powers, it was so significant that it made a hole into the Beyonder’s universe, and the Beyonder noticed it. But, the Molecule Man’s powers came from the machine itself.
Now, the accident opened a hole into the Beyonder’s universe, which allowed part of the power from the Beyonder’s universe to flow into Reece. Thus, his power and the Beyonder’s power are the same kind of thing (Cube energy).
Still a geek at peace with himself and the universe. Even heroic and capable of self-sacrifice.
Fantastic Four annual 23 and 24, Fantastic Four 372-3, Fantastic Four Annual 27, Avengers Unplugged 4, Incredible Hulk 441-2
Reece’s personality soon splits off from the Beyonder’s spirit and the Cube, and he goes back to Earth, with no power, since it was all left in the Cube (it separated his "essence from [his] power"). Except, it turns out that he left a “bit” of his power in Volcana before he left.
This whole period is just a series of minor, terrible, largely embarrassing appearances. Why they felt the need to destroy his relationship with Marsha I'll never understand. It would have been so easy to say he lost his powers and he lived happily ever after.
This period is one of the least consistent and logical periods when it comes to his powers. First, when he comes back, he gets back his “bit” of power from Volcana. This is, by definition, a very small portion of his own original power, which was in turn less than half of a Cosmic Cube’s power. And yet, he is eventually able to beat the Beyonder. How?
First, when he first regains the bit of power, he isn’t even able to control organic molecules again, they’re too complicated. (So not because of a mental block, which was usually the old explanation.) He’s able to be mind-controlled by the Puppet-master of all people, and then Aron, the rogue Watcher, beats him by taking away all the air molecules in his immediate vicinity, showing that Reece’s power level is less than the Watcher’s. But then, through “practice,” in his very next appearance (here and here), he is now not only able to affect organic molecules again, but also energy, and at such a level that he “transacts on levels unimaginable” to the Beyonder—even though the Beyonder always had more power than Reece, and especially after they merged, when the Beyonder/Kosmos had absorbed most of Reece’s power, leaving Reece with only a “bit.” This is a huge leap, and all apparently due to practice.
This is all explained in a super-vague way by Kubik, the sentient Cube, who says by that as a human, Reece has more potential than any abstract like a Cube being. Now, somehow, Kubik is less powerful than Reece, even though Kubik was more powerful than the Beyonder, and the Beyonder was more powerful than Reece, in Fantastic Four 318-19. My inference is that perhaps the concept is that Reece is partially drawing on his human psychic potential, which Marvel has said in the past all humans have a vast potential for, like Rick Jones? Anyway, this whole “humans vs abstracts” dynamic is largely ignored in future issues.
Still gained his powers from a Cube universe, but then lost most of it, but then regained it through “practice.” That regaining of powers may be supplemented by the innate psychic potential that all humans share.
So, so, so lame. Starts off as a self-hating pathetic geek, then eventually turns into an angry geek when he battles the Beyonder, then after the battle he super-super briefly becomes a geek at peace with himself and the universe again. This peace is gone by his next appearance, when he is immediately pathetic and self-hating again.
This phase is the start of the idea that he has multiple personalities and is truly insane. Until now, he was just a bad guy who eventually learned to be good in a natural progression. Starting with his battle with the Beyonder, and continuing on in his appearance in Incredible Hulk, he has a split personality with diametrically different good (but pathetic) and evil sides.
This is by far the most pathetic era of the Molecule Man’s life. He goes from being the hero of Secret Wars II to a complete joke, literally picking his nose on panel and appearing as a shriveled dwarf with an enormous nose. He also somehow becomes an extremely conservative and socially-unskilled person as if he had never had a girlfriend.
There is one interesting thing about his “dark side” self. This dark side, as seen in Fantastic Four Annual 27 (seen here) and Incredible Hulk 442 (seen here), looks an awful lot like the Son—muscled and bald. So it is arguably a way they tried to settle the original inconsistencies with the Son—maybe he wasn’t another person/spirit, but just the original Molecule Man’s dark side made in physical form. Then perhaps when the Son died, and his spirit went into the wand, it merged with remnants of the original’s spirit, which eventually took over. But the dark side Son-self was always waiting to come out, as it eventually did in Fantastic Four Annual 27. (This fits our original option 3, regarding the Son.)
New Avengers 1; maybe Spider-man: Breakout 1; Fantastic Four Foes 1, 5; Secret Invasion 1.
After his embarrassing appearance in Incredible Hulk, he has no 616 appearances for about 9 years. We learn from implication and handbooks that he was apparently somehow caught by SHIELD and kept in the Raft. Then he escapes with the rest of the criminals during the breakout. He shows up (off panel) to a meeting of villains organized by the Mad Thinker and Puppet Master. However, the Fantastic Four track down and capture all the villains at the meeting, including Reece. This time he and the others are put in a special prison in the Negative Zone. However, some of them escape. Either Reece escapes with them off-panel and is eventually recaptured and put back on the Raft, or the prison is eventually closed and he is just transferred to the Raft. In any case he is seen on the Raft during Secret Invasion, and once again presumably escapes with the rest.
Basically, he is imprisoned and escapes three times, almost all off panel.
Unknown, because he only shows up in super-brief one-panel appearances. But seemingly he must have been depowered to some extent, in order for them to be able to imprison him in the Raft and the Negative Zone prison. Consider that he was powerful enough to defeat the Beyonder immediately before this, but not powerful enough to break out of the Raft.
This brings up the question of his subconscious mental blocks. When he first started, his own self-doubt and self-hatred caused him to limit his powers so he couldn’t affect organic molecules (usually). Then Doom removed these blocks, and with the additional help of his therapist and his love with Volcana, he could do anything. But, after his break-up with Volcana, his old self-doubts and self-hatred returned, and he also started having severe psychological disorders such as split personalities. I would argue that it was this severe mental and emotional breakdown that caused him to be so weakened that he could be imprisoned.
Also interestingly, Reece uses a wand in Fantastic Four Foes. This is the only time he uses it since Avengers 215-16.
Still got his powers from the Cosmic Cube dimension, in conjunction with the Beyonder.
But, at this time, the Illuminati series comes out, and says that the Beyonder was actually a mutant Inhuman, and that’s where his powers came from. While this new origin for the Beyonder was never mentioned again, it would throw a huge loop into the origin of the Molecule Man—because if the Beyonder got his powers from being a mutant Inhuman and not from a Cosmic Cube universe, then where did Reece get his powers from?
Seemingly an angry, pathetic geek.
Dark Avengers 10-12
A few years later, Reece eventually shows up again, seemingly at relatively full power. He has been living in seclusion in the small town of Dinosaur, Colorado, where he grew up. It is telling that this story treats him more respectfully than he has been in years, and he still gets beaten by the Sentry, and banished to an unknown location.
He can seemingly do anything, and with a fairly high level of achievement. However, the Sentry/Void is explicitly shown to have a higher level of molecular manipulation ability than Reece—presumably due to Reece’s mental instability.
Presumably still got his powers from a Cosmic Cube universe in conjunction with the Beyonder (who was last seen, at this point, having changed its name from Kosmos to the Maker and was seemingly depowered by a fair amount. She was also, ironically, imprisoned around this time period, and then defeated by Thanos and later killed by the destruction of the Kyln space prison).
Totally, bonkers insane geek. He wants to be left alone but acts out violently when found. He has new multiple personalities now, not just his good and evil sides. Now he imagines having conversations with alter egos Mephisto, the Beyonder, the Enchantress, and Zarathos. He has delusions about the nature of reality.
I will note that this is different from the “dark side” self in Fantastic Four Annual 27 and Incredible Hulk 442; while he does change from one body type to another a bit, there is no hugely muscled bald self that is reminiscent of the Son anymore. The Son is done.
New Avengers 24, 26, 27, 29, 31, 33
Finally, Jonathan Hickman picks him up again, and his story becomes respectable, and changed, once again.
First we see Reece helping out Doom in his search for solutions to the Incursions. Somehow he ended up here after his fight with Sentry. This makes some sense since Reece does have a long history with Doom in Secret Wars I and the Cosmic Cube storyline.
At some point Reece takes Doom on a tour, explaining Reece’s real role in the universe. The Molecule Man is now said to be empowered directly by the race of the Beyonders, and across all alternate universes. It is said that when he gets to a certain age, he will explode, and this explosion will destroy the whole universe. And since there is one of him in each universe, it will destroy all the universes. Thus Reece is a Beyonders-made time bomb. (Same idea reiterated here.)
This is all confusingly conflated with the concept of the Incursions. In the Incursions, universes crash into each other when their Earths literally physically touch, and their universes are destroyed. It is not really clear whether the Incursions, in the Earth-touching sense, are the result of a Molecule Man exploding, or are a totally separate thing.
Reece asks Doom to go around killing other-dimensional versions of himself. However, it is not clear whether those premature deaths also destroy their universes early, thus making them not available to crash into each other, or if they just don’t explode at all, meaning that when they touch, they don’t have the energy of the Molecule Man to explode. (My guess is that since the Mapmakers explored the worlds where Molecule Men had died, those universes are not destroyed by his death.)
This whole concept also doesn’t take into account the fact that many comics have featured alternate-timeline Molecule Men who are quite different from the 616 Molecule Man. In those comics, some alternate Reeces have died early, also without destroying their universe (Marvel Vision 22, What If: X-men: Age of Apocalypse, Fantastic Four 568, Marvel Universe Avengers Assemble 8), some have had no powers at all (Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four 11, Marvel Universe Avengers Assemble 8), and others have features that don't work with this concept (What if the Avengers Lost the Evolutionary War, where all of the heroes, including Reece, leave their original universe and evolve into a unified supreme being in another universe). But, I salute Hickman for making Reece relevant and non-pathetic again.
Able to affect anything, including metaphysical things like scanning the universe for its faults; however, he clearly has limits. He can't stop the Incursions by himself, for instance.
His power is enough that, if set off, would destroy the universe and presumably everything in it, including the abstracts.
Reece’s accident was not an accident, but part of a plan by the Beyonders to give him enough energy that he would become a living bomb. (In some other universes, he sometimes got his powers in other ways, or had no powers, however.)
While this whole “living bomb” concept does fit in somewhat with the Cosmic Cube origin, in that either way he ultimately gets his powers from the Beyonders, it fails to explain the Beyonder. Did the Beyonder get his powers at the same time as Reece anyway? Why bother making the Beyonder (singular) if the only real point of the accident was to give Reece enough power to destroy his universe? This may partly be explained by several references around this time to the Beyonder being a child member of the Beyonders. If that is the case, the Beyonder was just an infant member of the Beyonders, and his power was not connected to Reece’s power, except that they are both Beyonders-derived. Potentially, it could be argued that all the Beyonders gained their sentience when the energy in these pocket universes become sentient, and some of those happened to become Cosmic Cubes instead of remaining in their own realm. Perhaps other, non-sentience-gaining realms were utilized to empower the multi-dimensional Reeces.
Fairly insane geek, in the sense that he is babbling and wacky. However, he also seems wise, in that he knows what’s going on with the Beyonders. See the next entry for a discussion of multiple different explanations for his insanity here and in other periods.
He does NOT have multiple personalities any more, however.
Secret Wars 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9
Working with Doom and Dr. Strange, Reece gets all the remaining alternate Molecule Men together, and they destroy the Beyonders with their bomb capacity. (Thus implying that there is more total power in a fraction of the original total number of Reeces than there are in the whole race of Beyonders. This implies that killing his other-dimensional selves was actually counterproductive.) He takes the former-Beyonders’ powers into himself.
He then acts as a battery and conduit, channeling power to Doom in his GodDoom state. Eventually Reece revolts against Doom and takes the power away from him. He then joins up with Franklin and Reed Richards to recreate the entire multiverse. Essentially, Reece is still the battery, and he gives Franklin the power; Franklin filters the power through his own dreams to create the universes (even though Franklin has been shown to be powerful enough to create universes on his own before).
It is unclear whether Reece’s power now, with all the Beyonders’ power, is more powerful than previous version of himself. He is certainly more powerful than his Cosmic Cube version, since that was a clearly limited form of omnipotence, but is he as powerful as the Secret Wars II version of himself, that was for instance capable of destroying several billion dimensions? He is clearly capable of, at a minimum, creating many new universes.
It is unclear whether he retains any of his original powers. Does he now only have the power of the Beyonders—did that wipe his power-slate clean, and provide new and different powers? Or does he have the combined power of all the remaining Molecule Men, including himself, plus the Beyonders? This is implied when one of his selves peels off in each new universe.
A warbling, gibbering insane geek, who has a clear moral center. At the end, when one of his selves peels off and goes into each new universe, that is supposed to be bringing him back to sanity.
It's worth summarizing the explanations for his mental and emotional instability here. (I'm just copying this part from my Daily Debater Character of the Week piece.)
First, let's recall that his early psychosis around the wand period was due to simple anger, and potentially the merger of his Son's spirit with his own. Then much later he started having multiple personalities, such as an "evil side," usually with physical manifestations of new bodies to go with those selves, which harkened back to his old Son-era persona. By Dark Avengers he was full-time delusional.
During the Incursion storyline and afterwards, it was explained that he got more mentally unstable the closer he got to the “time bomb explosion” point in his life; I take this to mean that as he becomes metaphysically unstable, like a bomb is chemically unstable, he also becomes mentally unstable. Then it was explained that he was going crazy because Doom was killing all his extra-dimensional selves (also explained here: each death makes him lose a memory). When he comes to talk to Doom, he says he has been "returned here. All of us"--that is, this version of the Molecule Man is mentally complete, from a future era with no dead Molecule Men. The implication is, he has a shared consciousness with all his selves, and he is only completely sane when all of his selves are alive and together. But then later it was explained that as he made more universes with Franklin, he split off the many versions of himself that he had absorbed in the fight with the Beyonders, one for each new universe; when they slowly started splitting off, it made him more sane. In this argument, too many Reeces make him insane, the opposite of the previous explanation. In any case,
Post-2015 Secret Wars (below), when Reece talked with Galactus in Ultimates, he was crazy. But, the version that was simultaneously voyaging with the Future Foundation was fine. One possible explanation for this difference may be that the Ultimates version could have been one of the split-off selves, which were possibly not as sane as the core self; or maybe the Ultimates version was him in a not-yet-sane era, where he had not yet split off enough other selves. Whereas the version in Fantastic Four 2 was him five years later, after he had split off many of those selves and had become more sane.
Ultimates 5, 6, New Avengers 17, Ultimates2 7-9, Fantastic Four 2
Most of Reece’s appearances or mentions came about in stories that seemed to take place separately from his mission with the Fantastic Four to recreate the universes.
He—or at least a splinter of himself, since it seemed from the end of Secret Wars that there would be splinters of himself in each universe he created, which would presumably include 616—seems more interested in getting involved with the universes, in making sure they come out right. He chats with Galactus about a problem that’s coming. We discover that he puts variants of the Maker in each universe, and also that he is backing the efforts of one of them to stop the First Firmament, the original iteration of Eternity, and his horde of Death Celestials, who plan to destroy the current universe. (Also see here.)
In Fantastic Four 2, we find that he has been traveling with Reed, Sue, and the Future Foundation for five years (although time has moved at different rates for them) to create new universes, and see some examples of them doing this. Reece gives Franklin power, then he creates the universe.
Then Reece is quickly killed in a battle with the Griever, an abstract who represents entropy. However, Dragon Man and the Future Foundation go on a mission to see if they can find any remnant of him, and bring him back. Also, what does it mean to kill him, if there is a different version in each universe that they’ve made? And also, consider that the Griever destroyed most but not all of the universes that those splinter selves were in, so she actually killed many versions of him.
Again, it is unclear exactly how powerful he is, but he is obviously extremely powerful. Galactus considers Reece to be on a different level above him. On the other hand he schemed against the First Firmament through catspaws, instead of directly, but we don’t really know if that was due to need or entertainment. He is capable of creating numerous universes with the aid of Franklin. One question is, if he is the one who was providing the power to create these universes, why is it that Franklin is the one whose power burned out in the process of doing so?
The same as in Secret Wars 2015: he got his current power by defeating the Beyonders and absorbing their power, and potentially also the power of all the Molecule Men across the multiverse—who in turn all got their power from the Beyonders in the first place. Again, his power may not be related to the original Beyonder any more.
In the Ultimates issues, he’s a totally bonkers geek. But in the Fantastic Four, he’s a completely calm, at peace with himself and the world geek, who has been a beloved friend and companion of the entire Future Foundation, kids and adults, to the degree that they painfully feel the effects of his death and go on a quest to see if they can bring him back.
This was a good way to end Reece's life and career--but based on comments in the letters pages, and the Future Foundation's quest, it seems likely he'll be back. I only hope that he'll have some peace of mind when he returns.
I don’t consider this to be a clear-cut situation. There are many who do not consider it canon, and others who do. I have had both opinions over the years. Here, we will look at the evidence on both sides.
First, why the question of its canonicity? One reason is that Elektra displays powers beyond what people normally expect her to have—the silent shout, the ability to possess people, to create illusions, to deflect bullets off the back of her hand. To be clear, Elektra DOES shows psychic powers in many other 100% canonical comics—but usually not at this level. However, while these powers are of an arguably greater extent, they are not of a different kind. (Note: Elektra: Assassin usually refers to these powers as magic. In other Elektra and Hand-related comics, these powers are also sometimes referred to as psychic or chi-based. It may be a mix of all three. The magic in particular derives from the Beast, about whom more later, and may be either granted by the Beast directly or potentially learned as a ritual and thus within the character’s permanent power set, while the chi or psychic powers are more individually-learned abilities.)
Assassin has some slightly different historical details from the standard 616 storyline, in particular the circumstances of her mother’s death and her implied abuse at the hands of her father. However, Elektra’s early history has changed over time, so these differences in history are not necessarily damning in themselves. For instance, the Elektra Flashback issue had a clearly different story of her training from other current tellings, and the exact timeline of when she first met Stick, the Chaste, and her first sensei have all changed a bit over the years. Interestingly, Marvel’s various changes in history, like updating the invention of Iron Man from the Korean War to the war in Afghanistan, and the 2015 Secret War event, have made these minor continuity differences less important than they may have seemed a couple decades ago.
Another issue that that Elektra: Assassin is an Epic comic, and often—perhaps usually—Epic comics are not considered to be in the mainstream universe. For instance, in the letters page for Daredevil 322, the editor specifically says that Elektra Lives! was not canon and was thus put out by Epic.
However, Daredevil 322 is part of the Fall from Grace story arc, which specifically brings SHIELD agent John Garrett, a character from Epic’s own Elektra: Assassin, into the 616 continuity. Even more, the same letters page in 322 has a reader bring up Elektra: Assassin right before the reader who asks about Elektra Lives!, and the editor discusses Assassin without in any way demoting its canonicity. I would argue that if Assassin was also not canon, or not fully canon, then the editor would have noted that they were both not canon, instead of only saying that Lives! in particular was not canon—especially since the Assassin storyline was the basis for the storyline taking place in that very issue.
Bill Sienkiewicz has noted that Jim Shooter required Sienkiewicz’s and Miller’s Daredevil: Love and War comic to come out as a graphic novel instead of as a normal comic due to its experimentation and adult topics; it is possible that Assassin came out under Epic for those reasons, and not due to continuity.
Speaking of Garrett, this is how he is introduced in Daredevil 319. He is in a tank held by SHIELD, and is under the delusion that he is president, exactly he was when Assassin ended. The fact that this is a delusion makes it easier to explain how Assassin could fit in the real world, without all the nuclear Armageddon stuff or the Ken Wind candidacy, which are not mentioned elsewhere in 616. Agent Garrett is then released by the Hand, and acts in Daredevil just as he did in Assassin: obsessed with Elektra, and referencing Assassin events obliquely (although he usually does not reference specific events).
This is pretty good evidence that this Daredevil story arc took Assassin as canon—but it uses the cover of Garrett’s delusions to make it so anything that is a little too over the top could be explained away as the delusion. As far as I know, the end scene, where Garrett’s mind is transferred into Wind, is the only part of Assassin that has been explicitly retconned or discounted. He is, however, a somewhat unreliable narrator in regard to some topics due to Elektra’s psychic influence on him.
In addition to his appearances in Daredevil in and after Fall from Grace, Garrett has appeared in recent issues of Secret Warriors and Al Ewing’s 2015 Sunspot-led New Avengers so his continued existence in the 616 universe is not in doubt. (He also has an MCU existence in the Agents of SHIELD TV show.)
These kinds of nods to Assassin’s existence have shown up in a few other comics. Here in a Punisher comic, it refers to “telepathy, body-swapping, mind-control, and ‘for want of a better word, magic’” taking place in a “badly compromised SHIELD operation in the eighties”—i.e. the Assassin storyline. It makes it clear that Castle is suspicious of these powers, but then he also specifically buttresses the credibility of the sources, saying “these are Fury’s people talking, not some bunch of clowns.”
Here in Elektra: Dark Reign, a HAMMER interrogator makes the same kind of reference to these events and abilities, but again throws some doubt on them: “Your dossier is full of scary terms like ‘mystical mind transference’ and ‘possession.’ I’d assume the intel is apocryphal, but we’re not taking any chances.” In the same issue, Elektra heals herself through meditation, thus exhibiting her chi/magic/psychic powers directly and lending credibility to the very powers the interrogator is unsure about.
Root of Evil, an early miniseries, deliberately echoed and confirmed some specific scenes in Assassin when it had the young Elektra read Stick’s mind, and showed her ability to walk on snow without a trace (Assassin scene with snow and telepathy; Root of Evil snow, telepathy).
Since there’s no reason for writers and editors to bring up these Assassin powers and events at all if they’re not canon, these kinds of references make it clear that the events happened to some degree. At the same time, they give some cover to the idea that individual aspects of Assassin may not be confirmed, partially due to Garrett’s somewhat unreliable narrator status, allowing future writers to selectively use whatever parts of the story they want.
I was lucky enough to talk with Bill Sienkiewicz, the artist of Assassin, at the New York Comic Con this year. I asked if he and Miller thought of Assassin taking place in the mainstream Marvel universe, or an alternate universe. He laughed and said that they saw it taking place in its own universe, and even had ideas for other characters to populate it with if they had been able to continue to work on it.
This is pretty straight evidence that Assassin was originally conceived as being out of 616 continuity. On the other hand, Miller had originally asked Marvel to promise that they would not bring Elektra back from the dead, and that no one could write Elektra other than him, but Marvel eventually broke that promise and brought her back in the Fall from Grace storyline. It seems reasonable to me that if Marvel reneged on keeping her dead and for Miller’s use only, they’d also feel free to change any previous appearances’ canonicity issues as well, especially since prior to Fall from Grace, her total appearances were very limited.
The Introduction from Assassin provides some further clues. First, it says that Miller wanted to write a book about her after she died. Presumably this is Lives!, although it didn’t come out until later. Then he wanted to write an early-days book—Assassin, which would avoid the issues being dealt with in the other graphic novel he was working on, and the fact that she was dead. This implies that it was meant to take place in continuity, otherwise why worry about contradicting anything?
The subtitle of Assassin is “The Lost Years.” This implies not only when it took place chronologically (before her first appearance in Daredevil) but that it was in continuity; if it was an alternate universe, why mention when it took place at all? The years of an alternate reality couldn’t be “lost,” because the rest of that reality would also be unknown.
In Assassin, Elektra has a number of magic and other high-level feats. She blocks a bullet with the back of her hand, punches through people, uses a silent shout to knock a guy backwards and unconscious, switches her mind and body with other people on two occasions, creates illusions and controls Garrett’s mind, and switches Garrett’s mind into the President’s body.
Transferring Garrett’s mind into the President, as seen in Assassin, turns out in Fall from Grace to be a delusion she fed him: instead she made him think she switched his mind, an effect that lasted years, and (importantly) she also put a bit of her own spirit into Garrett. This “evil” side of her was then later used by the Hand to put into Erynys. When Elektra killed her, the evil side left Erynys and moved back into Elektra, sullying her previously-purified self (Daredevil had purified Elektra using Chaste techniques during her original “death,” after which Stone presumably resurrected her). Point being, the connection between Assassin and Fall from Grace proves within the 616 universe that she was capable of soul transfer and creating a lasting delusion in Garrett.
We have not seen her engage in possession or body switching since then, at least as far as I am aware.
For those who think the Assassin feats are far beyond the norm, it is helpful to consider what the Hand has done in the clearly-canon universe:
• The Hand worship the Beast, a magical being of great power, who for example was seen in Daredevil recently, where he was able to repeatedly bring Ten Fingers back to life (and was the source of Ten Fingers’ original stolen power), and it also did the same to Daredevil. It also created new eyes for Blindspot and could steal people’s souls. The Beast possessed Daredevil in Shadowland and gave him the power to defeat numerous other heroes. Earlier in Glimpse and Echo, it possessed a basketball player named Lyle, whom he also gave extra power (and whom Elektra defeated).
• The Hand has repeatedly resurrected characters, sometimes giving them superhuman stats in the process (as with Ghost Maker) and sometimes using mind control (as in the Wolverine Enemy of the State storyline).
• The Chaste also have various powers, including Stick’s radar sense, Master Izo’s longevity, and Stone’s invulnerability. Also, Master Izo has confirmed that he can do sense-clouding.
Elektra herself has displayed a number of powers in 616, including:
• Mind control of a number of Hand soon after she joined them (Root of Evil).
• Being able to use chi energy to shatter stalactites and make them fall (Root of Evil).
• Moving a roulette wheel ball into a different slot (Root of Evil).
• Making people unable to see her, or to implant false memories in them on multiple occasions (the 2001 Elektra volume; it is also a possible explanation for how she was able to take Punisher’s gun away from him without him noticing).
• Being able to walk in the dimension of the dead, and speak with the dead (Glimpse and Echo).
• Engaging in psychic conversations, from extensive conversations with an absent Stick while in the middle of fighting (Shadowland: Elektra) to the recent “talk” she had with Daredevil in Defenders.
So the psychic feats Elektra shows in Assassin, including possession, illusion-making, and bullet-stopping, are fully within the realm of possibility of Hand magic/psychic/chi powers in general, and her highest canon psychic feats are approximately the same level as her Assassin feats. The question is the degree to which she uses them consistently, which I would generally attribute to the degree different writers are interested in her mystic side. I would phrase it this way: her use of specific psychic powers is not consistent, but her use of psychic powers in general is consistent. For example, she has only used the silent shout once, and has only telekinetically pulled down stalactites once; but she uses psychic powers in general pretty consistently from Assassin onwards (especially telepathy).
Overall, I have come to the conclusion that Elektra: Assassin is largely canon: the story in general took place, but individual events within it cannot be 100% confirmed. However, I think we can generally assume feats are largely accurate, with anything narrated by Garrett, especially toward the end, being the least reliable.
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