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Your Top Marvel Heroes part 17

Written by Chris Mitchell on Monday, April 19 2010 and posted in Features
Three characters in two slots.



184. Balder (12 points)

baldur.jpgDue to prophecies foretelling that the death of Balder would bring about the destruction of Asgard through Ragnarok, Odin made Balder invulnerable to all forms of attack. However, he is vulnerable to mistletoe wood.

Loki learned of the prophecies and his vulnerability, and shot Balder with an arrow of mistletoe. Odin prevented him from truly dying. Balder was eventually restored to life, but not before his soul traveled the underworld encountering all the spirits of those he had killed. When he returned to the land of the living his hair was white from the experience.

This experience of death left Balder very distraught. He fell into a deep depression after Nanna, his beloved, sacrificed herself to save him from marrying the Norn sorceress Kamilla who had him under a spell. He tried to forget his misery through eating, growing quite fat. He rode in to the desert to die, but met the Norns, three goddesses who oversee the workings of destiny. The Norns gave Balder a vision that restored his faith, and he rode back to Asgard, eventually losing the weight and becoming a warrior again. Since then he has come to love Kamilla, with whom he fought against Surtur and the legions of Muspelhien. He ruled Asgard for a shot time when Odin was believed to be dead, but following the rules of the Gods, returned the throne back to Odin upon his return. Balder then left to return to Kamilla, his new love.

Balder, as well as all the other Asgardians, died during Ragnarok. When Dr. Blake brings Thor back he decides to bring all of the other Asgardians back as well. After doing so, he finds Balder inside the Destroyer.

Balder later found out that he was also a son of Odin, and the half-brother of Thor. Balder then became the Prince of Asgard, made possible by his Royal Family Blood. Loki brought Bor, the first king of Asgard, back. As Thor and Bor battled, Loki told Balder that Bor was in fact their grandfather. Thor later killed Bor without knowing that he was his grandfather. Balder was then forced to punish Thor for killing a member of the Royal Family, even though he did so unknowingly. The punishment was eternal banishment from Asgard, Balder then sent Thor away.

When Loki has the Asgardians move to Latveria, he is shown at a banquet held by Doctor Doom. Balder even asked that since the Asgardians are now in Latveria, why couldn't they invite Thor as well. Loki calmed Balder down to prevent Doctor Doom from reacting to the comment. Balder meets a diner owner named Bill (who fell in love with Kelda and followed her to Latveria) and gives him a cloak to keep warm. Balder later witnesses Bill's assault by Loki's henchmen, upon Bill having discovered the evil nature of Loki's scheme with Doctor Doom. After fending them off, Bill dies in Balder's arms having Balder tell Kelda that he loves her and telling Balder about Loki's plot. Balder and the other Asgardians retaliate even after Doctor Doom kills Kelda. Balder and the other Asgardians are forced to fight Endrik (who has been modified with technological implants) and many other mutilated Asgardians. Balder and the other Asgardians continued their fight with the mutilated Asgardians while Thor battled Doctor Doom. Balder kills the mutilated Asgardians in order to get to Kelda's heart. After Loki restores Kelda to life and Thor defeats Doctor Doom's Destroyer armor, Balder leads the Asgardians back to Broxton, Oklahoma. Back in Asgard, Balder is concerned over his foolishness over allowing what transpired in Latveria to happen. Loki assures him he is a fine king.

During the Siege storyline, Loki warns Balder that Norman Osborn is rallying up an army to invade Asgard following the incident with Volstagg and the U-Foes at Soldier Field. Balder is later informed about the situation with Volstagg by Hogun and Fandral. When Captain America arrives with the New Avengers and the Secret Warriors, Balder is pleased at the fact that Thor's allies have joined the battle.

183. Rawhide Kid/Echo (12 points)

Rawhide Kid
rawhidekid.jpgThe Rawhide Kid debuted in a 16-issue series (March 1955-Sept. 1957) from Marvel's 1950s predecessor, Atlas Comics. Most of its covers were by highly acclaimed artists, generally either Joe Maneely or John Severin, but also Russ Heath and Fred Kida. Interior art for the first five issues was by Bob Brown, Jack Kirby's future successor on Challengers of the Unknown, with Dick Ayers on the reins thereafter.

After a hiatus, the Rawhide Kid got revamped for the ramping-up Marvel by writer Stan Lee, legendary penciler Jack Kirby and inker Ayers. Continuing the Atlas numbering with issue #17 (Aug. 1960), the title now featured a diminutive yet confident, soft-spoken fast gun constantly underestimated by bullying toughs, varmints, owlhoots, polecats, crooked saloon owners and other archetypes squeezed through the prism of Lee & Kirby's anarchic imagination. As in the outsized, exuberantly exaggerated action of the later-to-come World War II series Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos, The Rawhide Kid was now a freewheeling romp of energetic, almost slapstick action across cattle ranches, horse troughs, corrals, canyons and swinging chandeliers. Stringently moral, the Kid nevertheless showed a gleeful pride in his shooting and his acrobatic fight skills - never picking arguments but constantly forced to surprise lummoxes far bigger than he.

Through retcon, bits of and pieces of the Atlas and Silver Age characters' history meshed, so that the unnamed infant son of settlers the Clay family, orphaned by a Cheyenne raid, was raised by Texas Ranger Ben Bart on a ranch near Rawhide, Texas. Older brother Frank Clay, captured by Indians, eventually escaped and became a gambler, while eldest brother Joe Clay became sheriff of the town of Willow Flats; neither were in the regular cast, and each died in a guest appearance. Shortly after Johnny's 18th birthday, Ben Bart was murdered; Johnny, an almost preternaturally fast and accurate gunman, wounded the killers and left them to be taken into custody. A later misunderstanding between the Kid and a sheriff over a cattle rustler the Kid wounded in self-defense led to the hero's life as a fugitive.

Kirby continued as penciler through #32 (Feb. 1963) - remarkably, while helping to launch the Fantastic Four, the Hulk and other iconic characters of the "Marvel revolution" - and drew covers through issue #47. Issues #33-35 were drawn by EC Comics great Jack Davis and some of the very last color comics he would draw before gaining fame at MAD Magazine and as one of the 20th century's leading caricaturists. After several issues by stalwart Ayers, followed by a single issue by longtime Kid Colt artist Jack Keller, Stan Lee's brother Larry Lieber - who'd previously scripted the first appearances of "The Mighty Thor", "The Invincible Iron Man" and other superhero features plotted by Lee - began his long, solid run as writer-artist of the much-liked, albeit minor series.

As superheroes become increasingly ascendant and sales of all companies' Western titles dropped, The Rawhide Kid became primarily a reprint title, though often bearing new covers by such top artists as Gene Colan, Gil Kane and Paul Gulacy. It ended publication with issue #151 (May 1979).

The Rawhide Kid later appeared as a more middle-aged character in a four-issue limited series (Aug.-Nov. 1985) by writer Bill Mantlo and penciler Herb Trimpe.

The Rawhide Kid reappeared in the four-issue limited series Blaze of Glory (2000), by writer John Ostrander and artist Leonardo Manco, and a 2002 four-issue sequel, Apache Skies, by the same creative team.

In contrast to the character's standard look till then - a small-stature, clean-cut redhead - these latter two series found him grizzled, taller, with shoulder-length dark hair, and wearing a slightly less stylized, more historically appropriate outfit than his classic one. In fact, Blaze of Glory specifically retconned that the naively clean-cut Marvel Western stories of years past were merely dime novel fictions of the characters' actual lives.

A controversial 2003 limited series from Marvel's MAX imprint, the five-issue Rawhide Kid (the story itself titled "Slap Leather"), written by Ron Zimmerman and drawn by veteran artist John Severin, depicted the character as a stereotypical homosexual, with a good portion of the dialogue dedicated to blatant innuendo. The series was labeled "Parental Advisory Explicit Content".

A new Rawhide Kid miniseries drawn by Howard Chaykin and again written by Ron Zimmerman will be released in 2010

echo.jpgMaya was born deaf, and whose father, Willie "Crazy Horse" Lincoln" was working with the Kingpin of crime. When she was young, her father was killed by his boss, but ironically, Crazy Horse wanted Fisk to take care of his daughter. As he lay dying, he gave his daughter a bloody handprint over her face. Wilson took Maya to a boarding school for special children, because of her disability. There she discovered that she had a talent of instantly memorizing what she has seen and being able to copy the exact movements (photographic reflexes, much like the Taskmaster). Wilson then transferred Maya into another school for prodigies, there she became a gifted woman. One day, when Maya visited the grave of his father, she asked the Kingpin who murdered him and Fisk replied that Daredevil was the one responsible.
Kingpin arranged for Maya to meet Matt Murdock to determine his weaknesses. As soon as they met, they fell in love with each other. Maya later developed the guise of Echo, based on her talent to copy movements and painted a handprint over her face in honor of her father. She hunted Daredevil down until the point that she found out that Matt and Daredevil are one person. She also found out that Matt couldn't have murdered her father because he was still a little boy. Matt managed to correct the lies that Kingpin told to Echo and soon Maya was out for revenge for Fisk where she managed to blind him.

After that she fled and eventually returned but when she tried to reunite with Matt she realized that he has moved on and was now married to the blind Milla Donovan and lastly, the Kingpin was still alive. When Maya visited Fisk in prison, he told her that he doesn't blame her for hating him and that for what it's worth, Fisk loved her like the daughter he never had. She left again to search for herself, and in her travels she met Wolverine, who taught her about the Japanese culture and organized crime. In Japan, she finally found a peace of mind she never had.

After being unable to join the Avengers for personal reasons, Daredevil recommended Maya to Captain America, in order to help capture the Silver Samurai in Japan. She made a suit that would conceal her identity as well as her gender, renaming herself " Ronin", which translates to "Masterless Samurai". This name fits her, because she has photographic reflexes, which allows her to be very adaptive.

After joining the Avengers, Maya returned to Japan, keeping her eyes on Elektra Natchios, the deadly assassin leading the Hand. She also checked on the Silver Samurai from time to time, hopefully trying to solve the conflict between The Hand and Clan Yashida.

As Ronin, Maya fought Elektra and was killed, but was immediately resurrected by the Hand. It was the same process that was used to resurrect Elektra. They took Maya captive with the intent of turning her into an assassin for The Hand. The new Avengers which is consisted of Luke Cage, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Doctor Strange, Spider-Woman, Iron Fist, and the new Ronin (Clint Barton) rescued her and escape. Elektra then sent The Hand after them.

Maya and the New Avengers encountered the Hand at the Silver Samurai's ancestral home. Initially, Elektra is able to activate Echo's programming, forcing her to fight the New Avengers and even badly injuring Doctor Strange. However, Doctor Strange was able to free her from the brainwashing, and in retaliation, Maya kills Elektra (who is then revealed to be a Skrull in disguise).

They return to New York, after Spider-Woman's apparent betrayal of them when she steals the corpse of the Skrull Elektra. The Avengers hide in a hotel room, (Strange's magic making it appear that Echo is the only person in the room) before returning to Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum. Echo officially hands the Ronin identity over to Clint Barton after they arrive. After Strange confirms their identities by casting a spell that shows everyone their true nature, Echo appearing dressed in a female variation of Daredevil's costume, the team heads to Stark Tower to stop The Hood's attack on the building. There, they encounter the Mighty Avengers locked in battle with an army of invading symbiotes, in actuality they were humans turned into symbiotes via a virus. Even Echo becomes a symbiote before Iron Man manages to cure those infected.

Echo attempts to defend Rick Jones from Hiroim and Elloe of the Hulk's Warbound during their attack on the Sanctum Sanctorum to capture Doctor Strange. She, along with Iron Fist and Ronin, is defeated and captured.

Recently it was implied in the conversation between Echo and Wolverine that they had a brief romance in Japan. Maya had also had a run-in with a Skrull impersonating Daredevil and with the help of Logan, they were able to defeat the shape-shifting alien. After that, Clint and Maya began a relationship. When a Skrull spaceship crash landed in the Savage Land, Maya along with the New Avengers investigate, as they were tipped off by Spider-Woman. When they got there, they encounter several heroes coming out of the spaceship, some of them copies of some members of the two current Avengers. They all fought on who is the real heroes and who is the Skrull imposter. When Maya encountered Spider-Woman, it is revealed that she is the Skrull queen, Veranke, and she blasted her with her venom blast. After regaining consciousness and killing the remaining Skrull imposters, both Avenger teams head back to New York to battle the invading Skrull empire. She is not seen with the New Avengers when they meet after the final battle.


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