Friday February 8, 2013
Comics’ more prominent scaly citizens
Worlds of Wonder
By KALEON RAHAN
With the Year of the Snake almost upon us, we take a look at some of comics’ more prominent scaly citizens.
FIRST of all, Worlds of Wonder would like to wish all our readers a happy and prosperous Lunar New Year! In conjunction with the Year of the Water Snake, this week’s focus will be on some of the most venomous snake-themed characters in comics, and since most of these tend to be villains, we think this is a perfect year for these bad guys to finally make their mark.
Without further ado, here are some of our favourite slithery villains, and what they can do to up their game and make it big in the Year of the Snake.
Since its introduction via the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero toy line in 1982, C.O.B.R.A. (or Cobra Command) has gone three decades without even getting close to achieving world domination. While the Year of the Snake may not guarantee a turning point for the terrorist organisation on the big screen (especially with Bruce Willis and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson spearheading the upcoming G.I. Joe: Retaliation), they can at least expect some progress on the comics front – thanks to the impact generated by IDW’s G.I. Joe: Cobra series.
Since the release of that 2009 miniseries, IDW has added depth and breadth to this shadowy organisation’s modus operandi, with the introduction of the Cobra Council, Cobranet, and the Cobra Civil War being major turning points that established solid foundations for these baddies. The sinister scheming of the Baroness, Serpentor and Major Bludd also offers a refreshing dimension to the usual straightforward confrontations with the Joes (or the Oktober Guard).
The biggest change to its status quo, however, took place with the death of its iconic leader, Cobra Commander (G.I. Joe: Cobra II #12), which fits perfectly into IDW’s wholesale revamp of the Joe-verse. Taking a cue from the ancient Chinese belief that the presence of a snake in a house is a good omen (as it ensures that the family will not starve), the introduction of a new Cobra Commander last year should ensure the organisation’s longevity.
That said, instead of being content with destroying the Joes’ Pit over and over again, C.O.B.R.A. should set out to accomplish a more crushing victory over the Joes, and maybe spill some enemy blood on the way to reinforcing its position as a global threat. All we need now is for Snake Eyes to defect to make this the perfect Year of the Cobra!
One of the “elder gods” of the Marvel Universe, whose influence is felt through the Serpent Men, the Serpent Crown and the Midgard Serpent. While Set’s battles tend to be on a higher level against other immortals, his worshippers (Thulsa Doom, the Serpent Men, etc) have crossed paths with a variety of heroes in different comics, including Conan, King Kull, Spider-Man, the Avengers, the X-Men and so on.
In conjunction with the Year of the Snake, a mega-serpent event in the Marvel Universe would have been fitting. However, let’s not forget 2010’s Fear Itself a.k.a. “The Serpent War”, which was rather dull – revisiting such territory so soon may be overkill.
A Set homecoming could be done indirectly though, by using Thulsa Doom as the nexus in the Conan comics.
The plot can also be stretched (think time travel) to unite both Conan and King Kull, setting the stage for an epic sword and sorcery showdown.
3) Serpent Squad
In the past, this gathering of snake-influenced criminals (also known as the Serpent Society at one point) such as Viper, Cobra, Eel, Black Mamba, Black Racer, Copperhead, Death Adder, etc only managed to offer minimal resistance to the likes of Captain America and the Fantastic Four.
Their newly appointed leader, Sin (the Red Skull’s daughter), should be able to inject some venom into the team, especially with her dad presently causing havoc on Uncanny Avengers.
Hopefully, the Year of the Snake will see the Serpent Squad having bigger ambitions – moving away from robbing banks to plotting world domination instead. For starters, the squad needs to take on more diverse opposition, like the Avengers or the X-Men. Only then will they be taken seriously, instead of being dismissed as just a permutation of the Ringmaster’s Circus of Crime.
There are four characters that share the Diamondback name in the Marvel universe, but the one that makes the cut here is Rachel Leighton, who was Captain America’s ex-beau in the 1990s.
Her transition from villainous Serpent Society member to quasi-Avenger status places her one step below the Scarlet Witch in the Avengers mythos; and because of her tragic past (she was physically and sexually abused by Crossbones), she gets my sympathy vote to be pushed to greater heights in the Marvel Universe.
Unfortunately, the recent reunion of Cap and Sharon Carter excludes her from any star-spangled romantic developments, and further relegates her to bit-part status.
Still, if Marvel is serious about doing a zero-to-hero(ine) tale, then Rachel would be the perfect candidate. After all, after the events of Siege, Cap did offer her a coordinator’s role on the 50 state Avengers teams; and with Marvel’s willingness to shake up the status quo at whatever cost in its current Marvel Now relaunch, perhaps a position in S.H.I.E.L.D. would be a good starting point for Rachel.
Alternatively, she could be dispatched to Dimension Z to free Cap (where he has been trapped in the current Marvel Now Captain America run), which would lead to a messy love triangle with Sharon.
5) Klaus Voorhees a.k.a. King Cobra
Way back in the 80s, the then-King-less Cobra and Mr Hyde were an oddball villain tag team that took on Thor, Daredevil and Spidey. Although he was not expected to turn the tide in any of the battles that ensued, Cobra’s stealth and slipperiness was still a joy to watch, especially during his encounters with Spidey (Spectacular Spider-Man #46, Amazing Spider-Man #231 and #232).
Instead of a spider, the criminally under-utilised Voorhees was bitten by a radioactive cobra; and while Spidey went on to become a hugely popular hero, Cobra became better known for (failed) bank heists and his falling out with Mr Hyde.
As the former leader of the Serpent Society, King Cobra certainly deserves better than that, and would be the perfect candidate for the Mark Waid revival treatment – after all, Waid has been hugely successful in reviving obscure villains like the Spot, Klaw, the Bruiser, and even Stilt-Man (!) on his current Daredevil run, and King Cobra’s history with Daredevil should be enough to reopen some old wounds ... or even inflict some new ones.
More slithery characters