The Letters Page: Episode 47
A Contest of Cosmic proportions!
Run Time: 2:46:41
Whole lotta story going on today! Who will win? Only time will tell! I mean, actually, we're gonna tell you. In this episode.
The show notes today would be pretty spoilerific, so I'm just going to give some useful timestamps here. The whole thing is story, so just listen to it!
After a few minutes of banter and overview, we cover what all of the tiers and brackets contain, and then get right into going through each of the fights in Round One.
Coverage of Round Two begins at around the one hour and 8 minutes mark. The fights start getting more intense now!
We begin Round Three right before the one hour, 40 minutes mark. Everything's really heating up now! This round determines the winner of each tier!
With those winners determined, we move on to the Quarter Finals at an hour and 52 minutes in, with the last characters standing from each tier facing the winner from the opposing tier.
The Semi-Finals begin at 2:02:12. Just two matches here and then it's time for the finals!
The Final match to win it all begins at the two hours, 11 minutes mark. Whew. What a contest!
We dig into your questions around two hours and 20 minutes.
Did you win? As we discuss around 2:37:37, if you submitted a winning entry, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org!
See you next week!
- Jansa vi Dero
- Captain Cosmic
- Absolute Zero
- Dr. Medico
- Argent Adept
- Mr. Fixer
- Zhu Long
- Kaargra Warfang
- Citizen Dawn
- La Capitan
- Baron Blade
- Miss Information
- Green Grosser
- Blood Countess
- Fright Train
- Plague Rat
- Sergeant Steel
- Jansa vi Dero has seen the End of Reality (of Earth, certainly) - given her propensity to save a single survivor of a civilization, she brings the best and brightest from Earth to the Enclave to determine who will be the Endling from Earth (she's done this "pitting people against one another in order to choose" thing before - the special case of this being the end of Reality is what makes her open it up to more than just humans). Endlings tend to be paragons of their race in some way, but that doesn't require that they be good people, so the villains are just as much a part of this as the heroes (although some, like Progeny, are in there as a test: If you can't beat this, maybe you don't deserve to survive).
- Get your brackets handy. We're right near the start of OblivAeon, so all of the characters are at that point in their stories/experience, but I'll note in the first match-ups which costumes the guys specify for picturing them accurately (that is, if there's no variant mentioned, they're in their default vanilla look).
- Prime Wardens Haka vs. Ra: Haka greets Ra with a boisterous welcome indicating his looking forward to some combat and Ra just sets him on fire (think a giant column of flame coming down from the sky). Fire doesn't do much to Haka - sure it hurts, but he seems, if anything, more enthusiastic about everything. He bounds over to Ra and smacks him upside the head, which knocks him out. Haka can take pretty much any amount of fire Ra can send his way but Ra can't take a Haka-level punch.
- Legacy vs. Prime Wardens Fanatic: one of the biggest bracket busters of the meta-contest. You'd think that the face of Sentinel Comics, the #1 hero would go farther. During the fight Legacy talks a bunch about how strange the situation is and that he hopes that something good comes of it, etc. She's just there to win. They fly higher and higher, trading blows, and Fanatic is just letting him have it. She give him a great big two-handed blow with her broken sword, which he no-sells due to his attack negation power, but the follow-up giant blast of radiant energy she hits him with drops him from the sky like a comet. Fanatic and Legacy can trade blows in general, but Legacy is vulnerable to 2 large hits in quick succession. This is also important as an early fight to show readers that this isn't just a popularity contest.
- Void Guard Mainstay vs. Tachyon: we've seen how overpowered the Void Guard members are now, and Mainstay is big, tough, and has reach on Tachyon. Luckily for Tachyon, she's the Quickest Woman in the Multiverse. If Mainstay could get a solid hit in, it'd probably take her out, but his general lumbering nature means that he just can't do so. It takes her a while to take him apart, going after joints, getting him to accidentally trip himself up with his chain in his attempts to hit her, but she gets him in the end. Void Guard Mainstay's status as one of the physically toughest/strongest heroes doesn't mean much if he can't actually hit his opponent. Also: OP OblivAeon Shards aren't auto-wins.
- Prime Wardens Tempest vs. Prime Wardens Captain Cosmic: This is still before CC gets the Infinitor power boost and he has always used his powers in more of a defensive/support capacity than offensively. This works to Tempest's advantage as if you're not hitting him he'll just bring the hammer down on you. That's what happens - CC starts out building up his constructs and quickly finds himself relegated to just throwing up defensive shields as quickly as he can to try to ward off all of the lightning that Tempest is able to send his way immediately and it's not long before CC is down for the count. It takes Tempest virtually zero effort to call down lightning and can do so as long as he wants.
- Void Guard Writhe vs. Bunker: It's, apparently, soon enough after the Void Guard shows up that the audience doesn't really know what they're capable of. Bunker opens up with a machine gun and the bullets just sort of get absorbed by Writhe (good "plop"-ish sound effects from the guys at about 19:30 into the podcast). Writhe slides some of his tendrils up into the Bunker suit while that's going on. It looks like Writhe might be in trouble, but then the Bunker suit just sort of comes to pieces in a web of shadowy substance. Writhe is pretty powerful and is also well-suited to fighting Bunker (as opposed to how unsuited Mainstay was to fight Tachyon).
- Absolute Zero vs. Benchmark: As was stated back in the RevoCorp episode, Benchmark was supposed to be the new hotness; the best guy ever, right? Well, the writers of Cosmic Contest didn't get that memo. There's something to be said for experience. Pretty straightforward fight, but AZ triumphs. Benchmark's suit is much more automated than AZ's which removes a lot of potential for instinct in his reactions to things and AZ is just really comfortable with what he's capable of at this point.
- Termi-Nation Unity vs. Omnitron-U: Omnitron is a robot and goes into the fight knowing that it's going to fight based on its programming. Unity really doesn't want to fight her friend that she went into so much trouble to save and goes in reluctantly and on the defensive. She'd quickly on the ropes, but right at the end she makes the decision to actually fight back and just takes Omni apart with her powers. She does not deal with this well in the aftermath.
- Parse vs. Sky-Scraper: Sky-Scraper's whole shtick when going tiny is to be able to sneak around unnoticed. Parse's deal is noting all of the details. Sky-Scraper can't sneak up on Parse, negating that advantage. Then, if SS goes huge, all of her own weak points are just bigger targets. A few arrows to the knees and Sky-Scraper goes down.
- Dark Watch Harpy vs. Void Guard Idealist: This is an experienced Harpy who doesn't have as many control problems as she once had, but she's still bringing in a lot of birds and Idealist can just conjure up some cats to fight them. So, while the battle of the animal minions is going on with the actual combatants just standing there not fighting, Idealist is making plans centered on the fact that everybody knows that the Mask of the Matriarch was an important thing, and so she uses her power to steal it. The mask is a big focus for Harpy rather than being the source of power itself, but without it she starts getting a bit unhinged and Idealist quickly takes her out.
- Dark Watch Nightmist vs. Void Guard Doctor Medico: This is a quick one. They both have a bit more of a dark edge to them now than previously. Although Medico has that OblivAeon shard, Nightmist is not the type to waste any time. They're both adept at controlling their own life energy, but Nightmist has more experience and a lot of magical oomph due to her Void experiences - Medico's energy is much more contained and, unfortunately for him, responds strongly to magic. She just reaches into him with her magic, pulls out the shard, and then divides his energy up and contains it in a series of jars that she conjures up.
- Dark Visionary vs. Scholar of the Infinite: This is the Visionary at her Darkest - somebody powerful enough to banish Gloomweaver casually and we're far enough along in the story that she's pretty well established as a villain at this point and no longer needs to walk on eggshells. She takes no time at all to just reach into Scholar's mind and put him to sleep, Void connection or no.
- Prime Wardens Argent Adept vs. Hunted Naturalist: This is the "best" match-up in round one. Naturalist has to take the fight to AA - AA can't go toe-to-toe with Naturalist, but has many means of keeping a foe at bay. AA is so practiced at his own abilities at this point and is very familiar with the power that is behind the Naturalist's abilities in the first place and can just counter him - slowly removing aspects of the Naturalist's powers over the course of the fight (not permanently, just things like "you can't do that again for a while") until he's left as just a man and AA wins.
- Wraith vs. Dark Watch Mr. Fixer: Another upset, but not as big of one. Everybody knows these characters well by now and while the Wraith is very competent, she's got to stay at range if she's going to have a chance and a lot of her effectiveness is tied into her ability to sneak around. Unfortunately for her, you can't really sneak up on Mr. Fixer. Short of that advantage, while Wraith is good at fights, Mr. Fixer is the best at fights. He gets up close and, especially given his harsh demeanor/approach to things at this stage, is able to lay her out after a few blows.
- Dark Watch Expatriette vs. Best of Times Chrono-Ranger: She starts in sniper position, he uses time shenanigans to make it so she can't see him and then just appear behind her. She then has to draw a gun, while he can just extend a hand and there's a gun there. She starts with a tactical advantage, but once he pinpoints her location it's pretty much over.
- Rogue Agent K.N.Y.F.E. vs. Stuntman: K.N.Y.F.E. is another one of those top-combatant characters. The Rogue Agent suit is different from her original outfit (less power-armor punching, more lithe and adaptable). However, Stuntman is also capable and can take a lot of punishment. He's the action hero from the movies who gets knocked down, but gets right back up. This happens at least three times before he finally knocks her out.
- Dark Watch Setback vs. Guise: They had to encounter each other in this thing, but having them meet in later rounds would kind of make a mockery of whatever happened prior, so they meet up in round 1. This is as ridiculous, if not more so, than you have imagined with Guise pulling out all sorts of weird things and sound effects and Setback somehow managing to dodge at the last moment. Guise eventually winds up with another piano dropped on his head (complete with him seeing it and saying "Not again" before it hits).
- Chokepoint vs. Infinitor: neither are really right in the head. The downfall for Chokepoint here is that her shtick of controlling metal doesn't really do anything to Infinitor and has no real answer to his endless manifestations (which aren't made of metal and she has trouble even really perceiving).
- Zhu Long vs. Kaargra Warfang: It's a weird fight to even have in here as readers never really see Zhu Long fight much. These contests are all solo fights, no minions (that you aren't creating on the fly like Infinitor), so it's just Zhu Long standing before Kaargra without his ninjas or anything. She is excited to fight and leaps into action to attack this guy in robes, who then brings the full force of his magic to bear, disarming her and burning her from the inside. This is another "if she could get a hand on him" kind of fights that would have gone differently, but here we are.
- Citizen Dawn vs. La Capitan: A trickster thief with time travel powers (but no crew or the ship - although she still has her connection to the ship and can pull things in) up against Citizen Dawn (noted many times for being not only powerful, but all the more dangerous for her sheer determination and will). Dawn quickly locks Maria Helena in a cage of light, away from her time shenanigans, and knocks the cage into the stratosphere.
- Progeny vs. Apostate: a "very punchy fight" - just punches traded with swordplay in a very entertaining fight. Note on Progeny even being here: this is around the same time as K.N.Y.F.E.'s "headhunter" phase. Progeny had wound up in the heart of a dwarf star, just soaking up energy to fuel the rebuilding of its form (this is a recurring motif: Paige finds it, beats it up, it has to retreat to find a power source to feed on for a while to rebuild itself, repeat). Now it had almost fully recharged when Jansa yoinks it into her Contest. Unfortunately for Apostate, cutting chunks of Progeny off with a big sword doesn't do a lot to Progeny. Most of Apostate's advantage would be from being tricky, but Progeny ignores the tricks and just eventually splats Apostate.
- Baron Blade vs. Highbrow: this is just prior to Blade making the transition to Luminary. Highbrow hasn't been seen much since Vengeance - she had been picked up at some point by the scientists at Fort Adamant and, as was mentioned at some point in the past, she's now got a normal-sized head! Just, she's sporting a fancy new scar around her shaven head and has also got a disembodied brain-in-a-pod that connects to the top of her spine via a cable (when she speaks her mouth moves as normal, but the sound comes from a speaker on the floating pod - she's just all-around creepy now). She's super intelligent and can whisper into people's heads - it's not even really "psychic" power as just pure brainpower. Too bad for her that her first opponent is Baron Blade who just turns her off. Out of everybody here, he's excited to be here - one-on-one fights to prove himself superior.
- Trickster Kismet vs. The Chairman: She understands her power a bit more (maybe not fully aware/accepting that the power is in her and not the talisman, but she's got more control now). Chairman has no minions and just treats it as a boxing match as that's pretty much all he has. She underestimates her opponent as just this guy in a suit and once he manages to get in front of her he just knocks her out. Her personality is just not one that would react appropriately to just being put up against some square in a suit (who just so happens to be in prime physical condition and can knock her out once they come to grips).
- Miss Information vs. Glamour (VotM iterations of each, so stone mask MI and Shrieker/True leader of the Slaughterhouse 6 Glamour): This is a battle of illusions and they're both really good at them. The difference is that Glamour messes with your perception of reality and Miss Info can just change reality and that gives her an edge - tricking Glamour into thinking that she's won [It's not explained well, it sounds like it's a situation where the loser is just left in a figment where she thinks she's won and the victorious Miss Info just moves on with her life rather than actually attacking Glamour at the end.]
- Green Grosser vs. Ermine: "The least cunning people in the Cunning tier." He's good at making explosive vegetables, she's good at stealing things, so what happens? He tricks her into thinking that he's got something important in his back pocket, which is really just another explosive. Once she steals it, he detonates it.
- Hermetic vs. Blood Mage Lifeline: They're both accomplished magic users, but one is just much more powerful than the other and that is Lifeline. Anything that Hermetic can do, Lifeline can turn back on him and eventually hands down a harsh defeat that leaves Hermetic "drained and hollow", in very bad shape.
- Set vs. Blood Countess: Set is one of the most powerful of the Ennead, a god of magic and chaos/the storms. He's also all sound and fury - the Blood Countess isn't as innately powerful, but she's survived for centuries on her guile and her mastery of what power she does have. She takes the fight to him, negating and absorbing the magical attacks he sends her way and, once she's closed the distance, draws her sword and has at him with that as well. Set is not prepared for both of these assaults.
- Skinwalker Gloomweaver vs. Akash'Thriya: previous Akash' interactions with Gloomy were to keep him from becoming incarnate. Here he's already incarnate. At this time she's even a malformed, under-powered spirit thing and what you'd expect to be a primarily magic fight is instead a vicious thing with a lot of Gloomweaver punching through her form and tearing her apart. It's interesting - they're both really ancient entities who are aware of each other, but without really interacting in the forms that they're in now.
- Biomancer vs. Isis: Biomancer's coming into this fight without any fleshchildren - so this is an odd appearance for him. Her mastery of magic lets her just tear apart most of what he throws at her. However, he's a master of plotting. While she's dealing with the thrown-together minions he makes, he gets a chance to sneak around behind her for a sneak attack. We get some new info here: he can work with dead flesh, not living. Surprise, all of his own flesh is dead and he's able to shape it - as he does here into some gruesome claws. He rips her wings from her body and, while she's in shock from this, dispatches her.
- Fright Train vs. Plague Rat (after his escape from RevoCorp): This is the first appearance of Plague Rat since his escape and he has continued to mutate into a more monstrous/savage form than ever. The edge here is the infectious bite, and he infects Fright Train. That's not enough to stop this train from a'rollin', however, and Fright Train manages to charge Plague Rat, pin him, and just pummel him. Fright Train wins.
- The Operative (servant of Zhu Long iteration) vs. Sergeant Steel (most recently seen chasing K.N.Y.F.E. through space): This is one sided; Operative can deflect bullets with her sword. Operative is about the only person who can rival Mr. Fixer in a straight up fight and her time with Zhu Long has given her non-fighting options.
- Bugbear vs. Proletariat: this is a rather hilarious fight that eventually also tips over into sad. We haven't seen Bugbear since Nightmist banished him from reality a while back, but Jansa pulled him in too. Bugbear is all excited to be in reality again, and everything is better - he's overwhelmed by the realness of his surroundings. Then a phalanx of Proletariats approach and start beating on him with their hammers. He starts fighting back, and he's big and tough, but he can't take out all of them and loses. Jansa then deposits him back to where he was before.
- Agent of Gloom Spite vs. Heartbreaker: They're both really great at murdering (although Gloom Spite is good at mass murder). Heartbreaker's got the precision things going for him, but since Spite is a magically-animated corpse that doesn't amount to much. Heartbreaker does a lot of dancing circles around Spite who just kind of lumbers after him until he finally manages to get a hand on Heartbreaker, at which point he just snaps the latter's neck and drinks in the life energy.
- A quick note on what happens to everybody in the meantime: most losers stick around in the Enclave somewhere where they are permitted to witness the proceedings, some (like Bugbear) get sent back to where they had been prior. Winners just move from fight to fight, wounds and other things carry over and there's not a lot of downtime.
- Haka vs. Fanatic: This is another case where one contestant (Fanatic) can repeatedly put the other down (Haka), but the latter keeps getting back up. Due to the sheer strength of these combatants, however, this is one of the more brutal match-ups in the whole thing. Haka starts off jovial, but eventually realizes that Fanatic is serious about things. Something to note: there is no potential for collateral damage. Haka can really let loose. This results in Haka landing such a blow that it utterly obliterates Fanatic, leaving a radiant glow while he stands there bloody from his many wounds. Then Fanatic rematerializes before him, fully healed, and the fight continues. It's downhill for Haka from there and he's eventually down for the count. This was a tough one for even the guys to decide - if the question was which could put the other down permanently, the answer is probably "neither".
- Tachyon vs. Tempest: the grudge match from their fights in the Bloodsworn Colosseum; the first where Tachyon turned on him, earning the title of Chaos Lord even though he eventually won and the second where she defeated him, resulting in his expulsion from the Colosseum and capture by Biomancer. There's a lot of her having to race his lightning, making it a very cool match that could go either way. He can continuously throw the lightning, and she can outrun it, but to go that fast comes at a cost. He eventually manages to catch her with a bolt thrown to lead her as she dodges an earlier shot and down she goes.
- Writhe vs. Absolute Zero: you'd think that Writhe would have this easily for the same reasons as the last one, however this doesn't work as well given how cold it is in there and AZ's awareness of what's going on with the suit. He welcomes the intrusion - "Come on in. The weather's fine." Writhe infiltrating the suit results in his form freezing - his body is all weird now and he's got more of a distributed neural net than a single brain and so when the tendrils start slowing down due to the cold, so do his thoughts. AZ then just fully freezes him and shatters him.
- Unity vs. Parse: Unity is still having to deal with what's happened previously and she steps into the fight with a robot ally she made last time - out of Omnitron-U. "This is some weird grief stuff" as she's trying to keep him safe so that she can fix him later. Unity sends some robots after Parse, and they're able to overwhelm her for a bit, then she falls back to fight the actual target by pinpointing her weakness: confronting her with an ultimatum - concede the fight or I destroy that robot made from Omnitron. Parse wins.
- Idealist vs. Nightmist: lots of power here, but Nightmist is, once again, very focused. Idealist is a fun character and somewhat flighty, but with this immense power that she's got to reign in. Nightmist just feeds more power into Idealist until the latter's concepts just overwhelm her on their own, Nightmist doesn't even really actually attack her to win.
- Visionary vs. Argent Adept: The Main Event. This is physically the most boring fight in the whole book as they're just sitting cross-legged in a field. The real fight is happening in the Void. This is AA's opportunity to do something about his friend - he knows that the "good" Visionary is in there somewhere and now Dark Visionary can't get away from him, so it's now or never for the rescue mission. This is the second time we see the four-armed spectral form that would eventually become Dark Mind. He quickly determines that he's not equipped to take on the power of this foe and needs to make a desperate move to get more power than he'd normally be able to deal with. This involves an act antithetical to what a Virtuoso of the Void is: he draws forth the baton of the Crimson Conductor, and grasps it, letting his blood seep into it. He then draws his own Void Instrument, his Pipes, and destroys them - unleashing an enormous burst of energy. By destroying the pipes he's destroying the link between Dark Visionary and the body of Vanessa Long (along with the latter's imprisonment). Dark Visionary is lost in the Void. They return to their bodies - Visionary is very out of it, but this is the point at which Argent Adept becomes the Dark Conductor - he's severed his own connection to the Void by destroying his own instrument and now is operating on this weird connection to it through this other one. I'm sure nothing bad happens as a result of this.
- Mr. Fixer vs. Chrono-Ranger: So far the match-ups in round two have been closer than a lot of the round one fights. This is not one of those. Chrono-Ranger's got some neat time shenanigans, but he can't really hurt Mr. Fixer. Jim uses his time thing to jump all over the place, but Fixer eventually manages to anticipate and punches where Jim's going to appear next and takes him out. It's not a quick fight, but it's not one that really ever feels like Fixer is in danger.
- Stuntman vs. Setback: It's a frustrating fight for Ansel. He's coming into this one after the beat-down brawl with K.N.Y.F.E. but he's ready to go with all of his gear, which would be great if any of them had ammo or firing pins that weren't out of alignment for some reason. Finally, he gets a couple of shots off at Setback, but they miss horribly. Setback is at peak Setback. Eventually they close and start brawling, but Setback is in better shape after the last round and he wins the day.
- Infinitor vs. Zhu Long: Infinitor is still creating a hoard of manifestations, and Zhu Long is using his magic to deal with them, but they're infinite in number and he's not getting anywhere. He eventually gets fed up and transforms into his true form, a giant dragon, and unleashes a giant gout of magical energy and flame. This destroys the manifestations, giving Zhu Long the opportunity to rush Infinitor and knock him out.
- Citizen Dawn vs. Progeny: the heavens tremble with this battle. Citizen Dawn's rejuvenation ability is the key here. Progeny keeps pummeling her, but his current power is derived from the energy of a star and she can draw on that enough to keep going. Eventually she's able to take it apart down to the merest spark of existence (no head launching itself into space this time).
- Baron Blade vs. Chairman: it starts off with a chat with the Chairman talking about what he knows of Blade's work and explaining who he is. Blade doesn't know who this Pike guy is and doesn't care. Chairman knows the score that he's likely outclassed here - he offers to throw the match in exchange for some future cooperation after this whole Contest thing is over. Blade isn't terribly interested in that either until Pike gets to the part involving the mystical stuff he got from Zhu Long and the research he's built on from there. He agrees, electrocutes Pike "for appearances' sake", and moves on.
- Miss Information vs. Green Grosser: Green Grosser has hidden explosives that look like vegetables all over the place! Miss Info makes them be just vegetables. Oh, except for the ones closest to GG, which then explode.
- Lifeline vs. Blood Countess: Oh, that downside to the deal Lifeline made with the Countess back when he was becoming a Blood Mage? Yeah, turns out that he can't lift a finger against her and is kid of her thrall. Oops. Turns out he's got to deal with this after OblivAeon considering at any moment she could snap her fingers and render him unconscious as all the blood drains from his body.
- Gloomweaver vs. Biomancer: Gloomweaver shows up in his Skinwalker look, none the worse for wear. Biomancer shows up looking like himself except he's grafted Isis' wings onto himself. Also, for the same reasons that Biomancer has to watch out for the Scholar, Skinwalker Gloomweaver needs to worry about our resident necromancer taking him apart. So, Biomancer is swooping around and Gloomy has to spend most of his effort holding himself together. That is, until Gloomweaver manages to grab his leg as he flies by and smashes him to the ground. This is the end of Biomancer forever, obviously.
- Fright Train vs. Operative: Oh, look, Fright Train has finally succumbed to the Plague Rat infection. So now both of the combatants are poisonous in some way. This makes the fight much more interesting since her poisons are going to be less effective on him. She's immune to poisons, though, and is still just, like, insanely competent in a fight and is able to defeat him after a protracted battle.
- Proletariat vs. Spite: It's going to take more than numbers to bring down Spite. Normally, Proletariat splits off copies and can reabsorb them to heal. Here, he splits off copies and then Spite kills them and absorbs that energy himself. So, Proletariat is just spreading himself thinner and thinner and eventually is taken out.
- Fanatic vs. Tempest: Lightning makes flying around dangerous, but her physical form is tough enough to take it. He's got a sword, right, so fight with that. She's just better than him and is largely resistant to whatever he can throw at her.
- Absolute Zero vs. Parse: She effortlessly sees the weak part of his suit. Easy target, boom, done. Unfortunately for her, AZ's had decades of getting used to something wrong happening with his suit (see: just about any card art featuring him that's not in his own deck). He cobbles together a Termi-Nation-style look - far more dangerous for himself, but also more dangerous for whoever is near him, which is Parse. She's frozen in a block of ice and AZ moves on.
- Nightmist vs. Dark Conductor Argent Adept: AA is substantially weakened now. Normally, he'd be a major opponent for Nightmist as the powers of the Virtuoso of the Void is controlling the stuff from which magic is made. As it stands now, with him down to the one instrument following his exploits earlier, she "magics circles around him." In the process of defeating him (handily) she also manages to restore him somewhat - "subtracting" the essence of him from the baton and attaching it to his own vocal cords. This isn't a permanent solution, but it brings him back to himself an on the path to recovery later on.
- Mr. Fixer vs. Setback: Setback has handily won his first two matches. Just a really long streak of good luck. This has him worried as he comes into this fight, not even knowing who he's facing. Then he sees Mr. Fixer, who "puts the 'dark' in Dark Watch" these days. Now, Setback can take a beating, but Fixer isn't just punching him, he knows exactly how to hit pressure points and whatnot to bring him down, and takes little time to do so.
- Zhu Long vs. Citizen Dawn: "Rule of Cool all the way down" as Zhu Long starts as a dragon and Dawn starts off just brimming with power that she's drawn from Progeny. He takes some passes flying by her, beating her up somewhat. Then he hits her with a big gout of flame, which is a big mistake as she was born for this. Seeing her rejuvenated by that attack, he tries a different tactic and just eats her, which you'd normally think would be effective. Until shafts of light start piercing the dragon from the inside until he explodes, revealing her wreathed in the power of the sun and invulnerable.
- Baron Blade vs. Miss Information: Miss Information has had it relatively easy so far, but Blade has had to do almost literally nothing to this point. Miss Information has "no chill" and she starts ranting at him about him being in her way. Baron Blade can't be having this and finally pulls out some devices (like a few small bots to attack her). She's very focused on him, though, and while she can mess with his reality, she ignores the robots that are going to do their thing regardless and they take her down.
- Blood Countess vs. Gloomweaver: What we have here is the undisputed master of blood magic up against a god who has incarnated himself using blood magic. We already know that Lifeline is able to just take this form apart. However, a lot of Gloomweaver's power is this Discordian magic and he's able to use that to neutralize her blood magic. Then it comes down to a fun physical fight with him as this big lumbering powerhouse and her with her sword (and not as physically adept due to her magic being suppressed), and he's eventually able to crush her.
- Operative vs. Spite: Spite's in his fully transformed skull-faced monster form by this point. She's still this master combatant, however. She manages to get his chains wrapped around him and then, while he's down, uses a necrotic poison on him that starts dissolving the flesh of his body. Can't murder people if your body doesn't work. She proceeds to chop the physical body apart, which takes Spite out.
- Fanatic vs. Citizen Dawn: Both of them are pretty much at 100% at this point, but both have used their "get out of jail free" card. No words exchanged, they just get down to business. Blasts of energy, defending with radiance, super impressive all around. Fanatic eventually gets in sword range with Dawn, though, and that's advantage to Fanatic who eventually wins.
- Absolute Zero vs. Baron Blade: Of all the members of the Freedom Five, AZ wasn't the one Blade expected to see (and this says something about the character of AZ at this point - he just won't quit; look at him here in his no-suit, but still trucking along). Normally, AZ's the type to wait for the opposition to act and then react to that, but he's on borrowed time with his suit the way it is. Taking advantage of situations when the opposition is having to improvise is kind of Baron Blade's thing, though. It's still an interesting fight, and a lot of what Blade would normally rely on to affect AZ don't apply since they are predicated on AZ having his suit, but Blade is able to draw the fight out with his cunning and eventually wears him down.
- Nightmist vs. Gloomweaver: Grudge Match! This is not a good match-up for Gloomweaver - Nightmist hasn't needed to exert herself to defeat her opponents thus far (even going out of her way to help AA in the process) and he's 1) not in his strongest form and 2) he's had much rougher fights to get to this point. He knows his best shot will be in getting her to question herself and get her to make mistakes. She just really dislikes him and uses her power to remove Gloomweaver from the body he's been schlepping around. I mean, there's lots of magic being thrown around in both directions here and all of these Quarterfinals are interesting matches, but that's the final result. Essentially exorcised, he can't really do anything and she moves on.
- Mr. Fixer vs. Operative: Grudge Match! This has been a big question in comics fandom for years - who would win between the Student of Many Masters Operative and this monstrous Mr. Fixer? Pages and pages of glorious, exquisitely choreographed martial arts combat, several of which go by before there's even a successful blow landed. Eventually Operative manages to run him through with her sword, but he's a ghost haunting his own zombie, so this doesn't do a lot. In an echo of the death of Mr. Fixer from so long ago, we get that image of her stabbing him through the same spot. Then he stands and lays her out with a single blow before pulling the sword from his own chest.
- Fanatic vs. Baron Blade: This is Fanatic's at probably around 60% at this point (and is a powerhouse) against Baron Blade who's still essentially untouched (but is just a guy, right?). They've had some very unfair brackets to get to this point considering who she's had to take down to get to this point compared to him. Anyway, she closed in to hit him with her sword and he raises his arm to block it... with his negation bands. He blocks the blow and as contact is made the glow of her supernatural radiance dims. She then erupts in holy fire and the sword blazes forth - this overloads the bracer and the resulting explosion sends both of them reeling. The next panel, we see Blade's left arm is just absolutely mangled and burned. He looks ruined. Fanatic looks like she's still around 60% as she was before. She pursues him relentlessly, but he activates his backlash field, returning the force of her own blows to her. The brief respite she gives to avoid destroying herself gives him the opportunity to recover a bit as his repair nanites get to work on his arm. This is a brutal fight, although Blades tricks and devices are giving him an edge. She backs him to a wall again and just before the final blow, he teleports a good distance away. While she's recovering from this and pulling the sword from the wall, he fires a prototype weapon - the projectile is a ball of electricity that gathers more and more charge as it travels and it's traveling a long distance here. The shock of this is enough to finally overcome her, almost enough to separate the spirit that animates her from her body. Blade wins.
- Nightmist vs. Mr. Fixer: Hey, Mr. Fixer is bleeding a bit and is carrying a sword dripping with poison. No time wasted, he starts slashing at her. She takes a few slashes and the poison is starting to work on her and slow her down, so she goes to mist to buy some time. She gets her plan together as she can't beat him in a fight. She solidifies so she can work her magic and quickly cages his flesh (much like she did with Bugbear so long ago - and she considers detaching the spirit from the body to give him rest, but figures that the multiverse will need him and so settles on incapacitating him). She's won, but is now poisoned.
- Baron Blade vs. Nightmist: they're now both rather beat up at this point. He's really roughed up after his last match, and she's rather demoralized at this point after fighting her friend, to say nothing of the poison. He's managed to rig up some device on his left arm, but his hand is going to be useless for the fight (callback to Episode 3 of the podcast - this is why he amputates the arm before becoming Luminary, the hand never recovered from this so he replaced it with an improved version). This is the ultimate magic vs. science match-up. Notable parts of this fight: Nightmist creating a series of portals to trap Blade's devices. Blade traps her in an energy field and it looks like he's got her licked, but she opens a rift in reality to destroy the machine. He uses a portal to return an eldritch blast from her to hit her in the back. He's running out of devices over the course of the fight, though, and is eventually down to basically a energy blaster and his teleportation device, while she's a boundless well of magic, but weakening due to the poison. She eventually grabs him with a tendril of power and draws him to her - as he approaches he activates another device on his belt that releases a large burst of energy, disrupting her grasp and knocking her down. He stands over her and pulls out a scalpel, just an ordinary blade. As he reaches in for the kill, she changes her own form into a mist gate, dropping him out of this reality and into the Realm of Discord. Nightmist is the Champion!
- Jansa vi Dero and Doctor Medico have been spending a lot of the meantime getting people back up and running (Jansa in particular can largely just "reset" people). As part of this time Parse has been talking to Jansa about how dumb it is for her to take a Champion from Earth - Earth will need all the champions it can get. Jansa agrees and this is a large part of why she encourages Lifeline to get involved, why Nightmist isn't kept as an Endling and returns to Earth, and why Jansa takes the Enclave Elsewhere to avoid the end of reality.
- Most people just get sent back to where Jansa got them (not Baron Blade as he was no longer where she had access to him).
- This was the first time that Nightmist did the whole mist gate thing, thus setting the stage for probably the most influential event in the whole of the Multiverse [detail/hint dropped: the whole Mission Deck in OblivAeon is apparently possible due to Nightmist being the Gate; I'm not sure that it's everything in there, but still, lots of alt-reality goodness in there, apparently].
- If the story above has, rather than satisfying your curiosity, has piqued it further, continue to send them in under the Cosmic Contest label - we're essentially getting the next Editor's Note out of this.
- What are the rules? The rule is "two people fight until one of them is defeated." That's fairly subjective, but you'll know it when you see it.
- What's the environmental setup? The environments are all sort of an "empty ruin planet" - an arena that Jansa set up just for this. There's lots of varied terrain and cover available, but the environment itself isn't throwing in any twists to affect the outcome.
- Are the participants allowed to prepare? Nope, you're just dropped right into things.
- Do they know who/where they'll be fighting? No. They have no knowledge of the brackets. The losers get to know what's going on, but the active players get none of that.
- What/who can they bring with them? Their standard loadout. Baron Blade has a pile of devices on him because he always has a pile of devices on him, but they're also not going to prevent Expat from having guns because she happened to be out grocery shopping when Jansa grabbed her or something. As for who? Nobody - Biomancer gets no fleshchildren, Dawn has no citizens, Chairman has none of his flunkies, La Capitan has no crew, etc. (brief digression here about La Capitan plus her crew still wouldn't have done well against Dawn - nobody wants to go up against Citizen Dawn or Fanatic and they had to think long and hard about those fights).
- What's going on in the rest of the comics during Cosmic Contest? Nothing. This is a giant-sized, prestige format, one-shot book, but it's a single book, so it doesn't really impact the other publications.
- Do the events impact what's going on in other titles (characters popping in and out of the story, do they even remember what happens there)? Again, because it's a single book, other publications don't have to acknowledge it any more than they want to and it's all very hand-wavy in terms of continuity. Despite that we don't see it on the page, yeah, the idea is the characters get popped out of their situation and then back in in largely the same condition they were in originally, but they do remember. All of the big changes to characters are to people who aren't really starring in ongoing books (like, there's no Baron Blade book). One exception is Argent Adept, but it was more like the writers finished up whatever story was going on at the time and then reset him to the new status quo when there was a good opportunity (and then from there deal with the whole Dark Conductor thing and the process of him making new pipes for himself and whatnot).
- How long does the whole thing take in-setting? A couple of days, maybe, but it's also removed from time and so they get popped back into reality an instant later.
- If the writers were in a rush to wrap things up before OblivAeon, why do this giant cross-over event? Because it helps wrap things up - it resolves a number of plots (and sets up new ones like Dark Mind). This was strictly more useful for them than a hindrance. It's status as a one-shot probably helped, and it likely took the writers and artists 6 months to create, but it's instantaneous nature smoothed over difficulties that may have been engendered if it had come out over a period of months itself.
- Why was Lifeline the only Endling involved? He was the only one involved in what's going on on Earth.
- Did fans of the comics get a vote? No, no fan voting. There was a contest much like our contest with people filling out brackets for prizes (even a similar timeframe).
- Was the winner a preconceived notion that was then reverse-engineered? No, it wasn't a foregone conclusion that Nightmist won and then they worked backwards from there; they played it fairly straight once they set up the brackets. They went back over the story once they did the first run through to see what kinds of interesting story points showed up as emergent phenomena and then went back to rewrite to punch things up (and then went back and expanded the roster of contestants for a more extensive contest).
- Do the results of these match-ups accurately reflect the relative strengths of the characters from the card game? Pretty much. The only thing that's not really reflected is how well Baron Blade did compared to his original villain deck - but this isn't that Baron Blade anymore. It's also a bit weird because villain decks are there to tell a story more than the hero decks do. Another is the Argent Adept/Visionary fight as it wasn't a straight up fight as there was this other specific thing he was going in to accomplish.
- Why a rushed feel for things leading up to the start of OblivAeon - yeah there was an in-universe editorial mandate, but why did Christopher and Adam make it so? Because that's the kind of things that happens in the world of comics publishing. The meta-fiction was a part of their fiction from the get-go and they wanted to capture this sort of thing. The writers initially wanted to just start dropping hints that this big thing was going to happen and they'd work to it over a few years as they expected it to take a while for people to catch on. Nope, people caught on immediately and started the hype train and it was decided that they needed to capitalize on that excitement now, and so the mandate came down and the stories got rushed. This actually matches up with real life - the original plan was for all of the card game stuff was for things to take until roughly 2020 to get out (if they actually got to release all of the content they wanted to release), and here we are in not-quite 2018.
- Did I, Matchstickman, win? No.
- They are "somewhat confident" in their determination of the winner, but there were hundreds of entries to go through. They determined a single entry was "more correct" than any other (giving one point per correct answer [I take that to mean that you have the winner of any given place on the bracket correct, like you still get a point if you have, say, Fanatic beating Ra instead of Haka in round two]). There are a total of 63 points available. Their determination is that the highest score is 46 points - Dario Anselmo. This isn't the final verdict - double check your brackets and count up your own points to make sure that you didn't beat or match those 46 points and get in touch if they messed things up and the official winner will be announced in the upcoming Editor's Note. The Martial Tier was the most common "perfect" tier in people's brackets. One person, Nicole Sharp, got three whole tiers perfect. Special shoutout to the person who put in a Setback/Guise double knock-out, because that's hilarious.