Badass Week Finale: The Toughest Woman in Comics!
Sisters are doin' it for themselves!
Yes, it's the pulse-pounding conclusion to Badass Week, and tonight, it's all about the ladies.
After all, when I kicked things off on Monday, I'm sure a few of you were wondering why I limited the vote to the Toughest Man in comics, rather than the toughest character, or even the toughest Super-Hero. And with good reason: there's no shortage of badass women in comics.
Just from the top of my head, there's Sasha Bordeaux, who was Batman's bodyguard before being abducted from prison under mysterious circumstances to head up Checkmate; Sif, who fought the battle of Ragnarok single-handedly (after the other one got chopped off); 355 (of Y - The Last Man fame) who, as Douglas Wolk put it, "stopped her own mentor from assassinating President Clinton by RIPPING HER THROAT OUT WITH HER BARE TEETH"; ISB favorite Elsa Bloodstone, who has recently taken to decapitating robot samurai and broccoli monsters with a shovel while doing backflips; and, of course, Amanda Waller, who pulled herself out of poverty and depression by sheer force of will and went from living in the projects to running the shadow government of the United States and talking shit to Batman.
Clearly, there's plently of material there for a good solid vote. But that's the whole thing: I don't need a vote to know who the Toughest Woman in comics is, and while this may come as a surprise, it's not any of them.
It is, in fact...
Yeah, I'm probably going to need to explain this one.
If you've been following Badass Week from the beginning, you may recall that when I nominated Karate Kid for the title of Toughest Man in Comics, I referenced the 1984 Paul Levitz/Keith Giffen Legion of Super-Heroes relaunch, which is the single most badass story to come out of the future since Douglas Quaid got his ass to Mars. The story, as I mentioned, involves the Legion of Super-Villains getting together and absolutely thrashing the Heroes. Seriously, not even in the Great Darkness Saga, which pit the Legion against a reborn Darkseid, had things ever gotten this rough. Because in this one... Somebody dies.
And by somebody, I mean Karate Kid.
See, the Villains were led by Nemesis Kid, who made his first appearance alongside Karate Kid and Projectra (and Ferro Lad, incidentally) in Adventure Comics #346, and turned traitor about three minutes later. He has, as far as I'm concerned, one of the greatest super-villain powers ever: He can instantly adapt to whatever threat he faces, developing super-powers that counteract every danger, pretty much fitting the classic definition of a Nemesis, and that makes him hard to beat.
At this point in Legion History (or at least, that Legion history), Karate Kid and Princess Projectra had both retired from the Legion after getting married, and were returning to Orando from their honeymoon when the Super-Villains put their plan into motion. And after Karate Kid finally rips himself out of Nemesis Kid's will-power draining machine through sheer determination alone, he faces off against Nemesis Kid who instantly develops the ability to beat Karate Kid to death. See? Handy power to have.
With his dying breath, Karate Kid wrenches his flight ring back from Nemesis Kid and flies off in a desperate suicide run, destroying the ship that carries the Super-Villains' army before crashing back to the surface.
And that's where Legion of Super-Heroes #5 picks up with one of the most badass things I have ever seen in comics starts.
That charred corpse? Yeah, that's Val Armorr right there. Steve Lightle and Larry Mahlstedt drew this issue, and they did an absolutely awesome job, if for no other reason than Projectra's face in this panel. That, my friends, is not a look of sadness, or of mourning, or of any emotion you'd generally associate with a newlywed that just became a widow. That, the way she stares at the reader, head up and eyes forward, is a look of fury.
Keep in mind, she's the Queen of Orando, and Nemesis Kid and his flunkies have nearly destroyed her planet, put her in chains, and killed her husband. And even then, she gives them one last chance.
Reminding someone with that look on their face that you just killed someone they love? Yeah, that's probably not a good idea.
At this point, a few more Legionnaires show up to deal with their opposite numbers in the Legion of Super-Villains (because being a Legionnaire means never having to stand alone and all that), but when Ultra Boy--who literally has more super-powers than he knows what to do with--jumps into action to take Nemesis Kid on, Projectra tells him in no uncertain terms, "No. He's mine."
That's Princess Projectra, whose only super-power is making pretty convincing illusions that Nemesis Kid is completely immune to. You know, just so we're clear on what happens next.
I'll admit, I'm probably a bigger fan of a good chunk of vengeance than anyone else I know, but in the whole of fiction, there is very, very little that is sweeter than watching a villain realize that he is about to be thoroughly and utterly destroyed. And in that last panel, Nemesis Kid is just figuring that out.
Prepare yourself. What happens next may well rock your world.
Last year, when Wonder Woman snapped Max Lord's neck to keep him from turning Superman into an unstoppable killing machine, people got mad about it, and she was acting to save lives. But here?
Not only does Projectra snap that dude's neck purely for revenge, but she then turns around and asks her friends if anybody's got the balls to tell her that wasn't the right thing to do.
And that? That's the hardest shit since Straight Outta Compton. FACT.
The Toughest Woman in Comics
And that's the end of Badass Week on the ISB! Be here tomorrow when we return to our usual schedule of only talking about the most badass moments in comics history ninety-four percent of the time! Special thanks go out to everyone who voted in the Toughest Man competition and made this thing a smashing success!
And remember: Sgt. Rock is The Point!