Our last set of sixteen faces off as Superhero March Madness reaches the end of this opening round. Here’s the fourth and final quadrant of the bracket:
1. Jean Grey vs. 16. Black Widow
Between this matchup you have two Marvel redheads, and one omega level mutant. Dark Phoenix may be the most powerful being in Marvel history. As a villain, however, she won’t be fully represented here. But Jean Grey’s standard Phoenix Force still places her among the best of the best in all of comic book lore. The hero status may strip her of the ability to end reality as we know it with the blink of an eye, but either way Jean possesses second-to-none telekinesis and second-to-one telepathy. Black Widow’s lack of superpowers would be sorely evident here, and Jean wins easily.
8. Firestorm vs. 9. Ghost Rider
I suppose fire sort of cancels itself out here. But the flames that surround their appearances don’t exactly define these two heroes. Firestorm manipulates inorganic matter, and organic to a lesser extent. Ghost Rider serves as a walking punishment for those who have sinned. A person’s regrets, secrets, and overall darkness feeds directly into Ghost Rider’s power, one that he unleashes on his victims. Hopefully, we someday see one on screen that holds up to today’s standards. It’s technically impossible to kill him, but for the purpose of this tournament the “unkillable” characters can theoretically be incapacitated beyond a further ability to fight. So the question becomes very simple: Just how good or bad a person is Ronnie Raymond? He’s certainly too powerful to be whipped to death, so he could only be undone by the game-changing Penance Stare that can melt most villains. Against heroes, Ghost Rider loses much of his sting. Firestorm, by conventional standards, is a great person. It’d take some kind of antihero like The Punisher to be affected all that much by the Penance Stare, but Firestorm is a relatively clean slate. Sure, he’s inflicted pain (the strict interpretation of the Stare), but he saves lives. That leaves little to regret. Firestorm wins with some creativity and superior movement.
5. Adam Warlock vs. 12. Beast
Adam Warlock is a relative unknown to most people, but he’s a force to be reckoned with. His powers are similar to Captain/Ms. Marvel, only with slightly less raw power and a greater focus on healing and restoration. He flies around at high speeds, using a variety of energy-based attacks. Beast is a freak athlete, and his intelligence is something to consider in any encounter. Unfortunately for the classic X-Man, he’s grounded. This is a severe disadvantage against any flying opponent. Secondly, he can only attack from close range. There’s a chance he doesn’t even touch Warlock in this fight. Adam wins easily.
4. Green Lantern vs. 13. Gamora
A Green Lantern is only as strong as his will, and Hal Jordan possesses the most unbreakable willpower in the DC universe. He makes Batman look like a guy who doesn’t really exert himself. Oddly enough, he’s the only hero in this matchup who is actually a guardian of the galaxy. Gamora, on the other hand, is among the galaxy’s deadliest assassins. The faux-daughter of Thanos is not someone you want to mess with. But Hal Jordan can take on Thanos himself and make it a decent fight. He could beat Gamora by lifting a finger, literally. Green Lanterns can beat most people by lifting a finger. I imagine he’d conjure up a creative series of horrors that would end Gamora and walk away from this one without a scratch.
6. Aquaman vs. 11. Cyborg
It’s a battle of the Dawn of Justice cameos. Aquaman does boast a physical edge, with Luke Cage caliber skin and a combat résumé that rivals Wonder Woman. If they were to turn this into a boxing match, Aquaman would win a fairly competetive few rounds. You also have to factor in Cyborg’s extensive firepower and bond with technology. Aquaman is physically much stronger and tougher, but Cyborg can attack you in a variety of ways. Before we even talk about aquatic life, Cyborg’s already teleported this fight to the desert. So the fish army is off the table. If he really wants to abandon all honor and just go for the win, he teleports them both to space and hurries back while Aquaman chokes on nothing. I believe Cyborg wins this straight up, but if he started to lose control of the fight at any point he could end it in an instant. Cyborg either shoots or cheats his way to victory.
3. Flash vs. 14. Daredevil
They both wear red and have two of the better superhero shows on television. That’s about where the sameness between these two ends. While Daredevil may win the battle of who I’m going to watch first next week, Flash wins every second of his matchup. And there won’t be many seconds of this fight to win. Flash can circle Hell’s Kitchen a dozen times before Matt Murdock can climb to a single rooftop. Daredevil’s hand-to-hand advantage doesn’t do much against the speed of light and an opponent that can pass right through one of your punches. Flash wins in however much time he chooses to take.
7. Captain America vs. 10. Black Panther
Time for the only two Vibranium-wielding superheroes to go head to head. The king of Wakanda is dressed head to toe in the impact absorbing metal that Cap made famous with his starred and striped shield. Black Panther’s knowledge and overall use of Vibranium is superior, utilizing the material more efficiently on both offense and defense. What tips the scales in this fight is the fact that it would take place almost entirely in close quarters. While both characters have some ranged attacks, they both prefer to get up close and personal. Black Panther is a freak athlete, but Captain America is a superhuman one. In addition to this advantage, Cap doesn’t lose hand-to-hand fights. The few heroes who can match him in this regard don’t have his super soldier serum fueling every punch. Panther’s mastery of Vibranium would render Cap’s shield useless but, man vs. man, Cap wins on skill and heart.
2. Martian Manhunter vs. 15. Hawkeye
Let’s say for argument’s sake that Hawkeye just pumps Martian Manhunter full of fire arrows. Fire is a pretty crippling weakness for him, so this is almost certainly the tactic Clint would go with. The thing about weaknesses for these all-powerful characters is you still need to be ready to fight them after you’ve made them vulnerable. I can’t go fight Superman with Kryptonite. You’d need a Hulk with Kryptonite boxing gloves. Exploiting a weakness is only half the battle. You then need to back it up with considerable power, power that Hawkeye does not have. So to make it interesting, Hawkeye makes it rain fire on the Martian. But between telepathy, teleportation, and a wealth of power, the Martian Manhunter overcomes his greatest weakness to seize victory.
Just like that, the first round is over. We’ve had our fair share of surprises, highlighting the fact that March Madness is all about matchups. Whether it be college basketball or superhero fights, the matchups are more rock-paper-scissors than a discussion of which is higher on a scale of 1-10. Next time, we move forward to the second round and revisit those who have already claimed a win in this tournament.
For a recap, here are the previous fights from this first round:
Round 1-1: https://creators.co/@MikeCharest/3816417
Round 1-2: https://creators.co/@MikeCharest/3823089
Round 1-3: https://creators.co/@MikeCharest/3824811