Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Cassandra Cain versus the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad Vol. 1

It had to happen.  After briefly considering a fight between Cass and Mr. Kotter and his Sweathogs, I found myself thinking back to all those times-- possibly hundreds-- when I've suggested Cass's Batgirl series should have been more violent and tragic, along the lines of a Kazuo Koike work.  Lady Snowblood, for example, which provided Quentin Tarantino with some of his Kill Bill inspiration.  From there it was a simple imaginative leap to what I modestly call the Fight of the Century.

Cassandra Cain versus Bill and his Deadly Viper Assassination Squad.

Forget Vinnie Barbarino and Freddie "Boom Boom" Washington (for now).  Let's follow Cass around the world as she battles the most proficient team of professional killers ever known, each with his or her own murderous specialty.  Except for Bill himself and Beatrix Kiddo, who appear to be polymaths of death.

To be quite honest, there is no way an assassination squad operating on the highest levels like the Deady Vipers would ever confront Cass mano-a-mano.  Realistically, Bill would just have O-Ren "Cottonmouth" Ishii snipe Cass from a distance, fight over.  But even to accept the existence of people like these-- Cass aside-- requires suspension of disbelief.  And once having done that, we demand they put their skills on full display for our amusement.  And anyway, the possibilities contained within this scenario give me chills.  And they're multiplying.  I'm losing control.  Because the power this fight is supplying is electrifying!

Copperhead (Vernita Green).  Bill sends Copperhead, expert in both hand-to-hand combat and knife-fighting, after Cass first.  Copperhead wisely chooses to ambush Cass and their fight is a vicious one.  Copperhead is good, damn good, but she finds herself unable to land anything more than ineffectual glancing blows, and Cass manages several wicked strikes to let Copperhead know she's open for business.  At this point, Copperhead escalates the conflict with throwing knives, which Cass dodges.  As Copperhead tires and grows more desperate, she begins to make mistakes and Cass soon takes advantage, slipping inside Copperhead's guard, disarming her (breaking her wrist in the process), then putting her to sleep with a choke hold.  To Cass's surprise, Batman points out Copperhead actually managed to slice her just once, a shallow wound easily bandaged and not likely to cause any loss of speed or mobility.  Ashamed, Cass silently vows to do better next time.  Next time comes quickly...

Sidewinder (Budd).  Bill's brother Sidewinder is a more pragmatic fighter and comes after Cass with a shotgun loaded not with rock salt but with 12 gauge 00 buckshot.  Unfortunately for him, Copperhead's failure has cost the Deadly Vipers the vital element of surprise and Cass combat-rolls underneath the blast and comes up fighting.  Sidewinder is forced to use his shotgun as a club, but Cass has her opponent off-balance, landing a flurry of blows the tough Sidewinder almost manages to shrug off.  Years of alcohol abuse have dulled his combat edge, though, and Sidewinder succumbs faster than Copperhead.  A hotel room key leads Cass and Spoiler to Sidewinder's temporary lodgings, a seedy motel in a run-down Gotham City suburb.  There, among Sidwinder's possessions, Cass finds a katana.  Batman traces it to Hattori Hanzo and even though he forbids Cass to pursue the matter further and instructs her to shelter in a secret hideaway while he himself deals with Bill's assassins, Cass disobeys, but not before incapacitating Spoiler to keep her friend out of danger.  It's off to Okinawa for Cass.  Despite her lack of language skills, she's able to engage Hanzo in a quick "conversation" at his sushi restaurant and learns the next Deadly Viper to try her hand will be none other than...

Cottonmouth (O-Ren Ishii).  Just as the Bride's fight against Cottonmouth provided a violent spectacle at the end of the first Kill Bill, so must Cass's because it involves scores of black-suited gangsters doing their best to be the immoveable object in front of her unstoppable force.  O-Ren Ishii holds court at the the House of Blue Leaves, a large izakaya where she's protected by the Crazy 88 and serenaded by The 5678s.  Cottonmouth has learned the fates of both Copperhead and Sidewinder via Sophie Fatale's line of communications to Bill, and believes herself ready.  Cass infiltrates the izakaya and lays waste to the Crazy 88 in a spectacular fight scene that puts the one in Kill Bill Vol. 1 to shame, only with much less blood.  Incredibly, Cass kills not one single member of the gang, a feat that takes her longer than it did the Bride in the movie simply because Cass shows restraint.  She's able to knock out Gogo Yubari after a fast and furious scrap, and prepares to confront Cottonmouth, who is armed with her own katana.  This forces Cass to reluctantly use the one she took from Sidewinder, which she carried with her to force Cottonmouth to tell her more about the man who commissioned it (beyond what she's already learned from Hanzo).

They duel with blades flashing and ringing, with Cass outmatched at first but quickly learning to anticipate Cottonmouth's moves.  Soon she's pressing her attack and has Cottonmouth at a disadvantage.  With Cass suddenly distracted slightly by the possibility her opponent might also be her mother, Cottonmouth is able to wound Cass with a vicious slash.  This turns out to be a huge tactical mistake on Cottonmouth's part; with no chance to land a killing blow, a retreat to fight another day would have been the smarter move.  The cagey yakuza boss quickly realizes it, but too late.  Now fully committed to the contest, Cass disarms Cottonmouth and renders her helpless.  Sofie Fatale then reveals more information in order to free her boss from Cass's clutches, not suspecting that Cass would never kill, at least not on purpose.  Now fully apprised of the conspiracy against her, Cass leaves the defeated Cottonmouth to lick her wounds and plan for her own revenge.

End of Vol. 1!

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