The Meta Madhouse: Tournament of Terror rages ever onward, and the villainous think tank of the Lex Luthor Masterminds has been drained to its final two competitors. All week long, the greatest minds in Super-Villainy have contested against each other for the chance to represent Luthor in the final four, and titans of the field who had once brought the world to its knees have fallen by the wayside.
Brilliant killers, immortals, and spymasters have been rooted out by the cunning and manipulation of their adversaries, and it now all boils down to a competition between the most intelligent enemies of Superman and Batman alike. Which of these two will take Luthor’s green pennant to the big show? Only you, our voters, can decide that, by voicing in our polls who YOU believe would be the victor in this ultimate showdown between the most formidable brains in the DCU. (Based, naturally, on who would win in a FIGHT, as opposed to who’s been in more movies, or whatever, but of course who would be doing a thing like that? We all have integrity here.)
I’m Alex Jaffe, trivia master, investigative columnist, and “who would win in a fight” expert, and I’m here for the last time in this particular bracket to weigh in with my professional opinion on who SHOULD win this fight by my own assessment of each fighter’s capabilities, psychology, and history, until we do it all over again with the Cheetah Beasts. Let’s look over this climactic clash between the collector from Colu, and the lord of the League of Assassins. And if you want to read up on all of the fallen champions from this bracket of malevolent Masterminds, check out our special Meta Madhouse collection before casting your vote!
FINAL ROUND: BRAINIAC VS. RA’S AL GHUL
First order of business here: it’s my professional responsibility to admit where I went wrong with yesterday’s assessment of the semi-final match-up between Lady Shiva and Ra’s al Ghul. I was warned that I have a blind spot when it comes to Shiva, the deadliest martial artist in the DC Universe, and in my own hubris I ignored these warnings. In the past, Ra’s al Ghul has done everything he can to avoid a direct conflict with Shiva, indicating to me that should the conflict ever come to pass, Lady Shiva’s victory was assured. My mistake, however, was assuming that it would be a fair fight. Of course Ra’s al Ghul knows, for all his training and experience and Lazarus Pit derived vigor, that he would lose out in a purely martial contest. But as a long term associate of the League of Assassins, Ra’s al Ghul would know Shiva’s proven weaknesses. And as one of the greatest minds in the Masterminds, he would take advantage of those flaws in her otherwise impeccable defense.
For all of Lady Shiva’s martial prowess, her internal constitution is as vulnerable as anyone’s to biochemical attacks. It’s a weakness that Cheshire and even Tim Drake have exploited in the past, faced with a confrontation against this formidable enemy. Ra’s al Ghul’s own penchant for biological warfare is such that he’s threatened the entire planet with his population-clearing concoctions, only to be foiled by Batman. By inoculating himself beforehand, Ra’s al Ghul could have arranged to fill the arena with whatever deadly aerosol chemicals he had cooked up, hindering his opponent’s stamina to the point where even Shiva could fall. Deadly. Devious. Disappointing, to seekers such as I of pure sportsmanship in these contests of strength and skill. But not beyond the capacity of an evil mastermind like Ra’s al Ghul. And a tactic he may yet employ again.
Throughout this tournament, Brainiac has used an augmented strength rivaling his Kryptonian nemesis to strong-arm his way through a bracket of brains. His telepathic defenses kept him safe from Maxwell Lord. His cybernetic safeguards protected him from the attempted technological assaults of Vandal Savage and Talia al Ghul. Indeed, if Ra’s were to attempt to engage Brainiac by hacking his systems, it would spell certain defeat for the lord of assassins. In Beware the Batman, Ra’s al Ghul commissioned an effort to dominate the planet by taking control of the internet -- an effort which was thwarted by a young Barbara Gordon. If young, pre-Batgirl Babs can hack through Ra’s al Ghul’s best efforts, then defending against Ra’s would be child’s play for Brainiac.
But interestingly, in a fight against Brainiac, Ra’s al Ghul may find the methods which took Shiva down to be even MORE effective. You see, despite his relative inexperience with alien foes, Ra’s al Ghul has something that Brainiac isn’t prepared for: access to the Batcomputer, and the voluminous contingency plans Batman has put in place against every conceivable threat based on his own tactical analysis and observed history of each subject in battle. That access allowed Ra’s al Ghul to take down the entire Justice League in “JLA: Tower of Babel,” and that access may allow him to defeat his alien foe today.
In “Superman: Brainiac,” the Coluan is defeated after Superman pushes the fight against him into a swamp teeming with invasive microscopic organisms. With no defenses against infection from the sterile environment within his ship, Brainiac immediately falls prey to an infection upon contact with this unfamiliar biome. In the business, we call that a “War of the Worlds” style execution. Ra’s al Ghul is no Superman, but he knows a thing or two about contagion. Provided that he’s not punched or blasted into oblivion first- which, let’s be honest, is the most likely outcome here- Ra’s al Ghul has the devious mind necessary to take another win against a foe who should by all means have him dead to rights. After all, it’s the Luthor Masterminds way: if you can’t beat ‘em, cheat ‘em.