Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Geekfight: Yama-Dharma, fallen, of the Celestial City versus Doctor Doom

I didn't come up with the idea of these hypothetical match ups on my own. They just seem to be the kind of thing every geek discovers independently. And Christopher Lee was publicly dismissive of them, I happen to think they're a fun way to pass the time, so here's my latest offering.

Doctor Doom heads a great number of lists and he's always a popular inclusion in these fights, and he generally performs well.  I attribute that to the fact that he's capable of operating in so many different arenas. Political? He rose from nothing to rule Latveria with an iron fist (literally) and enjoys diplomatic immunity. Technological? Among other accomplishments, he built his army of robot duplicates and his suit of power armor himself. Psychic? He learned a trick to transfer his mind into another person's body. Magical? Oh, yeah, he's a sorcerer too. (He also invented a time machine, but really, that's just gilding the lily at this point.)

I was originally considering Darth Vader as an adversary, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized Doom would crush him. So the problem is coming up with a worthy opponent, because, since Doom is so accomplished in so many different ways, he can switch the contest to an area where he has the overwhelming advantage. I thought about it and realized the problem with Doom was that he was simply too versatile in the ways of destruction.

And then I thought "Why does that phrase sound familiar?"

And then I answered my own question. "Because Sam said it about Yama."

And right there we had our contest.

Doctor Doom is well known. Yama is not, so I'll provide a little background. He's a character from Roger Zelazny's Lord of Light, a novel where settlers from Earth have landed on a distant world and used the technology to take on the identities of the various deities of the Hindu pantheon. Yama, like Doom, is a polymath of Da Vincian scope, having invented many of the artifacts the gods use to maintain their rule.

"...I hear he's dreamed up some other little jewels, too, to serve the will of the gods ... like a mechanical cobra capable of registering encephalogram readings from a mile away, when it rears and spreads its fan. It can pick one man out of a crowd, regardless of the body he wears. There is no known antidote for its venom. Four seconds, no more ... Or the fire wand, which is said to have scored the surfaces of all three moons while Lord Agni stood upon the seashore and waved it. And I understand that he is designing some sort of jet-propelled juggernaut for Lord Shiva at this moment ... things like that."

He is also a brilliant tactician, though he leaves the work of strategy to others. He was an accomplished enough fencer to handily best an opponent who spent three lifetimes learning the use of weapons. It's unclear how old he is (he's described as "third-generation", but references are made to his childhood that imply that it was something that happened in living memory, so it's unlikely that generation has the meaning of twenty-five or thirty year span as it does in the modern world, but rather are probably on the order of the Yugas, or ages of the world, in Hindu belief), but he has at least several lifetimes worth of experience.

He also wields the power of the death gaze. (Though he needs to make eye contact for that and that's how Doom triggers his mind transfer, so he may wish to forebear.)

Let's set the rules for this engagement. We'll assume that the battle is taking place in a location where Doom either does not have access to his time platform or the local physics do not support it. So, no going back in time to kill Yama's grandparents. (Also, Marvel time travel has traditionally been held to be travel to another timeline, and your actions there do not alter the timeline you left. So if Doctor Doom did go back in time to give his opponent a retroactive abortion, from Yama's perspective, Doom would simply disappear entirely, never to be seen again.)

Magic is a little trickier. I'm tempted to go with Yama's naturalistic world view. "...The four points of the compass be logic, knowledge, wisdom and the unknown. Some do bow in that final direction. Others advance upon it. To bow before the one is to lose sight of the three. I may submit to the unknown, but never to the unknowable. The man who bows in that final direction is either a saint or a fool. I have no use for either." So, for the purposes of this exercise, I'll posit that Doom's magic is control of some energy field that obeys its own laws, is consistent within its own framework and ultimately knowable, but beyond Yama's current ability to comprehend.

Wikipedia attributes the following sorcerous powers to Doctor Doom: He is capable of energy projection, creating protective shields, and summoning hordes of demonic creatures. Those are all pretty irrelevant, because they pretty much duplicate abilities he already has, but I don't think some kind of supernatural scrying would be an unreasonable addition. Yama developed demon repellent, a chemical agent to repulse the rakasha, malevolent shape changing energy creatures that were commonly regarded as supernatural before he sat down and began the hard work of pinning down just how they work.  A similar dynamic is probably in play here. Doom's magic is outside his realm of experience, but given sufficient time, he could probably understand it well enough to develop countermeasures.

The Match

Putting aside outliers like the time Doctor Doom enslaved the entire world or stole the Beyonder's power, if we give each man his full compliment of powers and allies and transport them to some war world and have them slug it out for no reason, I would have to give it to Yama. "Hey, Agni, would you mind burning this guy's country to a cinder from half a continent away?"

Even if we limit it to his buddies, say the forces that assaulted Hellwell, (Yama, Agni, Shiva and Kali) or the Lokapalas (Yama, Krishna, Kubera and either Agni or Sam, depending on when in the story we're discussing), Yama would still win, because Agni's Universal Fire and Sam's Electrodirection are so overwhelming. You're not going to make such a great showing when Agni, blasts you from across the horizon or Sam makes your armor into a metal coffin.

So, let's say we drop them into two identical villages on opposite sides of the continent. Give them each a fully stocked workshop. Doom has a retinue of a dozen doombots, Yama has the thunder chariot, but it's not stocked with warheads, and also some growth tanks, body lockers and transfer equipment, because that's such an important part of the Lord of Light story.  They know that they have a counterpart with comparable skills, and we'll say that the specific circumstances of the scenario are such that each man is inclined to defeat the other.

In their individual canon, both Yama and Doom tend to invent idiosyncratic weaponry, but at least Yama has an excuse.  "I've been designing new weapons. It is a shame that there must be so many separate and exotic ones. It is quite a drain on my genius to make each a work of art, rather than to mass-produce a particular species of offense. But the plurality of the paranormal dictates it. Someone always has an Attribute to stand against any one weapon. Let them face, though, the Gehenna Gun and be fibrillated apart, or cross blades with the Electrosword, or stand before the Fountain Shield, with its spray of cyanide and dimethyl sulfoxide, and they will know that it is the Lokapalas they face!"

That doesn't apply against Doom, and I think Yama is fundamentally a practical man, as engineers are wont to be, so he's free to mass produce the most devastating armaments he can devise. We'll assume that unique weapons like Shiva's trident or Agni's wand require too great an investment in resources or time to be ready in time for the battle.

Give what's been outlined, I think Doom would take the early advantage, between his divinatory magic and the manpower he'll get by conquering the surrounding villages. I figure he'd set up Doombots at first and then relegate the day to day operations to ambitious and ruthless burgermeisters as he consolidates his power base.  

It's funny to think of Doctor Doom being more gregarious, but Yama is generally solitary and seeks solace in his work. I could see him working in isolation at first and developing some kind of drone or simple AI for recon and only mobilizing the surrounding villages when it became clear that he needed bodies for the war effort. However, once Team Yama is on war footing, I could see him outfitting his troops more effectively than Doom's. Either her developed the death bath that Kali uses to confer limited invulnerability to her assassins or he's capable of reverse engineering it. Ditto with Brahma's "special and improved body".

Once the two sides are engaged in open battle, I could see a number of clever ploys from each. The mechobra could distinguish the real Doom from the Doombots, until Doctor Doom figures out a way to spoof or dampen them. Yama gets one Get Out of Jail Free card in the form of radio transmitted body transfer until Doom figures out what's going on and how to jam it. Doom transferring his consciousness into a body from the lockers in order to sabotage Yama from within. That kind of thing.

They are pretty clearly matched in capability, but I think I would give it to Yama for three reasons.
  1. I could see him delegating aspects of the war effort more readily. Ganesha calls him "a technician, not an administrator", and while it's certainly prudent to take everything Ganesha says with a grain of salt, I'm inclined to agree with that assessment. That said, I believe he has a firm understanding of his own shortcomings and would appoint those capable of doing things he can't more than Doom would.
  2. This is almost an extension of the first point, but I think Yama is fundamentally more pragmatic than Doom. Part of Doctor Doom's character is the overwhelming, destructive pride. He's fond of the dramatic gesture, and when facing an equal, he's going to expend more resources than Yama, and he'll probably lose the war due to attrition as much as anything else.
  3. "The Lokapalas are never defeated."