Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Criminal Organizations of the Marvel Universe: The Hand

Ah the Hand. They are Marvel's mysterious equivalent of the Yakuza. The Hand rule the criminal underworld of Japan with an iron fist, using ninjas to enforce their whims. These silent and deadly assassins make the Hand particularly terrifying since they are able to strike quickly and silently to eliminate their foes.

But how effective are ninjas once superheroes are thrown into the mix? The Hand have frequently found themselves in conflict with the likes of Daredevil, Wolverine, Electra, and other costumed heroes (including the New Avengers and the X-Men). In all of those cases, the heroes have come out on top, resoundingly trouncing the Hand and their well-trained enforcers. Granted this is usually the outcome whenever a criminal organization goes up against a hero or heroes, but the amount of energy required to train hand ninjas makes these losses even more devastating.

Let's break it down. In order for a single Hand ninja to be an effective enforcer, they require a certain baseline level of skill. To be effective, the average hand ninja needs to be able to at least take out one average street thug with a gun. But the training required for a ninja (who fights primarily with short range melee and thrown weapons) is obviously greater than the training required for the average street thug. In order to be a threat, a Hand ninja needs to learn the use of multiple weapons and martial arts styles quickly and effectively. The ninja also needs training in stealth. By cultivating these skills, a well-trained Hand ninja will be able to negate the inherent advantage provided by using a firearm, allowing the Hand ninja to dispatch his/her enemies with style and efficiency. But this can only be achieved by having a ninja train extensively for many months with several masters of respective styles and skills (swords, shuriken, stealth, etc.).

It also seems likely that the Hand will need to recruit individuals into their service who are outstanding physical specimens. Proper ninjas need a baseline amount of speed, strength, and dexterity that not every human being possesses. As a result, the Hand would need to screen and recruit applicants prior to their ninja training. And in some cases, the Hand ritually murder their trained ninjas and resurrect them to give them superhuman strength and endurance. This ceremony takes at least a day and requires the efforts of a dozen of the Hand's gifted sorcerers. All in all, this is a lot of time and energy invested into a single Hand ninja.

And then Wolverine kills several hundred of these ninjas in a single day. The investment hardly seems worth the return.

To produce a single ninja requires at least several months and the continuous effort of multiple ninja trainers. Hundreds of man-hours are expended. And Wolverine merely needs to flick his wrist to negate all of that effort.

In a world where heroes can wade through your well-trained sycophants, it certainly seems more economical to hire random thugs with some marksmanship training and provide them with automatic weapons than to imbue hundreds of ninjas with mystical powers. Sure, undead ninjas are cooler but if they're just going to be torn apart anyway why not save yourself the time and effort of training your cannon-fodder?


Seangreyson said...

The undead nature of the hand ninjas does change things a little though.

Yes when they're killed they dissolve, but for all we know they may just reform back at the Hand Base. So it actually may be more cost efficient in the long run (since the regular thugs do need to be replaced when Wolverine chops them up).

Anonymous said...

another thing to consider is that the Hand is not using its ninja minions exclusively to torment superheroes. assassination, extortion, kidnapping, grand theft, espionage (industrial or against a government), and countless other profitable crimes become possible on very large scales when an army of ninjas is available.

It could be that the Hand is willing to sacrifice a certain percentage of ninjas to the depredations of Wolverine and friends in order to keep the heroes busy, so the rest of the ninjas can be profitable.

There's also the possibility that being sent against Wolverine is a form of punishment within The Hand, a way for ninjas who have failed in their duties to get an honorable death in battle.

Matt said...

Seems to me this is a simple return on investment issue. The question is: How much time and energy does it truly take to create the ninjas? It seems that the Hand leadership might want to sit around and decide whether that is the best use of resources. Perhaps they might be able to come up with a more innovative, and dare say, cost effective way of producing their foot soldiers. Or, perhaps, they could develop a better source of bad guy to deal with the superheroes and save the ninjas for jobs that they can actually complete.

Cisco said...

Maybe The Hand is Marvel's way of illustrating Bastiat: their multiple defeats at the hands of American (and Canadian!) superheroes is SEEN, but their slaughtering most would-be Japanese superheroes in their own territory is UNSEEN. But that's stretching it.

Renato said...

Probably the hand uses ninjas in more profitable actions than fight with wolverine to balance their expenses.

Brian Schmidt said...

Persuasive. Maybe The Hand should invest their assets in Treasury Bills instead of undead ninjas - almost no chance of a negative return on investment.

Perhaps this and other possibilities (real estate? home businesses?) will be explored in a future Marvel comic.

bottleHeD said...

Maybe the vast majority of the Ninjas are all clones. Take one Master Ninja, make a 100 copies of him. This way, the physical attributes are passed on - speed, fitness, etc. Then the training could be directly implanted into their brains. I can see that working.

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