Saturday, November 19, 2016
The Avengers Defenders Clash - August 1973!
Avengers #117 picks up the mighty Clash between the Avengers and the Defenders. In "Holocaust" we visit our villains who are upset that the Avengers have involved themselves. Loki keeps his own role in activating them a secret as Dormammu rages.
"Chapter 7: Swordsman Versus Valkyrie" offers up one of the more curious chapters as two sword-wielding heroes clash. The Swordsman is loathe to visit Bolivia since the last time he was in South America it was part of the Mandarin's Minions in a scheme to conquer the world. Now reformed he comes to a castle which looks like it was picked up and transplanted straight from Europe. That's pretty much the case it turns out as it is the castle of a former Nazi, and its current owner admits the Swordsman to investigate. The Evil Eye is concealed in a chest in the castle but before he can claim it the Valkyrie appears and a vicious sword battle begins. The unlucky Swordsman though is wounded when his host proves to be an unreconstructed Nazi and shoots him in the back. He is dealt with by Valkyrie but she then takes the Eye and departs as the police arrive to save the wounded Swordsman.
"Chapter 8: Captain America Versus The Sub-Mariner" finds the two former Invader allies facing off in the streets of Osaka, Japan where Namor has already found the Evil Eye. They trade barbs and eventually blows. The battle is furious and Cap's consummate skill allows him to hold his own against Namor's power but their conflict is halted when Japan's resident superhero Sunfire appears and takes hold of the Evil Eye. Despite having been allies in the pages of Subby's own title, the two fight and Sunfire loses his grasp on the Eye. It comes into the clutches of Captain America who decides that there has been enough fighting. He and Namor form a tentative truce and head back to America.
Defenders #10 titled "Breakthrough" offers up the epic battle most fans had been looking for. "Chapter 8: Hulk Versus Thor" finds the Hulk lumbering through the streets of Los Angeles His mystically guided instincts have him find the Evil Eye and dig it up out of the center of the street when Thor arrives. The two mighty foes face off and a ferocious battle ensues. Onlookers are at once mesmerized and terrorized by the war between these two titans and just as they are about the clash for the finale of their battle the combined forces of the Avengers and the Defenders arrive and announce an end to hostilities.
"Chapter 10: United We Stand" shows how the Defenders at Doctor Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum are comparing notes after their battles when Namor returns from Japan. He brings with him the assembled Avengers and soon the two teams are discussing the matter like allies and even friends instead of rivals. They then see the pressing need to head to Los Angeles and stop the conflict between Thor and the Hulk and do that. But just as the two teams realize that they have been manipulated and attempt to put the collected parts of the Evil Eye together Dormammu's servant Asti appears and gobbles them up and disappears into the Dark Dimension. Almost immediately the Earth and its inhabitants begin to change and become monstrous as Dormammu appears and announces his scheme to have the Earth enter into the Dark Dimension and become yet one more of his kingdoms. The Defenders and the Avengers vow to battle this threat.
These installments really offer up some delightful battles. The conflict between Swordsman and Valkyrie is a natural in many ways and offers up some real surprises. The Swordsman is Englehart's hard luck hero and his efforts to show his mettle almost come up short as seen here. Cap and Namor are fun as always and their battle plays to the strengths of both. Cap has super-strength during his time and that at least makes the conflict plausible if the outcome was not in really in doubt.
The addition of Sunfire to the situation was a real treat for me. I caught his debut in X-Men #64 and have always liked the Japanese hero. That he didn't become part of the new X-Men some years later was a real disappointment to this fan.
The battle between the Hulk and Thor of course is a rematch. These two faced off in Journey into Mystery #114 which itself is an expanded version of a battle they had all the way back in Avengers #3.
That the two teams would cleave together in the end was only natural. Englehart does a masterful job of pacing this story and reading this time I was especially mindful of how the turns come just in the nick of time. Since I always read it now through, it's difficult to remember what it was like to read it as it emerged month by month over the summer.
Next time the saga ends. The teams have stopped battling each other, but there's plenty more to fight over tomorrow.