Friday, November 18, 2016

The Avengers Defenders Clash - July 1973!

The Clash between the Avengers and the Defenders really begins to boil in Avengers #116 in "Chapter 2: Betrayal". Under a dynamic cover by John Romita and featuring interior artwork by longtime DC veteran and recent Marvel arrival Bob Brown with inks by Mike Esposito this issue is a true classic which celebrates to an extent a decade of Avengers action. The Avengers go to Doc Strange's Sanctum and are summarily flung back by his protective spells. When they finally hammer on the door Wong appears and tells them vamoose. They don't cotton this treatment and think they see the Black Knight inside but then they are once again whisked away by Strange's spells, the third time this has happened to them. We then switch to the villains Dormammu and Loki looking on as Doctor Strange and the Defenders learn how the Evil Eye was not destroyed in Fantastic Four #54 but rather divided into six parts and transported across the globe to different far-flung destinations. The Defenders divide their forces to retrieve the six parts. Loki meanwhile grows suspicious of his ally and goes to the Avengers in astral form to tell them of the Defenders and how they are attempting to get the Evil Eye elements for their own dire purposes. The Avengers then divide their forces to stop the Defenders threat and get the Evil Eye parts for themselves.

"Chapter 3: The Silver Surfer and the Vision and the Scarlet Witch" has the Surfer travel to the distant Pacific island of Rurutu where his appearance makes him a god in the eyes of the rustic natives. He gleans that the Eye must be in the island's active volcano and goes to investigate. Meanwhile the Vision and Wanda arrive just as the Surfer's activity causes the volcano to spew lava. This eruption injures the Scarlet Witch and an enraged Vision attacks the oblivious Surfer. The fight rages inside the volcano but when lava threatens to overrun Wanda's unconscious form Vision flies to save her while the Surfer captures the Evil Eye and flies off eager to warn his fellow Defenders that the Avengers are apparently on the board.

Next we slide over to Defenders #9 by Englehart with artwork by Sal Buscema and Frank McLaughlin. "Chapter 4: Divide and Conquer" has the Surfer arrive at Doc Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum and fill him in on the Avengers role in their efforts to capture the Evil Eye and save the Black Knight. Doc warns the other Defenders while the Vision does likewise by radio to his Avenger allies. The enemies now are ready to fight for what they need.

"Chapter 5: Iron Man Versus Hawkeye" is set in Monterrey Mexico as the Valkyrie drops Hawkeye the Archer off gather his portion of the Evil Eye. Hawkeye puts the moves on Valkyrie but is rejected as Hawkeye's attention is distracted by his old ally and current nemesis Iron Man flying overhead. Shellhead gets the Evil Eye from a local archeologist who discovered it in ruins a few years before but before he can leave with it Hawkeye attacks and takes the Eye. The two old enemies face off but when Hawkeye uses his arrows to distract Iron Man and have his repulsors cause damage which requires Shellhead to save bystanders he escape with the Eye.

"Chapter 6: Dr. Strange Versus Black Panther and Mantis" is set in the cornfields of Indiana. Doc Strange has found the Eye and is seeking to leave quietly disguised as a portly woman when Mantis uncovers his ruse and attacks. Then the Panther attacks and the two supreme athletes are able to cause Doc to lose control of the Eye. The three fight but the intervention of a farmer who is about to shoot is a sufficient distraction that Doc is able to weave a spell and leaves with the Eye in tow.

In these issues the saga really takes hold and the natural enmity between old foes like Hawkeye and Iron Man helps to fuel the conflict. While the battle between Strange and the Panther and Mantis seems wildly out of proportion, it nonetheless is a dandy little yarn with some really clever turns. Englehart said that he didn't want the Clash to be just a bunch of costumes battling it out but rather he wanted to give each character a moment to reveal something and in these two issues he does just that. The Vision's anger is surprising and revealing. The Scarlet Witch has very little to do here, but as we'll see she makes up for it later.  Hawkeye's always present grudge against his old comrades is natural and makes the battle between him and Iron Man quite reasonable.

Also spreading the conflicts across the globe to less traveled areas was a nifty idea. While Marvel had been adding some locales to its backgrounds for some years ( Daredevil in San Francisco for instance) the MU was still exceedingly New York City dominated. Getting this story out and about adds a freshness to it which might not be fully appreciated by modern audiences.

More to come as the Clash continues tomorrow.

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  1. Yeah!!! Love these issues! Defenders #9 in particular – with Shellhead about to paste Hawkeye a good one – unknowing that the Hulk & the others are ready to squish his head. Have to think these Clash issues ran screaming off the spinner racks that summer…Those first 10 or so issues of Defenders – I think the ol’ non-team was never better: Doc Strange, Hulk, Namor, Valkyrie, Hawkeye, Silver Surfer – perfect bunch of powerful outcasts and loners whipped into an unlikely super team book.

    1. The Defenders was always a fascinating concept if not always a well crafted book. I really like the first twenty-five or so issues and then it got bizarre and that was entertaining too in its own way. Later permutations were always worth looking at even if they weren't as strong. I even rather enjoyed the last days with the Beast and the Gargoyle.

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