Thursday, November 17, 2016
The Avengers Defenders Clash - June 1973!
It's the summer of 1973 and the Avengers are a decade old when the Clash's unofficial roots really begin. The Avengers grow concerned about The Black Knight and their recent inability to contact one of their newest members. To ascertain his situation the Assemblers fly to England and try to enter Garrett Castle but because of a spell by Doctor Strange cannot enter. They suspect foul play and detect Strange's role. Before they can act further though they are attacked by savage "Troglodytes" who live beneath the castle, a tribe of debased peasants who have lived in isolation for centuries. Fending off that threat they return to America to confront Doctor Strange.
But the Clash officially kicks off with "Prologue: Alliance Most Foul" in the back pages of Avengers #115 (Englehart with pencils by Bob Brown and inks by Mike Esposito). In that prologue we return to the final moments of Thor #207 as Loki seemingly falls to his doom after being blinded.
He is instead whisked to the Dark Dimension by Dormammu who seeks to ally himself with the Norse god to bring defeat to the Defenders and Doctor Strange. Dormammu's plan is to not violate his oath to Strange to not enter the Earth dimension, he will instead use the power of The Evil Eye to make the Earth part of his own Dark Dimension. In exchange for his arcane might, Dormammu promises to return Loki's sight. The God of Mischief agrees to the Dread Dormammu's deal and the stage is set.
In Defenders #8 (by Englehart and featuring artwork by Sal Buscema and inker Frank McLaughlin) after defeating the schemes of the Red Ghost and Attuma in the front story, the Defenders repair to Doctor Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum. "Chapter One: Deception" begins with the Defenders surrounding the stone figure once named The Black Knight. Using the Orb of Agamotto Doctor Strange is able to send a message to the distant dimension where Dane Whitman's spirit resides and he finds him and delivers a message of hope that the Defenders will work to return him to his body and Earth. But the spiritual Knight's return message is intercepted by Dormammu and Loki and altered. The altered message instructs the Defenders that they need to search the Earth for the Evil Eye because only its power can save the Knight. With that misinformation, the Defenders pledge to find the ancient weapon.
While it's a tried and true trope of the Marvel Universe that heroes will fight when they encounter one another, this story which would occupy several comics over several months needed a good motivator. And this one is not bad. The Black Knight's complex destiny had been an ongoing affair in the pages of the Avengers for years. And the Defenders were a collection of some of the most dangerous beings on the planet, none of whom had really rock solid reputations. So it's quite easy for Loki, the being who actually helped create the Avengers and Dormammu, the Defenders most deadly enemy to twist the truth just enough. It will take a few more twists before this deception is complete and those come next time in Chapter 2 in the pages Avengers #116.
More to come as the Clash continues tomorrow.