Monday, April 07, 2008

This World Is Mine! (Marvel)
Defenders #43 When: January 1977
Why: Gerry Conway How: Keith Giffen & Klaus Janson

The Story So Far...
In an effort to capture a powerful mystic gem, known as the Star of Capistan, the villainous genius Egghead forms the self-proclaimed Emissaries of Evil. With Rhino, Solarr, and the insane Cobalt Man, Egghead draws his plans against the protector of the gem, Omar Karindu.

The Defenders become involved when Karindu arrives in New York to summon the aid of his old friend, Dr. Strange. Alas; unbeknownst to Karindu, the gem has already been able to exert it's will over the Sorceror Supreme; transforming him into the super powered, Red Rajah! A fact that also escapes Egghead's attentions, as he sends Solarr and Rhino into battle against a force they can't hope to defeat.

Meanwhile; the Defenders a potential disaster when they prevent the Cobalt Man from detonating a nuclear explosion in downtown Manhattan! Cobalt Man's failure prompts Egghead to finally resort to his own means, and so, the evil genius gathers his inventions of science for an assault on the Sanctum Sanctorum!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Hulk 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Egghead 6 (Genius)
Speed: Valkyrie 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Hulk 6 (Generator)
Agility: Nighthawk 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting Ability: Valkyrie 6 (Warrior)
Energy Power: Cobalt Man 6 (Mass Destruction)

- Starr's genius for technological and mechanical design made him the perfect recruit for underworld figures seeking new influences in their battle with the growing number of superheroes. Though he would rise to prominance in the villainous community as an opponent of Ant-Man; Elihas Starr first earned the attentions of the criminal underworld, and the nickname Egghead, when tabloids learned of his scheme to steal government secrets whilst working as a scientist.

Egghead's hatred for Henry Pym would eventually lead to his downfall. After surviving a nearly fatal encounter with the Cobalt Man, Elihas Starr was finally killed when an attempt to shoot Pym resulted in a misfire caused by one of the Avenger Hawkeye's arrows.

- The Defenders are: Nighthawk, Valkyrie, Hulk, Red Guardian, Clea, and Power Man.

Interdimensional interlopers would prompt Dr. Strange to manipulate the unruly powers of Prince Namor and the incredible Hulk.
Together they would successfully curb the threat of the Undying Ones, prompting Strange to call upon their services, as well as those of the Silver Surfer, in future collectings of the so-called 'non-team.'

Strange would continue to summon the aid of various heroes in times of need, expanding the membership to include a vast array of brief allies and honorary members. Among the more lasting roster; Valkyrie, Nighthawk, Hellcat, Angel, Beast, Ice Man, Moondragon, Gargoyle, and Power Man.

Nighthawk would assume leadership over the team and bring a new sense of order whilst funding their operations, and providing a base of headquarters. In the wake of the superhero Civil War, Nighthawk heads up a new version of the team as part of the Fifty-States Initiative. His membership prominently features; Blazing Skull, Colossus, She-Hulk, Atlas, and Paladin.

The Math: The Defenders Ranking: Hulk (#4)

What Went Down...
Despite the Doctor's absence, the Defenders bring Cobalt Man with them to Dr. Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum. In an effort to cure the armored villain of his insanity Red Guardian submits her expertise as a neurosurgeon, while Strange's apprentice, Clea, provides a telepathic link by mystic means!

With the team sufficiently distracted, Egghead is able to make his teleported entrance into the Sanctum undetected. A lumbering Hulk is the only Defender present during his arrival, but is quickly nullified by a sneak attack from the wile arsenal of of Egghead's eggs! A weird blanket springs from the contraption, quickly engulfing the Hulk in a prison immune to his angered fists!

Moving further into the Sanctum, Egghead next encounters the Asgardian powered warrior woman, Valkyrie! Though she is able to startle the stalking Egghead, she too quickly falls before the might of his egg-shaped inventions.
Before she can mount an attack, an electical current aimed expertly at Valkyrie's conductive metal sword, Dragonfang, renders the powerhouse unconscious!

Egghead is remorseless as he leaves Valkyrie a quivering mess to seek out the remaining members of the Defenders. Hearing voices from above, the emissary of evil makes his way up Dr. Strange's staircase, where he discovers Power Man and Nighthawk locked in debate over the Hero for Hire's place on the team.

The discussion is cut short when Nighthawk is neutralized by another of Egghead's restrictive devices! This time a contraption of binding cables is used, but when Egghead attempts the same tactic against Luke Cage, he learns a nasty fact about the Power Man's invulnerable skin!

Having under estimated Cage's might, Egghead's toss proves off.
The tiny egg-like contraption harmlessly ricochet's off the hero's chest, dispersing it's contents with inconsequential result. Ever a champion for good, Cage descends on the villain who previously experimented and attempted to kill his niece by planting a bomb in her car.

Cage gets a little payback, effortlessly avoiding Egghead's wristmounted blaster, to square up for an explosion of his own -- with his fist!

Just as Cage continues to unload a beating on Egghead, the mystic operation to cure the Cobalt Man of his madness comes to an end! Egghead crashes through the door of the operating room, prompting the first thought in the unknown quantity of Cobalt Man's new mind: "It's HIM -- EGGHEAD!"

Freed of the fog of insanity, Cobalt Man's first thoughts are of revenge!
Once so confident, Egghead now scrambles across the floor, overwhelmed and terrified. Cobalt Man has no trouble manhandling his manipulator and to the shock of all present this desperate man, Ralph Roberts, ignites himself in a suicidal nuclear implosion. The move sees an end to both men, but leaves the startled Defenders unharmed, and ponderous of the sacrifice made.

The Hammer...
Now, if you've been following our spotlight on superhero teams, you might have been anticipating an Avengers feature. More on that momentarily, but first, a bit of house keeping, because this marks the first points winner in the Infinite Wars Fantasy League!

I feel I have no choice but to lay defeats on Hulk, Valkyrie, and Nighthawk, as well as Egghead, who rendered each ineffective but ultimately fell to Power Man and Cobalt Man! The assist goes to Clea and Red Guardian also, for their vital role in setting up the climactic conclusion!

While I don't intend to make a note of it regularly, this is a special circumstance, because we have our first Fantasy League draftee in action: Luke Cage! You'll have to wait until next month's punch-up to get a full recap, but it's nice to finally alleviate the expectations built-up by these pre-selected reviews. Fun!

Keeping with the self-referencial tone, we return to the opening remarks.
If you've been anticipating the modern counterparts to our previous team spotlights [The Invaders, Justice Society of America] you might have been expecting some Avengers. I wanted to use this opportunity to reflect back on the contemporary relevance of these teams not just as continuing presences [as per the previous reviews], but as influences on the evolution of the super-team.

Top 25 Defenders
#1 Spider-man
#2 Hulk
#3 Wolverine
#4 Captain America
#5 Mr. Fantastic
#6 Daredevil
#7 Thing
#8 Sub-Mariner
#9 Beast
#10 Iron Fist
#11 Silver Surfer
#12 Luke Cage
#13 Deadpool
#14 Wasp
#15 Ghost Rider
#16 Hellcat
#17 Angel
#18 Yellowjacket
#19 Dr. Strange
#20 USAgent
#21 War Machine
#22 Iceman
#23 Blazing Skull
#24 Ronin
#25 Nova

The Defenders have had a
pretty relaxed admission
policy during their years as
the famous non-team.
Thought you knew them all?
Surprised? Drop a comment
and discuss the Defenders!
The Avengers are an entirely valid reflection of the model arguably introduced by DC's earliest compilation of their headlining properties. That said, the Avengers were very quick to establish their own characters and peculiarities in a way the Defenders never did.
Granted, he was a member of the Avengers, but the frictioned admission of the Sub-Mariner in the Invaders and Defenders, even when not expressed, draws far more parallels between the nature of both teams.

Heck, it's also a nice opportunity to reflect back on a team that's just been revived as a belated inclusion in the Fifty-States Initiative. The Last Defenders hit shelves last month with Joe Casey (writer), and Jim Muniz (penciller), at the helm of what we can only hope is anything but the last Defenders adventure. Working against the pair will be some of the qualities that have made modern comics such a strong landscape.

Whilst revising for this review I was drawn not only to the many erratic appearances of characters but also the promotion footnotes at the bottom of pages.
The technique, common to seventies Marvel, (and recalled in the flashback presentation of Mighty Avengers #10), pitches the appearance of heroes (and villains!) as major features of upcoming issues. It's a sense of grandeur somewhat lost on an age of creator celebrity, and concern for an audience encouraged to confuse the role history has to play.

Today's stories boast better coordination than ever.
We just finished talking about the strength of DC's editorial overlords [Member of Society], who've purveyed a sense of reality unrivalled, and yet, there's something to be said of this time without consequence. A time when it was recognised that the constant - the characters - were something to behold and marvel. With so many characters transcending their writers and creators to be immortalized on the big screen, one wonders why there isn't still that sense of passion in modern marketing.

Though characterized by the rise of individual industry share holders, like; Frank Miller, Alan Moore, Todd McFarlane, Erik Larsen, and Jim Lee; I think we might have seen the peak of compromise in the eighties and nineties. Which seems like a very peculiar statement to make, but for the most part, feels very accurate on the broadest of terms. Terms that aren't meant to suggest all writers and pencillers should immediately retreat into anonymity. I actually think the recognition of the artists responsible for these projects is worthy, if often a source of distraction for fans. I just think we need to reconsider the balance and power of the characters, and as always, reflect on the history of said fiction with warm regards. This is comics!

Oh, and speaking of comics, I'd be remiss if I didn't raise one last thing before I sign off. It's something that occurred to me when writing up the bio for Egghead (in the tape). A bio that echoed something unfamilar I felt I'd written fairly recently: Factoids about Ant-man's rogues gallery!

With Hank Pym relegated to wife-beating bastard status, ever since Jim Shooter's domestic dispute of a run on Avengers, it's easy to forget Pym was once an adventurer in his own right, capable of far more than shrinking from site whenever trouble did come. My feelings of deja vu came from a similar account of a villains' bitter hatred of Pym, written for the bio on Whirlwind!
So, this begs the question: Character attributed to the birth of some great C-list villains; or just an insufferable prick from the get-go? Makes you think!

The Fight: 4.5 The Issue: 4.5

Of course, no sooner than I stress the importance of characters, am I compelled to highlight the work of Keith Giffen (and Klaus Janson)! Best known for his later work with the Justice League, Giffen shows an immature style in the pages of Defenders, seemingly emulating elements of industry legends Jack Kirby and Sal Buscema! Hey, if you're gonna start somewhere, it's not a bad place to start! If you want to continue the chain and ape Giffen's early work, you'll find it collected in Essentials format! You can find it, and collections of most other issues reviewed on the Infinite Wars, in the Amazonian Gift Shop! Contained within are a whole range of great prices, and by using purchase links provided, you help sponsor the site! Egg-cellent!

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