Avengers #115-118 / Defenders #8-11
Issue(s): Avengers #115, Avengers #116, Avengers #117, Avengers #118, Defenders #8, Defenders #9, Defenders #10, Defenders #11
Left blind and falling in his last battle with Thor, Loki is rescued by Dormammu, who wants Loki's help in acquiring the Evil Eye, which it turns out was not destroyed back in Fantastic Four #54 but was actually split into six parts, each identical except in size.
Dormammu figures that Dr. Strange has five friends and there are six pieces, so why not get him and his friends to pick up the pieces for him? You'd think that it would make more sense for Dormammu to just get his cultists to acquire them. There'd be a lot less risk involved than trying to manipulate your enemies into doing it. But call it poetic justice or a plot contrivance, that's what he decided to do.
Dr. Strange has gathered the other Defenders in his house to try to restore the Black Knight, who has been turned to stone. He's a full Sorcerer Supreme so he believes he'll be able to succeed where he couldn't before.
The Hulk is still angry about Strange and the Silver Surfer's treatment of him from earlier in the day, but he figures out a reason why he'll stick around for now.
Strange casts a spell intended to locate the Black Knight's soul, but Dormammu interferes with it.
Meanwhile, the Avengers are trying to figure out what happened to the Black Knight's body/statue and the trail leads them to Dr. Strange's house. They are magically repelled with no explanation, which makes no sense, and they give up way too easily, which makes no sense. Iron Man says that he doesn't trust people who call themselves magicians and tries to reason that the magic that is pushing them back is actually a repulsor ray or something. Considering this takes place after the formation of the Illuminati, we will have to assume that he's putting up a front for his team mates.
The Hulk is bitter, a reference to an earlier story. "Magician and Silver-face made Hulk sleep till they came back!" He's willing to stick around to help the Black Knight, who has been turned to stone. The Valkyrie thinks she's in love with the Black Knight but she suspects it's because he's under the spell of the Enchantress, "because my existence and his present state both sprang from the Enchantress's psyche". Dr. Strange casts a spell to figure out how to help the Knight, but Loki and Dormammu manipulate the spell, leading Strange to believe he needs the Evil Eye to restore him.
After continually delaying to cure his blindness, Loki realizes that Dormammu will be pulling the ol' super villain double-cross on him after he gets the Evil Eye, so he decides to mess up the plan. It's a really sad day for Loki, really. He comes off whiny and weak, and he doesn't even try to turn things to his advantage; he just wants to foil the plot. He contacts the Avengers and lets them know what Dormammu is up to. But instead of just saying that Dormammu is manipulating the Defenders, he instead takes the approach of trying to convince them that the Defenders are all bad guys. Another plot contrivance.
On the other hand, convincing the Avengers that the Defenders are bad guys isn't too hard to do. For one thing, Dr. Strange just stole their friend and magicked them away. For another, they've been in fights with the Sub-Mariner and the Hulk before and they know those guys aren't very stable, something that could also be said for the Silver Surfer. The last time they saw the Valkyrie she was the Enchantress in disguise. That leaves Hawkeye, who left the Avengers in a huff and also has a bit of a temper.
From here the story breaks down into a Golden Age style split-em-up. Here's the breakdown:
Silver Surfer vs. Vision & Scarlet Witch. Things start off reasonable as the Vision decides to try and talk with the Surfer before getting into a fight. But when the Surfer accidentally triggers a volcano while looking for his piece of the Evil Eye, and the volcano injures Wanda, the Vision goes berserk and attacks.
The Surfer comments that the Vision is as powerful as he is, which can't be right. In the end the Vision has to stop fighting to rescue Wanda from more lava, letting the Surfer get away.
Dr. Strange vs. Black Panther & Mantis. Notice that all the ladies on the Avengers are paired off with chaperons. At least the Mantis isn't an actual detriment to the quest, unlike the Scarlet Witch. But really, what are two people with no real powers going to do against Dr. Strange? This only goes on as long as it does because the Mantis is a new character that Englehart wants to show off for a bit.
But Dr. Strange isn't so bad at the martial arts himself.
Then Strange gets serious and uses his magic.
The fight takes place in an Indiana corn field, and there's a good bit where the Black Panther introduces himself to a farmer, and the farmer's like "B-Black Panther?"
Hawkeye vs. Iron Man. Hawkeye is dropped off at his location by the Valkyrie, who Clint does an embarrassing job of hitting on. I'm no expert ladies' man (I have a website devoted to placing my comics in chronological order, people), but i know that grabbing them and going for tongue isn't the way to break the ice. Or maybe i'm wrong, because after swinging her sword and shouting "Male chauvinist pig!", she admits to herself that it was rather enjoyable.
Then she heads off and Iron Man shows up. Iron Man laments ever recommending Hawkeye for the Avengers. Hawkeye defeats Iron Man the same way he used to do it in the old days, by hitting him with acid arrows.
Way to learn from your past mistakes, IM.
Valkryie vs. Swordsman. I guess the Valkryie doesn't have super-strength yet, because you would think that between that and the fact that she's using the Black Knight's ebony blade that cuts through anything, this wouldn't be much of a contest. But i guess the Swordsman's blade was beefed up by the Mandarin. Most likely, Englehart just wanted to depict a swashbuckling sword fight.
Anyway, the fight ends unfairly where the owner of the castle shoots the Swordsman in the back for reasons i can't quite fathom (aha! Per the lettercol in issue #122, it turns out that the original intention here was that the owner of the castle was someone from the Nixon administration fleeing prosecution for Watergate, but at the time of publication no convictions had been made so Marvel backed out of that idea, leaving the confusing lack of motivation). The Swordsman, recently reformed but not quite up to speed on the whole "hero" thing, responds by impaling the guy before passing out.
Sub-Mariner vs. Captain America. Cap and the Sub-Mariner meet. It's clear from their conversation that, although they definitely both existed during WWII, they don't have the close relationship that was depicted in the Invaders series.
That's because that series wasn't written yet. Still, nothing here directly contradicts anything in the Invaders. They fight...
...with Cap utilizing his recently acquired super-strength to stay alive, and then, since they're fighting in Japan, Sunfire shows up.
There's a lot of "Imperialist" stuff thrown by the Japanese citizens and Sunfire, which, since Japan has always been a very US-friendly country in my life time, seems odd to me. Based on comments made during the fight, the two figure out that something isn't quite right here and they agree to stop the fighting. Thank god.
Hulk vs. Thor. Unfortunately these two didn't get the memo yet, so they go at it. Everyone loves a Thor/Hulk fight, but this one ends a little oddly, with the two of them in a static locking grip for an hour. Then the Avengers and Defenders arrive to break it up.
Even discounting the fights that ended inconclusively, the Defenders clearly win this one, which makes sense because they are a team of power-houses (Hawkeye excluded). Of course the nature of the battles worked in their favor. A full team-on-team battle would have allowed Captain America to utilize his tactical skills better and could have evened the odds. In other words, it never happens quite like this:
The two teams re-assemble at Avengers Mansion (I think. Or maybe it's Dr. Strange's house.) (Matthew Bradley confirms in the credits that it's Strange's house, and i trust him because he's a professor at Marvel University.)
Aware that it's exactly what Dormammu wants them to do, the group nonetheless assembles the Evil Eye, and it is immediately picked up by Dormammu's pet Asti the All-Seeing.
With the Evil Eye in his hands, Dormammu realizes that Loki has betrayed him and traps him in an energy cage. He then proceeds to suck our dimension into his Dark Dimension (thus not technically breaking his word) and everybody starts turning into demons. We get a montage of scenes from around the universe as all the heroes (SHIELD, Spider-Man, FF, Ka-Zar, Luke Cage, Adam Warlock on Counter Earth, the Inhumans, Ghost Rider, Man-Thing) and villains (Dr. Doom, Dracula, Thanos on Titan) fight the demons, which is pretty damn cool even if the art isn't great.. The Watcher shows up to record this momentous occurrence.
Dr. Strange leads the Avengers and Defenders into the Dark Dimension where they face Dormammu. Everyone gets picked off (including the Vision getting sucked into quicksand, which shouldn't happen and is covered for later in the script, and Thor and Iron Man getting turned back into Don Blake and Tony Stark, which you would think blows their secret identities). Eventually only the Scarlet Witch is left, and she's getting covered in rain-glue, which i thought was a cool visual.
Loki transforms himself into an insect and distracts Dormammu long enough for Scarlet Witch to free herself and use her hex power, causing the Evil Eye to blow up and disperse Dormammu's power, pushing it into Loki's face, which restores his sight but drives him insane. Yay Steve Englehart for having Wanda be useful for a change!
But poor Loki. He's really contributing nothing to this story and winds up worse off than when he started.
Meanwhile, Dr. Strange is like "Yeah, i basically want to mess with everyone's head and remove the memory that this ever happened from everyone in the universe. Fellow Illuminati member Iron Man chimes in immediately with "We'll go along." He makes it seem like it's a favor that Strange is at least letting the Avengers remember what happened.
With that plot finished, there's a little coda with the Defenders trying to restore the Black Knight. But it turns out that his spirit has been transferred back to the time of the Crusades and he's happy to remain there fighting evil Arabs...
...and giant gnomes that look oddly like super-deformed Hulks.
Prester John shows up while the Defenders are back in time, to reclaim the Evil Eye even though that creates a time paradox.
Overall, fun even if totally contrived and pointless.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Captain America currently has super-strength. Nick Fury is injured and in bandages as a result of recent issues of Captain America. A footnote indicates that these issues take place before the Sub-Mariner gets his new costume. I'm not listing Prester John as a character appearing since he's not shown in the present; he actually appears here after Marvel Two-In-One #12.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Avengers/Defenders War TPB
Inbound References (34): show
There actually was some Japanese protest movement at the time against "imperialism", but I don't remember if it was right-wing, left-wing, or even specifically anti-American. Ultimately, it didn't amount to anything.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | August 15, 2011 12:40 AM
i agree, i was glad the defenders won too because they really should have. i often wondered what kinds of menace could challenge the original defenders, they are just too tough.
Posted by: Kveto from Prague | September 29, 2011 4:58 PM
oh yeah, the ladies man line really cracked me up. :-)
Posted by: kveto from prague | October 1, 2011 6:12 AM
Do you happen to know where can I get a copy of Defenders #9? Even an online one?
Posted by: Anna Garcia | August 5, 2012 2:35 AM
Anna, it looks like you can get the trade paperback of the entire Avengers/Defenders War for about $6 used at Amazon.
Posted by: fnord12 | August 5, 2012 1:03 PM
Foom #2, while announcing the crossover, weirdly called Dormammu "Dorney".
Posted by: Mark Drummond | February 3, 2013 7:16 PM
FOOM#4 announced an untitled "super-giant sized color comic" with a new Spider-Man/Defenders team-up and the X-Men appearing in a later issue. This may have become the mostly reprint Marvel Treasury Edition.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | February 10, 2013 5:12 PM
I love it that Scarlet Witch defeated Loki. This was probably her biggest achievement as an Avenger so far.
Posted by: Steven Printz | August 4, 2013 10:34 PM
Interesting that when Dormammu tells Loki about his arch-foe, Dr. Strange, in AVENGERS #115, no mention is made of Loki's meeting with Doc way back in STRANGE TALES #123.
Posted by: Matthew Bradley | November 10, 2013 3:36 PM
The meeting place of the dozen heroes in DEFENDERS #10 is clearly Dr. Strange's sanctum sanctorum and not Avengers Mansion. He dissolves his mystic barriers to let Namor in, and the Defenders are initially shocked that he has brought their "enemies" in with him. It's an awesome shot, reminding us that perhaps nobody but Sal drew so many Marvel characters so consistently well.
Posted by: Matthew Bradley | December 4, 2013 12:58 AM
One of the best, if not the best crossovers in the history of comics. Done in the early bronze age of comics, where the writing and art were at its height. And you only give it a c+... shame on you. This is easily an A+. Featuring one of the best comic book artists ever in Sal Buscema. Bob Brown had his moments too. Steve Englehart's writing was superb as he took over some of these chores at this time. This creation was a blockbuster at the very least. I remember trying to collect the pieces of this series, similar to collecting the the evil eye, back in the 70s. A worthy group in my collection, I have often reread these masterpieces and they have never lost their original flair.
Posted by: Mike | June 17, 2014 9:26 AM
Mike, it is very easy to put on rose colored glasses of the stories of our childhood. Heck, I bet I couldn't get a hundred bucks for my full set of ROM issues (also drawn mostly by Sal) but I wouldn't trade them for anything. Having said that, it is easy to see the lack of sophistication concerning the plots of these issues. This is a case of a concept (Hey lets put 2 super teams fighting each other!) over story. If you grade on the fun of that concept (and fnord mentioned this was a 'fun' story) that is one thing. The story built around the concept did seem to take a back seat to fitting the goal of the 'War' between heroes and could have been more compelling and less contrived.
Posted by: Martin | July 9, 2014 2:40 PM
Contrived? In a superhero comic book? Say it ain't so!! I disagree with you there, Martin. The art, story, most of the dialogue (okay the inhumans always spoke in silly melodramatic tones) in this series still holds out to this day. There have been worse excuses to have a superteam vs superteam battle. The fact that neither team sat down and had discussions until it was over doesn't detract from anything. That's like saying "If The Warriors had packed guns to the big gang meeting, the movie would be over in 10 minutes!" The reasoning for this missing logic (as an afterthought) is to have this big drawn out war over several issues. Anyway you get my point, and this is still an A+ series for me despite its conceived flaws. Not budging on this one.
Posted by: Mike | January 25, 2015 9:10 AM
The Avengers/Defenders War is the quintessential Bronze Age story/arc. It takes me back to childhood summers in those sweet 70s! 'Nuff Said!
Posted by: Jack | May 17, 2015 9:27 PM
I just did a character search on Thanos now and, suprisingly, this is the first entry that comes up, with him on one panel fighting demons...while currently the chronology is up to him making a deal with Mephisto as he prepares to control all existence. Somehow I wonder if Thanos has ready a "no demon clause" when he finally does conquer existence...but considering Mephisto (or Dormamu in this case), I doubt that would last.
Posted by: Ataru320 | July 23, 2015 9:11 AM
Yeah that's really weird Thanos appears there. Did Starlin just ask the artist to insert a panel or did he borrow a random alien on Titan and no one cared?
Posted by: david banes | December 25, 2015 2:39 AM
When he first appeared Thanos's goal was conquest of Titan, and when he reappeared he'd conquered it. Perhaps Englehart asked for the panel, meaning it to represent Thanos defending his domain, like Doom defending Latveria.
Apparently the issue actually came out between CAPTAIN MARVEL #29 and #30. For fnord's placement purposes the image could be interpreted as Thanos defending his domain, Thanos defending Titan while trying to conquer it because he wants it for himself, or even Thanos defending Titan before he went bad.
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | December 25, 2015 11:17 PM
The Comic Book Critiquing Elite really need to give this Analog Era of very few helping hands putting out a massive workloqd of Art and Stories a Break.. It's an honor that these Bronze Age Gems exist to guide the Disney cinema universe's revenue..
Posted by: RicknRollGuitarplayer | July 20, 2016 12:10 AM
Sal is consistently fantastic, and I wish Gil Kane was peciling Avengers. A Loki nostril shot would really jazz up this joint.
Posted by: Vin the Comics Guy | September 5, 2016 10:39 AM
A later letters column stated that Frank McLaughlin did uncredited inks on #117.
Ralph Macchio has a letter in #118.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | February 28, 2017 11:13 AM
Also: the Valkyrie's logo for her battle was spelled "Valkrie".
Posted by: Mark Drummond | February 28, 2017 11:14 AM
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