Issue(s): Defenders #136, Defenders #137, Defenders #138, Defenders #139
But that was probably the only way those comics were getting into my house when i was 9 or 10 years old, considering issue #136 has a demon in a pentagram on the cover. My friend has older brothers, and their walls were covered in posters of Ozzy Osborne and Motley Crue's Shout At The Devil album, so the pentagram wouldn't have been as big an issue for him.
Anyway, at the time any comics were awesome, but this is part of the great Defenders run by Peter Gillis with great art by Don Perlin and Kim DeMulder on inks.
A few issues ago we saw that the Gargoyle was mystically kidnapped. It was during the Manslaughter invasion, but it turned out to be unrelated to that. This issue, we find out that he was summoned, practically accidentally, by a Gnostic priest. As the characters reasoned later, Gargoyle's mind is that of Isaac Christians, an ordinary old man, but the body is a real demon created by the Six-Fingered Hand, so it is subject to mystical rituals.
The priest had been living in Afghanistan and had an uneasy alliance with the Mujahideen that were trying to repel the Soviet invaders.
Now he's captured the Gargoyle, and proven that he can force it to do things beyond anything that Gargoyle could do to date.
He uses it to attack a wave of Soviet helicopters, and also turns on the Mujahideen.
He later goes after the Soviet General as well, so it seems he really is committed to driving out the Soviets. On the other hand, he has Gargoyle creating gold for him, and is lured to America by the promise to take control of its riches, so his motives aren't quite so pure.
Meanwhile, however, we've got a bombshell coming up. In the same issue as the Manslaughter attack, Cloud revealed to Moondragon that she loved her. Since then, she's been... conflicted. Now she's having dreams about Moondragon and how it's "wrong".
When she wakes up, she seems to have found a solution to her problem!
Meanwhile, Gargoyle has taken the Gnostic wizard to the US. He initially goes to New York, but the wizard detects the presence of Dr. Strange and demands to be taken elsewhere.
They wind up in the Rocky Mountains. That's close enough that Moondragon is able to detect Gargoyle's presence. The team heads off in Angel's private jet. The team doesn't know what to make of Cloud's sex change, but Iceman is particularly upset by it.
Anyway, they arrive, land, and find themselves facing the wizard and a giant version of their friend.
Gargoyle doesn't want to attack, but he is forced to. Similarly, the Valkyrie doesn't want to cut up Gargoyle with her sword, but she does. Even though the giant Gargoyle is more spirit than substance, Valkyrie is able to hurt him. She says:
My sword is carved from the fang of a celestial dragon and on it have been scriven the Runes of the Valkyrior! It has power against the seen and the more-than-seen in equal measure!
Later in the fight, the Beast cuts off the Gargoyle's hand with it.
But nothing's easy. The hand turns into a dragon.
That guy from the cartoon that i liked got to do a lot in this battle, too. First he shoots some icicles that - tricky tricky - Cloud hides in - letting him or her get close to the wizard.
Beyond that he creates lots of walls and bridges to help the Defenders navigate the flame-filled chasms (which, when viewed from above, reveal a pentagram that Gargoyle is trapped in).
While the physical battle ensues, Moondragon contacts Gargoyle telepathically. She asks him to aim a blast at her and knock off her headband, which would allow her to stop the wizard. She allows Gargoyle to look into her soul. To her surprise, he doesn't like what he sees there, and he refuses.
But the Beast eventually recognizes the phrases the wizard is spouting and identifies him as a Gnostic. This allows him to speak the right shibboleths, and he's able to trick the wizard into demanding that the Gargoyle grant him "true sight" that will allow him to see the Defenders, that he previously thought were demons, as they really are.
When the Wizard flees the pentagram, Gargoyle is restored to his normal (but now hand-less) form. Before he passes out, he issues a warning about Moondragon.
I think the art on these issues is really something special. So much depth. Having seen Don Perlin on the book since issue #82, i realize it's a lot more to do with DeMulder's inking, but that's not taking anything away from the pencils. The coloring helps as well, but there isn't a consistent colorist in the Perlin/DeMulder run so that's not the primary factor.
Gillis' writing is great. Unlike DeMatteis' Six-Fingered Hand story, this demon plot makes sense and the character has good motivation and a human side. And all of the characters' personalities are distinct and handled well. The ongoing plot with Moondragon is going well, and i find the mystery of Cloud intriguing. I dispute that he/she is Nobody's Favorite. I think the Gillis run is up there with Stern's Avengers.
Definitely worth a swim in the pool.
Issue #138 begins with the Defenders still at the site where they fought the Wizard. They leave via Angel's plane and Angel calls in some forest rangers to pick up the old guy, who is now considered harmless.
Back at the headquarters, the team is confronted with an unusual sight.
It's their new security system, installed by Candy Southern while they were away. It has a few options.
It's all very cute, but poor Gargoyle is suffering from a major injury! Luckily, Candy's got that covered too: a futuristic medical pod that is connected to a group of doctors on standby at a remote location.
They determine that Gargoyle's going to be ok and his hand will probably even regenerate.
Much of the rest of issue #138 is devoted to some downtime. Iceman is still having a hard time coming to grips with Cloud's dual genders (maybe if they would get hir a costume with unstable molecules so s/he didn't have to be naked all the time...).
And while Gargoyle plays dumb with most of the team about what he saw in Moondragon's soul before he was knocked out, he does tell Cloud. This results in a several page flashback detailing Moondgragon's time learning to become a priestess of Shaolom on Titan. Due to her superior abilities and her arrogance, she wound up coming into contact with a creature called the Dragon of the Moon.
The Dragon was responsible for wiping out the civilization that lived on Titan before Alars/Mentor of the Eternals moved there. She managed to fight back the dragon, but it still persists to claw and whisper at her mind. Naming herself "Moondragon" was meant to show her pride at defeating the dragon, but it shocked her fellow priests (Gargoyle says it was the equivalent of a nun declaring herself Sister Beelzebub) and she left the order soon afterward.
So what Gargoyle saw in Moondragon's soul wasn't necessarily that Moondragon was evil, but that she's in danger of being corrupted by a powerful external force.
Gargoyle's judgment affected Moondragon deeply, however, and after the flashback we pick up with a dream sequence where Moondragon confronts her demons. While the rest of the team is nominating Candy Southern to be the Defenders' leader...
...Moondragon confronts a mental projection of Mantis, who represents a major failure for Moondragon, since it was Mantis, not her, that got picked to become the Celestial Madonna.
It's interesting that the non-powered Candy is chosen to become the leader of the Defenders at the same time that Heather Hudson is chosen to lead Alpha Flight. It's said there was no coordination on that; just a coincidence. In both cases, neither is meant to act as a tactical field leader, but they'll act more as the team center, administrative head, and strategic coordinator. The Beast and Angel note that in their previous battle against the possessed giant Gargoyle, the team managed to do fine on their own without a designated tactical leader. We'll see how that goes.
The Beast gives a nice capsule summary of Mantis for the rest of the team...
...but they eventually realize she's not real, and they're able to get Moondragon to snap out of it.
Odin is observing all of this from Asgard, trying to determine if Moondragon will overcome her dangerous arrogance.
So far it's not looking good as she wallows in a bit of self-pity and refers to the Defenders as "little people".
Several days later, Angel has a nice conversation with his brother, the Eagle.
That's a funny "whaHUH?" moment, but Angel decides to call the sheriff in the area where the eagle "told" him there was a problem, and there is indeed a problem with cattle mutilation and murders in the area. The sheriff is able to divulge this information because the Defenders have Official Government Clearance.
At this point both Moondragon and Gargoyle are well enough to travel with the team. Gargoyle's hand is already growing back by issue #139, but it's a five fingered human looking hand (although still orange), not a four fingered claw like his other hand.
Also on the ride there, Moondragon confesses that she's been deliberately summoning beings of power like the gamma plant-man and Blowtorch Brand in the hopes that one of them might knock off her headband. The Beast wonders if it's a true confession or if she's just getting ahead of Gargoyle spilling the beans on her.
When the Defenders arrive, they find that there's a local superhero already on the job.
Red Wolf's tribe was among those affected by the mutilations, ever since local miners delved deeper into a silver mine in the area. The Defenders and Red Wolf enter the mine and find... Asgardian trolls.
The trolls are using blood to temper their weapons. They like the blood of the Red Wolf's warrior tribe the best. They're also intrigued by Moondragon's Asgardian-made headband, and they try to remove it. Moondragon has the opportunity to let them do so, but she prevents them. Then Red Wolf gets free and frees the other Defenders. Valkyrie pulls the walls of the caverns down around the trolls while the Defenders flee the mine.
The test with the trolls proves Moondragon's goodness, and her headband falls off.
Seems a bit soon, and we'll soon see that it is a bit soon, but there you go.
Good stuff. The art seems a little... thinner (?) in issues #138-139, but it's still good, and there's this nice shot of Gargoyle.
And the plotting and characterization continues to be great.
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: The trolls say that they've been making their move "while Thor, son of Odin, guarded not the Earth". That would imply placement somewhere during or after the Casket of Ancient Winters saga. Except since there's not a hint of snow, it can't be during. And since Odin appears, it can't be after. The MCP places this between Thor #348-349. It's about as good as you're going to get: Thor is currently occupied, Odin is alive, and i guess the snowstorm hasn't really fully kicked in all over the world. It also explains why Valkyrie wouldn't have been called back to Asgard for the big fight like every other Asgardian was. Issue #138 begins as a direct continuation from issue #137 with the Defenders still dealing with the Gnostic wizard. There is a "several days" gap between pages 6 and 7 of issue #139 if we need it, and the MCP places the Defenders' brief cameo in the Prince Namor mini-series during that gap, due to the fact that she's still wearing her headband in that scene. This works because Odin only appears during the initial 6 pages of issue #139. The other option is to wave our hands around that headband and place this whole arc before the Namor mini, which is what i'm doing.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (4): showAngel, Aragorn, Beast, Candy Southern, Cloud, Dolly Donahue, Dragon of the Moon, Gargoyle (Defender), Iceman, Moondragon, Odin, Red Wolf (Will Talltrees), Sassafras, Valkyrie
Moondragon's headband gave us headaches over at the MCP. She's also wearing the headband in Rom 65 but there's a reference to the effects of Worldmerge in Defenders 142. I take it you're assuming that the headband's appearance in Rom 65 is just an error?
Posted by: Michael | August 26, 2011 7:39 PM
Yeah, i think we can assume that whenever Moondragon's headband causes us a problem, it's not the Asgardian headband but just a regular headband. As i said in the Prince Namor entry, it was the 80s. Headbands were in.
Posted by: fnord12 | August 27, 2011 11:35 AM
The title to #139 is(unfortunately) a Duran Duran reference. When they put out "The Reflex" in 1984, my obsessed sister played the damn thing over and over again for an HOUR until I wanted to toss her stereo out the window...
Posted by: Mark Drummond | October 9, 2011 4:28 PM
Any idea what Cloud is saying to Iceman in that panel with the faded text? Can only really make out the word "my". My version is the same as posted here.
And making Candy Southern leader stank. It wasn't until that issue and the issue before that Candy was really been written up. Prior to that she'd just been a hanger-on who never really contributed. It's a shame since DeMatteis had set up Beast as the "leader" and both Angel and Iceman could've likewise been capable and interesting leaders. Or even just the old fallback of Valkyrie, the team's only link to the original Defenders and mainstay of the book since #4. Candy seems like a cop-out and too conveniently written-up just for this development.
Posted by: AF | January 8, 2016 12:11 PM
And the evidence for Bobby keeps piling up.
Posted by: JC | January 9, 2016 3:59 AM
Yep, piling up into a little hump right next to the mountain of evidence that he's not.
Posted by: AF | January 9, 2016 5:05 AM
fnord, you really make me want to read this run of the defenders.
but the full discloser is great. Traded for a swim in your pool. I hope it was a great swim.
I remember when I asked to borrow another kid's comic (a gi joe where Storm Shadow easily kicks Quick kick's butt), so I could show it to my other friends to prove a point. He charged me to rent it!
Posted by: kveto | January 9, 2016 11:11 AM
AF, Cloud's saying (would you) "shake my hand?"
It's kind of amazing to think Fnord12 was finishing up 1984 5 years ago.
Posted by: Cecil | August 8, 2016 6:33 AM
I love these issues. Am I the only one to read the Moondragon bits in 'Three Women' and wonder if Peter Gillis had seen the Doctor Who serials Kinda and Snakedance? Similar ideas and imagery and they were recent at the time.
Posted by: Benway | December 12, 2016 7:30 AM
Oh, I also aprove of the entire 'my brother the eagle' sequence including Duran Duran quote as I have no sisters!
Posted by: Benway | December 12, 2016 7:31 AM
Oddly, Peter Gillis had Commander Rann lose a hand over in Micronauts the New Voyages #1. M:NV had an October '84 cover date, and Defenders 137 was November '84. Not sure if it was a coincidence, or a fetish.
Posted by: DW | August 30, 2017 12:12 PM
This issue provides more proof that Iceman is gay...look at the last panel on page 13. The Defenders are looking on in shock after seeing the new (& nude) male Cloud, all eyes straight & center...except Bobby, his eye's are looking "down there".
Posted by: Ray | January 6, 2018 4:08 PM
So looking at male genitals automatically makes you gay?
Posted by: Multiple Manu | January 7, 2018 4:29 PM
Only if you write songs about them afterwards.
Posted by: The Small Lebowski | January 7, 2018 5:45 PM
Comments are now closed.
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