The Small Lebowski:
Issue(s): Defenders #149, Defenders #150
At the demand of Candy Southern, Andromeda explains where she's from and why she wants to join the Defenders. She was a "group commander" in the Atlantean armed forces, but she was limited by the Atlantean army's glass (or worse) ceiling. Having heard of Namor's time with the Defenders, where "males and females fought side-by-side as equals", she quit the army and left in search of the team. She says she left the man she'd been staying with "a pearl the size of a hen's egg" for his trouble.
Andromeda also has these absolutely wild boot cuffs.
Despite tongue-in-cheek feelings of inadequacy, the Defenders welcome her to the team.
The Beast has time for a lunch date with Vera for the first time in a while before following up on Cloud's origin. He gives her a "genuine Beast Signal Watch"...
...and tells her that even though he's not been around much, he still has "constancy of the heart" for her. I wonder how he squares that with his recent fling with Dazzler.
Angel goes along on the mission even though he hasn't yet made it to the doctor that they specifically traveled to New York to see. Investigating Cloud's origin isn't the usual type of super-hero emergency, and Angel is only barely useful when he's not blind, so i don't know why he's playing martyr here, or why the others are tolerating it.
Anyway, Seraph has something to show Cloud, and the rest of the Defenders come along. On the flight, Cloud has a freak out when they pass a certain spot. Then they land and enter a hospital where the team finds a boy and a girl in intensive care. The two teenagers have the bodies that Cloud switches between.
It turns out that Cloud is in fact an actual cloud (a space cloud, in fact), and she came to Earth looking for help. She tried to contact these two teenagers, and caused them to drive off a cliff. She mimicked their bodies and wandered off, and was soon found and brainwashed by the Secret Empire. She can't remember anymore what the original danger was that caused her to come to earth.
The Defenders take her back to the spot where she freaked out earlier, and this causes her to transport the Defenders into space. It turns out that Cloud is actually a nebula.
And the problem she came to Earth about is that the stars are disappearing.
Before Cloud can explain further, the Defenders are picked up by a group of aliens that are absolutely adorable (at least after Seraph makes them friendly).
Note the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy reference above. There's a second one when the aliens provide the translator device that lets them communicate.
The aliens are refugees from one of the worlds that has lost their star.
After that's settled, we get to hear the last bit of Cloud's story. She was helped to Earth by the Cosmic Cube that grew up with the help of Captain America, Aquarian, and the Shaper of Worlds.
And the Cube is what sent Cloud to Earth to get help from Captain America again.
The culprit in this story is a new Star Thief.
Accompanied by the Cosmic Cube using Captain America as an avatar...
...the Defenders eventually discover that the Star Thief is a sick young girl
Eventually the Defenders are able to get through to her and stop the destruction of the stars, and the Cosmic Cube begins to put things right again. The team is sent home, leaving Cloud behind to eventually form a star herself.
I think this is a cool conclusion to the mystery of Cloud, who was an interesting minor character. This story made good use of some past bits of Marvel history (granted including bits that Gillis himself had written), and it was a fun space adventure with a lot of humor as well. The coolest bit was the way the alien's translator device rendered their speech.
While Cloud is telling her origin, she mentions that when she first arrived on Earth she called for help, but the only one who answered was the Overmind. Overmind was last seen in Defenders #122 but then disappeared and wasn't referenced again. So this explains what happened to him. Cloud says that he left Earth to investigate Cloud's problem, but is likely dead or dissipated. When Cloud describes her trip to Earth, she says she traveled "back through space and time". Cloud first appeared in Defenders #123, so i guess that's your timeline. She was only on Earth a short period of time before the Secret Empire got a hold of her.
A back-up story has the Defenders' dog Sassafras running through a gauntlet of the Defenders' security system (who's Mordok?)...
...and encountering Manslaughter in a set-up for next issue.
Meanwhile, the Interloper continues to get one of the best build-ups in comic book history...
...but he'd better hurry it up. This book is going to be cancelled in two issues.
It seems my love of Don Perlin's art was all about Kim DeMulder's inks, but there's still the occasional panel that almost has the depth of those issues.
Perlin is still a good, clear storytelling and a decent artist, but that Perlin/DeMulder combo was just awesome.
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: This takes place soon after Defenders #147; basically, enough time has passed for the Defenders to return to Dr. Strange's house so that they can continue their conversation with Seraph about Cloud. That means that Dr. Strange is still in the Dark Dimension during at least the beginning of this arc. Also note that Defenders #148 was a fill-in that took place earlier than its publication date.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (3): showAndromeda, Angel, Beast, Candy Southern, Cloud, Gargoyle (Defender), Iceman, Interloper, Kubik, Manslaughter, Sassafras, Seraph, Star Thief II, Valkyrie, Vera Cantor
The Overmind eventually shows up again in an issue of Marvel Comics Presents, alive and well, so it turns out Cloud was wrong about him being dead.
Posted by: Michael | July 5, 2012 11:46 PM
I thought it was a neat touch that during Beast's date with Vera he's wearing a M.O.N.S.T.E.R. logo pin on his jacket
Posted by: S | September 19, 2012 3:22 PM
Here's normal-looking Vera....then she appears a few months later in X-Factor#2 punked out and having some sort of mental breakdown. Plus Beast makes it sound like he hadn't seen her in a long time in XF#2. And here I thought major continuity snafus like this were only a Quesada-era thing at Marvel.
Posted by: Vincent Valenti | January 9, 2016 2:12 PM
Defenders as a series really defines itself by it's consistency to deliver astonishingly bad convoluted and disappointing origins for characters that don't require much of an origin in the first place.
This one was just a bunch of ponderously bland revelations that just descends into more and more nonsense. I think it was around about the time "Captain America" showed up and announced "You should've read Captain America Annual #7, then maybe this story would make more sense" that my mind decided to stop attempting to follow the story.
Posted by: AF | January 12, 2016 12:21 PM
The main plot with an alien menace from a world surrounded by a dust cloud trying to destroy everything outside the cloud is the same basic plot as the third Hitchikers' Guide book, Life, the Universe and Everything.
Posted by: Benway | March 17, 2016 7:44 PM
The watch's zee zee zee sound is a reference to Jimmy Olsen's signal-watch.
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | December 10, 2016 7:20 AM
The one thing I've always really been unsure of is- was (New) Defenders cancelled due to sales? Because I was under the impression it was because they wanted to roll out X-Factor, not because of low sales...
Posted by: Wis | October 21, 2017 12:54 AM
You take away the X-Men, what do you have? Valkyrie, Gargoyle, Andromeda, Interloper and Cloud. The old Defenders couldn't be brought back and nearly all the others had been retired. The X-Men were basically the only thing keeping the book afloat.
And putting Peter Gillis on a book tends to be a death curse.
Posted by: AF | October 21, 2017 7:19 AM
Valid point AF, but surely Editorial would have insisted on a few new members that were a bit more 'mainstream' and/or marketable, had they kept going.
Posted by: Wis | October 21, 2017 8:06 AM
What characters were in limbo at that point that could be brought in to flesh out the team and help sales like the X-Men were? Black Panther? Moon Knight? Ant-Man? Most characters were either active in other books or had been retired. And we were in a "changes are permanent" Shooter-era so we weren't going to go back on the Defenders prophecy forbidding the originals coming back.
Posted by: AF | October 21, 2017 8:15 AM
I suspect titles are sometimes cancelled not because they're losing money but because companies can only put out so many and they think they can use the resources better.
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | October 21, 2017 10:26 AM
I think that people are making a mistake in thinking of this in binary terms- yes, it was cancelled because they wanted to roll out X-Factor but if it had been selling as well as, for example, either of the Avengers titles, they would have found replacements for Bobby, Warren and Hank and continued the series.
Posted by: Michael | October 21, 2017 10:47 AM
@Luke Blanchard, I'd say that's it. Defenders was selling okay but not great guns and Marvel were launching a lot of new titles. At this point they understood that the market is only so big, so something had to go. This is the same time that The Thing was cancelled despite him not being in the FF anymore and on his blog, Jim Shooter mentioned that even Incredible Hulk and Captain America were on thin ice. He also said at various points that them upstairs were pressing for more X-men titles, so Defenders didn't really stand a chance. I do think that it wouldn't have ended up at this point if it had been better promoted though.
Posted by: Benway | November 3, 2017 11:07 PM
As I mentioned in the entry for Defenders 152, I think Marvel could have easily cobbled enough characters to keep this title going. You had Valkyrie plus the new characters Gillis had created like Interloper and Andromeda. Gargoyle could also have been used. Out of the other titles being cancelled, you could have brought in Dr Strange again (but no Hulk or Silver Surfer). Team is a little bit mystic, so bring in Iron Fist (who in this scenario would not have been killed off). Power Man could then go over to the Avengers under Stern. That is six characters which is enough for a team book. It would be of a more mystical bent, but I feel that is the stronger theme of the Defenders in comparison to the other Marvel team books.
Cancelling a lot of titles is also an opportunity to consolidate some of those characters in a team book. SOME of the readers of Strange and PM&IF would have crossed over to give the book a sales bump. A continuing Defender's title would have been a stronger title than the new Dakota North after all.
I normally don't mourn books that get cancelled, but I considered the Defenders to be a Marvel institution so I'm inclined to see it as more a mistake than the others.
Posted by: Chris | November 4, 2017 4:33 AM
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