Secret Defenders #15-17
Issue(s): Secret Defenders #15, Secret Defenders #16, Secret Defenders #17
Dr. Strange had detected a new mystic threat and has drawn the usual tarot cards, but in his current state - nearly powerless and trapped beneath the Earth - he's unable to deal with it. And he needs (just) Strange to be focused on the threat of Salome.
So that means recruiting Dr. Druid to take his place as the Secret Defenders coordinator. Well, "recruiting" may be too soft a word.
Strange's invasive technique causes a flashback to Dr. Druid's origin and then gives him a precognitive flash about the upcoming mystic danger. Druid's companion Jillian Woods - aka Shadowoman - enters the room, only to get chewed out.
Shadowoman was part of Dr. Druid's "Shock Troop" the last time we saw him, but interestingly it seems like the other members of the Troop - the Living Mummy and Blazing Skull (The Slayer) - were only mesmerized into working with him. So this time Druid needs to recruit the "local talent".
Meanwhile, a woman named Malachi is doing some mesmerizing of her own. She hypnotizes a bunch of bruisers so that they can rob the Chicago museum for her.
She's looking for the same Moebius Stone of Agamotto that Druid's vision warned him about. She already has all but two of the fragments.
But the museum is currently under the protection of Luke Cage.
Cage gets some help from Deadpool.
Cage was tipped off by Druid, and Deadpool was called in by him as well. It seems Deadpool has worked for Druid before.
Druid nonetheless has to give Deadpool a hypnotic nudge to keep him with the group. Druid then leads to the group to the display case of the Sword of Iskander, which has the fragment of the Moebius Stone in its hilt. But when they go to it, Malachi shows up in person to claim it.
As the Secret Defenders fight the statues that Malachi animated, we see that Dr. Strange is still keeping tabs on events, and that he's kind of a jerk.
The statues are defeated, but distrust among the Defenders continues, and Malachi gets away with the stone fragment. We learn that she has been rebuilding the Moebius Stone so that she can resurrect her lover and teacher, Korahn. Korahn was killed when he and Malachi originally stole the Moebius Stone from Agamotto in a bid for eternal life. Agamotto spread the fragments of the stone across the Earth while killing Korahn.
While the Secret Defenders are regrouping, we learn Shadowoman's origin. It turns out that she and Dr. Druid were lovers in a past life.
Note that Jillian met Spider-Woman while Dr. Druid was inspecting the artifacts of a "Mister Magnus". As Michael notes in the comments, that would be the Magnus that mentored Spider-Woman, hence Shadowoman's costume.
The Secret Defenders then track Malachi to a graveyard in Seattle, where she's used the Moebius Stone to drain the lifeforce from a teenager, Cody, so that she can extend her own life. The graveyard is also where the final fragment is. During the resulting fight, Cody's corpse is hit with mystical energy and he's resurrected in a zombie-ish form.
He makes a sword out of one of his own ribs.
Cody is now Cadaver, an avatar of Agamotto. He goes after Malachi. But at this point she's retrieved the final Moebius Stone fragment and has begun the resurrection of Korahn by unraveling the timestream.
Dr. Druid and Shadowoman are held by Malachi in mystic bonds. That leaves Cage and Deadpool to fight her, and fighting mystic threats isn't really in their wheelhouse. Cadaver might have been more suited to the task but he's still sort of working out what he is.
Luckily Shadowoman's mysterious powers allow her to escape...
...and she frees Dr. Druid.
And Cadaver recovers.
But despite all that, Malachi fends off all the Secret Defenders and manages to resurrect Korahn. However, Korahn has seen the error of his ways and now thinks that it's wrong to seek eternal life. When Malachi hears that, she gives up and dies. Druid grabs the Moebius Stone, at first intending to just fix the damage done by Malachi, but then feeling tempted to fix all the things that have gone wrong in his life. But Strange shows up to stop him.
Strange also tries to take Cadaver's sword for his and Dr. Strange's "trove of power", but the sword burns when he tries to take it (because Dr. Strange has given up his right to use Agamotto's powers). The other Secret Defenders attack Strange, and Cage gets the Stone back to Dr. Druid. Druid repairs the damage done and destroys the Stone.
Dr. Druid then tries to tell Strange that he won't be Dr. Strange's lackey, but, behind the scenes, Dr. Strange just laughs at him.
This isn't as terrible as Tom Brevoort would later make it out to be. It's not good, by any means, but by the standards of this series (excepting the Thanos arc) it's actually better than average. A lot of mystical gobbledygook and a cliched ending, and the characterization is cardboard. Brevoort & Kanterovich's Deadpool is boring, which is explainable since he's slightly hypnotized, but that doesn't help make him interesting, and some good Deadpool banter could really have helped here. The fact that Cody the Dead Teenager is the main ongoing contribution here is a sign of how little innovation was going on. Gerald DeCaire's art (on issues #15 and #17) isn't great; he especially has a weird habit of making characters look extra stocky - when he does it to Cage it's not entirely out of place but it's weird for the teenage corpse, Cadaver. But both his and Bill Wylie's (on #16) art is at least followable, and that's something you couldn't always say at this time.
Cadaver and Shadowoman (with Dr. Druid) will remain as a part of this series, which will help give it a little more coherence compared to the completely random Team-Up nature of the earlier issues. And Brevoort & Kanterovich at least do a decent job dealing with the Dr. Strange situation (it's worth noting that with Dr. Strange gone, this book loses the already tenuous claim it had to the "Defenders" title). So it's largely a matter of low expectations, but things could have been (and have been) worse.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: Needs to take place before Warlock and the Infinity Watch #29-33 (and therefore Warlock and the Infinity Watch #26-28, basically). I'm pushing almost the entire Secret Defenders series for this year back in publication time because issues #20-21 have to take place before Force Works #1.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (3): showCadaver, Deadpool, Dr. Druid, Dr. Strange, Luke Cage, Malachi, R.G. Mathieson, Shadowoman, Strange, Swarm
Note that Cage's series ended with him believed dead and here he's taken a job guarding a museum like normal.
Posted by: Michael | December 5, 2017 8:34 PM
What on earth is going on with Cage's neck in that sixth scan?
Posted by: MegaSpiderMan | December 6, 2017 12:15 AM
You know that old saying "if you've got nothing nice to say, then don't say anything?". Well, this is absolute trash that descends into pure rape fantasy. That's the nicest thing I can say about it.
Posted by: AF | December 6, 2017 4:27 AM
Here's another one that I bought when it came out and all these years later I can barely remember anything about it.
I really *wanted* to like Secret Defenders. As fnord previously indicated, the set-up is basically Marvel Team-Up without having Spider-Man in every single issue. I thought Secret Defenders had the potential to feature some interesting and unusual team-ups, but the majority of the stories that appeared in it were at best average.
These issues were recently reprinted because... early Deadpool appearances! Marvel used the recent Deadpool Mania as an excuse to collect issues #15-25 in a trade paperback titled Deadpool and the Secret Defenders.
I did actually laugh at the inversion of the oh so clichéd "you give heroes a bad name" scene with Deadpool and Cage in this story.
Posted by: Ben Herman | December 6, 2017 9:35 AM
Looking over the scans, I did chuckle at Deadpool's remark about the "Clinton Health Plan".
Posted by: Ataru320 | December 6, 2017 7:19 PM
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