Sunday, 18 April 2010

Defenders #38.

Defenders #38, Nebulon
Defenders #38. "Exile to Oblivion!"
The Defenders. They never did things the easy way. Leaving aside the fact they were a team who weren't a team, cobbled together from whatever misfits happened to be hanging around Dr Strange's vicinity at the time, they couldn't even manage to rustle up a straightforward adventure between them, and issue #38's no exception. If anyone, including the Defenders, has the slightest idea what's going on, I'd be amazed.

Basically, Dr Strange, Luke Cage and the Red Guardian have been trapped on an alien planet, by Nebulon, another of those all-powerful-type beings from space who just can't leave the Earth alone. The only problem is it's an alien planet on which Strange can't use his magic, because magic attracts lightning, meaning they're stuck there, in a cave, with a big white ape monster and killer termites.

Meanwhile, The Valkyrie, my favourite character, has found herself in a women's prison and having to deal with the resident bully despite not being able to use her powers on other females.

Meanwhile, there's an elf with a gun disguising itself as a dead American Indian in order to shoot a couple of backpackers.

Meanwhile, perpetually underwhelming villains the Eel and the Porcupine have found religion -- just not a good religion.

So, what's going on?

I don't have a clue.

And that's what's great about it. The Defenders was a strip in which it seemed anything could happen and often did. Along with Tomb of Dracula, it's my favourite strip of the 1970s and this issue gives us everything some of us grew to love about the thing; it's completely and totally bonkers and yet holds together beautifully. The strange thing is you actually care about this odd group of characters in a way you really shouldn't. Somehow writer Steve Gerber manages to get a bunch of powered-up super-beings and injects an odd sense of vulnerability into them. Despite their power, they always seem to be slightly out of their depth, no matter what they're dealing with, whether it be threats to the world or merely trying to find their own place in that world.

Is my love of The Defenders shared by others? Judging by comments on other blogs, it seems to be but, having said that, try buying old Defenders comics on eBay and you can get great piles of them for virtually nothing. Oh well, whoever said you could judge the value of art in monetary terms?

By the way, I should have mentioned that when we first see Nighthawk in this issue, he's in hospital, having just been given a brain transplant by the Red Guardian. Six pages later, he's on an alien world, having stepped through a doorway after fighting a bunch of people dressed as clowns.

All in a day's work when you're a Defender.
Defenders #38
Just another day in the life of the Defenders.

5 comments:

cerebus660 said...

Hey, Steve! I've always loved Gerber's Defenders ( yay! ) but I haven't got this issue ( boo! ), although I did read a Marvel UK reprint ( yay! )... which I've since sold ( boo! )
Keep up the good work, mate, and look out for elves!

Steve. said...

It's a bit weird. It took me about two years of trying to get a copy of this issue. The issue before and the one after kept coming up for auction but not this one. In the end I got it by accident as part of a job lot of over a hundred 1970s' comics.

Was the UK reprint in Rampage Comic by any chance?

cerebus660 said...

Yeah, that would have been Rampage, alongside reprints of Nova - a strange sort of combination!

Fred W. Hill said...

Steve Gerber's Defenders stories are some of my favorite comics ever. In Englehart's run, the absurdities were unintentional, but with Gerber they're mostly well-thought out and loads of fun, even if often miserable for our heroes!

tharg said...

I'm a huge Defenders fan, originally through the UK reprint "Rampage".

The characters shouldn't work together but do. I think the contrasts in the team members are one of the strong points (Dr. Strange and Hulk for example).

Even the super-villains they fight are offbeat. Xemnu and Yandroth are classics here!

I've recently started re-reading the Marvel Essentials series (in B&W again!). I must track down some of the original US comics sometime.

There is a new comic vol 2 (I suppose) of The Defenders that I keep meaning to pick up.

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