Tuesday, 19 July 2011

The Defenders #53. An educational experience for us all.

As I roam the elevated walkways of Sheffield's Park Hill Flats, people often say to me, "Steve, given the lack of available space for it, don't you ever worry just where Dr Doom's kingdom of Latveria is on the map?"

And I say, "No, I'm too busy worrying about the fate of Atlantis."

And it appears I'm right to do so because, in The Defenders #53, the kingdom that's never seen a crisis it can avoid, is yet again having a crisis it can't avoid. You see, Atlantis is being polluted by radiation from an underground complex in Russia.

Needless to say the Sub-Mariner's not putting up with that and, together with his allies Hellcat, Nighthawk and the Hulk, is soon heading up a convenient underwater tunnel to deal with it.

What the would-be heroes don't know is the complex belongs to a character called Sergei who's up to no good with their old team mate the Red Guardian and, just as our heroes are approaching his base, he's about to blow it up with an atom bomb in order to transform himself into the less than dramatically named "Presence".

Defenders #53, The Presence
It's at this point that the story ends for this issue, followed by a mundane back-up tale in which Clea gets kidnapped and tied up before hitting her assailant over the head with a statuette. Maybe it's my memory playing tricks with me but it seems to me that when I was a kid, Clea seemed to spend all her time being tied up by people. Who did she think she was - Wonder Woman?

When it comes to the Defenders tale, the truth is that, for all its nuclear shenanigans, the main plot's somewhat dull, taking what seems an eternity to get going as our heroes first stop off for a meeting in Atlantis before setting off to deal with the bad guy.

This sense of treading water's abetted by the fact that every page is filled with overly verbose captions that mostly serve no purpose other than to fill the book with words. It struck me, ploughing through all of this, that it felt like I was reading a Don McGregor tale and it's interesting therefore to read a comment box at the top of the letters page where credited writer Dave Kraft thanks various others, including McGregor, for stepping in and helping him out whenever he's had difficulties meeting deadlines. I do wonder if this issue was one such occasion?

Defenders #53, Valkyrie on the New York Subway
Hellcat shows her smarts:
"Gee, Namor -- I Don't know much about this radiation stuff but it sure sounds scary!"
But who cares about the main plot? As everyone knows, I only read Defenders tales to find out what the Valkyrie's up to and this issue finds her in her trying-to-enrol-in college phase. So, while the other Defenders get to tangle trouble behind the Iron Curtain, back home we get a sub-plot where, in her Barbara Norris guise, she has a chat with Clea, a ride on the New York Subway, a noticeably undramatic three panel clash with a villain called Lunatik and then walks up some steps - a clash so undramatic she doesn't even bother to put her books down to conduct it. Maybe there's something wrong with me but this wilfully undynamic excursion's more gripping for me than the more explosive main plot. I suppose it just goes to show that, for some of us, Character will always win out over Drama.

Defenders #53, Valkyrie college enrolment
Babs aside, it's a disappointing issue. The fact that the Defenders tale abruptly halts halfway through the mag and we then get a fairly throw-away Clea story is somewhat frustrating, especially when coupled with the indigestibility of the writing on the main plot. What it does have going for it - apart from Babs - is Keith Giffen's art, his pages often wildly overcrowded with panels but proudly displaying the updated Kirby influence that lent it its charm.

It's also an issue that means I no longer have to worry about that vexatious matter of Latveria's location. Apparently, if page 17's to believed, it's directly north of Italy. Now that that's sorted out, all I have to do is find a way to stop worrying about Atlantis.

1 comment:

Kid said...

Aha - Valkyrie! So that's where Madonna got the idea for her pointy bra.

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