Saturday, October 01, 2005

Defenders Saturday

What makes the Defenders great? Not much.

The Defenders were outcast heroes – but the X-Men had gotten there first and would end up doing it better (the Defenders came around before the Claremont run on the X-Men). They were a non-team, but it was unclear what that was supposed to mean, since they still got together each month for a new adventure (admittedly Sub-Mariner or the Hulk might sit an issue out). Eventually they started getting members who wanted to be a part of a real team (like Valkyrie) and eventually they were a real team.

This is the progression of a lot of teams, by the way. The standard teams are the outcast team (the X-Men) or the heroic family (the Avengers (sort of) and the Fantastic Four). Other variations have popped up over the years. There were regional teams, like the West Coast Avengers or Alpha Flight or Excalibur. But once you stripped off any novelty of the region (which happened quickly) you were left with an outcast team or an heroic family. There were interesting variations in the early nineties with both X-Factor (a Government Team) and X-Force (paramilitary team), but the novelty was quickly quashed in an attempt to make such teams as much like the X-Men as possible.

It happened to the Defenders too – they went from being the Non-Team to being an outcast team (with three former x-men to boot). That was the era I actually read for a bit. But they brought the title to a close, in part so the three X-Men (Iceman, Beast, and Angel) could join X-Factor (which at that time was simply the reuniting of the original five X-men).

Anyway I recently purchased the Essential Defenders Volume 1 (I suspect the only Volume in the series (but maybe I’m wrong), and I am going to be providing a review of the various issues for reasons too complicated to go into here.

Dr. Strange #183

Synopsis: Here’s a standard synopsis for any Dr. Strange comic. Something bad is going to happen for reasons that are never satisfactorily explained. Dr. Strange stops this something bad using methods that are never satisfactorily explained. But, because I care, here’s a more complete synopsis.

Dr. Strange gets a telegram that triggers a synopsis of recent issues. Apparently in order to hide himself, he changes his name to Dr. Saunders, and erases all trace of Dr. Strange. He also starts wearing a mask. It looks goofy. After three pages of reminiscing, Dr. Strange/Saunders blurts out “But Wait. In my concern there is something I forgot. I never read . . . the telegram!!” He reads it and suffers not one but two premonitions of doom. But, in his maniacal pride, he says, “. . . but, I could not ignore my former friend’s plea, when tonight came ‘round.” I think that last phrase is a reference to jazz music, but with Dr. Strange you can never tell.

At any rate, the flight to visit his old friend allows time for another internal monologue, in which we find out that this old friend, Kenneth Ward, helped sponsor his medical career. When he gets there, the servants act suspiciously and his old friend seems drugged or, get this, under a magic spell. Dr. Strange is taken to his room, where he observes, “though my sorcerer’s senses tell me I am no unobserved, I am equally sure someone will look in on me later!” I’m not sure that statement warranted an exclamation point, but when you are Dr. Strange everything you say warrants an exclamation point.

Anyway Dr. Strange creates some mystic mamajama to make a copy of himself, and goes out and talks to Kenneth Ward. After he breaks the spell that is keeping Kenneth Ward drugged, Kenneth says “Something compels me . . . to tell the whole story . . . from the beginning.” So he does just that. Apparently Ward traveled in the Himalayas and found some weird statues. He finds one particular small statue that is related to the “Undying ones.” Just then the servants pop in and, surprise, surprise, they are servants of the “undying ones.” They fight. Dr. Strange declares they are evenly matched. But then the dying Kenneth Ward opens the curtains, letting the sun in, which disintegrats the baddies, who like vampires, can’t abide sunshine. Unfortunately Ward immediately dies, and Dr. Strange is left to ponder the threat of the Undying ones.

Dr. Strange Humility Quote – (upon realizing he never actually read the telegram mentioned above, Dr. Strange makes a mystic gesture and says) “ But, that is a situation easily remedied! Nor must Mohammed go to the Missive . . !”

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