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Selector

Defenders, The #24: Review

Jun 1975
Steve Gerber, Sal Buscema

Story Name:

In The Jaws Of The Serpent!

Review & Comments

Rating:
5 stars

Defenders, The #24 Review by (April 21, 2010)
This is early after the point in publishing history where script could actually be printed with periods, not only the exclamation points, which were more certain to appear on the paper! You might be surprised by how much moving into declarative sentences as well as exclamations affects the tone of the writing after the days of Stan Lee's (often through Art Simek) pulse-pounding constant use of question marks and exclamation points!!!!

More mind boggling revelations than you can shake a serpent staff at await, in the no-nonsense conclusion!



 

Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Defenders, The #24 Synopsis by C Lue Disharoon
Defeated! Lower Manhattan, fire bombed, and its Defenders, fallen!

Doctor Strange, The Master of the Mystic Arts---unconscious! The high-flying Nighthawk---brought low and wingless! The vibrant Valkyrie---yet to revive!

Suspended, enthralled by four double headed, coiling steel-cast serpents, even the Yellowjacket stings no more. All of these Defenders are captives hidden away in a location completely unknown, surrounded by enemies. The greatest of their powers avails them nothing, and remains undisplayed, for they have been rendered unconscious at the human level (as was the Hulk, too fearsome to take captive even while unconscious...and so, left to change to Bruce Banner, unseen by his foes).

So do we learn of the unfeeling, hateful plan of racial nightmares planned by the masked Sons of the Serpent, now infecting American media with their divisive, racially coded rhetoric. "As Adam and Eve were driven from the Garden," their violence in the ghettos will displace the less fortunate into the suburbs, where, in fear of the refugees and looting, the white gun owners will inflict race war upon the displaced.

Just for being born a different SKIN color? Can you believe it was ever normal in America to even think like that? But it was, and it hasn't been so long ago at the moment in time Valkyrie and Nighthawk respond. (Blast! If only Doc weren't still unconscious from that ray-burst! We'd be out of our bonds in two seconds! thinks Nighthawk.) Who would cause such anguish, who would use such resources, for such a vile end? Yellowjacket replies to the incredible pettiness, but Nighthawk is right, they are beyond reason.

They're departing to do these heinous things to their fellow human beings, but they're hooting about winning the war too much in the earshot of Valkyrie. Despite her confiscated sword, the metal coils will not stop her from taking issue with these men in a most physically uncomfortable manner.

"No woman could've done that!" they think, not unlike many people at the time of this story in the world outside of this twenty five cent diversion. But as women did, Valkyrie begins making believers of them...until she discovers one is a woman! She who hesitates is lost to a second ray blast. Interestingly, the woman asserts: "aren't you glad Serpent rules were amended to include women?" So equal opportunity ironically balances the scale, and now Valkyrie, unconscious, is the first chosen to die.

Fuzzy, Doctor Bruce Banner haggardly recounts the attack that felled himself as the Hulk and his captured fellow Defenders before Clea, the enchanted apprentice of Strange, his loyal man-servant Wong and Jack Norriss, the husband of the body(his wife Barbara) possessing the mind and spirit of the Valkyrie. Not only does he not believe Banner is the Hulk, logic refuses him peace as he hears his newly-rediscovered, amnesiac wife is a hostage. That grave danger moves Bruce to ask her aid in summoning, for the first time, more Defenders from their previous allies. Her love and courage outstrips her uncertainty, and so Clea calls from its dark cask the Crystal of Agamotto.

By thought projection she reaches out with no previous knowledge of finding this help. To the Son of Satan, Daimon Hellstrom, and Daredevil, Matt Murdock, she sends her terse visionary S.O.S.: "Defenders in peril of their lives...come at once...New York...Sanctum of Dr. Strange..."

Hellstorm is certain of her sincerity; his intuition guides him to choose to help, and so, his demon steeds arisen from beneath Fire Lake in Massachuesetts, trident in hand, he takes the night sky.

Searching for clues in the blocks-wide devastation, Daredevil's search for the serpents leads to his first encounter with seeing a thought projection, something he always wondered if a blind man could also do. No one there, a voice twelve stories above the ground---how is a man dependent upon his heightened senses to believe this in any way? With no other way to detect from a heartbeat if she is truthful, his instinct leans him towards trusting her. He realizes his affiliation with the Defenders, themselves unknown to the world at large, is unlikely knowledge for a trap, so he answers the plea.

Pressing on to thoughts of Atlantis for Namor, her submerged kingdom destination is lost amidst a multi-hued disruption in her brain. Her drop to the floor brings the other three present, where she recovers from her faintness to apologize for only summoning Daredevil and Daimon Hellstrom.

These two pages are strongly made of yellow, red and shadows; appropriate, for the gathering of Luke Cage, Power Man, with these heroes, costumed devil without and shirtless, caped devil within.

Banner suggests Clea relax without apology and takes over, listing the Defenders only reachable by the Crystal, clearly, cleverly, and humbly decides to try a simple phone call to the one whose number is known...a hero for hire who recently worked with the Defenders as if by accident against the massive threat of Thor villain the Wrecker and the newly formed Wrecking Crew, Asgardian powered mortal thugs.

Luke Cage doesn't know a Bruce Banner, and if he's the Hulk, Luke's George Wallace; he's in no move for jive. Banner earnestly persuades him, for reals, yo, and so Power Man scribbles down an address and departs his shabby office in the sleazy center of 42nd st., takes the I.R.T. to put his life on the line, on account of the names of Nighthawk and Doc Strange alone. Besides, if this is about breaking the Serpents, how can one resist?

At Strange's door he identifies a coming tap on his shoulder from Daredevil, who he simply knows is there, to Hornhead's surprise. Upon asking, Daredevil shakes hands pleasantly with Mr. Cage, in a manner very much like Matt Murdoch, without a mask, would handle the same man.
SCREEEYAA
What does the whinny of Eldritch Horses stolen from Hell sound like to ears who have never before beheld their like?

GOOD LORD! says DD. "What on Earth!?"

"Wrong both times, man--" says Power Man, emphatically, "Nothing I ever seen on Earth looked like THAT--and the Good Lord, it definitely ain't!"

Reasonably stunned speechless by the firey entrance of "the equally-silent, grim-visaged emissary of Hell who has descended into their midst." The soundless man Daredevils registers with, incredibly, two heart beats becomes, to Cage, another matter-of-fact visitor ringing the doorbell of Dr. Strange's Sanctum in Greenwich Village. Clea praises the Vishanti they've arrived, and inside they're introduced to each other the Defenders' peril, and its one possible source of clues: the Serpent fanatic captured by Yellowjacket last issue and held immobile "under Stephen's---Dr. Strange's---spell," Clea points out. The person she cares for is not someone masked from the world that nonetheless can't truly recognize him; in fact, save for the sightless swashbuckler, none of these heroes wears a mask of any sort. Their manifested energy, and their open faces and humanity, are their identities.

His very humanity, in fact, leaves the Mystic Master in a state of stupor akin to the captive Serpent. "I don't understand," says disguised scientist Hank Pym, captured beside the shattered bonds of the Valkyrie on his right between himself and the unconscious Strange, of whom he observes to Nighthawk: "you and Val both took the same ray-blast He did. Yet both of You recovered." "My strength is doubled at night--and you Saw how powerful Val is--for all the Good it did her," says Kyle Richmond. He continues to sound determined in a logically frustrating situation. His mood shifts as he explains their super powers, to the edge of despair for the unknown fate of the woman he thought only weeks before to be falling in love with, along with his new life, not as wealth-riddled victim or poseur super-villain for the Grandmaster, but as a Defender. "Despite all his magic tricks, Doc's still only human physically...like you."

A little ruffled, frankly, Yellowjacket explains how the pain in his "only human" ankle's subsided enough for him to use his non-laser zapped mind to concentrate on shrinking out of the bonds to insect size. At human size, he releases a grateful Nighthawk...no, they don't budge. Now his alternative is to escape and get help...but here he discovers the fortress is submerged underwater! The exit, though, must still be somewhere!

Back at the Sanctum Sanctorum, Daimon attempts by mesmerism to coax the secret location from the Serpent's pawn, but he proves counter-hypnotized to spout gibberish upon questioning. That leads to Luke Cage giving this racist honky the firm treatment. Before a knuckle sandwich, however, the refugee tenant Elena, from the slum the Serpents destroyed in issue #22, calls Banner and Clea fearfully. "Quickly! It's Valkyrie--on television! They are going to kill her!" The screen will hold the location of her last stand, but to the minds of Elena and the panicked Jack Norriss, two normal people, it's terrifying and utterly wrong! "This nice woman who helped me," she thinks, "is about to be burned alive by the freaks that killed my helpless old neighbor and no one's stopping them!" Clea has cut through the confusion and led everyone before the screen, where Jack's horrific nightmare of his wife, made into a cold stranger now to be murdered for her delusions of grandeur, sends him rushing without these bizarre maniacs to try and save her.

The heroes who can see swear, and Daredevil listens to the special hearts of each of them, as they behold for the first time the heroine, helplessly strapped upside down to a crucifix, dominating the middle of the intersection before live cameras, as flames burn at the insistence of gathered Serpent Sons. Banner's heart races him straight into a change of height and weight, and sightlessly Daredevil senses him, transformed, "his sheer emotional upheaval is turning him into ---the HULK!"

"Let Hulk through! Snake Men must not hurt Girl! Girl is Hulk's Friend!" Now it's the Green Goliath shaking up the scene, dashing outside by the time his 'partners in peril' reach the door. "An instant later, they are gone---" narrates Steve Gerber, his captions a special character between us and our cast; "Daredevil carried away on his billy club's steel cable...the Hulk catapulted into the sky by the mightiest Leg Muscles on Earth.. the Son of Satan at the reins of his fiery Chariot...with a still-disbelieving Power Man hanging on for dear life as the team of hellspawn pulls it aloft!"

Miles pass in minutes; they descend to battle---"however"...without warning, Cage observes horse and chariot being "swallowed up---by a freakin' hole in the AIR!" Not just that; as Hulk says, "Black man and Fire-Stick...went AWAY! But girl Needs them! Don't they Care about Girl?"Daredevil observes, it's just as well he can't explain they didn't vanish of their own will; the angrier-the-stronger becomes the legend in play, as Daredevil adds his lean, trained human agility and might beside the Hulk, who means business.

Daredevil feels her before him as they light the flames; "Death to all white traitors!" screams an ignoramus catching the battling Murdock careless a second too long. Hesitation, as in the beginning, equals loss; the Hulk would not hesitate to smash...ah, if only for a surprise weapon, made just for Hulk, that leaves Hulk nearly as helpless as Daredevil: he's blinded!

"The irony of it," intones you the reader, you mind touching the parting words of Steve Gerber, before the reliable bound, beaten, and confused heroes at the mercy of the Serpents Sons in the final panel, "is all too bitter.

The massive Hulk...felled by a weapon which would have had No Effect on the far less powerful Daredevil. And now Both are blind.

The Green Goliath kneels helpless, trembling like a frightened child. While the Man without Fear...is borne to the flames...to join Valkyrie..in a final blaze of glory."

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> Defenders, The: Book info and issue index

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Sal Buscema
Bob McLeod
Phil Rachelson
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski.
Editor: Len Wein.

Characters

Listed in Alphabetical Order.

Daredevil
Daredevil

(Matt Murdock)
Doctor Strange
Doctor Strange

(Stephen Strange)
Hulk
Hulk

(Bruce Banner)
Son of Satan
Son of Satan

(Daimon Hellstrom)

Plus: Defenders, Hildegarde (Hildegarde), Sons of the Serpent, Wrecking Crew.