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Defenders, The #40: Review

Oct 1976
Steve Gerber, Klaus Janson

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Story Name:

Love, Anarchy And, Oh Yes... The Assassin!

Review & Comments

4 stars

Defenders, The #40 Review by (August 31, 2021)

Review: An odd issue with big questions of group identity and personal responsibility: a group of (presumed) Jews rightly wanting their family members freed from the Soviet Union, plan to use blackmail and violence to solve the problem. So Red Guardian uses violence to solve her immediate problem: escaping from the group’s resident colossus. So why does this group (and its supervillain assassin) vanish without a trace? I don’t know; the problem of Soviet Jewry was a major issue at this time. Perhaps someone didn’t want to get too political, especially by casting a group whose motives were exemplary as a bunch of bad guys with questionable strategies. And so, Val gets a new costume, Dr. Strange pantses a politician for no reason, Hulk punches out a movie theater for no reason, Jack Norriss asks to be bought off (don’t worry, he’s not going anywhere)—and the Elf with a Gun. Plus, a typically misleading cover. The series has hit its stride.

Comments: Only appearance of the Committee for Free Immigration, Mrs. Rosenzweig, and the hooded assassin. Fourth appearance of Elf with a Gun, previously seen in #25, 31 and 38, who will return for one last time in issue #46. “Waste” is an example of a “snuff” film, which purports to show an actual murder, a controversial issue in the 1970s as to whether such things really existed or were merely urban legends. It is revealed in ANNUAL #1 that Arthur Nagan had implanted in the Defenders’ minds an antipathy toward mass movements, leading to their odd actions in recent issues.


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Defenders, The #40 Synopsis by Peter Silvestro

With the aid of lawyer Matt Murdock, Valkyrie is cleared of all charges and she goes home with Nighthawk, Red Guardian, and Luke Cage. They are admitted by Wong, and greeted by Clea, who has a present for Val. Jack Norriss follows Val to her room where she is wearing the golden costume Clea has made for her; once again, he demands that she return to being his wife; once again she reminds him that she is not his wife, merely occupying her body….

Meanwhile, Doctor Strange is meditating in Central Park and narrowly avoids being hit by a baseball. He spies a politician addressing a crowd and, in a moment of levity, causes the man’s pants to fall down, instantly regretting it. A newspaper shows him some headlines to be wary of: cult leader Nebulon has been named UN Ambassador and Ruby Thursday of the Headmen declares her candidacy for President of the United States….

Hulk is in the Midwest and sees a group of women protesting an alleged “snuff film” outside a theater. Annoyed at the whole thing, Hulk smashes the front of the theater. Then, puzzled by what he has done, he bounds off in confusion. Inside the theater, one of the protestors has taken refuge in the ladies’ rest room where she is confronted, and then shot, by the Elf with a Gun….

Back at the Sanctum Sanctorum, a message on a rock is hurled through a window. The note denounces the Defenders for harboring a Communist in their midst; Red Guardian sees this as her problem so she insists on chasing down the vandals alone. Jack Norriss becomes fed up with the Defenders; the world is going mad and they can’t address any problems that can be solved without violence. Nighthawk asks what it would take to get rid of him? Norriss demands $300,000 and NH phones the bank to make out a check for him. Jack walks out, telling them he is going to join Ruby Thursday’s presidential campaign. Meanwhile, Red Guardian has caught up to three hoodlums in an alley and beats them up while explaining that individuals are hardly responsible for the actions of groups they claim to represent. In the melee, one of the hoods accidentally shoots another. An old lady looks out of the window and RG asks to use her phone to call an ambulance. When RG gets to the apartment, the old lady pulls a gun and proclaims herself part of the Committee for Free Immigration, whose family members are trapped in the USSR by its immigration policies. The huge hooded assassin explains how Red Guardian is going to be part of their plan to rescue their loved ones. Red escapes and the assassin pursues, they fight, he turns out to have mechanical hands covered by synthetic skin. She tricks him into diving at her, steps aside and lets him crash through a garage door, knocking himself out. She returns to the Sanctum where Dr. Strange is asking about Jack Norriss. It gets awkward….

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Barberoids 1 cover original artwork on ebay

Klaus Janson
Klaus Janson
Klaus Janson
Gil Kane (Cover Penciler)
Klaus Janson (Cover Inker)
? (Cover Colorist)
Layouts: Sal Buscema. Letterer: Joe Rosen.


Listed in Alphabetical Order.

Doctor Strange
Doctor Strange

(Stephen Strange)

(Bruce Banner)
Luke Cage
Luke Cage

(Power Man)

(Kyle Richmond)
Red Guardian
Red Guardian

(Tania Belinsky)


Plus: Defenders, Jack Norriss (Jackson Norriss).

> Defenders, The: Book info and issue index

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