Defence of the Realm

Today, in something of a prequel to the next Marvel Treasury Edition, we’re looking at The Coming of the Defenders from February 2012.

defenders

The Defenders were of course Marvel’s “non-team”: the anti-hero powerhouse characters who couldn’t play nicely with the Avengers-at least in 1971. They originated in two Roy Thomas storylines- the Nameless Ones crossover between Dr. Strange, Sub-Mariner and the Hulk, where Strange retired with a new alias as Stephen Sanders.

The second saga was a Sub-Mariner two-parter in which Namor teamed up with the Hulk and the Silver Surfer.

sub-mariner

The Defenders were launched in Marvel Feature, a title which, once they span off in their own series, hosted Ant-Man and the Thing in a predecessor to Marvel Two-in -One, until 1973. Marvel Feature would relaunch in 1975 as the original home of Red Sonja’s solo series.

This classy reprint special was a tie-in to yet another relaunch of the Defenders- their fifth by my calculations (and a sixth followed it this year). Perhaps over the next couple of posts, we’ll discover why the series has rebooted so often.

The Day of the Defenders:  by Thomas, Andru and Everett, this was the premiere of the series and a  moody, atmospheric  piece which I’ll discuss in more detail next time. Suffice to say for now, the villain of this nostalgic tale dates back to the Jim Lawrence/Dan Adkin era of Strange Tales in 1968.

The Return: Stephen Sanders encounters the blue-masked Dr. Strange (actually an imposture by Baron Mordo). Thomas undoes the end of the doctor’s career simply and directly; Heck does a good job of evoking Ditko and Colan.

mf 2

Nightmare on Bald Mountain: Dormammu returns in a Lovercraftian story, as does Clea- like a lot of Roy Thomas’s heroines, her powers have “all but faded”. This is one of Marvel’s Rutland stories so Roy and Jeannie Thomas appear diegetically. There’s reference to the previous year’s Lady Liberators adventure and Thomas namechecks Lovecraft in Bruce Banner’s dialogue. The Defenders spend a lot of time in civvies and it’s a bit of a snoozer. Sal Buscema’s finishes on Andru give a glossy Marvel sheen, however.

xemnu

A Titan Walks Among Us: a more interesting satirical tale poking fun at celebrity and, perhaps,  the Krofft brothers. Xemnu, the original Hulk, a fuzzy Marvel monster from 1971 reprints in Monsters on the Prowl ( formerly Chamber of Darkness) appears in this story. It is in a Twilight Zone vein with echoes of Quatermass II. An astronaut is killed rather violently and the Hulk and Namor swear never to help out Strange again.

The respect and admiration Thomas has for Namor and his creator Everett is apparent in this collection. The stories remind me somewhat of Joe Orlando’s mystery books at DC. The Golden Age-y art, while probably not to Stan’s taste, definitely does not look like the Romita-fied Marvel Universe. It feels very much in fact like the end of the Sixties.

Coming soon:  Musical Minds

All images are presumed copyright of their respective owners

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One comment on “Defence of the Realm

  1. Kid Robson says:

    I’ve got one of the reprint mags that featured the first few (I think) Defenders stories. I ‘ve also got the MWOM issue that features that Marvel Feature #2 cover. Wasn’t a bad little series, all in all. At least the Surfer got a regular outing after the cancellation of his own mag, and wasn’t just restricted to the occasional guest appearance in the FF.

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