Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Defenders 23

Defenders #23.

Kyle reveals to Stephen that he'd met Holliman earlier that night:

“He wanted to talk real estate with Kyle Richmond. I wasn't in the mood.”
“Perhaps you should have listened more closely, Nighthawk. The forces of karma work in puzzling ways.”

How very puzzling---as we’ll see! Whatever reasons drive Kyle to express his exceptionalism through his costumed identity, rather than his millionaire self with its connections, have as much to do with the limitations of a superhero story of the 70’s as the character trying to fit into one. The Defenders are much further from the answers for it. They head back to the Sanctum for tea and pondering---unaware of the remaining three Serpents spying on them.

The Serpents, however, find a violent sting awaiting them through Yellowjacket, last seen in GS Defenders #4. Surreptitiously he’s skulked after them over the rooftops, and in a splash page smash he begins to take them down. The first two of them fall to wisecracks and jaw cracks, but a third that had been hiding in the shadows clips him. Yellowjacket confidently renders him unconscious, as the other two escape.

YJ takes his new prisoner to the Sanctum, where everyone there greets him happily to see him – underscoring the “friends” tone that’s come in under Gerber. The Hulk playfully makes goo-goo noises at Elena's baby, unconcerned with “bug man’s” prisoner, but Nighthawk rips the Sepent's mask off and tough talks him with a steadied fist. The Serpent (impervious to interrogation by hypnosis, as we find they all are) reveals his leader will be appearing on television at midnight. (Why so late? Though in today’s news cycles, it would still get its 24 hour treatment.)
Nighthawk eyes a lurker outside Doc's window, but as he prepares to go catch him, YJ says:

“Hold it! need to go smashing thru the glass! Let me handle this!” Using his scientifically precise approach, “(a) narrow, sharply focused beam of light issues forth from Yellowjacket's cellular-disruptor gun...passing harmlessly thru the window pane...and causing the fleeting figure outside to drop in his tracks!” This lurker, however, is discovered seconds later to be someone very shocking to Valkyrie (she drops her sword!): it’s her human persona’s missing husband, Jack Norriss, who’s much more shocked! He doesn't know what's happened, why “Barbara” doesn't recognize him...

With this left unsettled, Valkyrie excuses herself a few minutes, and Wong warms up Doc's TV, so they can watch the Serpent Leader's broadcast. (I don’t really remember seeing a TV any other time; Wong’s soaps, maybe? It was the source of instant news in 1974, though.) Serpent Leader plans to reach everybody at once, to start his all-white rebellion, and this is the medium by which to disseminate his ideas. It's been fairly called a great Gerberesque page, where he gives his speech; Nighthawk identifies the “spin” and also the imitation of legitimate political figures, a kind of State of the Disunion stating the correct response to the Great Society plans propagated by the Federal government: a purging of the stereotyped ethnicities, whose poverty increases the difficulty of employment, housing, and safety for white citizens.

Doc: “...the question becomes: what are we to do.”
Hulk: “Dumb Magician doesn't know?! Even Hulk knows –snake-men must be smashed!!”

But then, an explosion shakes Doc's house, and all rush outside, to see:

“The midnight sky to the south pulses with a brilliant – and eerie– glow of red-orange.” “A fire-bomb!” Y.J. shouts. “If it was dropped by plane – half of Lower Manhattan could be in flames! Looks like we shelve the questions for now...and move! Hulk! Come with me!” The two take quickly to the skies.

Nighthawk: “Wow! Talk about the voice of authority...! That's the first time I've ever seen Greenie take an order from anybody without so much as a grumble!”
Economically, we’ve been given YJ, the voice of intellect, of necessity, of precision, providing leadership to the Hulk, an emotional force of nature. As was his immediately formed plan, Hank directs his strength to forming a firebreak out of (strategically!) abandoned buildings. But because he IS what he is, Hulk sees this firebreak action as too slow, and decides to clap his hands together, creating a gale force that simply blows out the flames all at once. But this is costly to Yellowjacket: the force catches him as he flies two kids to safety, and down he comes to earth.

The kids are safe; but his ankle’s twisted; two Serpents sneak up and cudgel that fine brain, the seat of his real powers. He tries to activate the “cybernetic circuitry” contained in his cowl– but the pain from his ankle is too great; he goes down.

The Defenders arrive, but the Serpents are better-prepared for a second encounter.
One ray-gun blast each is sufficient to neutralize Doc, Val, and Kyle. The Hulk still stands after three, then he takes six. Then he's attacked by an electricity-weapon. Then he takes another eight blasts. Because it’s necessary for the next plot, Hulk falls down. Now, the Serpents make their mistake: they don't take him along with their other captives, because they realize they'd never be able to hold him once he woke up...maybe the stupid monster will wake shortly with no clue what to do, anyway! But as they walk away, the Hulk is changing back to Bruce Banner, lying on the pavement---and ironically, he may now be smart enough to save the day!

Comments: The stories of each speaking part tie together; the non-powered people and scenes fit in credible, realistic ways by the backstories and life paths that bring them here. Human beings seem to function with their own purposes, rather than appear as cogs in a plot machine.

Yellowjacket as a science-hero has a cool design and different approach than any of his fellow non-team mates. It’s a distinguishing approach; I think he just needed a writer who loved him, rather than...but here, I believe, you can open the debate yourselves!

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