Friday, February 18, 2011

Defenders 25

We begin with the fate of Son of Satan and Power Man after they vanished into that hole in the air. The splash of Defenders #25 shows Clea as she draws Hellstrom and Cage through the Crystal of Agamotto, to exit from Doc's amulet, before the hanging captive Defenders.
Clea manages to make contact with Doc’s mind as he awakens. Cage frees Nighthawk, while the Soulfire Hellstrom ejects from his nethermetal trident frees Doc. Enter Yellow Jacket: “Nighthawk – what's going on here? I heard – what on Earth – ? You're free! But who – how – what?” As he points out, they have as many members as the Avengers, “maybe more”; not bad for a non-team!
Doc’s still too weak to teleport them to the surface, but Cage and Hellstrom are aware of Valkyrie’s impending fate: to burn before the frightened masses. Yellowjacket’s analytical probing cannot yield what the inner whispers of Daimon Hellstrom’s intellect do. The Soulfire bursts forth upon the hidden mechanisms, and the platform-game-like storyline takes the rescue mission back in convergence with the logical conclusion of its intent.
Val, DD and the Hulk remain in distress in the streets, as opinions and differences begin to lead the people to force a Serpent Stand Down. DD wakes up and frees himself. His impressions chronicle the emotional turbulence, which the Hulk's empathies cannot process without clouded distress. “Too much yelling! Too many people! Hulk can't stand it! Stop it – Hulk must stop it – 'til Hulk can see again!”
Jack’s actions inspire the onlookers, which they cannot realize are fueled in turn by the danger to his wife. An average guy with no powers is trying to make a difference, upon this baroque, primal, symbolic tableau: are they going to stand here and let this happen, even if maybe they are NOT individually very sympathetic to minorities? The scene could’ve been done so stridently, but Gerber pulls off these random people with believable motives and words: not idealists, but not citizens willing to stand by and watch crimes against humanity. It’s simply basic human decency, regarding what is happening right in front of you.
The crowd finally rallies the Serpents, who flee, while simultaneously:
Hulk: “Hulk's eyes are getting better. Hulk was afraid snake-man's light-gun hurt Hulk for always – but now – dark is going away...Hulk can SEE!” Blindness, a need for leadership and guidance: the Hulk and his opponents battle through similar metaphors---and isn’t that the point, you might say, about the basic state of us all? (Now THAT’s Seventies.)

The secret exit of the Serpents leads into a plush office that Nighthawk suddenly realizes belongs to his financier Pennysworth. Suddenly he’s lost desire to keep his pretense of a dual identity from Cage; he’s shattered by the knowledge that separating his lives has left him in darkness, too. Richmond Enterprises subsidizes the Serpents, and the busy superhero obliviously paid little heed to what his civilian power does in the world. That’s his hamartia: even a few brightly sparkling discharges of superhuman power will only be a secondary remedy; even as they prepare to rescue Val, the truth is, they are not needed. There are limits to what these great powers can really do.
We hear little, after all, about the crimes prevented between their inception and the time they’re committed. The best crime fighting is prevention, and besides, what more could grown, responsible and always-rich Kyle Richmond do without the cool costume, but instead, with meetings, donations, and internal diagnostics?
Nighthawk goes off to find his manager. And Son of Satan, oddly, stays behind, for an inspired reason.
SoS: “No, Sorcerer. I shall join you there shortly – after I've retrieved my chariot.” Things here aren’t just illogically left out of the puzzle of location, as my friend might say. Wielding these accoutrements comes with responsibilities.
The Defenders gather back at Doc's place, where, Gerber tells us, “accounts are exchanged in full at last" – Nighthawk gets the location of the Serpents' main base out of Pennyworth during a bit of angry payback. No one is angrier, of course, than Cage.
In one all-inclusive double page spread, the Defenders invade the Serpent headquarters, bringing all their individual powers and attacks to bear in a route of the remaining villains, who always relied on guile, captivity and surprise for all their most effective weapons to work.
The Serpents' racist mass-murders shake Kyle Richmond still to the core. He flies off into the sunset to grapple with his conscience...

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