Friday, February 18, 2011

Defenders In the Jaws of the Serpent, concluded


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 Luke 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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