Sunday, November 25, 2012

Knight Of The Living Stone


It's hard to believe that this little scene from an early Defenders adventure would play a part in a scheme to end nearly all life on Earth:



No one ever accused the Enchantress of having scruples--just power to spare and a tendency to indulge in betrayal. This particular betrayal took place after she formed a loose alliance with the Defenders in order to take vengeance against a witch-queen of another dimension who had laid claim to her partner-in-crime, the Executioner. In fact, after succeeding in her quest, the Enchantress would have been only too happy to have been allowed to leave without further incident--if it weren't for the jealous Black Knight, who was still somewhat under the influence of a kiss from her which had effectively put him at her service, if you know what I mean.

So rather than Dane Whitman finding a happy ending with the Enchantress, he instead found himself to be one heck of a pigeon statue, primed and ready for a spot in the gardens at Avengers Mansion. If only his comrades in the Defenders had thought to include the Avengers in the loop of this little development. Instead, Dr. Strange thought Dane might instead make a good decoration for his study:



Now, we know a lot about the events that unfolded once Strange was able to make a little headway in alleviating Dane's condition. And we know that the Black Knight eventually became mobile again. But that only brings us to a brand new:


Marvel Trivia Question



Whatever became of the Black Knight's statue?



Before we get to the Knight, we have to first pay lip service to the legendary isle of Avalon, which produced a powerful weapon called the Evil Eye, left in the charge of a hibernating wanderer called Prester John:



(No, I don't want to talk about this rather suggestive pose the Torch finds John and the Eye in.)


The Evil Eye was presumed destroyed--but an old enemy of Dr. Strange, the dread Dormammu, formed an alliance with Loki, the Asgardian god of evil, to recover it in order to use its power. And after mapping out his plan to Loki, Dormammu proposed having Strange's allies do the legwork for them:



And Strange, who's finally found a way to reach the Knight's consciousness in the limbo-realm that it was sent to after his body was transmuted, unknowingly hands Dormammu the means to do so. The Knight responds to Strange's probe thus:



But after a little tinkering with the message by Dormammu on the return trip, Strange hears a far different response which deals in the Evil Eye:



(There were no cell phones when this story was written--but I must say this exchange gave us a taste of things to come in terms of what kind of call quality we could expect, eh?)

So the stage is set for the Defenders to begin collecting the fragments of the Evil Eye. Yet once Loki spends a little time with Dormammu's ravings, he begins to get an idea of the potential scope of his ally's plan of conquest, which wouldn't stop at just the death of his half-brother:



So Loki decides to enlist a few heroes of his own in order to stop Dormammu's mad plan, heroes whom he's well familiar with from their very beginning:



And with the Avengers now gunning for the Defenders, that of course leads to a little event we know as:



Which I won't go into here--we'd be here all day. Do pick it up in graphic novel form if you get a chance, because it's a nice cross-title effort by Steve Englehart and all artists involved. Suffice to say that all the pieces of the Eye are eventually recovered, so it seems the Knight's reconstitution as a living, breathing person is at hand. But not so fast. After all, this moment is what Dormammu has been waiting for:



Which leads the Avengers and the Defenders to mount one mother of an attack on Dormammu. Rest assured, I'm not going to spoil the details of the ending for you. We'll just hop quickly ahead to when all the dust has settled:



And finally, the moment is at hand. This time, Strange uses the Eye's power in conjunction with his own to send himself to retrieve the Knight's essence. But...



You didn't think it would be that easy an ending, did you?


So whom do we have to thank this time for fouling up the works? No less than Merlin, whose spell has snagged not only the Knight but also the Defenders and brought them to the past to foil a scheme from another magician, Modred:



A conflict which I'm again going to fast-forward through, because we've WAITED LONG ENOUGH to get to the Knight's fate, don't you think? Well, too bad.  We're about to have the rug yanked out from under us yet again, this time by the Knight himself. Thanks to Prester John--remember him?



What?? So that brings us up to speed on the Knight--yet we've still got a statue standing in a cellar back in the present, sticking out like a sore thumb? I sure hope the Enchantress doesn't come looking for a little Knight action and tries to kiss it back into human form again--that's going to be one pissed sorceress. Or maybe a kinky one.  But seriously, how disappointing it is that, after all this time and all that's gone down because of this bloody statue of stone, it turns out to be deus ex machina that handles things at this point:



We never learned who or what the hell animated the statue, or why the darned thing not only thinks it's Dane Whitman but also wants to destroy the Avengers. But an entire issue is devoted to its attack, where this statue takes out all the active members, including Iron Man and Wonder Man. Why hasn't the Grey Gargoyle ever mopped up these clowns before, if it's this easy? Anyway, the Vision arrives and lets the stone enemy basically take out itself on his diamond-hard form:




Months later, after the Avengers call him over for a consult, Dr. Strange restores the statue's shattered pieces back to the Knight's form, noticing that it now has the hero's ebony sword attached to it. But I'm not about to drag us all through another mystery. Let's jump ahead to a later story in The Avengers, where the statue is again in the form of rubble in the Knight's residence at Garrett Castle. (I don't know how that happened--maybe it has something to do with the story I just skipped over. Would someone care to fill in the blanks?) After the Avengers assist the Knight with a conflict in the past, the stone rubble reforms to Dane's human body through the efforts of an old sorcerer friend, with Dane's consciousness once again embodying it:



From beginning to end, the stone statue storyline took a little over nine years to finally resolve. And once Dane Whitman got his bearings, he ended up having a splendid run in The Avengers. I'm going to take a wild guess and assume that he never toured the statues in the gardens.


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