Wednesday, November 30, 2016

When Sneers Egghead!

Since we've spent a fair amount of time on Henry Pym lately, we should give due attention to the man who would become one of his most dogged foes--the man known as Egghead, who's introduced in December of 1962 just a few issues into Ant-Man's run in Tales To Astonish. Granted, Ant-Man's foes in that title were generally nothing to write home about; but when your archenemy turns out to be a man who takes pride in the name "Egghead," it's fair to say you're at the bottom rung of the hero ladder.

As far as super-villains go, we'd probably have to award the label of archenemy to the Human Top, Pym's most deadly foe in his early days, with Ultron of course rising later to menace not only Pym but all of the Avengers. Yet waiting in the wings was always Egghead, a normal human whose resourcefulness and ruthlessness, combined with his brilliance, made him a perpetual threat to Pym. (And he would have been a natural as one of the Headmen.) We've come to realize over time that Egghead is the type to hold a grudge, to be sure--but how did his anger and resentment toward Pym take root?

Like many villains, Egghead began his life of crime because of his desire for and need of money--and he didn't appear to have any scruples whatsoever as to how to go about obtaining it. In fact, when we first encounter him, he's already in hot water--a scientist working for the government, who had decided that there aren't nearly enough zeros in his paycheck and concludes that slipping government secrets to foreign powers will put him on Easy Street.

"To a genius like me your insipid patriotic ramblings are laughable! I sneer at you all!" Scripter Larry Lieber may have been an unsung talent at Marvel, but he had his moments.  It seems evident that Egghead already has his own thoughts on what status he feels he's due. It's also interesting to note a total lack of remorse in his character, a character trait we've already seen he would come to use as a ploy when necessary.

In a way, it's actually Ant-Man's effectiveness as a crime-fighter (as odd as that comes out sounding) that we have to thank for opening the door for Egghead with the criminal underworld that he would often seek out to help him further his plans. The news of Egghead being drummed out of his position with the government eventually reaches a few notables of that underworld, who have been driven underground by Ant-Man and who are desperately looking for someone to deal with a threat no larger than a thumbnail. And for Egghead, these men already have gotten wind that the best way to gain his cooperation is to flash a wad of green bills in front of him.

"Brute force ain't the answer!" Well, we're pretty sure that it is, since Ant-Man mostly chooses to remain at ant size during his early exploits and relies on his ants as back-up, limited to the more slow-acting growth abilities that his gas-based power affords him and not yet able to more extensively take advantage of his size-changing advantage. Ant-Man may have the strength of a full-grown man at ant size, but it's a fair bet he'll still go *SPLAT* when Lefty or Edward G. Robinson here brings their foot down on him. And speaking of the actor from Hollywood's Golden Age, Egghead's debut is one of several rare instances where the actor's likeness makes a delightful surprise appearance in a Marvel story.

As for Egghead, the mob's dough is money well spent, since he almost immediately produces results by deducing and duplicating one of Pym's earliest discoveries: how to communicate with the insect world. From there, it's a simple matter for him to lay a trap for his foe.

Egghead might have been better served by using his technology to direct the ants, rather than offering them a choice between himself and Pym, but we'll get to that in a moment.

When the time comes for Egghead to spring his trap, it looks like the ants are on board, with Pym walking right into it. (Or in this case, being bellowed into it.)

With Ant-Man free, it isn't long before Egghead is forced to flee and the gunmen are routed--including our poor Mr. Robinson stand-in, "see"?

Pym is being a little misleading as to the psychology of his little "friends," since they're only his willing allies as long as he wears his cybernetic helmet that allows him a measure of control over them. Egghead was on the right track when he offered to "free [the ants] from the Ant-Man's rule," since that's precisely what Ant-Man's power over them involves. Take, for instance, the incident where Whirlwind (our former Human Top) drops both Pym and the Wasp into an ant colony without the benefit of their cybernetic control technology. Fortunately, there was a stash of circuitry within the tank that Pym was able to salvage into a makeshift device, just in time to save their lives.

Had Egghead devised technology that could make the ants follow his own directives, this story might have turned out differently for him. Instead, he heads to a refuge he would come to know well in the years ahead--the Bowery in Manhattan's lower east side (also known at the time as "Skid Row"), where he would simmer and make future plans to gain his revenge on Henry Pym.

Egghead bounces back! (He didn't stay holed up for long, did he?)

Just how often did Mr. Robinson moonlight in Marvel Comics?

Tales To Astonish #38

Script: Larry Lieber
Pencils: Jack Kirby
Inks: Dick Ayers
Letterer: Jon D'Agostino (as Johnny Dee)

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Brawn Of The Brain!

It probably comes as no surprise that the incredible Hulk has had his share of gargantuan foes who have wanted to stomp him flat as a pancake--nor is it exactly surprising that those attempts have met with failure, if not the total destruction of his attacker.

But, M.O.D.O.K. doing the stomping? With those spindly little legs of his?

Let's just say that he's worked around that hindrance.

Yikes!  Isn't MODOK supposed to be all brains and no brawn?

Friday, November 25, 2016

The Guilt Of The Innocent

We're wrapping up what's turned into "Pile Onto Pym" Week here at the PPC, as we continue our look at Henry Pym's downward spiral following his expulsion from the Avengers. Things are hardly looking up for Pym since that disgrace; destitute, he returned to his wife to ask for her forgiveness, only to find that she'd kicked him out and was pursuing divorce proceedings.

Since then, the Avengers have put themselves in order and moved on, with Pym's estranged wife, Jan, having expedited her divorce in the Dominican Republic and then returning to nominate herself for and be accepted as the new Avengers chairwoman--while Tigra, following the team's conflict with the Molecule Man, has decided that she's not yet cut out to be an Avenger and has resigned. But from the looks of this issue's cover, the first order of business for the refurbished Avengers appears to be to add to the woes of their former comrade, Henry Pym.

Either Yellowjacket is gunning for the Avengers, or the other way around--
but which one is it?

Believe it or not, it's going to turn out to be a little of both!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

This Hero No More!

Following Henry Pym's court-martial and subsequent expulsion from the Avengers, the disgraced and humiliated former hero left the premises almost immediately without waiting for the formal and inevitable vote that effectively ended his Avengers career; but the aftershocks of his disrepute continue to ripple through Avengers Mansion and beyond, as each of the Avengers comes to terms with the loss and the breakdown of a man who goes back to the beginning, one of the team's founding members.

As part-epilogue to that story, writer Jim Shooter once more takes a look at the Avengers one by one--and there is also the fate of Pym to consider, now directionless and likely having lost his wife and his home, as well. Most of the Avengers would tackle a new threat in the issue's main plot--but it's clear that the situation with their former teammate still haunts them, which certainly holds true for the man himself.

First, we look in on two of Pym's... erstwhile comrades, Iron Man and Thor, as they meet in their respective civilian identities as Tony Stark and Donald Blake to discuss how to help Pym hopefully get back on his feet as well as, it goes without saying, getting him the necessary medical therapy to deal with his issues. It was almost tempting to use the word "friends" for a moment there--but were they ever that to Pym, really? It might be much easier to say that of Steve Rogers--but it's high time for these two people, who operate in their own separate circles, to admit that they never knew Pym on that level. That said, Pym's contribution and dedication to the Avengers has been unequivocal, and it's gratifying to see that these two men want to reach out to him, rather than just going about their business after having taken him off the Avengers roster (if reluctantly).

Strange--I would have at least thought that the first reflex of either of these men would be to call Pym by his real name rather than that of his costumed identity--yet Stark correcting himself perhaps underscores the distant relationship they've had with him over the years. We forget sometimes how private all of the original Avengers were with each other when they first worked together (even making a point to put that condition in writing in their charter). Pym and the Wasp, in particular, didn't reveal their identities until they returned to the group when Cap was leading the team, while Stark and Thor shared their identities only with each other at a later point. Add to that the fact that Avengers Mansion was mainly a meeting site, with Iron Man, Thor, and the Pyms never in residence, and it's easy to understand why this sort of conversation between Stark and Blake regarding Pym was bound to be awkward.

One Avenger who is currently in residence--Tigra--also has an opinion on the situation, especially after seeing Captain America take out his frustration in the gym. As we saw prior to the court-martial, Tigra's opinion of Pym wasn't favorable, and Pym's transparent ruse to absolve himself only sent it plummeting further. Yet Jarvis, the mansion's butler, has a wealth of perspective on the Avengers gained during his long tenure with them, and he's present to offer Tigra a different opinion on her harsh assessment of Pym--tactfully, of course.

One wonders if Jarvis would speak the same glowing words of Pym to the Wasp, if it were she he was speaking to instead of Tigra, eh?

And speaking of Jan, she is no doubt an important stop for Shooter to make as he continues to take the temperature of the Avengers after Pym's expulsion. As we can see, Jan's is decidedly... chilly.

With artist Bob Hall's rendering of Pym's assault on Jan now canon, Shooter appears willing to advance this story as if Pym struck Jan intentionally, rather than the way he had originally wanted the scene to come across; otherwise, divorce would seem an extreme step to take for being unintentionally knocked to the ground out of a mixture of anger and frustration. But now that Jan has faced facts and asserted herself, it would seem the only step left for her to take--and Shooter now has a much stronger scene to script, featuring a woman who has finally stepped out from behind her own shadow.

Which naturally brings us to Pym, and his feelings. So much has already been said by and about him on this subject; yet now that he's cleared his head to a degree and things have calmed down, what are his thoughts on how he's conducted himself? How things have turned out? In response we're only given narrative that amounts to "to be continued"; for now, we can only assume that what he feels is mostly regret. There was a time when Pym mostly called the shots for the Avengers--and as he sits in solitude, he paints a sobering picture of how much his prospects have changed.

Finally, there's Captain America, who had the unpleasant duty of bringing the charges against Pym and prosecuting him during the court-martial. Since Pym's expulsion, he's also insisted on taking the lion's share of responsibility for the pressure that Pym was under, perhaps out of guilt for an Avenger on his watch washing out--and someone of Pym's reputation and dedication, at that. The gym equipment he's faced today, as a result, hasn't stood a chance against his bottled rage--but Jarvis, again, has an opinion to offer that will hopefully save at least the pommel horse from the scrap heap.

In both instances, Jarvis's words boil down to giving Henry Pym every chance to pull himself out of his nosedive and redeem himself--knowing that journey will need to start with Pym himself. The question is:  Is Pym ready to do so?

Things go from bad to worse, as Yellowjacket is accused of a federal crime!
PLUS: The return of Egghead!

Monday, November 21, 2016

When Falls An Avenger!

Unquestionably a landmark issue, Avengers #213 holds a historic place in the team's annals, beyond and apart from the lineup changes that in the decades prior to the 21st century defined significant moments in Avengers history--marking and celebrating the passing of the torch to new Avengers who would establish their own legend. In this story, however, there is no media frenzy, no heady sense of anticipation, no excited crowds--instead, there is a pall to the current proceedings that are held behind closed doors in their Fifth Avenue mansion. The Avengers hold their first court-martial hearing of one of their own, accused of improper conduct on a mission and subject to expulsion if found guilty. Even more eye-opening is the fact that the accused is not some rookie whose inexperience and lack of discipline led to disaster, but one of the team's founding members--Henry Pym, now known as Yellowjacket, whose long service to the team has been distinguished up until this point.

Pym has only recently returned to the Avengers following a new shake-up in membership; and while his wish to rejoin the team was met with a general "welcome back" response that lacked fanfare but acknowledged a returning member who has more than proven his worth, we would soon see that Pym seemed overly eager to make a contribution to the Avengers this time around, his laboratory work having failed to meet his expectations during his inactive status combining with feelings of inadequacy stemming from living off his wife's fortune. In Pym's mind, the Avengers offered a return to prominent status, as well as opportunities to excel in a group setting that would allow his talents to stand out and to once more be at the forefront of solving a crisis.

Nor could Pym be in better company to receive affirmation of whatever skills he would bring to the table. Except for the Hulk, whose (you'll excuse the word) signature on the Avengers charter barely had time for the ink to dry before he angrily departed, and Tigra, who joined the team at the same time Pym returned, this Avengers lineup consists of all the original members (with Captain America retroactively designated as such), men and women (er, woman) who already know and respect Pym and who won't fail to regard him as an equal. Unfortunately, Pym doesn't take this for granted, and feels he must push things along in that respect.

What happened in the prior issue to bring us to this point is something we'll let the preliminary proceedings establish. For now, suffice to say that the mood within Avengers Mansion is tense--not only setting a precedent for convening a court-martial, but throwing the book at a founding member. Only Iron Man has been the subject of formal disciplinary proceedings, a failure to answer an Avengers summons which resulted in a one-week suspension from active duty; in contrast, Yellowjacket stands accused of misconduct in the field, a far more serious matter since his actions escalated a battle that was on the verge of being halted. And so a momentous hearing is held to review the charges and Yellowjacket's response to same.

It's evident that Yellowjacket understands his personal failings in this matter; what's interesting is that he declines to explain himself, even though it's clear that his response (or lack thereof) will determine whether the Avengers convene a court-martial. Given his status as a founding member, and the fact that those facing him are his comrades and friends who no doubt want to make every effort to help him, offering an explanation of his actions would go a considerable way toward avoiding having this process proceed further--yet Pym's thoughts indicate that he's perhaps too embarrassed, even ashamed, of his behavior to lay his cards on the table. Which unfortunately leaves the Avengers no choice in the matter.

To the Avengers, it must seem as if their friend has no excuse for his behavior in the field, which, lacking an explanation, amounts to a lapse in judgment and, by extension, an avoidable mistake. When the Avengers reconvene, will Yellowjacket see it that way?

Friday, November 18, 2016

A Hero Reborn--The Forgotten One!

The character of Gilgamesh has appeared so sporadically in Marvel stories over time that it's a wonder we still hear from him. Often on the verge of earning the name he's better known by--"the Forgotten One"--he still pops up in one role or another, most recently as a companion to his friend Hercules as they became involved in a conflict with a pantheon of gods known as the Uprising Storm. A creation of Jack Kirby who found a place as one of the Eternals in the title of the same name, the Forgotten One dates back to ancient history, having roamed the Earth and being mistaken for such figures as Samson, Atlas, and even Hercules. Apparently having penetrated too far into human affairs and perhaps allowing his status as a "legend" to get the better of his ego, he was reined in by Zuras, the Eternals' leader, and restricted to a sector of their homeland of Olympia--a sort of "house arrest" that would last indefinitely. It was during this time in virtual isolation that he would become known to his fellow Eternals as "the Forgotten One," an unfortunately appropriate designation which perhaps spoke to his place in history as well as his status among the Eternals.

But during the Eternals' conflict with the Deviants, and with almost all the Eternals occupied in their ritual of the Uni-Mind, the Forgotten One was the only Eternal in a position to help when sought out by the one called Sprite, in order to deal with an explosive device the Deviants planned to deploy on the Celestials' mother ship.

And so with new raiment, the Forgotten One prepares to take his first step back into history, this time to avert catastrophe for all of humanity--for if the Deviant explosive should detonate and cause the ship's destruction, the Celestials' retaliation against the Deviants would possibly annihilate millions on Earth. With the stakes so high, and given how this man has been so shunned by his fellow Eternals, it's to his credit that he steps up and becomes again the hero of old--though this time his reward will not be laurels, but hopefully survival.

The meaning of those closing words from the Eternals story wouldn't become apparent until two years later, when writer Roy Thomas had begun to incorporate Kirby's concepts involving the Eternals and the Celestials into the pages of The Mighty Thor in an extended arc which would culminate in the title's 300th issue. Eventually, in two power-packed issues, the Forgotten One reappears as an emissary of the space gods, thereby bringing him into conflict with not only the Eternals, but with another god who has sworn to stand against the Celestials' judgment which could bring an end to all life on Earth.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Who Killed Scorpio?

In the conclusion to the story of Scorpio which took place in the Defenders' 50th issue, Scorpio met his end in a scene that played out off-panel but which left no doubt that Scorpio's threat was ended.

But... take another look at the scene.

There are two things here that aren't adding up. Can you spot them?

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Return of... Marvel Girl!?

It only took a little over five years after the fact for Marvel to raise from the dead one of its classic characters--Jean Grey, a/k/a Marvel Girl, whose life had been brought to an end both heroically and memorably. In comics terms, five years isn't a great deal of time to allow the dust to settle before planning the details of the character's resurrection--and in Jean's case, there was also the matter of coming up with a reason for bringing her back (or, perhaps better put, a reason for not leaving her dead) beyond folding her into a reboot of the original X-Men. With her more dynamic identity as Phoenix at an end, what could Jean Grey bring to the table as far as reader interest that she couldn't manage to ignite in the many years since her 1963 debut?

One could ask the same of the first X-Men team, who couldn't make a success of their first title and quickly fell by the wayside when their 1975 replacements made the scene--but who were now counting on a bump from the popularity of their successors for their relaunch. Jean, in a way, seemed to be relying on her own popularity and momentum as Phoenix to bring her old readers along for her rebirth--an appropriate word for her reappearance, under the circumstances. Few characters could embody so well the commonly used phrase "like a phoenix from the ashes...", describing the mythological bird that perishes in flames of its own making only to be reborn from its ashes.

Given the interest that Jean's return would likely generate, it seems strange that the story behind it wouldn't take place exclusively in the new title in order to benefit its launch, perhaps even taking two or three issues to solve the "mystery" of it. Perhaps the decision was made to instead have the X-Men regarded as a whole, rather than banking on one of their characters to sell their concept, a more meritorious approach that lets all five characters present themselves to new readers and conveys a vote of confidence in the book.

That's not to say that Jean's reappearance wasn't milked for all it was worth and used to build interest in her new title. First, indirectly, in an issue of The Avengers that featured the return of the Enclave and inadvertently led to the discovery of an energy-emitting pod beneath Jamaica Bay--and then followed up on in the pages of Fantastic Four, giving artist/writer John Byrne (along with inker Terry Austin--how awesome is that?) a crack at the sequence of events which began with the death of Marvel Girl during a fateful space shuttle flight and leading to the as-yet undisclosed details of the introduction of the Phoenix force. The issue of X-Men which heralds the aftermath paints an ominous picture of the shuttle's final moments before it crashes into the bay:

...but what happened during its flight? And what happened to Jean Grey?

Friday, November 11, 2016

Let There Be Victory!

With the Doctor Strange film now a week into its run, it's a pleasure to take you back in time over fifty years and present one of the character's classic struggles against two of his most implacable foes. And while you won't find buildings folding in on themselves in this tale, you will find that writer Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko spared no effort in presenting a 3-issue adventure that dazzles the eyes as well as the mind--all to be had at the staggering cost of 12¢ per copy, and all without using a single pixel of CGI.

We'll see here the culmination of an extended story that took place over several issues of Strange Tales in 1965, where Baron Mordo was menacing both Strange and the Ancient One. Mordo has become even more dangerous, having formed an alliance with a powerful sorcerer from another dimension who has been funneling mystic might to him and thus made him a more formidable enemy for Strange to face. After evading Mordo's pursuit of him in a global manhunt, Strange returns to find that Mordo has managed to capture the Ancient One, raising the stakes in this conflict considerably. For his part, Strange has been following a vague lead that will hopefully give him an advantage in the coming battle--a mysterious entity he must find, known as Eternity. In the interim, Strange has discovered the identity of Mordo's new benefactor--none other than the dread Dormammu, whose added power makes Mordo virtually unbeatable.

We've previously seen the results of Strange's meeting with Eternity, where Eternity declined to provide Strange with the extra power he needed to prevail. Now, Strange is forced to confront his two greatest enemies in order to save the life of the Ancient One and end their threat. But Strange is well aware of the very real possibility that he may be able to accomplish neither, and that his own life may be forfeit.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

One For The Road

Following the Defenders' battle with Scorpio and the new but artificially created Zodiac, there were some things for S.H.I.E.L.D. to iron out at Scorpio's factory/headquarters in New Jersey. So as promised last time, let's tie up a few loose ends from that classic story.

For one thing, Director Nick Fury--that is, the real Nick Fury, the brother of the man who had once again taken on the identity of Scorpio, Jake Fury--had the dubious privilege of meeting his counterpart, the Life Model Decoy which had been created in his image and which had become Scorpio's sympathetic ear, aide, and, for all intents and purposes, surrogate brother. Jake Fury had nothing but resentment and hatred toward his real sibling--but ironically, the Fury LMD felt exactly the opposite toward Scorpio, a man the LMD appears to be mourning if you read between the lines.

The fact that the LMD seems to feel anything at all is shocking in and of itself; but let's assume for the moment that its "feelings" of loyalty to Jake Fury were simulated and simply part of its programming. With Scorpio dead, that programming would have run its course--so it's surprising to find the LMD not only being affected by Jake's loss, but downright astounding to see it remaining mum on the true details of the circumstances of Scorpio's death. Not even the real Fury seems to suspect the truth (or so it seems). All the parties involved, including Fury, assume the Fury LMD is the one who ended Scorpio's life with a gunshot, when actually it was Scorpio who took his own life--partly because of the failure of his Zodiac project, and partly due to his feelings of despair and hopelessness regarding a life that he felt amounted to nothing.

Whatever (the real) Nick Fury's thoughts are regarding the loss of his brother, he's not saying--perhaps because, in his dealings with Scorpio as part of his brother's criminal past, he feels it's all been said already.

As for the Defenders, they're also picking up the pieces, though for the most part they've come out of this encounter unscathed--except perhaps for Hellcat, whose battle with the savage Leo has left her injured and perhaps a little shell-shocked at her foe's merciless, near-fatal assault on her. While Moon Knight--a lone agent who allied himself with the Defenders to help Jack Norriss, the man who's married to the Valkyrie's human host--prepares to bid them farewell, his experience alongside them proving to have been both rewarding and beneficial.

And speaking of Moon Knight, there's one loose end to this affair that hasn't been covered: How did Moon Knight escape from Scorpio's death trap--locked in a water tank and left to drown as it filled to capacity? Thanks to the last bit of product placement by writer David Kraft and artist Keith Giffen, we have our answer.

Or, to paraphrase the old Schlitz slogan: "When you're out of Schlitz, you're not out of air."

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

All Signs Point To... Death!

While the villain known as Scorpio prepares to unleash a new grouping of Zodiac to the world, the Defenders have moved to invade his New Jersey headquarters in an effort to save two of their own as well as put an end to his plans. But one angry Defender has been carefully (and, to say the least, recklessly) herded to arrive ahead of them--a behemoth who has clashed with Scorpio before, and who wishes to express very specific sentiments on how the score between them will be settled:

It's the bludgeoning, beer-popping conclusion to the classic 1977 tale featuring the Defenders vs. the new Zodiac--and just in time for the group's knockout fiftieth issue!

The Defenders face the power of the Zodiac key, plus 4 to 1 odds against them--or do they?

Monday, November 7, 2016

Who Remembers Scorpio?

There seems to be little argument that the three-part 1977 story from The Defenders, "Who Remembers Scorpio?", is a fan favorite, spotlighting as it does this arachnid member of Zodiac and the exploration of his character in depth by writer David Kraft. Scorpio--whose identity is again that of Jake Fury, the brother of the director of S.H.I.E.L.D., Nick Fury--is a mixture of introspection and cynicism, critical of the world's social ills and pressures and mired in depression over his solitude. Yet he has the Zodiac key, as well as the means to alleviate his loneliness--while his ruthlessness and resources drive him to sweep aside the societal constraints that he regards as dangerous and self-defeating and establish his own supremacy.

In this tale, Kraft writes Scorpio as if the character were delivering the lines in a one-man show, with the Defenders waiting in the wings while he moves ahead with his plans. His headquarters, a building in Belleville, New Jersey, almost comes across as a carefully lit set, with its dimness and many shadows only sparsely broken up by pieces of equipment and recessed lighting. One could easily make the case that the environment matches his contemplative mood; yet it's that mood that drives him to act to alleviate his state of frustration, and he is no less the "super-villain" because of it. There are many villains who wish to alter their circumstances through the use of force--people such as Magneto, or Doom, or Loki--but instead of using their broad brush, Scorpio seeks to strike back at the core of society, rejecting its dictates while becoming his own ideal. To do that, he'll need some sort of positive reinforcement in place that provides him with affirmation and support, which will come to him from two sources--each of which will be something of a surprise in terms of what form they take. (And as the story's events fall into place, we'll see just how literal that description should be regarded.)

In a prior issue, a prelude to Scorpio's involvement with the Defenders (as well as the introduction to this arc's title) has already taken place, when he made an incursion at the heroes' riding academy H.Q. in an apparent effort to kidnap Kyle Richmond. When his plan failed, he was forced to adopt a contingency plan and set his sights on Jack Norriss, who had been married to the Valkyrie's human host, Barbara, and who has remained in the Defenders' orbit only to be frustrated by his inability to reach Barbara on any level. Norriss has consequently become embedded with the Defenders to a certain extent, and his activities in a recent power play by the Headmen have brought him to the attention of SHIELD, interrogated but subsequently released by Fury.

But Norriss soon found that Fury was after him again, and this time he wasn't asking for Norriss' cooperation. Yet Fury's heavy-handed treatment of Norriss draws the attention of the adventurer known as Moon Night, who manages to drive off Fury and his agents and then informally becomes Norriss' protector in order to get to the bottom of the mystery.

(Selected scenes from issue #47)

It's a splendid introduction of Moon Knight to the book--and there's no denying the impact he makes on the story, since taking on Fury and his agents is nothing short of impressive, buoyed by the fact that Moon Knight operates on the strength of his convictions and his loyalties are to whomever he's trying to help. After an altercation between the Defenders and Wonder Man, one of the Avengers, it comes as something of a surprise when Fury changes his approach vis-à-vis Norriss, deciding to substitute diplomacy for the use of force.

Norriss' instinct proves to be correct, since the Defenders are convinced that Fury wouldn't circumvent the law and that no harm will come to Norriss.

Unfortunately, in the opening of Kraft's follow-up story that will bring Scorpio's plans front and center, we're not so sure anymore that the Defenders made the right call--and even less sure of Fury's good intentions.

You might want to pop open a Schlitz and relax while you can--Scorpio's melancholy won't last.