Monday, April 23, 2018

Rampage of the Wrecking Crew!

Yike! From a glance at this power-packed cover, it looks like the Defenders have decided to start this issue without us!

So let's get right to it, shall we?

  • The Wrecking Crew has been extorting New York City to the tune of millions of dollars, levelling one building after another with each refusal of the city to comply.
  • Richmond Enterprises' C.F.O., Mr. Pennysworth, has alerted his boss, Kyle Richmond (a/k/a Nighthawk), that all of the destroyed buildings were owned by his company. (You'd think Pennysworth would have done that before the first one bit the dust! Jeez!)
  • The Crew's latest demand raises both the price tag and the penalty for refusal: $25 million, or see the destruction of the entire city! (Adjusting for inflation, that works out to roughly $127 million today.)
  • Nighthawk and his fellow Defender, Dr. Strange, stand vigil at Richmond's remaining building (still under construction), one that Pennysworth has already taken steps to protect.
  • Strange and Nighthawk unfortunately come face-to-face with that protection: Luke Cage, Power Man, who jumps to the wrong conclusion and thinks the two costumed strangers are there to destroy the building. Not on his watch, sugar.
  • You can guess what happens next.
  • Eventually, our heroes convince Cage they're not part of the Crew--but as they begin to talk and compare notes, the real Wrecking Crew strike! Scratch one multi-million-dollar building.

Unfortunately, the Wrecking Crew is just getting warmed up!

Yes, believe it or not--there was indeed a time when Dr. Strange was prepared to
(You can almost picture the Ancient One planting head to palm, can't you?)

This late-1974 story jumps ahead a bit with the Crew, a brand-new super-powered group which makes its first appearance in the climax to the Cage story and then debuts in battle with the Defenders (in a story by Len Wein, who scripts his final issue for the title). At present, it's unclear why and how the Wrecker hooked up with these guys and somehow ended up with his own Fiendish Four. But we can catch up right now, courtesy of a flashback sequence that finds the Wrecker and his cohorts having escaped from prison and locating the Wrecker's dormant crowbar--a weapon that the Wrecker gambles will not only restore his own power, but make all four of them a threat to be wreckoned... er, reckoned with.

However, even after witnessing the Crew's abilities for themselves, the Defenders step up to the plate and vow to put an end to their... well, wrecking. Yet in the process, it becomes clear that the Crew are trashing buildings for a reason--a task that they can't accomplish until their determined adversaries are dealt with.

In the ensuing battle, it's interesting to see how Wein and artist Sal Buscema make the Crew into more than just four super-powered muscle guys, which is essentially what they are. They all resort to strength when fighting--it's just that they're "packaged" in different ways. Piledriver uses his fists to hammer at his foes; Bulldozer, taking a leaf from Juggernaut's book, plows through them; while Thunderball and the Wrecker make use of their respective weapons to deliver their blows. (Thunderball's wrecking ball appears to have enchantment aspects to it, unlike the Absorbing Man's ball and chain which is more of an extension of his own power.) The final touch, of course, is their colorful costumes, which make it seem like we're seeing very different characters in action. You could likely switch their outfits and end up with the same Wrecking Crew.

Nonetheless, they're certainly giving the Defenders a run for their money.

(That must be some cloak, Doctor. After being slammed by both Cage and the Wrecker, by all rights you should be in traction right now. Now that Marvel has you brawling on the street, it wouldn't be surprising if the Rhino had a tough time putting you down for the count.)

Thanks to a slip of the tongue by the Wrecker, however, Strange is on his way to ending the Wrecking Crew's rampage--if he's given the chance. Regrettably, there's another Defender who's a little peeved that he's been left out of this rumble.

The shock of the Hulk's blow has Strange toppling like a house of cards--and with his spell cancelled, the Crew's powers return. That doesn't necessarily swing the odds in the Crew's favor, however, since Strange's replacement is more than able to meet the Wrecking Crew on their own terms.

It's obvious this fight could go either way, and those are odds that the Crew aren't willing to wager on. As before, their instinct is to cut and run, biding their time until they're able to return to the area in search of... what? Something that Thunderball has been intent on locating, a piece of technology that the entire Crew seems to regard as a game-changer. But a new development adds to the mystery, making it no longer simply a matter of what this device is. Given the terror etched in the faces of the Wrecking Crew, the question now is:



The Defenders #18

Script: Len Wein
Pencils: Sal Buscema
Inks: Dan Green
Letterer: Dave Hunt


George Chambers said...

I missed this one originally; #19 was my first DEFENDERS issue. I think Wein and Buscema did a good job keeping Strange from overwhelming the Crew and making it believable. But I wonder, did Strange deal out a pimp-slap in the story like he did on the cover?

Comicsfan said...

Ha ha, I'm afraid not, George--probably because showing Piledriver (or any of the Wrecking Crew) being injured by a blow from a normal-strength guy like Strange would have looked as ludicrous as it did on the cover!

Tiboldt said...

Do you doubt the pugilistic capabilities of Dr. Strange, who once punched out Korvac?

Comicsfan said...

Well, Tiboldt, at the time, Korvac was as vulnerable as anyone to a good left cross! :)

Jared said...

Ah the Wrecking Crew. The Marvel Universe's ultimate mid tier villains. When you need a credible villain to appear for two pages to introduce a new character or highlight a hero's new powers, that's who you want to call. Even the most novice Marvel reader can identify them as bad guys by their ridiculously loud colors and disproportionately large weapons. And the deal with them is so obvious that even Jim Shooter would not see a reason to rehash their origin in every appearance. And they always conveniently go back to prison, not ever escaping until some new writer needs them for a plot piece.

Anonymous said...

Why do I get the feeling that Sal Buscema had a lot of fun drawing this?
I know I enjoyed it!