Friday, August 3, 2018

United We Stand!

It's been a strife-filled search for the Evil Eye, a powerful weapon of the mythical city of Avalon which both the Defenders and the Avengers* have engaged in battle over. The Defenders wish to recover and reassemble the Eye's six segments in order to use the completed device to restore the Black Knight to his human form--while the Avengers have been led to believe by Loki that their foes want to use it in their bid for universal conquest. Yet both teams are unaware that the Defenders have been manipulated into recovering the pieces of the Eye by Dr. Strange's other-dimensional enemy, the Dread Dormammu, who will use the reassembled weapon to absorb our dimension into his own.

*It's about time the Defenders received first billing over their opponents, don't you think? After all, they currently lead the Avengers a whopping 5-0 in recovered Evil Eye pieces. Hopefully none of you bet the farm on the Avengers--Dormammu doesn't accept I.O.U.s, you know!

Only one piece of the Eye remains to be found--and the only team members we haven't seen mix it up thus far happen to also be those teams' heaviest hitters. That's a subtle way of saying that if you live in Los Angeles, you may want to seek shelter.

In fact, just to be on the safe side, EVACUATE.

According to Thor, his last (and first) one-on-one battle with the Hulk took place while the Avengers faced the Hulk and the Sub-Mariner at Gibraltar. That would mean a gap of over eight years since they fought, yet for some reason it feels like they'd met again since then (though I may just be thinking of the Hulk's journey to Asgard).

So that raises the bar pretty high in terms of reader anticipation of this true "clash of titans," as writer Steve Englehart puts it. The stakes are high for the planet Earth, since the Defenders taking custody of this segment of the Eye will play right into Dormammu's hands; but they're also high for this battle's fighting-mad combatants, who can be counted on to take off the kid gloves and deliver a no-holds-barred struggle that will likely shatter windows for several blocks in its fury.

They're not fighting-mad yet, since we have to give props to Thor for trying to reason with his ill-tempered foe. But realistically, how do you think that's going to work out?

And while Thor is going to take one more stab at diplomacy, it stands to reason that the God of Thunder is going to do so on his feet, with his bruised foe scrambling to pick himself up from the street. As for whether a second attempt will convince the Hulk to stand down--well, have you met the Hulk?

With the "pleasantries" over with, this fight begins in earnest, as artist Sal Buscema takes off his own gloves and delivers a well-choreographed battle in the limited space he's provided. As we'll see, the fight quickly evolves into one that neither contestant plans to lose--a continuation perhaps of their previous bout that resulted in no clear victor but demonstrated to each of them the other's refusal to yield as well as their confidence in their ability to prevail over someone they consider inferior in strength.

Englehart appears to be having a good deal of fun scripting these panels, taking the temperature of each of these powerful combatants in a way that's consistent with their character and determination to walk away from this fight the winner. Indeed, with Thor not operating under a self-imposed handicap as he did in their first meeting, this should be a clash of egos as well as power, since both of these adversaries are self-assured in their respective positions of power and neither has the slightest thought of surrender or failure. And perhaps just as importantly, each gives the impression of feeling that the other needs to learn a brutal lesson here. It's no wonder the bystanders are sticking around, just as they did when Thor and Hercules battled through the streets of New York--wouldn't you?

So it makes perfect sense that Thor's attitude of persisting in the firm belief that he outclasses the Hulk can only have the effect of angering the brute to the point where this fight escalates--and even the Thunder God finds the rage of the Hulk to be a startling thing to behold.

The continuing story of the Evil Eye necessitates that this battle royal be halted at this point--while the fact that we've seen graphic proof of these two being equal in terms of raw strength seems like a logical enough conclusion to the fight as a whole. Yet logic cannot apply to a creature like the Hulk, whose rage must be at a record high by this point and who we have to believe is still fixated on his enemy and driven by the single-minded goal of crushing Thor with his bare hands. There is absolutely no way he would simply let the matter drop; on the contrary, he's more likely to drop the Thunder God with the most savage blow he could deliver while Thor's attention was turned to the arrival of Strange and the others. In his current state, what would the Hulk care about words like "united at last" and "common foe"? It's the only part of this struggle that doesn't seem to have been given enough thought; instead, Englehart provides a throwaway scene of the Hulk's frustration at having to hand over the Eye segment after fighting so hard to keep it, which really doesn't defuse the discrepancy.

At any rate, after comparing notes and employing some deductive reasoning, Dormammu's involvement in this entire affair is uncovered, as well as his alliance with Loki. Unfortunately, Strange believes that an examination of the Evil Eye segments will yield more information--which provides a servant of Dormammu, the all-seeing Asti, a perfect opportunity to retrieve them at last.

If Asti is so all-seeing, you have to wonder why Dormammu didn't simply send him to locate and retrieve the Eye segments without involving the Defenders at all. Villains can be so dense.

Regardless, now in possession of the complete Evil Eye, Dormammu wastes no time in initiating his plan to merge the two dimensions, to the shock of both super-teams.

In the span of only one hour, it looks like we're all going to be paying homage to Dormammu. I'm almost sure there's no blogging in the Dark Dimension, so you and I may be parting company shortly. Be sure to snarl "hi" to me in my new monster form, won't you?


(Read it while you can!)

The Defenders #10

Script: Steve Englehart
Pencils: Sal Buscema
Inks: Frank Bolle
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski


Anonymous said...

Of course, we never got to see who woulda come out on top in that brew-haha.
Doggone it, they promise one thing and give ya another.
Ah, I dug it anyway. Our Pal Sal was definitely firing on all cylinders here. What a cover!


Jared said...

I love the art on this issue. The detail on the cover really nails how Hulk and Thor should look next to each other. My favorite detail is Thor's hammer fitting into Hulk's hand. The splash page of this issue is also great with a behind look at a very menacing Hulk. I think is very early in Buscema's long tenure drawing Hulk, but I think it's some of his best.

Comicsfan said...

I should chime in here with the incidental remark that this issue's amazing cover was rendered by John Romita Sr. and not Mssr. Buscema, though I'm in full agreement that the latter's interior art was something to see.