Thursday, February 25, 2021

Defenders To Ashes...

Having gained a respite in their conflict with their fellow member, Moondragon, who had given herself over to a demon entity in dragon form and then viciously lashed out at them, things look grim for the new Defenders, who may not be able to save their comrade, or even themselves, if and when she renews her attack. In Part Two of this story, we learned that Moondragon had gone underground half a world away--visibly enraged at her circumstances, having surrendered herself to the Dragon of the Moon and admitted to it (and to herself) her willingness to embrace the evil it represented. There seems little if any redemption to salvage for this woman, who has had a stormy history with those she allied herself with and now has come after the last of those allies with a vengeance.

Back in New Mexico, the Defenders attempt to pull themselves together, their mansion a virtual shambles after the fierce battle while one of their members, the Angel, remains blinded from Moondragon's prior assault--but they have pressed on, reaffirming their commitment to the team even in the face of their past performance which has endangered local communities. In the time since, their newest member, Cloud, has departed, her origin having been solved at last--while the Atlantean warrior named Andromeda has replaced her in their ranks. But now, the arrival of the stranger known as the Interloper heralds danger anew, particularly in light of the appearance of his "disciple"--Manslaughter, a psychotic who very nearly killed all of the Defenders at one time but who seeks to stand with them at this, their darkest hour.


Monday, February 22, 2021

Dark Moon Rising


In Part One of the PPC's look at the fall from grace of Moondragon --following her attempt to mentally take control of a world's population as a stepping stone toward establishing her twisted view of peace and order across the universe--we saw her subsequently receive the judgment of Odin in the form of a headband which would act to curtail the misuse of her mental powers and hopefully instill in her a degree of humility. But while that eventually met with success during Moondragon's installment as a member of the New Defenders, we also learned of a hindrance to her continued desire to turn over a new leaf when new details of her origin revealed the presence of a malevolent dragon-entity attempting to coerce her into accepting its influence and power.

Moondragon's inner battle with the dragon, and with herself, reached a tipping point when a conflict with Asgardian trolls finally led to Moondragon acting to better herself in terms of her goals and choices, an epiphany which also resulted in her debilitating headband falling to the ground, powerless. At that point, Moondragon made the decision to remain with the Defenders, while enjoying a new bond of friendship with her teammates. Yet the dark entity which had beckoned her has not retreated, but merely waits--and with her power no longer being dampened by the headband, the Dragon of the Moon continues to view this mortal vessel as not only the key to its freedom, but a source of power to add to its own and thereby make use of her to impose its own will.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Guys' Night Out!


OR: "Sharked By A Femizon"

Occasionally I'll have the pleasure of reading a comics issue scripted by Dan Slott, who's been a prolific writer at Marvel since 2005 (though beginning his work for the company in mid-1991). Slott's writing has appeared in a number of titles through the years, with some noteworthy stories along the way, --one of which, Amazing Spider-Man #700, earned him no small amount of notoriety with ASM readers, as he took the extraordinary step of killing off Peter Parker (whose mind at the time was in the body of Dr. Octopus) while Doc Ock, whose mind was in Peter's body, continued on as Spider-Man in the new Superior Spider-Man title. Slott also had the dubious honor of breathing new life into the Great Lakes Avengers--and, more notably, the Fantastic Four, whose title finally returned to commercial status in 2018 (as spotlighted by a New York Times article).

I'd first sampled Slott's handling of an FF character in issue #4 of the brief The Thing series which ran from 2005-06; but when time permitted, I was able to take a look at the new FF title and very much enjoyed Slott's take on the team in an issue which featured the Thing at last marrying Alicia Masters. Slott's handling of the FF is spot-on, and I was particularly impressed with his characterization of Ben Grimm, which hits the bullseye. It would have been regrettable if the new FF title had met the same fate as did attempts to bring the concept to the big screen--yet the issue was a relaxing and fun page-turner which brought back some of the magic that '60s fans must have felt while reading the issues of the original title.

And as we'll discover, that also ties in with

Monday, February 15, 2021

This Evil Aborning!


The early 1980s were not especially kind to Heather Douglas--better known to Marvel readers as Moondragon, who had left the Avengers and the planet Earth following the saga of the Celestial Madonna to seek out her father, Art (whose passed-on human spirit had been merged with the new body of Drax the Destroyer--some family tree, eh?), in deep space. Late 1981 held promise, however, for father and daughter, reunited at last and resolved to rebuild their relationship; but just six months later, the pair turned up on the war-torn world of Ba-Bani, where the Avengers discovered that Moondragon had brought peace to its inhabitants but went further by mentally taking control of not only Drax but also Ba-Bani by imposing her psychic presence on its population and setting herself up as their "peace goddess." When Moondragon's deception was finally exposed, the Avengers were forced to depose her, but not before she dealt a mortal blow to her father who had fiercely resisted her attempt to stop the Avengers and himself from seizing her.  (Or, likely, worse--the man is named "the Destroyer," after all.)

Subsequently, Thor took custody of Moondragon and brought her before one who would both pass judgment on her actions and dispense justice. And given this particular god's imposing stature, it indeed appeared that our "goddess of the mind" would receive a comeuppance that would at last rein in her tendency to subjugate others by "divine right."

It's a shame that we were never privy to Moondragon's no doubt contemptuous replies to any charges or judgment directed toward her, since it's hard to imagine that she would remain cowed or awed even in the presence of Odin.

Yet we can at least follow up on the proceedings by fast-forwarding to the fall of 1983, where the Valkyrie, in the company of the Defenders, receives a summons to return to Asgard, and thereafter be charged with the supervision of an individual who is to be returned to Earth in order to serve her "sentence."

Moondragon appears none the worse for wear in the time since she was last seen--though it appears she's taken to wearing an accessory that's been fitted to her head, the purpose of which is yet unknown. Yet its binding, physically and otherwise, is at Odin's decree--nor is it the only change to her life, as she soon joins the Valkyrie in a new grouping of Defenders following the original team's decision to disband.

There's a good deal we'd learn about Moondragon during her time with the Defenders--but let's start with the obvious, as we "head" into a new

Marvel Trivia Question

What's the story behind Moondragon's god-given headband?

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Tuum Libertates Intermissa Usque Ultra Arguit*

*"Your Liberties Are Suspended Until Further Notice"

If I recall correctly, The Siege from 2010 was the last crossover event that I collected before pulling the plug on retail purchases of new Marvel comics. I remember having trudged through 2008's Secret Invasion and, before that, the 2006 Civil War series, and realizing I'd pretty much had my fill of infighting between Marvel characters who took sides against each other due to the Super-Human Registration Act but then found themselves helpless to halt the massive capital initiative launched by their creators designed to keep that lucrative ball rolling for several years. Initially, however, the SHRA in itself was intriguing and was clearly given a good deal of thought in terms of plotting. And its underlying argument made sense to explore--after all, how long could the government stand for super-powered people causing large-scale destruction and casualties before putting its collective foot down and not only hold them accountable but regulate their operations?

As it happened, Marvel turned out a well-produced and coordinated effort with Civil War, a series that turned the "Marvel universe" upside down and played a major part in breaking with how their readers perceived these characters. I didn't collect all of the various tie-ins that were connected to the main series, but I was intrigued enough to invest time and $$$ in a few of them. (Comics at the time were $3.00 a pop--nothing like the stratosphere prices of today, but enough to play a part in my selection process.) The main "blam-blam" title, certainly--one or two offshoots which piqued my curiosity, such as The Return--and a few that were based on characters I wanted to check in with in particular, such as the Winter Soldier and the Sub-Mariner. But if you were looking for something that didn't simply continue under another masthead the arguments and the conflict of one side vs. the other, you might have preferred the behind-the-scenes approach of Front Line, an 11-issue series-within-a-series written by Paul Jenkins and illustrated by Ramon Bachs which digs a little further into how from Day One the SHRA has affected and impacted the lives of not just the principal characters but others who had to find ways to cope with the new law of the land.

Monday, February 8, 2021

End Of A Hero


During the Secret Wars II limited series from 1985-86, the struggle of the Beyonder to understand humanity and achieve it in himself was full of pitfalls that complicated his goal and brought him into conflict with Earth's super-beings, many of whom had unpleasant memories of being abducted to the Beyonder's makeshift world and pitted against a sizable group of Earth's super-villains while being studied from afar by their captor. Coming to Earth as a virtual "newborn" while assuming an adult human form, the Beyonder's naiveté, combined with his ability to wield ultimate power, made him unpredictable and potentially dangerous to those he came into contact with--while his tendency toward wanting to explore the concept of desire and enjoy only feel-good experiences, while rejecting the consequences of his actions, ultimately made him a menace. In the end, his failure to find happiness for himself led to near-disaster for the Earth, and his own presumed end. And so, despite well-intentioned guidance from others, it's not surprising that the tally of stories in this crossover event which paints the Beyonder in a sympathetic light is a small one.

One of those stories, however, stands out in not only offering a more dignified portrait of the Beyonder, but bringing a lot to the table for Fantastic Four readers with a plot which is more introspective rather than action-based. Written and pencilled by John Byrne, "Hero" brings focus to a single FF member: Johnny Storm, the Human Torch, who has become the fixation of an introverted young boy who idolizes him. What grabs our attention initially, of course, is the issue's cover, where we see that Johnny has made a momentous decision--one that will affect the entire team, but which was brought about by devastating news that would have an impact on his own life.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

The Path To Enlightenment


Before the conclusion of the 1985-86 Secret Wars II series which saw the presumed end of the Beyonder, "the One From Beyond," would go through a bout of depression where he believed finding his path to enlightenment was a hopeless cause, a state of mind which cause him to turn to the bottle to drown his sorrows. It stands to reason that for someone who can erase the entire universe with a simple flick of his finger, the thought of such a person being in a drunken, depressed state is enough to terrify even the staunchest among us--while some might also find it equally disturbing to discover that when the Beyonder has the presence of mind to seek out Dr. Strange, the one person he believes might bring him clarity of thought and a sense of purpose (as well as someone who knows firsthand the futility of alcohol abuse), the mystic master not being at home is horrendously bad timing.

Granted, one such as the Beyonder could summon Strange to his side with a casual thought; instead, in his inebriated state, he simply brushes aside the defenses of Strange's sanctum and makes use of the Orb of Agamotto to locate Strange wherever he happens to be--in this case, the Dark Dimension, where he had joined his ex-lover and disciple, Clea, to bring an end to the tyrannical rule of Umar and Orini, her parents. The experience of using the Orb, however, has caused even such as the Beyonder to flee the premises--but Strange, startled at suddenly seeing the eyes of an unknown, powerful being gazing at him through the dimensions, pursues the wisp of a trail he's been able to salvage, and is astonished at discovering where that trail leads.

Obviously the nuances and powers of sorcery which Strange has spent time studying and mastering mean next to nothing to the Beyonder, who needs neither knowledge of nor commitment to the mystic arts to bend them to his will (though it seems even he can be surprised by their hidden depths)--yet the Beyonder is desperately in need of the enlightenment and knowledge of self which he believes Strange possesses. But will one as impatient and volatile as the Beyonder consent to take the committed and dedicated path to achieve those things--or turn on the one who cannot or will not instantly bring him the peace and happiness he craves?

Monday, February 1, 2021

How To Repair Your Planet In 5 Easy Steps


To begin to understand the meaning and context of this post's title, we have to return to the year 1986, when the all-powerful being known as the Beyonder had come to the planet Earth and took human form in order to better understand us. Yet while the Beyonder was inundated by the sensations, distractions, and conflicts that we humans deal with on a daily basis, he had difficulty putting them into perspective and bringing either meaning or enlightenment to his existence as one of us. As a result, he reached a point where he began to lash out in one form or another, and often found himself at odds with our world's super-beings, some of whom he had earlier abducted and studied extensively on a world he'd created for that purpose--but eventually, things became so heated that a final confrontation between them was inevitable.

The struggle came to a head while the Beyonder was attempting to create a new form for himself, in a desperate effort to make himself truly human while still retaining his total might. It's at that crucial point that those who had now become his enemies located and confronted him; but the provocation forces the Beyonder to strike a fatal blow against all of them, and it's only the power of the Molecule Man which saves them from instant death.

(No, I don't know how having control over molecules allows Owen Reece to not only mentally chart the path of the Beyonder's death strike but also provides him with the knowledge and power to access sub-space. At any rate, we have to give him props for taking the initiative to safeguard the lives of innocents.)

But while the heroes have survived, the Earth has suffered a mortal wound from the discharge of the Beyonder's power--and when the Beyonder's experiment with his new form later ends in a second and tragic confrontation, the death knell of the planet's eventual doom from the destructive force unleashed by his hand becomes the focus and concern of everyone assembled in the aftermath. Soon, all eyes will turn to the one man whose power might yet save the world.

The question is: Will he?