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.

The dragon's patience is rewarded when the Defenders encounter a mutated organism which is finally dealt with when two of their number, Isaac Christians (the Gargoyle) and Moondragon, enter it and destroy it from within. It's only when Moondragon sometime later is attempting to investigate feelings of physical pain inside her body that she learns of a life-threatening condition--and a cure which comes at a price she refuses to pay.

As if to belie Moondragon's resolve, however, our attention is turned elsewhere in the Defenders' abode, as the Valkyrie begins taking steps in preparation for what may be the ultimate battle her former charge appears headed for, by doing what she can to make sure no innocents are caught up in what is to come. Whatever the Valkyrie's source for the dread she feels as a "chooser of the slain," it appears to be irrefutable.

As for Moondragon's dread, she has sought refuge in her own memories--a happy one, in particular, at a time when she encountered one of the Elders of the Universe in the midst of her decision to leave the moon of Titan. Her mental turmoil in dealing with the dragon is evident--and the memory of her time with the Elder is a beacon of hope and happiness that acts as a lifeline to Moondragon in this moment of crisis. Nevertheless, the memory gives way to the pain she is suffering, which in turn forces her to surrender to her tormentor.

Joyful as it was, the memory of her brief time with Runner may not have been the best choice for Moondragon to rely on to bolster her resolve in her present state, given that he seems to embody the very definition of careless and exhibits not an ounce of regret at the fate of the billions who would have lost their lives from the explosion of their star. That aspect to his character was sufficient to jolt her back to reality but perhaps inadvertently made her more vulnerable to the dragon's assertion: "There is no good reason to refuse me."

And so, having relinquished control of her body and her power to the dragon, the entity wastes no time in confronting the group of friends and allies most recent in Moondragon's life, the Defenders, and working as one with her against them--bringing to the surface deep resentments and using them to eradicate those she harbors them toward. It's a line that, once crossed, severs any shred of resistance she might have had to the dragon's entreaties and now compels her to surrender herself to this demon willfully and totally.

By any measure, the battle appears to be over, with both the Gargoyle and the now-blind Angel struggling to pull themselves together after being dealt with by the dragon in its new form--while the whereabouts of the Valkyrie are unknown, assuming she's still alive. In the interim, Candy Southern (the Angel's girlfriend and group leader), has been in contact with the three remaining Defenders (Cloud, the Beast, and Iceman), who are returning to New Mexico from Boston after being alerted to Moondragon but whose plane had barely landed before it was destroyed by a bolt of lightning called forth by the dragon shortly after they had disembarked.

But there is one Defender still unaccounted for--and as the demon and its mortal host depart the scene, they discover that the Valkyrie is difficult to slay.

While the Valkyrie has averted catastrophe for the planet, the scope of the dragon's power has been amply demonstrated in this attack, as its boast of drawing heat and fire from the Earth's core has been proven to be no idle one--the pillars of flame having already thrust huge amounts of the planet's atmosphere into space. Fortunately for the Defenders, and for the Earth itself, it will be teamwork which quells this conflict, at least for the time being, as the Angel delivers Cloud directly into the dragon's form where she confronts Moondragon--and their past intimate relationship becomes the crucible through which Moondragon is forced to face who and what she's become, as well as what she has abandoned.

It's only when the Valkyrie appears later that the others (and ourselves) learn what has become of Moondragon following Cloud's lashing out at her both physically and emotionally, with the latter having a deeper impact on a woman who now feels intense rage at her circumstances, and the dark turn her life has taken. Artist Don Perlin has explored new depths to his style since being "turned loose" on this book--but the following scene, which serves to put the Moondragon storyline on hold for the time being, tells us more about her turmoil and frustration than even the words of a chooser of the slain.

Yet however uncertain Moondragon's fate, she remains shackled to the demon which has darkened her soul, at her own behest--and before this story has concluded, its tragic denouement will have consumed the Defenders, as well.




Big Murr said...

Very illuminating. Sort of.

In Guardians of the Galaxy (circa 2009), Drax the Destroyer and Phyla-Vell (Mar-Vell's daughter) went to Oblivion to rescue Heather Douglas. In a plot so cosmically convoluted and metaphysical that you'd think Jim Starlin wrote it, they faced "one of the most sick-hearted demons ever to slither in from the outer dark", the Dragon of the Moon.

All indications and dialogue implied history between Dragon of the Moon and Moondragon, but I had no idea what they referred to. Luckily, the writing was peppy and sharp and prior knowledge was not crucial.

But now, thanks to your recent posts, I have a few of blanks spots filled with jigsaw pieces.

Comicsfan said...

Murray, you may want to make use of the Appendix to the Handbook of the Marvel Universe if you'd like to fill in the rest of the missing pieces beyond what will be covered in this post's follow-up. I've found it to be a splendid resource for research--and while reading up on the dragon's entry I was surprised to find that it had made several appearances since this saga. The creature is tenacious, I'll give it that.

Anonymous said...

You've got to give it to Marvel writers Comisfan - how do they think up a name like Dragon of the Moon?

Since the Claremont/Byrne X-Men run, has there been a super-hero team where a female member hasn't been taken over by some cosmic, alien and/or supernatural entity, and gone dark?

I'm hoping there was a Dark Dazzler storyline at some point...


Comicsfan said...

Welllll, sean... she was conscripted by Galactus, does that count? :)

Anonymous said...

This was Perlin, huh? I never saw this one. I don't think I would've guessed he drew this.
I can't say I'm a huge fan of his (his stuff was spooky, I'll give him that) but apparently he did feel "cut loose" here, C.F., as you say.
It strikes me as more...I dunno, experimental, and striking. Particuarly the close-ups of the faces. Scary, really. I'm impressed.
I take it DeMatteis wrote this.
I had kinda jumped off the train by then, I didn't care much for the direction, but this is an interesting issue.


Comicsfan said...

DeMatteis had written an earlier round of Defenders issues, M.P., but these stories were scripted by Peter Gillis.