"Betrayal!" (Defenders vs. Avengers Chapters 2 and 3)

Published: October 1973, 20 cents

The Defenders: Hulk, Sub-Mariner, Valkyrie, Hawkeye, Silver Surfer, Doctor Strange

Hero Appearances: Black Knight, Vision, Scarlet Witch, Iron Man, Black Panther, Mantis, Thor, Captain America, Swordsman

Nemesis/Villain Appearances: Loki, Dormammu

(NOTE: This issue continues the classic Defenders Vs. Avengers story arc and is a continuation from The Defenders #8).

Defenders Vs. Avengers

Chapter Two: Betrayal!

The story opens with the Avengers all falling to the ground outside the sanctum sanctorium of Doctor Strange. Thor simply touched the latch to the mage's abode and the team was hurled into the sky like newspaper caught in the wind. Wanda and Captain America guess correctly that he does not want any visitors. Cap goes on to suggest that it is because Doctor Strange is holding the Black Knight against his will. Iron Man indicates he is not fond of those who work with magic and he wants some answers! Thor agrees and commences to pound on the heavy door with his fist.

Suddenly, the door opens and Strange's man-servant Wong quietly asks what there is he may help them with. This infuriates Thor who demands that the Avengers be allowed to speak with Doctor Strange at once! Wong apologizes but informs the team of superheroes that Dr. Strange is currently involved in research and is not to be disturbed. He then shuts the door in Thor's face. In a rage, Thor uses his mighty mjolinor and knocks the door and attached wall of Strange's home to pieces. Wong, indignant that the Avengers did not get the hint prepares to defend his master but the Mantis tosses him easily into an adjacent wall. Suddenly, from within a darkened chamber the team notices a shadowy figure and then again, the Avengers are swept up and out of Dr. Strange's mansion on some unseen wind. Captain America is enraged at the treatment his team is receiving and is convinced that the figure he spotted was none other than the Balck Knight. Still, cooler heads prevail as they recognize they are no match for Strange's magic. The team decides that they need a battle plan before continuing and they depart. But, not before Thor roars out a challenge to Strange that they shall soon return, better prepared next time to do battle!

Meanwhile, in another dimension, the dread Dormammu raises his fist in triumph...lauding his efforts in deceiving Dr. Strange and the Defenders (NOTE: does Dormammu know about the Defenders?) into believing that the Evil eye can assist them in breaking the spell which holds the Black Knight a prisoner in stone. Loki congratulates the dreaded demon but asks when he can expect his blindness to end as he had promised. Dormammu brushes off the requests of his Asgardian ally like the whinings of a child. It occurs to Loki that perhaps he has been blind in more ways than sight...

Back in Strange's home, the Defenders crowd around the Orb of Agamotto, seemingly oblivious to the disturbance created by the Avengers recent visitation. The team listens as the history of the Evil Eye unfolds via a strange telepathic voice and an image appears in the Orb. The Evil Eye belonged to Prester John, sole survivor of the wizard-isle called Avalon, who was awakened from his 700-year sleep by the Human Torch and Wyatt Wingfoot (see Fantastic Four #54). The Torch stole the wanderer's weapon when he perceived that its limitless power could destroy the Great Refuge (behind which the Human Torch's then-love Crystal of the legendary Inhumans, was imprisoned). However, unknown to him, the device's energy was building towards a critical overload and explosion. Prester John and Wyatt Wingfoot followed the Torch, attempting to save him, as he flew across the African Desert. At the last moment, before the Evil Eye's detonation, Wingfoot was forced to risk shooting the weapon from the Human Torch's hand with a polarizer gun that was invented by the Black Panther. He did not miss. Seconds later, the device exploded with the force of an atomic bomb. The Evil Eye, invincible as it was, could not be destroyed by the blast. Instead, it burst into six similar parts that were driven through the planet. This was in accordance with the instructions built into it by the men of Avalon, to insure that anyone who dared use the weapon at full power could never have a second chance. The programmed parts hurtled onward until, they once again felt sunlight. They ended their journeys in Osaka, Japan; Rurutu, French Polynesia; Monterrey, Mexico; Sucre, Bolivia; and Los Angeles and Fort Wayne, U.S.A.

The image and voice end and the Orb returns to its cask of concealment. Doctor Strange notes that six if the sacred number of Avalon, their are six sections of the Evil Eye and their are six Defenders. The team quickly decides to divide and search for each section. Val and Hawkeye are to search the southern lands while the Silver Surfer and Namor set out for the furthest shores. The Hulk is to leap to Los Angeles. Dr. Strange explains that he will mystically guide them to the exact locations of the pieces while he remains to guard the Black Knight. Then, when one team member returns, he will go to the closest site, Fort Wayne, Indiana. The Defenders depart for their destinations.

Back in the Dark Dimension, Loki's dire suspicions have suddenly crystallized into certain knowledge. If Dormammu has the power to conquer Earth's dimension, he would likewise possess the power to conquer Asgard. Loki scolds himself for his hate-inspired preoccupation with Earth and his failure to understand the grander schemes of the dread Dormammu. Though driven from the fabled realm of Asgard more times than he can recall, he is still an immortal and he believes that none but HIM are to de-throne the almighty Odin! However, he is blind and he recognizes that he needs help if he is going to thwart the hideous plan he helped set into motion. But, by Odin's decree (see Thor #194), there is only ONE person he may turn to for assistance....THOR!

Suddenly, in the Avengers' Mansion, Captain America's thoughts concerning Dr. Strange are interrupted by an astral projection of Loki who asks to be taken to Thor. Cap does so, but Thor is in no frame of mind to be civil to his deceitful half-brother. It is the Vision who calms matters and allows the Asgardian trickster to speak. There is actually a moment when Loki considers telling the Avengers the truth but that would involve blaming himself and the Prince of Evil could never do that. Instead, he explains that he has discovered a plot devised by a group of Earth's "villains", who call themselves the Defenders. They are led by Doctor Strange, he continues, who has allied himself with the vengeful Valkyrie because she wishes to avenge her earlier defeat at their hands (see Avengers #83, but we know that she was not THAT Valkyrie then). He has also teamed with the Hulk who, he relates, hates all of humanity. The fourth member is the Sub-Mariner who wars against the surface world constantly and the fifth member is none other than the embittered Silver Surfer. The final team member, he concludes, is fates' cruelest jest, their erstwhile friend and ex-teammate, Hawkeye.

This final fact sends the Avengers for a loop and they impatiently demand to hear out the rest of Loki's fabulous tale. After learning of all the facts, skewed-facts as told by Loki mind you, the Avengers decide that they too, must head out in search of the six peices of the Evil Eye. Captain America chooses to go to Japan, a place he has not visited since the Second World War. The Vision and the Scarlet Witch pick Rurutu to jet to. The Swordsman choses Bolivia because he feels he owes South America a debt (see Avengers Special #1). The Panther and Mantis decide on Indiana on a hunch by the Mantis and Iron Man prepares to head out for Mexico. Meanwhile, Thor selects California because it is the most central site and because he is the most powerful Avenger, he wants to be available quickly should the need arise. And, having determined their destinations, the Avengers each goes their separate way.

The die is cast. Two super teams, the worlds mightiest heroes, are now committed to the battles of their lives against each other. Deception began this all....and now perhaps, only death will end it.

Chapter Three: The Silver Surfer Vs. The Vision and the Scarlet Witch

Over the south sea island of Rurutu, the Silver Surfer finds himself crossing the landscape in search of his missing section of the Evil Eye. Beneath him, the natives look up at the silver hero and marvel at his appearance. The Surfer decides to land his board and ask the natives for their help as surely a device as bizarre as the Evil Eye would have caused some commotion when it first appeared. However, upon landing, the island's natives fall to their knees and chant worship to whom they think is the Volcano God. The Silver Surfer protests their belief and explains that he is merely a stranger who seeks information. He then realizes that the one place he did not search was the volcano itself and heads off in that direction. Still, the tribe's shaman begs the Surfer to stay and enjoy their feast and offer of sacrifices but they settle on following him to the volcano.

The Surfer discovers an active vent in the volcano and plunges into the molten rock, unaffected by the heat, in search of the lost device.

Meanwhile, not forty seconds later, the Vision and Scarlet Witch arrive in a quinjet. The Vision expresses to Wanda that he has doubts about this whole affair and wonders if a resolution can be brought about peacefully. He decides to scout out the area before proceeding and leaves the Scarlet Witch to fly the quinjet alone.

While below, his body hidden by the heavy clouds at the craters lip and the noise of his cosmic blasts drowned by the volcano's incessant rumblings, the Surfer searches tirelessly through the molten rock for the Evil Eye piece. Above him, Wanda does not share the same logic as the Vision. She believes that the Defenders are indeed, somehow involved in some malevolent plot. Out of the corner of her eye, she notices a stirring in the molten lava below and heads lower for a closer look.

Suddenly, the volcano erupts with an angry blast *BRA-TOOOM!*, triggered by the Surfer's exploration with cosmic energy. The power of the explosion carries the Surfer out of the vent and thrusts him skywards. The blasted rock and molten material strike the Avenger's quinjet as well, and in one senses-shattering second, the Scarlet Witch finds herself smashed from the sky and falling to her doom!

However, the happenings do not go unnoticed and in less than a heart beat, the Vision streaks to catch her falling body before it smashes on the volcanic rocks below. At the base of the angry mountain, the Vision does a quick assessment and discovers that, besides heat seared lungs and some minor burns, the Scarlet Witch will survive. Meanwhile, the Silver Surfer, dazed from the concussive force of the eruption, staggers from the volcano's mouth. His arrival is noticed by the Vision who wrongly believes that the Surfer ambushed Wanda in the disguise of a natural event. The Vision gets very, very angry. He launches himself at the Silver Surfer and catches him about the mid-section. A surprised Surfer and the Vision tumble into the mouth of the volcano and struggle, waist deep in molten lava! While the Silver Surfer attempts to understand the attack he is under, the Vision pounds ceaselessy at the silver hero fuelled by rage. The Surfer summons his board using thought control and plows it into the Vision. Free of the Vision's grasp, the Surfer attempts to escape but misjudges the distance from the crater's wall and his board strikes it soundly, falling back into the lava pit.

However, outside at that very moment, the natives assume the volcanic eruption means the Silver God is angry and they must appease their diety with a sacrifice before the eruption destroys them all. They find Wanda at the base of the trembling mountain and place her in the path of a lava flow, hoping her death with spare their village the anger of the Volcano God.

Yet, inside the erupting mountain, the battle rages on. The Surfer issues a blast of cosmic energy at the Vision but it misses him and accidentally discloses the location of the Evil Eye! Upon seeing the weapon uncovered, both super-beings rush for it and reach it at the same instant. The Surfer cannot understand why the Vision is fighting him, after all he is trying to help the Black Knight who is an Avenger. However, there is no communication between the two combatants due to the roar of the eruption around them. But more importantly, the Evil Eye grasped by both heroes, like the Surfer's cosmic board, is commanded by thought and the thoughts which reach this section of the weapon are now decidedly unfriendly. Even with its capabilities divided by six, it is still awesome in its catastrophic power...with a roar like the dying of worlds, it detonates both combatants and itself into the yawning sky above.

The pair fall from the sky dazed along with the piece of weapon. They both take flight after it but the Vision sees Wanda in the path of the oozing lava flow and horrified, he abandons the Evil Eye to rescue the Scarlet Witch. The Surfer meantime, takes the prized weapon and flies off while the Vision tends to his fallen comrade and lover. The Vision realizes the battle is lost but plans on radioing his fellow Avengers (if the quinjet radio is still operational) that the Defenders are out for blood, and that they must be met with full force! The Silver Surfer heads off at full speed to Doctor Strange's home with similar thoughts about the Avengers in his head....

NEXT: Divide and Conquer! The battle continues in The Defenders #9 ! Then, things really heat up in Avengers #117.

Front Cover: The Avengers Issue 116

Avengers 116