"To The Death!" (Defenders vs. Avengers Chapter 11)

Published: December 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, and S.H.I.E.L.D. (Nick Fury, Countess Valentina Allegro de Fontaine and Dum Dum Dugan), The Watcher, CAMEOS: Fantastic Four, Spiderman, Inhumans, Power Man, Ka-Zar, Ghost Rider, Man-Thing, Doctor Doom, Dracula, Warlock and the Titans.

Nemesis/Villain Appearances: Loki, Dormammu, The Mindless Ones

(NOTE: This issue continues the classic Defenders Vs. Avengers story arc and is a continuation from The Defenders #10).

Defenders Vs. Avengers

Chapter Eleven: To The Death!

Over the last three months, fourteen of Earth's mightiest beings were duped by the dread Dormammu, Lord of the Dark Dimension, and Loki, Prince of Evil, into assembling an almost mythical weapon, the Evil Eye! Now, Dormammu has stolen the Eye and used it merge his dimension with ours. And, in one hour, the process will be complete! Already, Earth's landscape has begun to shift into unrecognizable forms and humans have mutated into unimaginable monsters. The Defenders and Avengers stand united against these mutated horrors, to the death, as insanity reigns!

In the heat of battle, Doctor Strange commands the heroes to hold the creatures back but do not injure them because they are human underneath, while he prepares a spell of protection (this spell will stop the heroes from becoming beasts). Iron Man, the Swordsman and the Vision use repulsor blasts to repel the advancing monsters. Strange then announces that he can expend no more energy fighting these creatures if he is too defeat Dormammu. He beckons the Avengers and Defenders to follow him into Dormammu's dimension so that they may face the dreaded one. Captain America protests pointing out that abandoning the Earth might result in hundreds of deaths as people are killed in their monster forms. Strange explains to Cap that he understands his sentiments however, he begs Cap to bow to his experience with the dread one. If they are to defeat Dormammu, they must do so with their full strength. Captian America appears torn between his duty to protect humanity and the right decision when suddenly S.H.I.E.L.D. arrives in battle 'copters led by Nick Fury, Countess Valentina and Dum Dum Dugan.

Iron Man and Cap confront Fury and ask him what he thinks he is up to. Colonel Nick Fury responds, in his gruff manner, that he is here to fight despite his recent injuries. This seems to solve the problem of the Avengers staying as Strange rounds up the heroes and in a poof of red smoke, the teams disappear! Meanwhile, Fury's S.H.I.E.L.D. forces battle the monstrosities which where once humans. Fury and the Countess fight back to back when suddenly, Valentina is transformed herself into a horrible beast! Nick quickly apologizes, then stuns her with a blast from his stun-rifle. Fury then re-enters the battle, this time with concern that anybody on his team may become his enemy at any time. He quietly puts his faith in the heroes who recently departed...the fate of the entire dimension now rests on their shoulders.

The Defenders and Avengers arrive in the Dark Dimension and march into the domain of Dormammu via a spatial path. Thor wishes to fly but Strange is stern in his warning that they are not to stray from the path he created because the laws of this reality are altered and terrors beyond comprehension lurk in the darks which surround them. Thor remarks that the constant arguing amongst the heroes reminds him of the early days of the Avengers, but he agrees that in matters of the occult, Doctor Strange is to be the authority. Hawkeye and Valkyrie smile slightly as they notice that some of the Avengers show flickers of resentment. The matter settled, they charge towards Dormammu, and quite possibly, their doom!

Meanwhile, just up ahead, Dormammu and Loki press their attack on Earth's reality. Grasping the Eye, Dormammu asks Loki to behold the power it possesses. Loki is quick to point out that because of his blindess he can "behold" nothing. The dreaded one commands Loki to silence as he watches in amusement, a vision he has created which reveals the super-heroes advancing on him. It is now that Loki suddenly realizes that Dormammu does not intend to uphold his end of the bargin and restore his vision. Loki confronts Dormammu on this promise which further annoys the ruler of the Dark Dimension. Dormammu terminates their "deal" by caging Loki behind bars of energy and then confronts Loki on his own betrayal. Loki protests vehemently, denying any such betrayal. However, the Prince of Evil's bluff is called when Dormammu reveals his knowledge of Loki's warning to the Avengers about his plans.

Suddenly, a massive shadow falls over the dreaded one from behind and he turns to discover the Watcher! Dormammu expresses his outrage at his breach of defences and warns the immense Watcher not to interfere with his scheme or else face his wrath. The Watcher calmly indicates that although, in the past, he has acted impulsively, he is here today to soley observe and record the spectacle of two dimensions shifting their essences. Somewhat relieved, Dormammu arrogantly invites the Watcher to observe a spectacle which would justify his entire existence!

The heroes arrive at the end of the spatial path and appear confused as to how to proceed when suddenly, they are attacked by huge red headless beings which emit energy bursts from yellow slits in what can only be their necks! Doctor Strange reveals that these creatures are the Mindless Ones who roam the outskirts of Dormammu's domain...devoid of all thought save a primitive lust for total destruction. The Hulk appears happy that he has something to hit and jumps into action belting a red beast heavily. Thor uses his mjolinor to plow back a second mindless beast. But, a third creature knocks Thor and the Silver Surfer flying with one backhanded swat. Strange commands the teams to cease their attack as physcial violence only excites the Mindless Ones. Instead, he calls the teams to join their energies together and concentrate their forces on his signal. The Swordsman's power blade, Iron Man's repulsor blast, the Surfer's cosmic energy, Strange's mystical force, Thor's magical mjolinor and the Vision's mind energy become one mighty blast which sends the three headless beasts to oblivion.

For several seconds, the far reaches of the abyss around the heroes shimmer with the coruscating brilliance unleased by the blast and then, as it fades, there stands revealed a second spatial bridge used by the Mindless Ones. Yet, Mantis anxiously expresses her concern that she feels time time being ripped apart and that there are only twenty minutes left before the two realities are one. The Surfer echos her concern and warns that they have not even faced Dormammu yet!

Earth's dimension, never before in its checkered history, has faced such a critical threat to its very being. But, while the Defenders and Avengers resume their pursuit of the dread Dormammu, others on Earth, dedicated to the defence of humanity, give their all to counter a menace none of them truly understands: The Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, the Inhumans, Power Man, Ka-Zar and Zabu, Ghost Rider, Swamp Thing, Doctor Doom, Dracula and others, meet the threat...and hold it there!

Back in Dormammu's dimension, the transformation nears its climax just as the heroes encounter the flame-visaged demon. However, he is protected by a barrier which Strange immediately sets to work upon. Once more, Dormammu warily questions the intentions of the Watcher. The huge alien replies that although he cherishes the valiant beings Dormammu seeks to enslave, his only belief is truth and non-intervention. Just then, Earth's mightiest heroes sunder the barrier and advance on Dormammu. With a laugh of delight, Dormammu turns his attention, and the Evil Eye, on his most hated enemy, Doctor Strange and his team, the Defenders. With one sweep of the device Strange, the Silver Surfer, the Valkyrie, the Hulk, the Sub-Mariner and Hawkeye are knocked into unconsciousness.

Upon seeing the Defenders unwitted collapse, The Vison and Thor show outrage and with a hearty "AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!", Earth's last hope, the mighty Avengers, launch their own attack. However, with a blast of magic from his fist, Dormammu creates a quicksand bog and the Avengers are quickly mired in the muck except for Thor, Iron Man and Wanda who manage to fly over the bog. These heroes turn to help their fallen comrades but are urged to press on and stop Dormammu. The Swordsman, using heat rays from his blade, fuses the sand into solid islands and the stuck team members stop their dangerous floundering. Iron Man and Thor rush the flaming demon but with a simple wave of his hand, Dormammu reverts Iron Man to Tony Stark and Thor to Donald Blake...mere humans. Standing alone to face the vile Dormammu, the Scarlet Witch turns and rushes the Lord of the Dark Dimension. For a third time, Dormammu waves his hand and a rain of glue falls on Wanda solidifying and trapping her.

With five minutes left until dimensional transformation and Dormammu boasting of his easy victory, Loki selects this moment to alter his structure to become a fly and escape his enegized prison by slipping between the bars. Re-humanizing himself, and then sneaking up behind Dormammu, Loki siezes the Evil Eye from the unsuspecting demon. Momentarily forgotten by her tormentor, Wanda, the Scarlet Witch, knows with an icy certainty that this will be her only moment to act. Weakened from her struggles with the glue, the Scarlet Witch lifts her weary arms and lets a hex blast go with all that she has left at Dormammu who is engaged in a struggle with Loki for the Eye. With a brilliant flash, the thought-controlled Evil Eye triggers itself and sucks the living power that is Dormammu into the interior of the Eye and then blasting the TOTALITY of its energy OUT into Loki's face! In that moment of probabilities gone mad, the Evil Eye fulfills the Price of Evil's most fervent hope, completely returning his long-lost sight. and simultaneously....driving him totally insane!

And, at that same moment, in every far-flung corner of the bruised and battered dimension in which Earth occupies, Dormammu's insanity ends. And, the world's occupied by Humans, the Titans, the Kree, the Skrull's, the Badoon and other off-worlders return to normal.

The Defenders awaken and re-join the Avengers and are greeted by the Watcher who explains that he is gratified by the united team's victory and then he goes on to explain: Dormammu's extra-dimensional form is composed of raw energy continually afire. That energy is generated by lesser beings' belief in and worship of him, as with most mystical entities. When the Scarlet Witch's hex blast disrupted the flow of events around the Evil Eye, it drew the energy to itself and destroyed Dormammu. Still, the Watcher warns, that he may yet rise again for those who love sin will continue to call upon him and in time, their reverence will re-shape him! In the meantime however, his energy has been rammed through Loki's mind and no brain in our dimension can cope with so much sorcerous force. As a result, Loki's intellect has collapsed under the strain, becoming no more than that of an infant!

The Watcher then questions the Vision as to why panic overwhelmed his computer-mind when he was mired in the bog but the Vision is at a loss to explain this. Nevertheless, Doctor Strange remarks that with Dormammu defeated, we need know no more and he re-claims the Evil Eye which the Defenders still require to rescue the petrified Black Knight. Strange prepares to return the group to Earth but first asks Thor to take his half-brother, Loki into his custody. Then, Doctor Strange mystically erases the memories of Thor's civilian identity from the minds of the gathered heroes and with a flash, the two teams depart the Dark Dimension.

For long lingering moments the aura of their passing illumines the Watcher's emotionless face and then he wonders aloud why the humans never pause to savour what they see along the way in their search for a new struggle. Yet, he remarks that while they saved their dimension, the Watcher merely saved the memory of their doing it. It then occurs to the Watcher that THAT is why he treasures humans so, and why he remains only the Watcher....

NEXT: The Black Knight Returns! The Defenders #11

Front Cover: The Avengers Issue 118

Avengers 118