"...If Atlantis Should Fall!"

Published: September 1973, 20 cents

The Defenders: Hulk, Sub-Mariner, Valkyrie, Hawkeye, Silver Surfer, Dr.Strange (X-over: Black Knight)

Nemesis/Villain Appearances: Attuma, Red Ghost (X-over : Loki, Dormammu)

With the Red Ghost controlling the mind of the Sub-Mariner, Hawkeye and Valkyrie prepare to meet the attacking Atlantean who was ordered to "Kill the Defenders!" (ASIDE: it may be of a point of interest here to discover just how the Red Ghost knows about the Defenders...we are to assume, I suppose, that the Red Ghost was told this information when he enslaved Namor's mind. END OF ASIDE). Namor knocks Hawkeye aside with one swift stroke and says that the archer has not the strength worthy of wasting his princely powers. The Sub-Mariner then advances on Valkyrie with madness in his eyes. Val struggles in his grasp as she tries in vain to make Namor understand that he has been brain washed by the Red Ghost. Hawkeye lets loose an arrow directly into the head of Namor, but the Sub-Mariner takes no notice. Hawkeye then thinks that if the Red Ghost is in control of Namor, then by taking out the Red Ghost, Namor may regain his senses. Using a make-shift arrow, Hawkeye knocks a heavy vase from an upper floor railing onto the head of the Red Ghost. However, while the archer congratulates himself on his own handy work he fails to notice Namor sneak up and then *POW!* Hawkeye is nearly knocked out by a mighty blow from the Sub-Mariner. Realizing his plan has failed, Hawkeye decides he is outmatched by Namor and just as he prepares himself to receive a final blow he sees that Val too, has been overcome by the Sub-Mariner. With a blinding flash from Namor's final blow, Hawkeye passes out.

Untold moments later, Hawkeye and Val are unconscious and held captive on an upright table under huge metal body shackles. The Red Ghost boasts of his plans as he prepares to steal their minds! He explains: He, the Red Ghost is actually Ivan Kragoff, a leading authority on cosmic rays. He discovered that bombarding a subject with small bursts of cosmic radiation renders them in his command. However, the control is not by HIS brain, but by natural cosmic radiation itself which strikes everywhere on the earth. This explains why the Sub-Mariner did not regain his senses when Hawkeye knocked out the Red Ghost moments earlier. (ASIDE: The Red Ghost began his studies with apes until one day he gave them too much radiation and they turned against him. He was forced to flee with his partner the Unicorn (as told in Iron Man #16). The Unicorn, meanwhile, wanted the Red Ghost to cure him from an unknown fatal malady but left soon after discovering that the Red Ghost could not help him further (see Iron Man #57-58 for further details). This left him with time to work on undersea life such as porpoises and squids. When he had perfected his control with these lower animals, he sought out Attuma to ally himself, whose heritage and lust for conquer matched his very own. END OF ASIDE). Moments later, as Hawkeye and Valkyrie begin the mind-enslaving treatment, the Red Ghost notes that he has not yet perfected his conversion on humans. Some have, in fact, already perished.

Two weeks later, at the Greenwich Village sanctum of Dr. Stephen Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts, the great magician finally returns and excitedly explains to his trusty servant Wong and his lady Clea that he has gained power which may aid in undoing the spell which currently holds the Black Knight in stone (NOTE: these events take place AFTER Marvel Premiere #10). Clea urges Strange to notify the Defenders of this great news at once and he agrees. He sends out an astral projection of himself to all the Defenders, urging them to follow the image to his dwelling. Much later, the Hulk and Surfer arrive...yet, Valkyrie and Namor failed to respond to Strange's astral form and he is puzzled. The Surfer however, is not concerned explaining that they may be living their own lives at the moment.

Meanwhile, back in Attuma's underwater base, little does the Silver Surfer know that at that very moment Valkyrie, Hawkeye and Namor are being programmed by the Red Ghost to lead Attuma's troops against Atlantis. Attuma hopes that they will provide the inspiration necessary to crush Namor's home realm. Attuma is agitated because of the wait but just then, the Red Ghost announces that with the aid of the scientist they kidnapped, the moment of conquest has arrived...the Defenders, now mindless soldiers, are ready!

Back at Dr. Strange's home, the Surfer expresses his concern over the fate of the Black Knight and asks if they can proceed with his transformation back to human form. Strange agrees and shakes off his own concern for Val and Namor until the Hulk unexpectedly states that he thinks he knows where the pair are. Strange, perplexed, asks the Hulk to disclose their whereabouts but the Hulk, who does not like to be told to do anything, retorts that he is leaving *BAH!* The Silver Surfer leaps onto the Hulk's back and demands to be told the information. The Hulk is outraged that the Surfer has "turned" on him but while the Surfer restrains the Hulk, Dr. Strange induces a calming trance in the behemoth. Under his spell, the Hulk explains the events which involved the ocean-side fight with Attuma and the eventual capture of Valkyrie, Hawkeye and the Sub-Mariner. However, because the Hulk has no sense of time the magician has no way of knowing how long ago this happened. To expedite matters, he casts a spell of sleep over the Hulk and, riding on the Surfer's board, the remaining two Defenders set out to search the oceans of the world.

As the free Defenders begin their search for their friends, Atlantis falls under siege: whales, porpoises and giant squid attack the underwater kingdom with Namor, Valkyrie and Hawkeye (wearing special underwater breathing gear) leading the advance. The Imperial Guards of Atlantis are stunned to see Namor attacking his own with no match. Hawkeye and Val cut through the Atlantean ranks in short order but suddenly, Val stops fighting. Reason flickers in her eyes and then fear, which settles over her like the fall of night. Finally, sheer stark terror grips the Valkyrie who sees monstrous beasts where once stood Atlantean Guards. As her mind cries out in madness, high overhead circling the globe on the Surfer's board, Dr. Strange senses her mind; familiar but jumbled thoughts. Homing in on her mind's signature, the two Defenders discover Atlantis under siege. They locate Val easily but Namor is nowhere to be found. Quickly, Strange figures out that Val's sudden condition is the result of an inner conflict between the original personality of Barbara and her current personae, the Valkyrie. He delves deeper into her thoughts and finds that the two women within her are trying to kill each other. He also discovers that the mind-numbing process brought about by the Red Ghost depends upon the continual flow of cosmic rays. Amazingly, Dr. Strange and the Silver Surfer combine mystic and cosmic forces to stem the flow of cosmic radiation by creating a barrier around the earth.

The creation of this shield causes the Surfer to re-evaluate his opinion of Dr. Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts. He remarks that he is both astounded by Strange's powers and somewhat afraid of them. The Sorcerer Supreme is modest in pointing out to the Silver Surfer that had he his background, he would realize that he is simply a man, as the Surfer once was.

Meanwhile, the battle for Atlantis rages on. The Red Ghost, appearing as an unnatural mist, urges his mindless troops on. But, suddenly, with the flow of cosmic rays dammed by the Defender's barrier, the Red Ghost becomes substantial and falls to the ocean's floor with a thud. Incredulously, the Red Ghost watches as the marine life, previously under his control, regain their will and swim away...and the Valkyrie and Hawkeye, also free of the cosmic ray influence, turn their attention on him! Without the support of cosmic radiation, the Red Ghost becomes easy game and he is quickly subdued with a *WHACK!* from Hawkeye's bow.

Standing over the fallen villain, Valkyrie has to restrain herself from finishing the Red Ghost off with her ebony blade. As she sheathes her sword, she cannot forget the insanity that had come upon her until the end of her trance allowed the Valkyrie to once more regain control in her mind. While Hawkeye and Val watch over the Red Ghost, Namor makes a move on Attuma who watches in confusion as his troops fall back in disorder. In the Sub-Mariner's mind are thoughts of regret and vengeance as it was Attuma who hindered Namor while the sea-witch Llyra ended his beloved Dorma's life (see Sub-Mariner #37). Namor, the Sub-Mariner and Lord of Atlantis focuses all his power fueled by his anger and hatred, into one soul-fulfilling blow which connects with his stunned mortal foe with fatal results. His vengeance at last complete and his beloved and Atlantis avenged. The Defenders re-group and then gather the professor whom they return to Atlantic City (NOTE: no mention is made of his wife who was also kidnapped last issue!) and then they themselves return to New York and the home of Dr. Strange.

(ASIDE: Beginning this issue is the classic Defenders Vs. Avengers story arc, however the PROLOGUE to this series is contained in Avengers #115 which should be read before the following! END OF ASIDE).

Defenders Vs. Avengers

Chapter One: DECEPTION!!

The Defenders are gathered in the home of Dr. Strange to witness the re-animation of the Black Knight who was turned to stone by the Enchantress. Each Defender privately ponders the events of the past few weeks. Hawkeye is aghast to see his old teammate a stone statue but spitefully wonders why the Avengers did not pursue him as his replacement. The Hulk broods over the fact that he was put to sleep against his will by Dr. Strange and the Silver Surfer. However, since he views the Black Knight as a friend he wants to stay to see if they can help him. Valkyrie meantime, is trying to sort out her feelings for the Black Knight which she feels may be related to the fact that they are both tied to the Enchantress. Moreover, she worries that she may be cracking up and loving him may not help the situation.

Dr. Strange, using the orb of Agamotto, contacts the essence of Dane Whitman (the Black Knight) in some distant unknown dark realm. Communicating with him requires bolts of mystic energy to travel great distances but Strange manages to inform the Black Knight that they are working on his release. The Black Knight, relieved to finally have contact with someone, reports back that where he is, time does not pass but he feels tremendous desolation. Despite this, he has not abandoned hope and he will await their action.

However, the Knight's message, sent back as Strange's arrived, a mystic bolt of energy, is intercepted in the interdimensional gulf by Loki and Dormammu. The pair have been waiting for this message and Loki's patience has been wearing thin. (ASIDE: Loki and Dormammu have recently forged an uneasy alliance. Loki is currently blind (see Thor #207) and has been promised his sight again if he aids Dormammu in tricking the Defenders and helping in the conquering of Earth. END OF ASIDE). Dormammu captures the Knight's reply and substitutes his own message for the Black Knight's with magical help from Loki. They send the altered message on its way. Minutes later, Strange receives the message and hears the pleading voice of the Black Knight suggest that the only way to release himself from this realm is to use the power of the Evil Eye. However, the Silver Surfer is quick to point out that he was told by the Human Torch that the Evil Eye was destroyed (see Fantastic Four #54). Still, to save the Black Knight the Defenders agree that they will find the Evil Eye and rescue The Black Knight, or die trying!

NEXT: Divide and Conquer , The Defenders vs. Avengers Chapter 4 and 5 (NOTE: See Avengers #116 for Chapters 2 and 3).

Front Cover: The Defenders Issue 8

Defenders 8