THE DEFENDERS 9
"Divide and Conquer" (Defenders vs. Avengers Chapter 4,5,6)
Published: October 1973, 20 cents
Writer: Steve Englehart
Artist: Sal Buscema
Inker: Frank McLaughlin
Letterer: Artie Simek
Colourist: P. Goldberg
Editor: Roy Thomas
The Defenders: Hulk, Sub-Mariner, Valkyrie, Hawkeye, Silver Surfer, Dr.Strange, Black Knight
Nemesis/Villain Appearances: Vision, Scarlet Witch, Iron Man, Black Panther, Mantis
(NOTE: This issue continues the classic Defenders Vs. Avengers story arc, however the previous two chapters (2 and 3) may be found in Avengers #116).
Defenders Vs. Avengers
Chapter Four: Divide and Conquer
RECAP: The dread Dormammu and Loki tricked the Defenders into trying to re-assemble the six pieces of the Evil Eye, so that Dormammu could cause his dimension to swallow Earths. However, Loki began to fear that Asgard would also suffer the same fate so he alerted the Avengers to stop the Defenders by telling them that the Defenders were out to conquer the universe for themselves!
In the home of Doctor Strange, the Master of the Mystic Arts is working diligently to re-animate the stone statue of the Black Knight when the Silver Surfer arrives unannounced. Strange is incredulous that the Surfer got by his mystic barrier so easily. The Silver hero relates that the power in the section of the Evil Eye he holds allowed him to shatter Strange's shield because time is of the essence. Dr. Strange listens closely as the Surfer describes the news that the Defenders actions to undo the spell which holds the Black Knight in stone are being countered by the Avengers. The Silver Surfer also reports on his battle with the Vision in recovering a piece of the Evil Eye. Strange is shocked to hear of these events so he consults his orb of Agamotto and learns of Loki's recent influence over the Avengers and of their newest team member, the Swordsman, previously an internationally known criminal. Doctor Strange takes all this to mean that the Avengers have been tainted with evil and that Loki must be controlling their minds. The Surfer suggests that Dr. Strange send out mental warnings to the other Defenders to warn them to expect a fight in their efforts to retrieve the fragmented Evil Eye. But instead, Strange asks the Surfer to guard the Black Knight from any assault and then he departs quickly to join the fray. Dr. Strange feels he must do his share citing his responsibilities to the Black Knight from the very beginning.
Meanwhile, on the south sea island of Rurutu, the Vision is broadcasting to the Avengers a report of the most recent battle between the Surfer and Wanda, the Scarlet Witch. He indicates that these Defenders are going to any length to obtain the ultimate weapon and they must be stopped. At five points around the planet, the Avengers (Thor, Black Panther and Mantis, Iron Man, Swordsman and Captain America) hear this grim news and believe it. Afterwards, Wanda and the Vision mull over their recent battle and try to understand the Defenders. They note how powerful they appear and also, how like the Avengers they are. The Vision ponders how much better it would be to have them as allies.
Chapter Five: Iron Man vs. Hawkeye
The Valkyrie and Hawkeye are flying over Mexico on Aragorn, the winged steed, in search of a piece of the Evil Eye when they spot a small city. Landing on main street in Monterrey, they startle the local residents with their sudden arrival. Then, both Hawkeye and Val as well as the townspeople are startled when appearing in the afternoon sky in a flash of light, is an apparition of Doctor Strange. The magician warns the pair that the Avengers have been corrupted by Loki and they are trying to stop the Defenders from obtaining the Evil Eye. Hawkeye is shocked and begins to voice his doubts but Val quickly cuts him off saying that if Strange says it is true, then it is. Val then goes on to say she hates the Avengers but Hawkeye interjects saying that she has not even met them and that her opinion of his old team is a result of the Enchantress. Valkyrie shrugs it off saying she just craves some action. Hawkeye smiles at Val and tells her to take care of herself in her search for her piece of the Eye. He also instructs her to call him "Clint" and then places a big kiss smack on her mouth. Val, enraged at this, quickly swipes her sword at Hawkeye, but narrowly misses his head as he ducks. She calls him a male chauvinist pig. Hawkeye backs off quickly and apologizes for his actions. He notes that her opinion of males is also the result of the Enchantress. As Val mounts her flying horse and heads off to Bolivia in search of her piece of the Evil Eye, she smiles inwardly at the kiss from Hawkeye and thinks it was not entirely unpleasant after all. As Hawkeye watches Val fly off he wonders about the Valkyrie. He compares her to both Wanda and Tasha, the Black Widow and decides that Val is more mixed up and uptight then they ever were. He is suddenly drawn from his reverie when he sees Iron Man flying overhead towards the other end of town.
Iron Man arrives in Mexico as a result of a tip from Loki, hoping he beat the Defenders to the piece of the Evil Eye which is known to be found here. Arriving at the local University he makes some inquiries in regards to the lost piece and moments later, he meets a professor who has been studying the object for some time. Iron Man is handed the piece and notes its fine features and grooves which he thinks enable the object to attach to another piece. The professor agrees and is about to explain more completely when suddenly the window is smashed and a clawed-arrow rips the fragment from Iron Man's hands and returns the way it came in with the Eye piece in its grip. Iron Man jumps into action in pursuit of the arrow with an idea of who sent it.
Iron Man finds Hawkeye, just as he expected, in the middle of a park with the piece of the Eye in hand. They exchange unpleasantries and before Iron Man can get close to Hawkeye, Clint releases a blast arrow which sends Iron Man sprawling. Hawkeye explains that since he left the Avengers he has found new friends with a worthy cause (saving the Black Knight). Iron Man thinks the worthy cause Hawkeye is referring to is ruling the universe. Hawkeye lets off a second blast arrow but Iron Man blasts it with a palm spawned energy bolt. Iron Man uses the moment to comment on Hawkeye's psyche: Namely the fact that Hawkeye has always had a self-important attitude (the pair first met in Tales of Suspense #57). Iron Man comments on the fact of Hawkeye's higher opinion of himself and how disappointed he is knowing that he in fact nominated Hawkeye for Avenger membership. As Iron Man approaches Hawkeye, Clint grabs an arrow from his pack and whacks Iron Man over the head with it. Iron Man staggers backwards in surprise as acid begins to eat through his helmet and armour. Realizing he has nothing to neutralize the acid with, Iron Man leaps into the air and flies as fast as he can hoping the friction generated with evaporate the liquid.
Having stopped the acid, Iron Man is livid. He circles back towards Hawkeye and blasts Hawkeye's arrows like they were match sticks then WHAM! wallops Hawkeye with a powerful left hook. Using his repulsor rays, Iron Man backs Hawkeye into a building hoping to knock him out. He tells Clint that he will not hurt him because they were once friends but now it is apparent that his ego has finally got the better of him. As Iron Man presses Hawkeye back into the wall with his repulsor blasts, Clint manages to let loose an arrow which seems to go astray but actually is magnetized and pulls Iron Man's arm away sending the repulsor blast into a nearby building causing it to crumble. Iron Man quickly jumps into action to help rescue those trapped in the fallen structure. After all are safe, he turns back his attention to Hawkeye but he is nowhere to be seen having made off with the Eye piece into the nearby woods. Now the Defenders have two parts of the Evil Eye.
Chapter Six: Dr. Strange Vs. Black Panther and Mantis
Doctor Strange flies over a cornfield in Indiana having been drawn here by a piece of the Evil Eye which his magic has detected. Upon determining the location of the piece by a strange glow, he heads down to retrieve the powerful fragment. Menawhile, already searching for several hours, the two Avengers Black Panther and Mantis also detect the luminous glow of the Eye and move quickly to gain the treasure. Strange gains the object first but, also notices the approaching Avengers. He decides that his wisest course of action would be to slip away unseen lest unpleasantries develop.
Black Panther and Mantis come upon the spot which previously held the Eye fragment but find it gone. The Panther, using his superiour tracking abilities, notices that a stalk of corn was pushed aside and determines the direction of the Defender who confiscated the Eye piece. They exit the cornfield onto a back county road and come across three country folk. They introduce themselves and inquire as to what direction, a person who recently passed, may have went. The people explain that the Panther must be mistaken because no one has passed in the last twenty minutes during which the group has been awaiting a bus. While the Panther is confused, Mantis is not so. She detects the workings of magic which she feels are the vibrations of Doctor Strange (she first felt his powers in Avengers #115). She begins to probe.
A bus finally arrives and the passengers prepare to board. Suddenly Mantis yells at the woman amongst the trio and kicks her so hard that she is thrown under the bus. The other country folk begin to protest but Mantis knocks them aside warning them to stay back from the woman who she says is in fact Doctor Strange! The Black Panther orders Mantis to stop fighting because he is not so sure she is correct when suddenly, Mantis is hit by a mystical force and thrown away from the bus. To the Panther's surprise, Strange flies out from under the bus with the prized piece of the Evil Eye in his hands. The Master of the Mystic Arts impressed with the Mantis' sensitivity for the occult, climbs higher into the sky, away from the startled passengers and equally shocked Avengers.
The Black Panther, also known as T'Challa, Prince of the Wakanda's, marvels at the abilities of Doctor Strange but springs to action himself. While Strange flies through the air hoping that he may return without further incident, T'Challa runs unseen beneath him, leaping with a great bound to a water tower and then directly into the soaring magician! WHAM! The pair tumble from their mid-air collision and Strange drops the section of the Evil Eye he was carrying. The Panther grapples with Strange's hands hoping to prevent him from generating mystical forces and then plants his foot in Strange's face to stop him from reciting any spells. However, the Black Panther is hit squarely by a blast of mystic energy from the Eye of Agamotto which is centered on Strange's chest and he is sent plummeting like a stone to the earth below.
Doctor Strange has no desire to see the Panther die so he races downwards, catching T'Challa by the forearm ten feet from certain death. The Black Panther shows his gratitude by hoofing Strange square in the jaw (after all, he thinks he is saving the world from a evil sorcerer!). Once on the ground, in the barnyard of a farm, the pair engage in hand to hand combat. Meanwhile, the furious fighting does not go unnoticed as the property owner, worried about his livestock fetches his shotgun and prepares to blast buckshot at the fighters. But, in that same split-instant, Mantis runs at super-speed and knocks the battling pair from the harm's way and the blast passes over their heads. Then, she turns and knocks the weapon from the startled farmer's hands. With the Panther stunned, the Mantis then turns on Strange and prepares to deliver a deadly punch. However, his skills are not limited to only the mystic arts as he deftly avoids her thrust which impresses her greatly. As the Panther regains his bearings and prepares to outflank him, the sorcerer realizes that he can no longer risk being caught. He whispers an incantation which drains the energies from his opponents and as they collapse, he retrieves the piece of the Evil Eye and takes to the sky once more. Although he is not happy with the combat, he realizes it is for the greater cause of the Black Knight.
The Black Panther and Mantis watch as Doctor Strange disappears over the horizon and they wonder if there are any Avengers powerful enough to overcome these Defenders!
NEXT: Defenders vs. Avengers continues in Avengers #117 (Valkyrie Vs. Swordsman, Captain America Vs. Sub-Mariner) and then in Defenders #10, Thor Vs. Hulk!
Front Cover: The Defenders Issue 9