THE DEFENDERS 29
"Let My Planet Go!"
Published: November 1975, 25 cents
Writer: Steve Gerber
Artists: Sal Buscema and Vince Colletta
Letterer: John Constanza
Colourist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Marv Wolfman
The Defenders: Hulk, Valkyrie, Doctor Strange, Nighthawk, Jack Norriss (hell, yes!)
Guest Appearances: Guardians of the Galaxy (Charlie-27, Martinex, Yondu, Major Vance Astro), Starhawk
Nemesis/Villain Appearances: Empire of the Badoon, Sisterhood of Badoon
Nighthawk, Martinex and Charlie-27 face a Badoon firing squad prepared to blast them into the wall at their backs. The Brotherhood of Badoon, Earth's alien conquerors of the year 3015 AD hold the trio here for they dared defy the rule of humanity's new masters. On planetwide video, men and women huddled in slave camps watch in horror. For, this is more than an execution of men. A dream of freedom is about to be put to death. Fortunately, the Badoon's leader has his back to the door as Vance Astro and Valkyrie arrive. Instead of barging in and making their presence known, Astro sends out a psychokinetic blast. A bolt of pure force leaps from the brain of Major Vance Astro, slicing through the metal casings of the Badoon molecular dispersion rifles. The Badoon guards look down at their empty hands in disbelief and just as shocked are Nighthawk and the Guardians. Valkyrie rushes the head of the firing squad, who was not disarmed, and just barely avoids a blast from his hand weapon. Wielding her sword, she slashes the mid-section of the Badoonian and with a scream, he is dispatched. Astro calls out to Valkyrie to free their friends while he takes care of the remaining troops. He explains to Val that the bonds which hold them work on a mind-deadening principle which interferes with the delivery of the brain's orders to rest of the nervous system. Val begins to understand then, why the mighty Charlie-27 simply did not break his bonds using his incredible strength. The bonds however are not strong enough to stand up to Val's sword which easily smashes them. Once freed, the quintet makes their escape on the run.
However, they run right into another swarm of Badoon guards. Martinex reminds Val, who is shocked to see so many of the aliens, that there are as many Badoon on Earth as humans in this century. With those words, the sole survivor of Earth's Pluvian colony grimly extends his left hand and as one, the onrushing Badoon freeze in their tracks, literally. One of Martinex's more demonstrative powers. Making their way around the frozen guards, the group finally escapes. Moments later, they find themselves a location to gather their wits and rest. Nighthawk asks Val and Vance how it was they got back to Earth. Val explains that she is unsure but suspects that they were teleported away from the Badoon home-world by magic, possibly at the hands of Dr. Strange. Nighthawk however, hesitates at first but then goes on at Val's prompting...he tells her that it could not have been Strange...because he is dead!
Not quite! The mystic master's physical body gave the appearance of death, displaying only minimal metabolic functions... but only because Dr. Strange had abandoned that shell of flesh and bone to roam the cosmos in his astral form. In truth, he was responsible for Val's rescue. And now, with the speed of thought, he races through the dark void to a second weird world to pluck back two more victims of the same teleport mishap. The planet he flies to is one of drunkards and madmen, where a futuristic technology co-exists with barbaric disdain for the value of life. A world where death is a festival...and a game. It is here, in an alien studio, that Yondu of the Guardians and the Hulk of the Defenders are stranded.
The emcee Mon-Tee, reminds the audience watching the Death Sweepstakes, that since Mr. Blue (aka. Yondu) won his challenge (see last issue) that it is time to choose a death for Mr. Green (aka. Hulk). Suddenly, the audience erupts into a approving roar as Emperor Goozot himself enters the studio, pulling behind him a woman he announces to be his former wife. Apparently he overheard her in the dungeon professing her desire to spend time with the Hulk (last issue) and he wishes they enter the games together. Mon-Tee bows to his liege and announces to the audience that, in accordance with the wishes of the Emperor, Mr. Green will be joined by the lovely lady in Snow Country! With that, the green Defender and the scantily clad woman are dematerialized and teleported to a snow covered sub-zero wasteland to the far, far south...a favourite resort location of discriminating political exiles for centuries.
The Hulk, released from the mind control of captors after arriving in the frozen landscape, appears disoriented. The last thing he remembered was being with flag-head (Yondu) in the city...then he suddenly recalls being put to sleep by the "metal mother" after he smashed her "babies". Shivering, his companion explains to him that the giant robot is called Zinnia and that he was placed "in thrall" but is now freed. She also says that they are going to die unless he gets them out of here. The Hulk remarks that his name is not Mr. Green, despite what she calls him. However, he indicates he will help her because he does not like this cold, lonely place either. Suddenly, he hears a funny noise like ice cracking...like something climbing up the mountainside. The woman crawls over to the edge to look down when without warning, a metal tentacle reaches up from below grabs her around the wrist and pulls her down the slope! The Hulk moves quickly for such a large being and with wide emerald eyes, he stalks forward to the edge of the slope to behold huge mechanical bugs, very much like ants. The green behemoth rushes downward, ignoring the warnings of the captured girl that it is too late. However, there is much he can still do and with a mighty left punch, one ant is smashed to pieces and his companion is freed. In the dungeon, the Hulk's massive musculature, so different from the soft, wine soaked bodies of the men she knew, aroused her curiosity. Now he evokes from her nothing less than awe. It is the very same feeling that sweeps over greenskin himself, as he lifts his gaze from the remains of the metal body he has broken and sees a whole army of metal bugs approaching...
Meanwhile, the being known as Starhawk sails the space winds homeward. His home is nothing fancy...a massive rock in space with the upper half in a glass enclosure. Inside the dome are trees, grass, a horse, and a cabin. But, as he enters through the airlock and hears the joyful shouts of the children, he is reminded again why he has longed for this simple place: Tara, Sita and John are their names. After a short embrace, the children ask him how long he will be home. Starhawk remarks that he cannot say until he has consulted Aleta. Starhawk enters the cabin and sits before a massive computer. He relates that "I am the light and the giver of light...and the two must decide jointly...all that I am...all that I can be...flows from her". The cabins interior is suddenly lit with a fiery presence on the computer's visual panel. The face of a beautiful woman appears...she does not speak a word, nor does Starhawk. But when the image fades, he knows what he must do...and grieves at the thought. It is not yet his time, the stars beckon him as he has no choice but to journey...to Earth!
Back at the Badoon-overridden-Earth, Nighthawk, Valkyrie and the Guardians of the Galaxy secretly arrive at the headquarters of the Badoon High Command. They hope to gain access to the building's communication network so that they may contact the Terran Underground (Zakkor and his band of freedom fighters in New York). In a rare moment of weakness, Val admits that she thinks it may be impossible as they are hopelessly outnumbered. However, Nighthawk turns to Valkyrie and with a certain firmness, he announces that they are not giving up now despite the odds. He recognizes that Val feels uncomfortable going into battle without Dr. Strange. He himself tries to prepare for the worst possible scenario: that the Defenders have lost not only Dr. Strange but the Hulk as well. Charlie-27 echoes the sentiments of Nighthawk and asks Val to accept it and remember who was responsible for the murders of Dr. Strange and the Hulk. Charlie rallies the group with a reminder that a little righteous anger goes a long way toward evening the odds...and then they charge! The Guardians and the Defenders break into the Badoon fortress just as the Badoon attempt to prepare themselves for the assault.
Meanwhile, the violent game show continues as the Hulk defends himself and
his alien damsel-in-distress against the army of robotic ants. The Hulk
dispatches several of the robots but they keep coming. Realizing that there are
too many bugs to fight off, he takes his blonde companion in his arms and with
powerful legs, leaps away in hopes of finding a means of escape. However, the
Hulk's hopes fade as he bounces off an invisible force field. His attempt at
escape is met with annoying chiding from a holographic image of the game show's
host, Mon-tee. Enraged at the chiding, the Hulk smashes to bits the mountain he
finds himself on with his fists, and as a result the army of robotic bugs is
destroyed by the process. The Hulk and the woman are teleported back to the game
show studio where Yondu, the game show host, and a cheering audience await. Much
to Mon-tee's surprise, the Hulk lifts him up and is about to crush the
"Fat-Face" when he and Yondu are teleported directly into the midst of
the battle between the Badoon, the Defenders, and the Guardians of the Galaxy.
Back on the Guardians' ship "Captain America", Jack Norriss awakes from the spell cast on him by Dr. Strange. Norriss feels apologetic for his recent behavior towards the Defenders and Guardians in general, and Valkyrie in particular. He finds Dr. Strange entranced at the controls of the ship. Not used to seeing him in such a state, Norris fears that Strange might be dead and begins to yell out his newfound feelings for the Defenders and their plight in a torrent of emotion. However, Strange is not dead and he awakens from his trance. After the initial surprise of finding out the magician is alive, Norriss convinces Strange to let him accompany him down to Earth to help the Defenders.
Taking out several guards on the way in, Nighthawk and the gang, smash through the wooden door of the communications center, startling the Badoon guards therein. Nighthawk immediately identifies the leader of the Badoon, Droom by his red head dress. Vance warns the Defenders not to damage the communications equipment as he uses his psyche-blast to clear a path through the Badoon guards. Droom exclaims that they are fools and their entire species shall pay for this insurrection against the Brotherhood. This pushes Nighthawk over the edge as he tells the Badoon leader that they all look alike and talk alike and he would greatly appreciate it if they would just SHUT UP! He then flies towards Droom dodging laser blasts and plows him and another guard with a powerful double fisted uppercut. This gives Vance time to put the call through to the freedom fighters. Suddenly, the individual battles of Val, Martinex and Charlie-27 are interrupted by a bright blue flash as Dr. Strange and a gun wielding Jack Norriss arrive. Valkyrie gapes with incredulity at Strange's arrival. Jack grimaces because his arrival has gone unnoticed by his own spouse. But the master mage evinces no emotion whatsoever. He merely looks upon the rampant violence...deems it distasteful...and with a magical gesture and utterance, terminates it. The Badoon suddenly stand paralyzed as if frozen in mid-battle. Martinex asks the obvious question as to whether or not Strange was dead after all. Dr. Strange explains that it was simply more convenient to allow the Badoon to believe what they chose until the proper moment. He then announces that he has chosen Jack to aid him in an effort to free Earth for all time. In a second blue flash, Dr. Strange and Jack are gone, leaving the remaining heroes to manage matters until he returns.
Moments later, Strange and Jack blink back into reality inside one of the Badoon prison camps. Relying on Jack's marksmanship, Jack aims the newly acquired ray-rifle at a troop of Badoon guard and quickly dispatches them. That task accomplished, Dr. Strange causes the fences to dematerialize and calls to the captives to throw off their shackles. Then he and Jack are gone in the same flash...to reappear at another prison site, then another...and another...flashing madly over the face of the globe until all the fences have been put asunder. Until all fifty million Terran men, women and children have been liberated...with predictable results, a bloodbath ensues as they run wild against their former masters. From the parapet of the Badoon fortress in Chicago, Dr. Strange and Jack view what they have wrought. Strange reflects on the carnage and ponders its necessity. Jack asks him why he simply did not "zap" the Badoon off the face of the planet? Strange answers him by explaining that doing so would have rendered all the years of enslavement meaningless, even if it was within his power.
Suddenly, Starhawk glides down to the roof top, surprising the pair. He applauds Strange for his perception of the situation, noting that freedom must be earned to be valued. Jack is taken aback by the gold and blue flyer but Strange calms him by explaining that he is not of this world. Strange relates to Jack that he has seen him before departing the swampworld of the Badoon after aiding Val and Vance there. Starhawk admits is was he and informs the pair that he is no enemy of Earth. In fact he is here to advise the team that the Defenders are no longer required and must return to their own era. Although he senses no enmity in Starhawk, Strange explains that the Defenders had pledged to free the Earth before they departed and he asks Starhawk who is he to ask them to leave before the task is complete. Starhawk replies cryptically that "he is one who knows" as his eyes gain a depth as vast as the universe. Turning to Norriss, Starhawk asks Jack to explain to Strange. Somewhat shaken but with a certain confidence, Jack turns to Dr. Strange and explains that although he feels he has not been right about much lately, he feels he recognizes something in Starhawk, something of him and of Barbara...he tries to explain to Dr. Strange that Starhawk is both all of us, and none of us. The master of the mystic arts has recognized this too; the synthesis of opposites within this being. Looking into the depths of Starhawk's eyes, Strange silently nods in agreement and then explains that the Defenders will depart, but first one final gesture is to be made. Raising his arms above his head, he calls upon the eternal Vishanti, and from his hands flows a multi-hued quiltwork of mystical energies that blankets the entire city and then drops like a shimmering cloak over its silvery spires...and, in the flame-lit streets below, the baneful brothers of Badoon fall...asleep.
At least one city shall be taken without further bloodshed. Dr. Strange cherishes all life and abhors war, and despite the Badoon philosophy, they are living beings. Jack just remarks that he saved a lot of lives and it should be left at that. Strange then magically lowers himself and Jack to the ground below where they are joined by the Guardians, Val and Hulk. Vance notice's Starhawk and comments that again he arrives after the battle has been fought. He then goes to Dr. Strange expressing his pleasure that he is "back" with them and thanks him for the assistance. Vance reminds him that now they have the long fight ahead to rebuild but Dr. Strange cuts him short...he explains that it will be the Guardians and Starhawk who take over now. With Nighthawk and Val protesting aloud, Strange wishes the five Guardians luck and then generates a magical field that quickly carries the Defenders back to 1975 Earth. Standing in the plaza in the sudden quiet, the Guardians ask Starhawk if he intends to join them but the question goes unanswered...
Meanwhile, back in 1975, the Defenders blink back into reality with a flash of yellow light, at their suburban headquarters. Nighthawk and Val are furious with Dr. Strange for taking them away from a half-finished fight and demand an explanation as to why. Dr. Strange walks away from the group but says that he cannot answer that question in a manner they would understand...he suggests they ask Mr. Norriss. The remaining Defenders turn in disbelief to Jack Norriss, awaiting an answer. Shoving his hands deep into his pockets, Jack explains that he knows that Nighthawk does not think much of him and he knows that Barbara does not think of him at all but he saw something in Starhawk...an ultimate fusion, creativity and destructiveness...passion and logic...whatever, it is something Earth will finally want...a millennium from now.
(Special thanks to Anti-Grimm at Defenders Message Board for help with the summary of my missing pages 15-18!)
NEXT: The Defenders are trapped in the fright filled Theatre of Fear! in Defenders #30
Front Cover: The Defenders Issue 29