THE DEFENDERS (vol. 2) 5
Published: July 2001, $2.25
Writer: Kurt Busiek and Erik Larsen
Artists: Erik Larsen and Sal Buscema
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Colourist: Gregory Wright (with Color Arts)
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Asst. Editor: Marc Sumerak
Chief: Joe Quesada
The Defenders: Hulk, Sub-Mariner, Doctor Strange, Silver Surfer
Guest Appearances: Hellcat, Nighthawk, Valkyrie, Doc Samson, Namorita
Nemesis/Villain Appearances: Yandroth (as a spectre), Attuma and guards, Headmen
(As narrated by Namor, the Sub-Mariner)
Enraged, the Sub-Mariner swimming at terrific speed, races back home to Atlantis. He is fuming with the Defenders because he feels they have deserted him when he asked them for assistance against the barbaric Attuma who has invaded his undersea kingdom. Watching his travels through magic, Dr. Strange broods over the Atlantean prince. Nighthawk, standing just behind Strange, comments that he can understand why Namor appears so upset. Hellcat replies that although they all wish they could help him, removing Yandroth's curse remains the priority. Strange hushes the group's "irking idle chatter" as he attempts to concentrate, calling on the hosts of the Immateria to manifest Yandroth's essence.
Suddenly, the room is filled with a huge, green spectral image of Yandroth's laughing head. He asks Strange how he likes being forced to work with the other Defenders, especially the "green giant" and the "merman". Strange denies the image to be genuine, citing that it must be some eldritch as Yandroth has perished. Dr. Strange then calls forth the Faltinian flames to scatter the curse's structure. However, the ghostly image begins to laugh. Yandroth's image explains that his curse if fueled by the power of Gaea, Earth's mystic heart! It cannot be broken because it permeates their very being. Nighthawk quietly asks Dr. Strange if he thinks his personal advisor Papa Hagg might assist. Strange is not pleased by this, in fact he appears quite affronted. The magician orders Nighthawk, Val and Hellcat to leave as he needs silence and absolute concentration. The heroes depart but are none too pleased with Strange's behaviour. Nighthawk suggests they go find Namor and help him but realizes they have no way to get to him. Hellcat suggests they go get some food for she is hungry and she thinks they all need to have a talk.
A short time later, Nighthawk sheds his costume and announces he is set for dinner. Patsy too, is in street clothes once more. Val however states she has not the proper attire to accompany them. Kyle smiles and then explains to Val that the sword she carries, Dragonfang was enchanted such that when it is sheathed, her battle garb becomes civilian clothing (see Defenders #17). The Valkyrie sheathes her weapon and is startled when she finds herself dressed in a blue skirt and top with matching heels. Hellcat comments that Strange's fashion savvy is not entirely up to date, but it will do. The trio set out to hit the town.
As Namor's swim continues, his thoughts return to his "team mates". He finds Nighthawk and Hellcat essentially useless, but the Silver Surfer, with his power cosmic, he respects immensely.
The Surfer meanwhile, flies low over the city of Paris, seeking the gallery where Alicia Masters premieres an exhibition of her sculptures. Outside the window of the exhibit, he watches Alicia Masters, his friend and love. (NOTE: in the background, statues of Batman, Superman, Savage Dragon, Mr. Fantastic, Captain America, and the Thing are visible). He wants to go to her and talk, to make things better between them since last the last time they were together, they parted on such uncomfortable terms (see Defenders (vol. 2) #1). Watching her through the window, he senses her happiness in her element and realizes that she does not need him, their elements are too different. His place, he discovers, now and forever, will be amongst the stars...he flies at away.
The Hulk, Namor regrets, whose power rivals that of his own, could greatly help him in his quest to regain his throne, if he were not such a oafish, rampaging imbecile.
Meanwhile, the green haired Doc Samson and Bruce Banner, are trying to understand where the childish-green Hulk keeps vanishing to. However, Banner cannot access his memories very well. He does remember that it all started a few weeks ago when he was in Washington D.C. and the Toad Men attacked (as told in Defenders (vol. 2) #1). Samson also explains that it is also playing havoc with his ALS (as diagnosed in Hulk #12). An idea comes to Doc Samson, he may have a way to determine what is going on...
Deep in the ocean, at an outpost station near Atlantis, two of Attuma's guards are jumpy and with good reason. Attuma's elite do not know what hits them, and never will. They die as the Sub-Mariner swims by at a great speed, cracking their skulls as he passes. He regrets the blood shed but he cannot risk the alarm being sounded. Again, he laments that if his fellow Defenders had aided him, much of this could have been avoided.
Back in the city, Val, Kyle and Patsy are on their way to dinner. Kyle comforts Patsy because she is feeling down that if it were not for her, the "whole curse thing" would not have happened. He points out that having the world protected is a good thing and they got a new "Valkyrie" as well, so all is not lost. Kyle indicates he missed being a Defenders anyway. Patsy shrugs this off because, like Kyle, she volunteers being a Defender, but Doc and the others are held in the team against their free wills. Suddenly, Val stops, recognizing something about the streets they walk, she points to a somewhat shabby restaurant, Ray's Pizza, and announces she would like to eat there. Kyle and Patsy are miffed but decide to appease her. They remember that their first Val was a real person, Barbara Norriss, underneath and wonder if this is the same. They follow her into the pizza place, unaware that a missing person poster on the telephone pool outside the door shows the picture of a young woman who looks very much like the new Valkyrie.
At a nearby museum, the Headman have returned (see Defenders #21 for their first group appearance)! Morgan, Nagan, Chondu and Ruby have entered the facility undetected planning a heist. Morgan holds a neuroformula which he plans on releasing on the unsuspecting public. Injecting the formula into life support system of Chondu, the machine legged magician mystically enhances the chemical, making it psycho-active. He then releases the chemical into the museum like a dark cloud. It immediately affects the attending museum goers...
At the restaurant, Val begins to search inwardly for her true identity. Kyle proposes that they seek out the services of Papa Hagg to get some help. Patsy, however is not so keen on Hagg as she figures they already have Dr. Strange. Kyle is a little miffed at Patsy's feelings citing that Dr. Strange has not been overly friendly or co-operative lately. He also points out that it was Hagg who helped him with Mephisto and who helped him in lifting his curse. He suggests that Hagg might help lift the Hellcat's demonic senses but Patsy says she is happy the way she is. Suddenly, they overhear a newscast on the pizza parlour's TV that the Vanderdecken Museum of Antiquities was overcome by a black mist of unknown origin causing the patrons to become wild-eyed and to hallucinate. Kyle recognizes the museum as being loaded with mystic artifacts. The Defenders jump to their feet and are on their way...
Meanwhile, Namor reaches Atlantis' city walls taking out more guards as he goes...
The Headmen walk undisturbed through the museum, gloating their easy victory over the guards and public. They make their way towards the artifact they seek. A fragment of an ancient statue...an stone carving of an unknown "God from Beyond". Collecting the mask like carving, the Headmen leave the facility before they are discovered.
Deep in the ocean, Namor is battling endless numbers of guards barring his way to Atlantis, but he still advances....
Suddenly, Nighthawk swoops down from the sky and plucks the artifact from the hands of the startled ape-man, Nagan. As Nighthawk climbs high into the sky, Hellcat and Valkyrie arrive in time to watch as Ruby grabs Nighthawk around the waist by red tentacles which are issued from her malleable head. Quick thinking, Nighthawk throws the stone object to Val who catches it deftly. The two females Defenders evade the blast from Morgan's meson pistol. Nighthawk, free of the worry about the stone artifact, climbs higher into the sky, bringing Ruby along with him! Nagan yells at Morgan to put the gun away lest he hit and destroy the art object. Chondu, a veritable robot spider with a human head, advances on Hellcat who is disgusted by his appearance. Val is attacked by Nagan, who slams her feet first. She too, is grossed out by bizarre appearance of a Headman. Nighthawk, meanwhile, frees himself from Ruby's tentacles and slams her into the side of a building. Then, just as Chondu blasts his own weapons at the leaping Hellcat, he slams the unprotected head of the cyborg-spider. However, he fails to notice Nagan is stunned by the ape-man's powerful punch. Now recovered, Ruby's head then forms a fist which punches Val and sends her flying. Quickly, Val throws the stone relic to Hellcat who catches it. However, Hellcat is quickly overcome when she touches the stone as the power imbued in the fragment overcomes her supernatural senses, stunning her senseless. Nighthawk revives and pulls Ruby in front of a bolt of bedevilment shot from Chondu that was meant for him. Val grabs Nagan by the ankle and swings him into the Chondu's head. Three of the Headmen are down and out...the Defenders close in on Morgan who clutches the stone artifact protectively to his chest. Hellcat puts him out of the battle with a powerful right kick to the head...the stone relic tumbles to the grass.
Meanwhile, Namor has made it to the palace gates and still he pounds his way through endless guards...
Nighthawk is impressed that they defeated the Headmen without help from the "Big Four". But it is Hellcat who voices the question as to why the Headmen were here in the first place and why did they want the relic. They do not notice as Nagan crawls along the grass to obtain the dropped artifact. Too late they notice Nagan speak into a walkie-talkie and then *FWASPP!* the Headmen all disappear in a flash of red light.
Meanwhile, Namor has reached the throne room and he takes down Attuma's finest...he is only moments from his most hated enemy who is seated on the throne which rightfully belongs to him. Attuma is shocked to see Namor, as is Namorita who is chained at his feet. Attuma strikes but Namor strikes faster, this blow for Namorita, that blow for sitting on his throne...a dozen blows land in less than a moment...powerful as Attuma is, he is but a reed in the current of Namor's rage. Namor chokes Attuma in a death-grip. The Sub-Mariner then prepares the final blow to ensure that this never happens again...suddenly *POIT!* in a flash of green light...Namor disappears!
Miles away, Doc Samson has Bruce Banner under hypnosis as the brutish Hulk. He is attempting to find out where the Hulk goes when he disappears suddenly and who is doing it to him. But all he gets out of him is talk of rock monsters, bald-man, dead-people, bird-nose, sword-girl, dumb-magician and cat-girl. Finally, he says that floating-man is making him go places. But Samson is confused and just as he is about to probe deeper, *POIT!*, the Hulk disappears in a green flash of light.
In the sanctum of Dr. Strange, Nighthawk, Hellcat and Valkyrie find Stephen Strange in deep thought...appearing somewhat downcast. Strange announces that he has failed in his attempt at thwarting Yandroth's curse. Apparently, the curse is intertwined through the fabric of reality and through the souls of the Defenders involved. Tampering with such entanglement carries great risk but, he suggests somewhat cryptically, that there are other avenues yet explored...Nighthawk interrupts and explains that they have other problems now. He explains that the Headmen have returned but before he can go into much detail *POIT!* Dr. Strange vanishes in flash of green light. Nighthawk says, "aww...nuts!"
It has happened again. Namor is enraged. His hands were around the throat of his most hated enemy, Attuma, but he is again zapped away. The Hulk stands looking on, slightly annoyed by the fish-man's screaming. Strange tells Namor to relax and then explains to the Sub-Mariner that now he must understand how important it is to break this curse. Suddenly, a shadow falls over the trio (noticeably absent is the Silver Surfer) and a voice commands them to make no sudden moves and stand were they are....
NEXT: Bi-Beast drops by in Defenders (vol. 2) #6
Front Cover: The Defenders (vol. 2) Issue 5