Key Creator Credits: J.M. Dematteis, Don Perlin, Mark Gruenwald, and others
Key First Appearances: Mistress Love, Arcanna, Nuke, Power Princess, Sassafras, Cloud, Mad-Dog
Story Continues From: Essential Defenders Vol. 5
Story Continues In: Essential Defenders Vol. 7
Overview: Welcome back to yet another volume of Essential Defenders. For a book with no official line-up, headquarters, and/or uniforms, it still amazes me that this title ran for 152 issues. It was a title that for 15 years could do almost any type of story, as everything was fair game with magicians, mutants, Asgardians, and more hanging out each and every month.
This volume kicks off with the death of Valkyrie, or so it seems. See back in Defenders #66 to #68, Valkyrie’s spirit was put into the body of Barbara Norris, and Norris’ spirit was placed into Valkyrie’s body, who was left in the Asgardian realm of Niffleheim. While Norris’ body is killed, the Defenders are able to save Valkyrie’s spirit, and reunite it with her body. So, long live Valkyrie, and so long Barbara Norris.
Next up is Avengers Annual #11, which won’t be found in the Essential Avengers run. Long-time Defenders adversary Nebulon finds himself sentenced to Earth. He encounters Thor, who brings Nebulon to the Avengers to aid the alien in returning to his home. At this same time, another member of Nebulon’s race, Nalia, arrives and seeks out the Defenders. She claims that Nebulon has plans to take over the Earth, and asks the Defenders to stop him. In typical comic book fashion, the two teams square off in the Himalayas, only to eventually realize that both teams were being manipulated by the aliens.
The Squadron Supreme, Marvel’s version of the Justice League, shows up for a multi-issue story, and the rest of the team is finally introduced in this story, with Arcanna (Zatanna), Nuke (Firestorm), and Power Princess (Wonder Woman). It’s a battle royale between the Defenders, the Squadron Supreme, and the Overmind
As this volume winds down, we see the transition start with the line-up that leads to the creation of the New Defenders. The Beast becomes more of the de facto leader of the non-team. Two of the Beast’s former teammates, Iceman and the Angel, show up and stick around. Valkyrie brings along a guest in Moondragon, who is under the warrior’s supervision following her latest power grab move with the Avengers. And of course, there is the Gargoyle, who really has no place else to go, so of course, he will stick around. Patsy Walker and Daimon Hellstorm finally take their leave of the team following their wedding. And the four heroes most closely associated with the concept of the Defenders – Doctor Strange, Hulk, Sub-Mariner, and Silver Surfer – turn over the reigns to the new team, knowing that there is a new set of Defenders to help protect the world.
What makes this Essential?: There are parts of this book that are good to read, such as the Avengers Annual, the Squadron Supreme crossover, and the formation of the “New Defenders”. However, I don’t know that the sum of these parts justifies the full Essential volume. These are decent stories, but so much of this run just feels like a monthly placeholder, just to ensure that the book met its monthly deadline.
If you like this volume, try: The Vision and Scarlet Witch mini-series from 1982. Following yet another roster shuffle in Avengers #211, the Vision and the Scarlet Witch opted to become reserve members and move out to a home in New Jersey. Despite some occasional appearances in The Defenders and the team-up books, the Vision and Scarlet Witch were out of the spotlight for awhile before earning their first mini-series, created by Bill Mantlo and Rick Leonardi. These two characters have such a complex family history, which all comes into play in this series. The Vision is visited by the Grim Reaper, who is the step-brother to Wonder Man, who shares his brain patterns with the aforementioned Vision. We get a visit by the Golden-Age hero, the Whizzer, who was once thought to be the father to the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, but that was finally proven not to be true in this series. But the significant news that came out of this mini-series was the true heritage of Wanda and Pietro – as the children of Magneto. (It had long been assumed, finally confirmed, and recently overturned in order to support the Marvel Cinematic Universe.) This series was reprinted in a 2005 trade paperback, but I believe the actual issues can still be tracked down in the back issue bins.