Avengers #115-118; Defenders #7-11 (1973): Avengers/Defenders War; Loki goes insane; Black Knight is human again

Hate “event comics” like Secret Empire and Secret Wars and Secret Wars 2 and Secret Wars 2016?  Well, this is the granddaddy of them all. (By 1972 standards.). Actually, the old JLA/JSA crossovers were probably the granddaddy of them all, but this story is Marvel’s first attempt to put nearly all of its major heroes in a single story and give each of them meaningful screentime.

It starts in Avengers #115 with a prologue that follows a stupid and silly half-issue story where the team fights Troglodytes and a giant albino pincher insect.  The prologue picks up right after Thor #207, with Loki blind and falling down a mountain, and snatched in midair by The Dread Dormammu (and a nice little joke there, where Loki recognizes his own wicked nature).

Dormammu wants Loki to team up with him to find “The Evil Eye,” which was believed to have been destroyed during a battle that took place in Fantastic Four #54.

Meanwhile, Dr. Strange is trying to figure out how to un-stone-ify Black Knight, who is in an interdimensional void and tries to warn Strange not to come save him because….

…That’s where Loki and Dormammu are. And they have forged an alliance to find the Evil Eye.

Excuse me.  Before we say more, Dr. Strange has to learn to surf.

Okay.  Back to it: Turns out, the mystical Evil Eye wasn’t destroyed, just broken, and Dormy wants to get the six fragments. 

You see where this is going, right?  Six fragments.  A whole bunch of heroes? It’s basically Contest of Champions (and many of the JLA/JSA team ups).

Side note: The Evil Eye looks like a fleshlight for the planet Earth.  Weird.

In order to get the teams to inadvertently help them, Loki-the trickster-gets Strange to believe that the six pieces of the Evil Eye will enable Dane Whitman to return to flesh.

That’s a plausible reason to hunt down an artifact.

Recognizing that this will be a big to-do, Marvel basically offered a checklist at the end of Avengers #115.  How handy!

So then we slide over to Defenders #8, which also spends the first two-thirds on an inessential storyline before launching into the AvD War tie-in.

The Defenders team is now Strange, Namor, Hulk, Valk, Surfer, and Hawkeye.  Thankfully, Black Knight is still made of stone, so he’s not in the action. Hawkeye sexually harasses Valkyrie and pays for it.

The Avengers also want to help their old pal Black Knight, and they figure out Doc Strange has the stone body.  So they try to go to his house in Greenwich Village but…

Doc’s alarm system is too good for them.

Meanwhile, Strange sends each Defender in a different direction to get a piece of the Eye.

Loki, who is still blind, realizes Dormammu isn’t going to use the Evil Eye to help him get his sight back, so he snitches to The Avengers about what is going on.  The A-team now have to stop The Defenders.

There’s your premise.  It’s not bad, as far as these things go.

And then we get the pair-ups.

Silver Surfer vs. Vision and Scarlet Witch!  It’s a decent battle-except that Wanda really isn’t yet as incredibly powerful as she will eventually become, and so Surfer wins.

Iron Man vs. Hawkeye and Valkyrie.  Before the battle begins, Hawkeye grabs Valkyrie and kisses her, which she says she hates and storms off but then she thinks she actually enjoyed it.

That’s terrible.  Steve Englehart, you’re better than that-even in the early 1970s before date rape was a term.  Anyway, on his own, Hawkeye still wins???  Come on.  I’ll chalk it up to his feeling all horny and powerful, but that’s just dumb.

Dr. Strange vs. Black Panther and Mantis.  All Strange would have to do is teleport, grab the Eye piece, and leave.  And that’s basically what he does.

Except for the teleport part.  He just flies.  So Panther knocks him out of the sky and Strange goes hand-to-hand with Mantis.  Again, why?

Then a farmer breaks up the fight with his shotgun.  Random.  Strange still wins, as he should, but it should have been much easier.

After flying away from Hawkeye, Val goes to get her own shard and takes on the worst Avenger ever (other than Black Knight, who she’s supposedly in love with).  She’s a demigod with a flying horse.  He’s good at using swords.  This shouldn’t even be a thing.

It’s a well-drawn battle by Sal Buscema, and, like the fight with Strange and Panther/Mantis, a bystander shoots at them to interrupt the fight.

Lots of nuts with guns in the 1973 Marvel Universe.

Val wins because Swordsman was shot in the back.  She should have won, so that’s fine, but it shouldn’t have been this hard for her.  She shows some compassion towards him at the end by making him comfortable until an ambulance can come.

Sub-Mariner vs. Captain America.  Cap hits Subby in the face and the sound effect is “CLAM!”  How great is that?

Namor is winning, and then Sunfire shows up (they are in Japan) and steals the piece.

Namor flies up and punches Sunfire, who then drops it, and Cap catches it.  But then Cap hands it over to Namor, because he knows Sub-Mariner wouldn’t be looking for it without good reason.

Of course, the Cap battle ends with a cooler head.  Nice touch.

So at this point, Steve Englehart has made his team-The Defenders-the clear winners.  And frankly, this makes sense.  The Avengers have Thor.  That’s really their only overpowered member.  And Hulk can take Thor alone.  And he does…

Hulk vs. Thor.  This should be awesome.  And it is.

I particularly like when Hulk teaches him the old “capes are stupid” lesson.

They trade blows for page after page of fantastic Sal Buscema art before the full squad shows up…Yeah.  They’ve figured it all out. Loki’s being a dick again.

Now all that’s left is the big fight with the whole gang, and of course we need shots of everyone else in the Marvel Universe. 

In the final act, Dormammu attacks our dimension with lots of demons.  We get to see The Mindless Ones, Power Man, Ka-Zar, Ghost Rider, Man-Thing, Dr. Doom…Warlock, on the counter Earth, also has to fight off some demons.  So does Thanos.

Even Watcher shows up and promises not to “molest” Dormammu!

During the final battle, Loki wrestles Dormammu for the Evil Eye, and during it, Scarlet Witch zaps Dormammu for the win.  It’s nice to see her get her due.  I recognize that she won’t bloom into her full power level for several decades, but her power is to alter reality.  That should make her pretty damn tough.

Loki gets the Eye, and gets his sight back.  This makes him insane.

Watcher explains that Dormammu’s “energy has been rammed through Loki’s mind,” and that’s what really made him go nuts.

Strange ending, but solid tale.

Nick Fury shows up for the clean up and tries to take control of/credit for the whole thing.

And sadly, Black Knight becomes fleshy again.

That’s the only downside of this story.

Also, no sooner did he join than Hawkeye quits. I like that–he’s consistently a loner and consistently very hard to work with.

Grade A+.  The story relies on a lot of contrivances, but that was the way in the early 1970s-and as far as these things go, this is a great way to make a big crossover happen.  The historical importance is undeniable, and it was balls-out fun.  Which is way more than you can say for today’s “event stories,” which are way too serious.

3 thoughts on “Avengers #115-118; Defenders #7-11 (1973): Avengers/Defenders War; Loki goes insane; Black Knight is human again”

  1. Strange could just be seen as over confident. Say, Swordsman vs Valkyrie was penciled by Brown. Loved this back in the day and still. In New Zealand where distribution was garbage, I managed to get every episode and in the right order, essentially a miracle.

  2. I could write an entire term paper on the “Avengers/Defenders War” of 1973, but for the sake of brevity, I will hold my thoughts down to the following quick points: 1) The brief cameo of Dracula in ‘Avengers’#118 cinches his existence, along with werewolves, zombies, etc., in the same continuum of existence as the rest of the mainstream Marvel bunch. At the time, I was uncomfortable with this, and now, slightly over half a century later, am only slightly less uncomfortable with it. But, as of this point in time, ( the early 2020’s ) Marvel is handling the vampire/werewolves/zombies issue to my satisfaction, so I am good with it. 2) Hawkeye’s “sexual assault” upon the Valkyrie would not be tolerated a half-century later. Hashtag “Time’s Up”/Hashtag “Don’t Grab My Ass”, etc., wouldn’t be permitted in our Brave New World. However, my personal feeling on the matter is, if Hawkeye wants to steal a kiss from the Valkyrie ( or any woman ) that’s fine and utterly his prerogative, but if the Valkyrie ( or any woman ) wants to kick Hawkeye in the nuts for doing so, then that should be fine, as well, and the Ace Archer should have no right to an attitude over it. Speaking of Hawkeye, 3) There is no way that Hawkeye could have remained with the Defenders regardless, simply because the Battling Bowman is entirely reliant upon extremely expensive weaponry which has to be constantly manufactured and replaced, and how is he going to accomplish that with the Defenders??? I suppose he could submit a munitions bill to Dr. Strange, but how would THAT work out-??? Dr. Strange is not Tony Stark, and I just don’t believe that Dr. Strange could magically keep Hawk’s quiver full of blast arrowheads/trick arrows. Hawkeye would eventually HAVE to swallow his pride and return to the Avengers, simply to keep his operation going, his quiver replenished, and himself funded. Remember, the Defenders is a “non-profit” organization, and Hawkeye is, unfortunately, a “working-class” superhero who needs to be paid and constantly re-armed. The Avengers can do that for him, but the Defenders simply cannot. So, it’s back to Tony’s townhouse for ol’ Hawk, whether he wants to go, or not. Those are my three points on the “Avengers/Defenders War” for now. Word!!


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