Monday, February 08, 2016
I actually had to go back and check that I hadn't blogged this one before: from 1983, Defenders #119, "Ashes, Ashes...We All Fall Down!" Written by Steven Grant (with an assist by J.M. DeMatteis), pencils by Sal Buscema, inks by Jack Abel. (And a pretty good cover by Ron Wilson and Terry Austin.)
I don't think it was, but this reads a lot like a fill-in issue with an odd framing device: the story was set about fifty issues ago, around #68. But the framing device acknowledges the recent death of Nighthawk, as perennial oddball the Elf with a Gun has kidnapped Nighthawk's former nurse, Luann Bloom, and brought her before a mysterious shadowy council. There, Luann is revealed to have been a robot, which is a revelation to her as well: she didn't know, which may have been a malfunction. (I've had this issue for years, and don't necessarily recall the previous ones, but I don't know if Luann's condition had been foreshadowed in any way, or if this was out of left field.) Having surveilled Nighthawk and the other Defenders for some time, Luann holographically shows the council a story Nighthawk had told her, about an encounter with another long-time Defenders villain, Yandroth.
Who was a woman now, as opposed to the older bald guy he had been before. Using the alien super-science Yandroth was known for, she attacks the Hulk, and is about to be pulped when she gets him with a microscopic implant shot into the Hulk's brain, and takes control of him. Meanwhile, at the Defenders' HQ (really Nighthawk's ranch) Nighthawk is getting thrown off a horse--in full costume!--while Hellcat and Valkyrie have a bit of a laugh. Yandroth surprises Nighthawk and Hellcat, taking control of Nighthawk quickly. When Valkyrie tries to help, Yandroth slaps her down; since Valkyrie explains the spell that created her won't let her fight a woman. With four Defenders her slaves, Yandroth sends the Hulk to Doctor Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum, where Strange gets sucker-punched and goes down, and Yandroth enslaves Clea as well.
Yandroth recaps her new origin for Strange: the consciousness of the original Yandroth approached a young scientist, working menial tasks at a lab, and offered her his knowledge in exchange for the chance to get revenge on the Defenders. Instead, she took control, taking Yandroth's name, costume, and science; just as she injects her implant into Dr. Strange. Still, Strange had been able to project his astral form, and summon back-up: Namor, the Sub-Mariner! Who is able to outfight a sluggish Hulk, but is then almost immediately possessed by Yandroth. Strange's spells can't penetrate Yandroth's mental shields, and anyone else he might call would get possessed as well, so Strange tries helping Valkyrie and the Hulk break the control. As the Defenders fight their possessed friends, Strange realizes, after trapping Nighthawk and Hellcat in the Sphere of Cyttorak, that Yandroth is stronger with half her slaves. He gambles on releasing them, that Yandroth has over-extended herself, and Strange is right. Partially because the female Yandroth was fighting the mind of the original as well, and she is left a seemingly mindless shell.
The shadowy council and the Elf don't think that episode was particularly enlightening, since Yandroth doesn't seem like he/she would be any help now, but they can't leave any resources untapped. Especially since they claim "The Defenders must be destroyed--or time itself will die!" Which may or may not have been true: in a Defenders reunion years later in Peter David's Incredible Hulk run, Strange would reveal whatever that was about, it was an elaborate hoax. Though he allowed the team to stay broken up, since he had come to enjoy the peace and quiet.
This issue has a Statement of Ownership, Management, and Circulation, with 10C. Total Paid Circulation: Average no. copies each issue during preceding 12 months: 139,926. Actual no. copies of single issue published nearest to filing date: 139,858.