Dedicated to the definitive superhero non-team.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Manslaughter

This is the first time I've felt obligated to issue a SPOILER ALERT on the fansite. That's because this installment discusses several key plot points of Defenders #134 that might be enjoyed best without knowing how things end. Overall, #134 was perhaps the most tightly written and suspenseful issue featuring the New Defenders.

Following an out-of-town speaking engagement, Beast returned to Defenders headquarters to find his teammates on edge. After leaving a threatening message on their answering machine, an unseen assailant had begun to target each of the heroes when unaccompanied within the mansion.

Cloud was surprised to find a garland around her neck—and even more surprised when snakes began to crawl out of it. Iceman was rendered unconscious in the gym, with THE HEAT'S ON seared into his chest. A note with a death threat was attached to Angel's wing. The Dragonfang sword was missing from Valkyrie's scabbard and replaced with another threatening note. Moondragon could sense nothing about the stalker.

With that pattern, the five heroes decided to stay together—until Cloud announced that she had to use the washroom and insisted that didn't need anyone to accompany her. That's slasher-film formula for getting killed, and she knew it.

A costumed man with a sword jumped out from the shadows and put a sword to Cloud's neck. She cried out, and the Defenders stormed inside to find her on the ground, and indirectly pronounced dead.

After the Defenders split up to search for the elusive assailant, scenes of Iceman showed him carrying an ice club—not something a man could generate his own ice blasts typically needed to do. When the ice-covered fell to the floor from a blade the neck, the perpetrator believed that two of the Defenders were now dead.

The assailant was in fact Manslaughter. Hired to murder the Defenders, the professional assassin had the psionic power to make himself invisible unless looked at directly—similar to an ability Moondragon used in Avengers #211, before Odin's headband limited her powers.

As Manslaughter readied to murder Moondragon, a bolt of lightning struck him from behind, revealing that Cloud was still alive. And Iceman came from another direction to encase the villain in ice.

Flashbacks revealed what really had taken place during the earlier murder scenes. When Cloud initially left for the bathroom, she prepared herself for an attack, discreetly turning her neck to mist when Manslaughter slit her throat. And she was the one inside the full-bodied sheath of ice and wielding the ice club, while the real Iceman hid to outsmart the assassin.

A degree of luck clearly entered into the success of the heroes' plan. But it remained a chillingly satisfying adventure. In turning the slasher conventions inside out, the Defenders showed more intelligence and teamwork than they had before.

Defenders. Vol. 1. No. 134. August 1984. "Manslaughter!" Peter B. Gillis (story), Don Perlin (pencils), Kim DeMulder (inks), Janice Chiang (letters), Christie Scheel (colors), Carl Potts (editor), Jim Shooter (editor-in-chief).

3 comments:

cease ill said...

I've never had many of these later defenders issues, so it's been fun keeping up with my weird attraction to this team on the best available fan site for them.

I wanted to contact the blog author rather than shamelessly plug a piece of work I'm nonetheless proud to claim as my own: a modern Defenders story, complete with original art.

http://ceaseill.blogspot.com/2009/11/calinferno.html has a full Defenders pastiche complete with an original story line and a guest appearance by Machine Man. You can contact me at luelyron@gmail.com or through the blog itself. I'll be featuring smaller installments and a sequel over on integr8dfix.blogspot.com as well. Thanks!

james said...

Thanks for the kind words. I'll add your link to the blogroll.

Adam Barnett said...

I loved the whole "New Defenders" series (Cloud notwithstanding).... kind of like the Champions, only better.

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