My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Well, it’s been a wild ride, but my read through of The New Defenders finally comes to a close in this epic, though not entirely satisfying, conclusion.
And…it’s a Secret Wars II crossover?!?
Well, yes, the Beyonder shows up, albeit briefly, and you have to wonder if that was Gillis’ choice or if it was forced upon him as a way to up sales for this finale issue. But, after battling the New Defenders, the Interloper and Manslaughter and being defeated by…erm…Manslaughter’s madness…the Beyonder shows up and fashions the weakened Dragon of the Moon into a ring for Moondragon to wear and promises to give her the power to do good.
She then, of course, attacks the New Defenders, threatening those that mean the most to Bobby, Warren and Hank and removing Gargoyle’s soul and turning him into a literal demon, host for the power of the Dragon of the Moon. Then the Interloper, Valkyrie, Manslaughter and Andromeda combine their power and sacrifice their lives to defeat Moondragon and Gorgoyle/The Dragon of the Moon…turning all of them to dust in the process, presumably killing them.
This then conveniently leaves the three former original members of the X-Men free to off and join Cyclops and the resurrected Jean Grey and form X-Factor. Not that this is mentioned, but right at the end of the book there’s a house ad teasing the coming of X-Factor, so it’s pretty clear that the New Defenders had to die so that X-Factor could live.
What’s not so clear is why Moondragon, Valkyrie, Andromeda and Gorgoyle had to die too. Something which seems odd given that I’m fairly sure they all appeared subsequently (or, you know, they didn’t stay dead…but Marvel is about to set a precedent for people not staying dead by bringing back Jean Grey).
It sounds like I’m having a moan, but I’m not. Gillis really does a sterling job of tying up all the loose ends before ending this run. You’ve got to wonder just how much notice he had that the book was ending before having to figure out how to bring everything to a somewhat satisfying conclusion, Given that Andromeda had only recently joined the team, I’m assuming the answer to that is not much. As such he does well. This feels epic and high stakes, and given that most of the team don’t make it out alive, the stakes really are genuinely high.
The art is also great, especially given that there’s so much to squeeze into this final issue, even if it is double size.
All in all, this whole New Defenders run, from #125 to #152 (although I actually started at #123 to get in the first appearance of Cloud and I’d recommend others to do that too), is really worth reading. It’s not always great, but when it is, it’s really great. I’d love to see characters like Cloud and Gargoyle return in the present day (I think pretty much everyone else has had significant post-New Defenders adventures).
This is classic 1980s Marvel at its very best.