New Defenders #152
Here it is, the FINAL ISSUE. Moondragon and the Dragon of the Moon attack, easily grabbing Isaac Christians' soul and pulling it out of the Gargoyle body. The Gargoyle is briefly used as Moondragon's flunky. The Defenders all attack, defeating the Dragon of the Moon with Interloper's tactics.
Moondragon wakes up a couple miles away and still hears the Dragon of the Moon in her head. It tells her to summon the Beyonder who appears and grants her the "power to do good". Moondragon attacks the Defenders again, splitting the group in half. Val, Andromeda, Manslaughter and Interloper all face off with Moondragon while the X-X-men try to save innocent people Moondragon is threatening (Candy Southern, the duo on life support whom Cloud emulated and Defenders support guy Chris).
As the X-X-men are saving these people, the other Defenders all join hands and defeat Moondragon. They all turn to dust. Beast, Iceman, Angel and the other people all arrive via dimensional portal to mourn the loss. Sassafras the dog returns and they all thank the others for their sacrifice, as Moondragon did use her powers for some good, in the end. Angel even got his vision back.
It's cliche', but "what a long strange trip it's been". Defenders was a truly different Marvel title. Lots of demons, monsters and non-conventional villains. There are plenty of peaks and valleys. I'd say the Avengers crossover, the Guardians space story, the Six-Fingered Hand stuff and some of the Hellstrom issues are the title at its peak. Tunnelworld, the Headmen and the mess around Annual #1, the Mandrill story and the last 20 issues are rather awful.
"New Defenders" started well enough, but took a nosedive when Peter Gillis took over. It was too much Moondragon and the team seemed to take a backseat in their own title (see: Cutlass and Typhoon). Even when Red Wolf guest-starred, you hardly knew he was there. These were all fringe characters, so they really needed to be spotlighted more.
The title seemed to harken with the college kids tapped into some of that Twilight Zone vibe the title would have at times. Even the arrival of Andromeda, who tied the team back to Atlantis and was sort of a Namor "legacy hero". Gillis, unfortunately, tried to force too much stuff in and had to use excessive dialogue to explain things. It just didn't work. I don't know much about him, but his stories in "New Defenders" were awful.
The book really suffered when they wrote out Dr. Strange in issue #125. Defenders, as a concept; being a team of weirdos who fight strange menaces; is tough to swallow without Strange. With the exclusion of the Tunnelworld issues, it's safe to say: "If Defenders has Dr. Strange in it, it's a decent read". It also lost a lot when Hellcat was written out.
Of course, the "dead" Defenders were all brought back about three years later as "The Dragon Circle", spiritual Ghostbusters of sorts in the pages of-- yup--- "Dr. Strange". Then a few more re-launches in the past 13 years.
The last issue conveniently split off the X-X-men from the team, as all 3 jumped over to the new "X-Factor" a few months later (maybe even the very next month). Beast, Iceman and Angel all in another group not-called-X-men, is kinda' like having Ric Flair in a group not called The Four Horsemen. In the end, the three really didn't belong in the Defenders. Individually, yes, but not all at the same time.
Despite its flaws, I still recommend "Defenders" as solid Marvel reading. Now it's up to Mad Dog to see if I'm loony or not.